Monday, 29 June 2015

Lightning rod

In yesterday's Observer there was an interview with Angus Robertson, SNP leader in the House of Commons, in which he explained how Scotland could well instigate another referendum on independence if David Cameron fails to deliver on further devolution for Scotland.  It was a piece that didn't say anything startling or that hadn't been said before.  Positively unremarkable, in fact.  What was remarkable was the amount of bile, venom and nastiness towards the SNP and the Scots in the comments.

We're getting kind of used to this by now.  We're getting used to the conflation of the SNP with Scotland and the Scots.  We're getting used to the constant denigration, contempt and, in some cases, downright hatred being expressed towards us, all for the heinous crime of suggesting we might want to run our own country.   Most of it is based on proving we are 'too wee, too poor, too stupid' to even think about running a country, so we should just get back in our box.

This started during indyref, but has increased recently, especially after the Tories' General Election campaign, which portrayed the SNP/Scots as the bogeyman, the imminent threat to the British way of life.  It is not discouraged by the government.  Take, for example, the recent bogus story on Scotland no longer paying for the Queen to the tune of £2 million quid.  This was swiftly debunked by Nicola Sturgeon and the Treasury, but Jacob Rees-Mogg was moved to suggest in the House of Commons that SNP MPs should be forced to reaffirm their loyalty to the Queen and the British state as a result of it.

Of course, the story about the evil Nationalists leaving the Queen short of £2 million conveniently drew attention away from the fact that she is in fact getting an increase of £3 million in her allowance this year.  And this is, I think, the whole point.  We in Scotland have been 'othered' and we are now a convenient lightning rod for the Government, something that they can use to deflect attention from the worst of their policies.  Got to implement something unpopular?  Plant a nice story about the nasty SNP/Scots in the mainstream media and get it done while people express their rage against them.

The problem is that this approach simply brings Scottish independence closer.  Sooner or later most Scots will become fed up with being scapegoats.  Indyref2 will happen, and when it does it is far less likely that the Unionist side will win.  The Government, however, pleased to have an easy distraction from opposition to their policies, will carry on in the same vein, employing their usual short-termist thinking. 

So, lightning rod we are for the moment.  But lightning rods imply the presence of storms, and storms can be powerful things that cannot be controlled, something that Westminster might like to bear in mind.  The energy of the storm has to go somewhere, and lightning rods concentrate and direct that energy.

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