As a general rule I prefer the stupidity theory to the mendacity concept of politics. That is, if a politician says something obviously wrong it is more probably because they are thicker than mince than because they wish to deceive the public. There are some exceptions to this usual rule but, most of the time, dumb beats cunning.
Occasionally, however, dumb can also be cunning. Consider this statement from Angus Brendan MacNeil, MP for the Western Isles, as recorded by Hansard: Now Mr MacNeil, bless him, often fumbles his way towards wishful thinking but this will not quite do. The Vow, no matter how ballyhooed it may be these days, said precisely nothing about Full Fiscal Autonomy. We know this because, helpfully, it was splashed on the front page of the Daily Record.
Or to put it another way, It’s disgraceful that the Labour party did not support SNP policy even though The Vow said nothing like what we now claim it did.
There is, I concede, a difficulty with terms here. No-one has ever properly defined Home Rule or Devo-Max or even, in some respects (at least those assumed by the SNP) Full Fiscal Autonomy. The latter, for instance, is sometimes taken by enthusiastic Nats to mean that Scotland can have what it wants but that
subsidies transfer payments, if and when necessary, should still flow north from London. This, according to Stuart Campbell, vicar of the Wings Over Scotland parish, is what we were promised: the best of both worlds. (And of course the Nats think it was The Vow What Won It even though this, too, is not the case.)
But the best of both worlds we actually voted for – closely, I grant, but also undoubtedly – was to be Scottish and British. I understand that still distresses some people but there we have it. As best as can be determined, the Scottish people – thrawn, contradictory, sods though we be – simultaneously desire a kind of independence within the UK so long as that does not mean anything like actual independence. That helps explain why they support the idea of the Scottish parliament controlling welfare and pensions but also think welfare and pension payments should be uniform across the UK. The possibility of change without the awkward reality of actual change.
And that’s fine, I guess. But, at the risk of repeating myself, the SNP’s definition of Full Fiscal Autonomy was never offered. No, not even in The Vow and not by Gordon Brown either. More powers for the Holyrood parliament was all that was offered. And whatever else you may say about it, the new Scotland Bill undoubtedly offers that. It does so even if you happen to think, as I do, that it could go further in a number of areas.
So what are the SNP up to? Apart from making it up as they go along, that is. Well, we’re back to our old friend the narrative. This time the story is a simple one, all the better for instructing the tender-brained and under-age.
Scotland, dear old Scotland, you see, is being betrayed again. They promised one thing (though they did not) and are not delivering it (though they kinda are, despite imperfections in the bill). Westmonster and all those Tories – of red or blue hue – are selling Scotland out again and isn’t it disgraceful.
Why, they even have the gall to insist that UK government policy should be set by the government of the United Kingdom, not the SNP. When-oh-when will they cease insulting us in this fashion? No time soon, that’s for sure.
I don’t quite know why Stewart Hosie, the party’s deputy leader, thinks that a ‘failure’ to ‘deliver’ new responsibilities to Holyrood would constitute grounds for another referendum but apparently he does think that. (To be fair to Mr Hosie, he bolstered his left-wing credentials by, quite correctly, arguing that tax competition within the UK would be a “good thing”. Tax competition, of course, is code for cutting tax.)
Does this mean that when the latest – but far from final! – Scotland bill is passed Mr Hosie will accept that the case for a fresh referendum has been lost? Of course not. That case will move on, like a Great Nat Shark, to another issue. Always forwards, never back.
Nevertheless, it does still remain modestly acceptable to disagree with the SNP’s view of things. And possible to do so without betraying Scotland. Indeed, one could make a more-than-decent argument that the wicked Tories, by refusing to grant the SNP’s wishes, are actually acting in the national interest.
Be that as it may, the utterances of SNP MPs does leave one in the desperate position of hoping they are simply thick. The alternative, that they are trying to con the Scottish people by insisting upon things that are plainly, in black on beige, untrue is too dreadful to contemplate. They wouldn’t deliberately seek to promote and perpetrate a lie, would they? Of course not. Which is why I assume that Messrs MacNeil and Monaghan, together with all who agree with them, are simply irredeemably stupid. Cunning too, perhaps, to indulge the national enthusiasm for victimhood in this fashion but, first of all, stupid.