Westminster has a Scottish problem and it is getting worse.
After the independence referendum and the election of 56 SNP MPs, the Tories just haven’t a clue what to do about Scotland and how we should be treated and accommodated. The Tories sort of ‘got’ Scottish Labour. There was the old familiarity and they knew that they could be pretty easily contained. In the end, they probably found that more united them than divided them and when it came to the defining Scottish political issue of the constitution, Scottish Labour were the Tories’ willing partners.
The SNP is something totally different. They simply observe us with something approaching slack-jawed bewilderment.
It’s quite easy to understand why. The Tories are consumed with issues such as deficit reduction, immigration and EU membership. The little they know about the SNP can be confined to a sort of Daily Mail grievance about the Barnett formula and a commentary about the threat we pose to their union. We were the approaching ‘Jockalypse’ and characterised as a ‘threat’ with adverts showing us as pickpockets and thieves. For them, our Scottish concerns and contributions about austerity, nuclear weapons and more powers for our Parliament seem almost incomprehensible. SNP and Tory MPs also couldn’t be more disparate. Tory MPs are recruited from a totally different social background and our life experiences couldn’t be more different.
So, how are they approaching this new and evolving relationship? Well, it seems to be to try and provoke Scotland as much as possible. Since the General Election, the Tories have opted to intentionally go out their way to antagonise and goad the Scots.
Let’s look at some of the issues that have been predominately Scottish in character that have been put in front of the House recently. Firstly, their decision to cut support to Scottish renewables by abolishing the renewables obligation for onshore wind was done knowing the disproportionate impact on Scotland and the damage it would pose to our renewable sector. They simply couldn’t care less.
Secondly, their almost arrogant approach to the Scotland Bill. English Tory MPs voted down every single amendment even though those amendments were supported by nearly all Scottish MPs. Probably most significantly, Scotland now has the indignity of having its Members of Parliament rendered second class and on the wrong side of an English veto on large swathes of certified legislation. All of these examples are given before we even get close to the Tory welfare legislation we didn’t vote for and fundamentally object to.
An exercise of building bridges and constructively working on a troubled relationship it is not. It’s almost as if the Tories, after working so hard to keep us in their union, seem determined to almost kick us out the door. In the referendum we were asked not to leave the union, but to lead it; but the minute we get our Scottish backsides on those green benches our status as MPs is diminished and our interests have been outvoted and disregarded. The Tories and their unionist Labour sidekicks often say that the SNP goes looking for grievance to further our case of independence. It now seems that we are being shovelled the stuff in barrowloads.