Monday , June 17 2024

Give Douglas Ross a chance

There is a new Conservative strategy about Scotland. It is for this reason that we will soon have Douglas Ross as Scottish Conservative leader. It is also the reason why Conservatives will attempt to turn the conversation in Scotland away from independence towards the SNP’s domestic record.

Ross first came to my attention in 2017 when he was able to overturn Angus Robertson’s 9000 majority in Moray. I don’t follow football, but somehow, I was vaguely aware that Ross refereed Scottish football matches. If he can handle Old Firm games, then surely, he can take on Nicola Sturgeon. I also was impressed by how Ross debated with Alyn Smith in the Commons over claims that there was a Westminster power grab.

I disagreed with the way Ross resigned last May, but this was the last spasm of the Remain corpse so let us move on.

If Ross wins the leadership of the Scottish Conservatives, he will have my support. I urge you to support him too. At the very least let’s give him a chance to show what he can do. Let’s have an open mind about the possibility of Conservative success in Scotland. Let’s cease being so gloomy and pessimistic.

It is right from time to time to discuss Scottish independence. It is the most important issue in Scottish politics. At times it appears to be the only issue. It is the defining issue that determines how someone votes.

For this reason, I regularly put forward the reasons why I oppose Scottish independence. I put forward the disadvantages and the logical inconsistencies of the SNP argument.

My argument is essentially this. Scotland of course could become independent and could in time if a Scottish Government made sensible choices become prosperous but setting up a new state would not be easy and would involve a decade or more of tax rises and spending cuts. This is usually called “Tory austerity”. The result would be that Scotland would become a region of the European Union with less power and rather less independence than we have at present. Scottish nationalists would be able to wave flags and feel pride in re-establishing Scotland as an “independent” nation state, but it is unlikely in the short term that we would come close to the prosperity of Norway or Denmark.

But we would have destroyed the United Kingdom, partitioned Britain and put some sort of regulatory border between England and Scotland. Worse than these things we might light the fires of English nationalism smouldering since the time of Queen Anne sowing discord not merely in England but in Wales and Northern Ireland too. For this we would rightly never be forgiven.

But it is better strategically to treat Scottish independence as a dead issue. Every time there is a slight increase in various, possibly dubious, opinion polls we all start debating the issue as if it is 2014 again. Why don’t we instead say that was decided decisively six years ago and move on to talk of other things.

The SNP have power without responsibility. They have a lot of power. We have come to realise in the past few months just how much power they have. They can decide where you can go on holiday. They can tell you to stay at home for as long as they want to. They can decide whether you can go to a restaurant or a pub and they can decide when your child goes to school. All of these things they can decide even though the British Government has a different policy.

On most areas of ordinary Scottish life, it is the Scottish Government that is responsible. What’s more a Scottish MP has the power to influence life in the UK as a whole and England in particular. We saw this last year when the Government lacked a working majority. The idea that SNP MPs have no power is preposterous. They very nearly were able to stop Britain leaving the EU or else leaving in name only. It was a strategic failure of SNP MPs that they did not achieve this result. It was down to their mistakes, no one else’s.

But despite SNP MPs and MSPs having a great deal of power they are never held to account for their mistakes. Whatever good things happen in Scotland are due to the SNP. Whatever bad things happen are blamed on Westminster. The Conservative Government has received almost zero credit for the Furlough Scheme and the increases in spending that has helped keep Scots in work and our businesses from going bust. Scottish nationalists just take the money that we get because we are British citizens and fellow countrymen and sneer about selfish Tories while planning to walk away without paying our debts. But if we had been independent, we would have received no such grants without strings from the EU nor from any other country. Instead we would have had full on SNP austerity for decades.

It is a critical failure of Scottish politics and journalism that those areas that the SNP are responsible for are not clearly distinguished from those which they are not. If a hospital is not built, it is the SNP’s fault. If more old people die in care homes in Scotland than in Denmark it is the SNP’s fault. If more Scots die of Covid in Scotland in percentage terms than in France, then it is the SNP’s fault.

It is no good comparing ourselves to England all the time. This is merely a symptom of our ingrained Anglophobia. On devolved issues Scotland already is as independent as any EU member state. We already have the powers to raise taxes. If we choose not to do so, then it is the SNP’s fault.

On every single devolved issue Scotland must be measured not against what England does but against what each European country does. It’s no use saying if we were independent, we would have all the money we needed to do this or that. Scotland already has higher public spending per capita than most of Europe. If Scottish outcomes on health and education are worse than a European country with similar levels of public spending, it is the SNP’s fault. There is no one else to blame. It is a sign of deep-seated prejudice and insecurity that we blame Westminster for something that is our fault.

If Douglas Ross becomes Scottish Conservative leader, I hope that he will relentlessly criticise SNP performance on devolved issues while explaining how Conservatives would run Scotland so that all Scots got better services. A Scottish Conservative Government by working with Westminster rather than continually and automatically opposing everything that Boris Johnson decides because he is English, posh and a Tory, would achieve a far better outcome for Scotland. Give Douglas Ross a chance to do this.

This post was originally published by the author on her personal blog:

About Effie Deans

Effie Deans is a pro UK blogger. She spent many years living in Russia and the Soviet Union, but came home to Scotland so as to enjoy living in a multi-party democracy! When not occupied with Scottish politics she writes fiction and thinks about theology, philosophy and Russian literature.

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One comment

  1. “light the fires of English nationalism”. I cannot believe that the poor English should be the object of such fear. The English have been endlessly bullied by British governments that have openly described us as a “threat” (Jack Straw). We even had devolution without true representation for England. I would be happy for the Union to continue but the only threat that the English represent is tolerance. As you yourself say, sometimes too much tolerance.