Thursday, November 12, 2015

SNP Sabotage: Scottish votes for English stores

One of the most powerful factors on the doorstep was during the last election was the fact that a lot of English voters were very concerned at the possibility that a minority Labour government might depend on SNP votes.

This is not something that the Conservatives or the press invented: of course we exploited it for all we were worth as soon as we realised that this concern was resonating but this is something we used because it was working by reinforcing an existing concern, not something that we created.

The people who had that concern were not necessarily at all anti-Scottish: many had voted for governments in which Scottish Labour, Scottish Lib/Dems, or even for older voters, Scottish Conservatives held important positions. However, they had formed during the previous year's Scottish independence referendum the far from unreasonable impression that a lot of Scottish Nationalists hate England and did not want the country run by people who saw themselves as the enemy.

If you want some evidence that this fear was justified, you need look no further than the manner in which the SNP's 56 MPs have been behaving since the election. It is extremely difficult to interpret the way they have U-turned on several of their previously-expressed principles in order to deliberately inconvenience English MPs in general, and Conservatives in particular, as a deliberate strategy to stir up anger and ill-feeling between England and Scotland. they are obviously hoping to provoke English people in general and Conservatives in particular into showing irritation with the SNP which can be misrepresented in Scotland as hostility to all Scots.

I am not a huge fan of the Guardian but they put it perfectly this week in an editorial from which I took my quote for today, Sunday Trading: Scottish votes for English stores.

The government had proposed that local councils, and particularly elected mayors, in England and Wales should be given more devolved control over the implementation of Sunday Trading laws, including the ability to relax them.

There are argument for and against this but in my view devolving more powers to local councils, particularly power to relax regulation, seems to be a good way to enhance local democracy and let councils have more levers to strengthen the local economy.

But whether you are for or against the Sunday Trading rules, as the Guardian rightly says,   "It is, however, plain weird" that the government’s plans to reform them "ran aground on Scottish Nationalist opposition on Tuesday."

As the Guardian went on to point out

"For one thing, the SNP is intervening to salvage something that Scotland itself has never had: there is not, and never has been, any general bar on Sunday trading north of the Tweed. For another, this separatist party used to claim a “self-denying ordinance” against meddling in “England-only” matters."

"In the case of Sunday trading, however, the SNP is falling back on an even shakier support – a claim that supermarket chains would respond to their new commercial freedoms in England by eroding Sunday premiums in workers’ pay in Scotland."

"Who knows? Cross-border employers may, conceivably, have responded first by rewriting English contracts in the way conjectured, and then have further decided that this was a propitious moment for ironing out differences with Scottish contracts."

"But even if this highly speculative scenario played out, it would reveal highly integrated British businesses which would, one might have thought, be most effectively regulated by integrated British governance. But this is not, of course, an avenue that the SNP would want to go down."

"The interest of Scottish Nationalists in the hours that English grocers keep is more plausibly interpreted as simple mischief-making."
"No, the aim is to render the UK in general and England especially that bit harder to govern, and thus provoke irritated English Conservatives to begin wondering out loud whether the country would be tidier without the Scots."


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