Last week has been almost exclusively about Margaret Thatcher, and the world quite rightly has paid tribute to The UK’s first female Prime Minister and longest serving PM of the last century. Condolences have also been expressed to family and friends and I too would like to express my regret at her passing.
Her death has also meant that we look at her legacy, and what a legacy she has left our nation. Margaret Thatcher more than anyone defined a generation and the mark she left will never be forgotten and in the case of most of Scotland, forgiven. My early political development was very much defined by opposition to practically everything she believed to be politically true. I was several months too young to vote in the 1979 general election and I remember my frustration at not being able to register my opposition in the election that swept her to power.
It’s not that Margaret Thatcher was a divisive figure, that goes without saying. It was the way that she pursued her distinct view. If you were not on side you became the “enemy within” and in Scotland that “enemy” in the course of the 80’s, became an absolute majority. The introduction of the poll tax a year early consolidated Scotland’s antipathy towards the Thatcher Government and from then Scotland reduced the Conservatives to little more than a political rump. Was Margaret Thatcher useful in helping to forge the Scottish Parliament and usher in the rise of the SNP? Well quite possibly. All the energy that opposition to her generated had to go somewhere and the creation of our own parliamentary institutions is the something good that may have come out of all the political pain.
Scotland suffered disproportionally from her singular world view that we be brutally de-industrialised. Communities destroyed, a generation introduced to mass unemployment and a Scottish Parliament held back for 20 years. “There is no such thing as society” is what she proclaimed in what became the sermon on the mound, and nothing could be further from the truth of communal Scotland. We just didn’t see ourselves in the way that she did.
Scotland will now be partially protected from a right wing Conservative government and thank goodness we now have a Scottish Parliament to administer our devolved services. We can’t though do anything about reserved issues that are under the control of the heirs of Margaret Thatcher. We do though have the opportunity to put that right and vote yes to never having ideologues we don’t believe in, or vote for, running our country ever again.