Sunday, April 25, 2010

SNP should mind their own business

As an English resident, I don’t generally bother with Alex Salmond’s drivel, but I have picked up on their desire to have a “strong voice in Westminster.”

This strikes me as trying to have someone else’s cake, and eating it.  I understand the SNP to be pro-Scottish independence, which means that they think that they can live without support from the rest of the UK.  The logical trade-off of this is that they should have no right to interfere in our business.

No-one is looking at it from the other point of view and saying that if Scotland is independent we should have English representatives.  Which is perhaps fair enough, because if you continued along this line of logic we’d all be complaining that there are no English representatives in the French parliament either. 

Just because we’re part of a wider group of nations (be that the UK, or Europe as a whole) whose policies may impact our own doesn’t mean we have a right to get involved ourselves.

Central Westminster Government for the whole of the UK, or true independence for the constituent nations?  You pays your money, you makes your choice.

10 comments:

Alasdair Nicol said...

Hi James,

Despite living in England, maybe you should bother with a little more of Alex Salmond's drivel before criticising him.

The SNP are a left of centre, pro independence party.
Given that Alex Salmond is unlikely to stand outside Holyrood and unilaterally declare independence, I don't see anything wrong with the SNP running candidates in the forthcoming Westminster election to advance their aims.

I haven't seen Alex Salmond state that he wants to have a strong voice in Westminster post-independence. For the mean time, Westminster remains the parliament of the entire UK. I'm not sure what your problem is, or what it has to do with other eating someone else's cake. Mmmm... cake.

JP said...

I thought this would attract your attention, Alasdair :)

I have to admit that my main reason for being against the SNP (and Plaid Cymru for similar reasons) is out of bitterness and a feeling that all is not fair in the world.

It doesn't seem right that the French can go to a Scottish University for free, and English students can't, for example. Whose taxes are paying for that?

Similarly, I'd be surprised if the free prescriptions in Wales are paid for out of entirely Welsh taxes.

Maybe I've missed something (and if I have, please point it out) and maybe I'm too much of a grumpy old man already, but although I can understand why the SNP want to be represented in Westminster I fail to see how their stance is going to be good for the UK as a whole.

Of course, you can say the same thing about UKIP MEPs (surely an oxymoron) and I feel hypocritical having conveniently glossed over that one because I’m more likely to agree than disagree in that case. Which brings me on to note that I’m probably more concerned about my own interests than “the good of Europe.” In the same way, an MP will usually be expected to put the needs of their own constituency first and I guess the ultimate question is whether or not this is right when there is a conflict of interests with the needs of the country as a whole.

Gareth P said...

My objection with the SNP lies more in the hubris of Alex Sammond - particularly in his stance on the debates.

Whilst the SNP are relevant in Scotland they are not across the whole United Kingdom. There are already debates for each of the devolved regions and Alex Sammond's suggestion that having an SNP representative here would add balance is ludicrous. The SNP will not be in a serious position to affect country wide politics. By his logic the platform should be open to every party that is fielding a candidate.

The SNP must accept that they are not relevant to the vast majority of voters whereas the 3 main parties will have candidates in virtually all the constituancies.

That the SNP feel the need to complain vigourously about this so called injustice seems to me to suggest that the platform they are standing on doesn't hold up to scrutiny so they will avoid this issue by lighting a fire somewhere else.

Alasdair Nicol said...

Yep, I couldn't resist biting :)

The Scottish and Welsh administrations have finite budgets. I would like to see tuition fees scrapped across the UK, but in the meantime why should money be taken from other parts of the devolved budget to subsidise students from the rest of the UK?

If you're arguing for fiscal autonomy for Scotland to provide a clearer link between the taxes raised and the block grant, then I agree with you.

If England wants free prescriptions and fairer student funding then all it has to do is vote for a centre left government that offers those things. Begrudging the Scots and Welsh for voting for those things strikes me as a little petty.

Alasdair Nicol said...

Gareth, I see where you're coming from. To viewers in England, it would be strange to see the nationalist leaders on the debates.

However, I think it's a real problem that the debates as broadcast, and the election coverage in general, doesn't reflect the political make up of Scotland. In the 1990s, a Panorama interview with John Major wasn't broadcast in Scotland because it would have given the conservatives unfair exposure ahead of Scottish council elections. I think you could make a similar argument for not broadcasting these debates in Scotland, but I admit that in this internet age it would seem a little ridiculous.

For once, I agree with the Spectator, who suggested including the leaders of the nationalist parties in a an extra debate.

Gareth P said...

I think the suggestion there should be an extra debate is uncalled for.

The nub of the issue is that the 3 candidates for Prime Minister are debating the issues that will be facing the whole of the UK.

On issues such as Trident, Foreign Policy, the NHS, Bank taxes (the list goes on) the nationalist parties opionion carries very little weight as they will make up less than 2% of the available seats and little more than 10% if every candidate they fielded won. In the last elect the SNP gained 1.5% (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Kingdom_general_election,_2005) of the popular vote which is hardly a mandate to be viewed in the same light as the 3 main parties.

As such Plaid and the SNP cannot claim to be on an equal footing with the 3 main parties on these issues and to place them on the same platform flies in the face of reason.

Alex Salmond (correct spelling this time!) doesn't have a snowball in Hell's chance of being leader in the next parliment. The BNP and Green's could make a more compelling case for being involved in these debates as they are actually fielding enough candidates to win an overall majority (or very nearly - certainly enough for a workable minority government).

The whole premise of the debates is a defacto style presidential election thus it stands to reason that only those who could actually be Prime Minister should be involved.

Gareth P said...

Also, having further read this article, it appears Alex Salmond isn't even standing in the westminster elections - i'm not sure that his proposed legal action will even pass the laugh test.

JP said...

Good points, Gareth. I have to say that I agree with you (although I wouldn't be averse to an extra debate being held for a Scottish audience with the SNP).

Alasdair, begrudging the Welsh and the Scots would seem petty if I knew for definte that it was their own decision with their own money. It would be like begrudging the French or American system for something.

However, I am still not convinced that the free prescriptions in Wales are not in some way subsidised by the UK as a whole (be that directly or indirectly). This situation is unfair when the NHS where my parents are (37 miles from London) is so underfunded that the nearest A&E is an hour away. If there is going to be devolution we need to sort out the basics in England before subsidising nicities elsewhere.

Alasdair Nicol said...

For better or worse we don't elect presidents, we vote for MPs, and the broadcasters are failing the devolved regions by failing to reflect the political situation there. Would it be fair if the Conservatives were excluded from political coverage ahead of the next European election, on the basis that the European Conservatives and Reformists group is electorally insignificant?

The Scottish Parliament has a fixed budget to spend as it wishes. I assume it is the same for the Welsh assembly. If the Welsh chose to prioritize free prescriptions, then that has no more effect on your parent's A&E provision that if the Welsh Assembly chose to spend it on gold plating toilet seats in schools.

If you think that now is a good time to examine the devolution settlements, and perhaps reconsider the funding mechanisms then I would agree with you.
Devolution has posed challenging constitutional questions, and I think that a televised debate including the nationalist parties would be illuminating. But when you say that you think these issues should only be debated for a Scottish audience instead of the entire UK, it appears to me that you'd rather complain that it isnae fair, and take cheap digs at Alex Salmond, instead of tackling the questions.

JP said...

The Scottish Parliament/Welsh Assembly may have fixed budgets but what do those budgets have to cover, and do they additionally get central Westminster funding for other things?

My feeling is that the Welsh can't possibly pay enough tax between them to cover all the basic services we enjoy and extras such as free prescriptions. I accept that I may be wrong, and the onus is probably on me therefore to investigate some hard fact before waving my hands around spuriously any more.

In terms of the debate, I wholeheartedly agree with you, Alasdair, in the sense that I believe in voting for a parliamentary representative rather than for a "presidential figure." But like it or lump it, the TV debate is entirely Prime-Ministerial. The format could perhaps have been done differently, but you could never produce something nationally which had total relevance to local candidates. Besides, if you included someone from every party, there'd be no time for everyone to have a reasonable say. And imagine the uproar if the BNP were invited to join in.
Hence in terms of pre-election debate, I'm not against the SNP being involved in something on a Scottish level, where it’s relevant to the election – in the same way that I wouldn’t mind it if the local news televised a hustings here. But I don’t want to see Sandra Gidley or Caroline Nokes on national TV, so why would I want to see Alex Salmond?
In terms of a Devolution debate, I agree that now is a good time. However, it needs to be done separately from the general pre-election debate.