Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Schadenfreude Is Not Always Enjoyable

When John Swinney issued the statement that he could not foresee the conditions being right for at least another ten years, for an independent Scotland to join the euro, it was probably as close as he could come to admitting the SNP's Euro policy was wrong and had always been wrong. Politicians are never wrong, it is changing circumstances that cause changes in policy; rarely or never, is it the fault of the political leaders who either misread the political situation, or simply do not understand the issues with which they are asked to deal. Nothing in the EU has changed to such an extent, as to cause the euro to be such a disaster for countries such as Greece, Eire et al.

Gavin McCrone, whose report on Scottish oil has earned him such a well-deserved place among SNP heroes, has pointed out, that while Greece should have never joined the euro, the same is not true of Eire, Spain or Italy and that the system itself is what is wrong. He also pointed out that "monetary union can only work if inflation is at broadly comparable rates between the member states" He could have usefully added that without fiscal centralisation, there is almost bound to be trouble, which is why it is true to say that it was also a mistake for Spain, Portugal, Italy and Eire to join. McCrone is the second substantial figure to admit to making a mistake about the euro, Charles Kennedy being the other, a few days ago. As time wears on, and it becomes politically acceptable to admit to being wrong about the euro, we will see other substantial political figures coming forward to admit support for the single currency was a mistake.

I should be glad that so many political figures in Scotland and the rest of the UK are coming forward to admit the mistake, having been campaigning for years, to keep this country out of the euro. I should be glad that people like Gordon Brown kept the UK out because it meant that Scotland did not join and is now unlikely ever to join, but no one can be glad at the damage the issue has caused. Schadenfreude is not always enoyable because in this case, the issue is too important, too many businesses in the member countries have been ruined, too many people have lost their jobs and countless billions of taxpayers' money have been wasted, for a political idea about which the adherents could not be honest. On a personal level, my opposition to EU membership and the inevitable centralising ethos of the EU, including the euro, caused me to leave the SNP and ended my position in front line politics. The question of the single currency is far from settled for the member states and more countless billions of tax will be spent before fiscal policy, as well as monetary policy, is directed from the centre. It will be that or, the system will collapse completely but, as Greece and Italy have already had their current governments appointed by the EU, it is obvious the Euro elite are not going to allow the euro to die easily.

While my delight at the death of the euro, at least as far as Scotland is concerned, is tempered by the disappointment that it took so long for people to see sense, there are no mixed feelings about the other issue which can surely work to the advantage of the national movement. The late Willie Ross, christened the SNP, the "Scots Narks". It was a name that stuck and which did damage, as did the "Tartan Tories", which did even more damage, after the decision of the party to vote against the Callaghan government. It took almost a decade for the damage to be reduced and for Labour supporters in Scotland to recognise that Callaghan was prepared to accept defeat at a general election, before giving in to devolution for Scotland, something which would take more than another decade to become a reality.

Try as they might, it was impossible for a time, for the SNP to persuade Scottish Labour supporters that Labour were as solid Unionists as were the Tories. As far as the SNP were concerned, this meant that the Labour Party in Scotland, would invariably sacrifice Scottish interests, for the interests of the Union or the UK "as a whole". That is a perfectly valid political position to take and was epitomised by Tam Dalyell, author of the "West Lothian Question", and Brian Wilson, at the time of the devolution campaign in 1979. Unbelievable as it may seem now, the SNP campaigned harder for Labour's devolution policy in 1979, than did the Labour Party in Scotland, with SNP activists, delivering Labour's official devolution leaflets because the Labour activists refused. To be labelled "Tartan Tories", particularly in light of the behaviour of the Scottish Labour Party, really stuck in the craw of many SNP activists and played its part in the attitude of many in the SNP, to the Constituional Convention.

Scots have finally come to terms with the position of the Labour Party in Scotland, as far as the Union is concerned and the announcement of the founding of the cross-party group to "save the Union" will come as no surprise. It will also make the battle lines that much clearer. When it was announced earlier in the year, that there would be little or no overt cooperation between the three main Unionist parties in the referendum campaign, there were few in the Nationalist camp who believed it. As all three parties invariably appear in the popular media, singing from the same hymn sheet to the tune of the daily scare story, it simply made sense and was more honest, to make the campaign group official. Labour activists may object to their official spokesmen sharing a platform with Tories, but the Scottish electorate are no longer fooled by the arms-length campaigning, knowing perfectly well the level of cooperation at the very top, is as close as it can be, without forming an official coalition.

When it comes to the position of the Scottish leadership of both the Tories and Labour, Ruth Davidson and Johann Lamont have been put in their place quite emphatically. David Cameron undermined Davidson's position on his last visit to Scotland, as highlighted by Michael Forsyth and Lamont seemd to be incapable of dealing with the embarrassment created by Eric Joyce, whose suspension was directly ordered by Ed Milliband, something which should have been the preserve of the Scottish leader. As neither Scottish leader has made any impact on the Scottish political scene, having their leadership undermined like this, may have gone unnoticed by the Scottish electorate but, it is something which can be exploited by the SNP. The battle is now quite clearly between London and the London leaders of the Unionist parties and Edinburgh and the Scottish Parliament. It is a position tailor-made for the SNP to exploit.

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