The Labour and Conservative parties would have Scottish voters believe they will concentrate all their efforts on improving the country’s place within a new, reinvigorated Union.
Their recent party conferences presented the perfect opportunities to spell out their inspiring visions of a future for the United Kingdom. They both failed to do so. In fact it is now obvious they have devoted precisely no effort to the matter.
Here’s how both parties showed their true feelings for Scotland.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson thought his Scottish leader Douglas Ross so unimportant that he failed to find a slot for his speech on the main conference stage. Instead Mr Ross was relegated to a fringe event at the conference on Sunday.
The Conservatives’ leader in Scotland showed that devolution was under real threat when he signalled that he had no interest in defending the Scottish parliament against plans by his London boss to grab powers over spending north of the Border.
The Prime Minister has diverted control of cash which was once distributed though the EU from Holyrood to Westminster. After Brexit Boris Johnson said that control over how that money should be spent would be passed to the UK government.
They will give it directly to local authorities without reference to the spending priorities of the Scottish government. MSPs have described the move as a “significant threat to the devolution settlement”.
But in a question and answer session at the Tory Party conference yesterday Douglas Ross, who holds seats in both the Scottish and UK parliaments, said he has ‘’no problem” with the move.
He said: “I’ve got no problem with bypassing the Scottish government if that money is going directly into local communities who have been asking for years for funding from the Scottish Government and have been ignored.’’
He ignored the obvious question of why control over vital spending should be diverted from a party with 64 MSPs to one with just six MPs. Under what definition of democracy would that move be acceptable?
The Prime Minister recently showed the confidence he has in those MPs when he by-passed them all when filling a job in the Scotland Office. Instead he made Tory donor Malcolm Offord a peer and gave the job to him.
Mr Ross recently defended that decision and also backed the Conservative government’s universally criticised move to end the £20 a week uplift in universal credit introduced to help struggling families cope with the pandemic.
Labour leader Keir Starmer used his party conference to portray his party as the sole defender of the Union. Yet his marathon, 90-minute speech at the conference included just three mentions of Scotland.
The first mention was an attack on what he described as ‘’the multi-headed hydra of nationalism’’, which he says has been ‘’most immediately damaging to our country’’.
The second was an attack on the Westminster government, which he said has ‘’no plans for how to make Brexit work for Britain’’. The Labour Party, of course, has said it has no plans to reverse Brexit. In fact its Shadow Brexit Minister Baroness Chapman said the party should ‘’move on’’ from Remainers’ need to “get over” the UK’s exit from the EU.
She insists a better relationship with Brussels than Boris Johnson’s disastrous trade deal was still “up for grabs”, but that Labour must take a positive approach rather than attacking Brexit.
The Labour leader’s third and final mention of Scotland returned to attacking the Scottish government, which he accused of underachieving while being ‘’distracted by an obsession with nationalism’’.
Keir Starmer unveiled not a single policy to address the democratic imbalance which saw Scotland being dragged out of Europe against its will. Nor indeed any ideas to help Scotland.
Instead he reverted to the tried, tested and failed initiative to drag former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown back into the debate and put forward the discredited case for a federalism which has never been put on the table by any government in Britain.
If all this amounts to their best efforts to represent Scotland’s best interests the case for independence has never been stronger.