Friday, 11 November 2011

London Society or Civic Society

Those Scots, who at present, favour the continuation of the union with England, may wish to consider that, while common ground exists between Scotland and England, there are clear and irreconcilable differences which separate the two nations. The most overriding of these has been constant and contradictory societal attitudes. The civic society of Scotland and an English society driven by economics and market forces. The imposition of the latter as a model for the UK now seems likely if Scotland does not achieve fiscal autonomy.

If one thing in recent times has highlighted the difference between Scottish and English society, it was the premiership of Margaret Thatcher.

While voters in England returned her party to Government in three consecutive ballots, her fortunes north of the border dwindled to almost nothing. By the time the reconstructed “New” Labour Party came to power the Tories were a spent force in Scotland. To this day they return only one MP to the Westminster Parliament.

Thatcher’s vision was the destruction of the very idea of “society”. It was to be replaced by a disparate nation of individuals and family units cutting each other’s throats to survive. They would, in her mind, happily do so in the knowledge that they were living in some Panglossian “best of all worlds”. They would also however, when the clarion called, gather together as a cohesive confirmation of Britishness.

As we know this was rejected in Scotland.

Devolution means that those fortunate enough to be domicile north of the border will be spared David Cameron’s “Big Society”. The solutions he offers through social policy are English-specific. Something he and other Westminster politicians avoid reference to at all times. This is what gives rise to the feeling that such policies are UK wide while those instigated at Holyrood, and enjoyed exclusively by the Scots, are extra benefits denied the English. This misconception is often encouraged by insignificant Tory backbenchers, hackneyed opportunists such as Kelvin McKenzie and the terminally deluded Boris Johnson.

No one should be fooled by Cameron’s softer approach. While it may well be disguised as the devolution of power to communities, it will be nothing more than an abrogation of responsibility to many communities.    

The problem for Scotland though, is the economic policies that are pursued by London. While they are not the drivers of the Scottish perspective of what constitutes a society, they can undermine those aspirations. Treasury Minister, Danny Alexander, has made it abundantly clear that this will be the case as he implements the Tory economic policies that will penalise all but those responsible for the economic mess that the UK is in.

By embracing the Coalition, the Lib-Dems signalled confirmation, if any was required, that they not only have nothing better to offer but are willing to connive in an unprecedented purge not only on the people of the UK, but those things which they have strived to achieve within their communities.

As for the Labour Party? As a British Party, it long ago abandoned any pretence of creating a fair society preferring instead to court, and eventually submit to, the very forces that it was formed to oppose. As a Scottish Party, it has to an extent resisted this. But, as a Scottish Party, it has been plagued by an inability to understand the changes in the political landscape and to distance itself from the ambitions of those in London.  

If the people of Scotland wish to retain a civic society, then perhaps separation is the alternative to the creeping imposition of the English model. Now, more than ever, these differences stand in stark contrast.

The ability to use revenue and resources to the benefit of all without recourse to monetary gain is the mark of a civic society. Only full fiscal autonomy and an unhindered decision making process can achieve this.

If that sounds like independence it is probably no coincidence.