Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Elevating hypocrisy to Olympic gold Medal standard

I can and do respect the decision of those Conservatives who opposed the measures this evening to increase Sunday Trading hours.

I don't agree with their position but I understand it and regard it as an honourable difference of opinion.

Similarly I respect the position of the Labour party although I again disagree with it.

I don't respect the decision of the Scottish National Party MPs at Westminster to vote as they did: in fact I despise them.

Because what the SNP's Westminster MPs did this evening, on the second issue in this parliament, is use their actual votes or the threat of their votes at Westminster to prevent England from adopting the same policy which the SNP administration in Holyrood follows for Scotland.

Scotland has never had a Sunday trading ban: the SNP have been running Scotland for more than a decade, as a majority government for most of that time, and never tried to introduce one. Yet their votes this evening kept restrictions which they reject for Scotland in place for England.

The defining moment which started the rise of the SNP nearly thirty years ago was when the Poll Tax was imposed on Scotland by MPs representing England and introduced in Scotland before it was tried in England.

That was a terrible blunder but it was not the sort of hypocrisy which the SNP regularly practices, because the government responsible proved that they genuinely believed in the measure by also imposing it shortly afterwards on England and Wales (of course, it hit the buffers there too!)

Does anyone need to ask whether the SNP would be cross if they were proposing to introduce something in Scotland which was identical to the policy already in effect in England, and a majority of the House of Commons consisting entirely of MPs representing constituencies in England found a way to stop Holyrood from doing it?

The screaming from the First Minister's residence would be audible in London without needing to use a telephone.

Clearly the SNP cannot be acting out of a belief that keeping Sunday Trading restrictions is in the interests of shoppers or shop workers, because if they thought that they would introduce them in Scotland. There are two possible explanations, either of which is vastly to the SNP's discredit.

The first, put forward convincingly by Iain Martin at CapX here, is that the row the SNP have generated over Sunday Trading is a deliberate distraction from the total collapse of the SNP's economic arguments for independence.

Even though I think we are stronger as a United Kingdom than we would be separately, Scotland is a great country which could undoubtedly succeed as an independent state, given an intelligent plan, but the SNP in 2014 did not have one. Had another 6% of Scots voted for their half-baked independence prospectus, Scotland would have begun life as an independent nation this month with a £15 billion black hole in their budget, no currency, and more expensive borrowing. It would have been a recipe for economic catastrophe and  - both sides in the EU referendum please note - on this issue "Project Fear" was right.

Alex Massie similarly points out in the Speccie that  the Scottish government's own figures demolish the economic case for independence. Hence the need for a diversion, and what better than a good row with the Tories, eh?

The other possibility is that the SNP are trying to deliberately make the English in general, and English Tories in particular, as cross with Scotland as possible.

Their conduct is certainly consistent with this theory. The SNP seem deliberately to make things as difficult for the government as they can, and to blatantly intervene in English matters in ways they themselves would regard as indefensible interference in Scottish ones were the boot on the other foot. If they were trying to deliberately whip up hostility between the two nations, it is difficult to see what they would do differently.

The more the SNP can annoy English Conservatives the more chance there is that they will provoke a backlash and lead someone to say something in response, or come up with proposals, which can be sold in Scotland to potential Independence supporters as "anti-Scottish" leading in turn to a backlash against the backlash and more support for Independence.

If that's what they are doing, deliberately stoking tensions in this way is, of course, playing with fire. It is not just hypocritical but highly irresponsible.

Of course, as was pointed out today by Archie Bland in the Guardian, the SNP's arguments on issues like Sunday Trading could be turned against them and used against the case for Independence - if the policies adopted in England have such a strong impact on the Scottish economy, for example, that ought to be an argument against giving up the right to vote on those policies. But that argument might be too logical to make any headway.

Either way, the actions of the SNP today amount to elevating hypocrisy to Olympic Gold medal winning standards.

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