Daily Archives: 12 April 2007

He forgot the woad…

Either I’m psychic or Alex Salmond reads this blog and just does things to wind me up. Six weeks after being castigated for stating that Salmond launched his 2005 General Election campaign by standing in front of that ridiculous statue of Mel Gibson in Stirling on 6 April to mark the Declaration of Arbroath. I suggested this was dog whistle politics. It turns out I had misremembered this, and was instead standing next to an actor dressed as Robert the Bruce.

Well, two years later, he’s ditched the claymore, but he did indeed choose to mark the Declaration of Arbroath by standing in front of Hollywood’s most famous anti-semite (can’t find any useable photos online, but they’re all up on PA Photos if you have access).

No doubt my dear SNP friends will be quick to claim that this is irrelevant, that the SNP are civic nationalists not ethnic nationalists, and that I’m spreading lies again, but let’s be clear. By explicitly posing outside of this statue he isn’t merely associating himself with William Wallace and all the blood and tears that is associated with him – he’s associating himself with the film version of his story which was a pack of lies. Presumably we are to believe that the Queen is Wallace’s distant ancestor, and that’s why he is happy for her to remain the Head of State of an independent Scotland?

Oh, and lest I forget, Mel Gibson is an adherent of exactly the kind of ‘muscular christianity’ that Brian Souter is such a fan of. Are we starting to see a pattern here?

Labour’s hospital grab is somewhat overstated

There appears to be a small nugget of truth to this story, but it has been exaggerated.

One does not build a hospital overnight (at least I hope one doesn’t), so the 2005 General Election figures are irrelevant to the number of hospitals built over the last decade. Compared to the 1997 results, the picture is somewhat different:

Labour: 418 MPs (63%) and 33 hospitals (70%)
Conservatives: 165 MPs (25%) and 10 hospitals (21%)
Lib Dems: 46 MPs (7%) and 2 hospitals (4%)

In other words, Labour is indeed over represented, and the trend increases if you take into account the 2001 election results, but not by terribly much. Once you factor out the fact that Labour has the lion’s share of seats, it doesn’t add up to much. If the whole system of where to build hospitals were conducted entirely at random, you might very well end up with a similar result.

The article also does not make it clear what areas those 5 remaining ‘cross-party’ hospitals cover. If they are predominantly Lib Dem/Tory areas (Cornwall for example), then the trend is even less significant. While Labour would remain slightly over-represented, the Lib Dem and Tory areas might not be under-represented at all.

Nice try Andrew Lansley, but I’m not convinced.

Crowns of Thorns

Geoffrey Wheatcroft’s article yesterday about what to do about a problem like Scotland, got Lib Dem bloggers in a lather for wrongly accrediting the West Dunfermline By-election victory to the SNP, but what they should have noticed is that the rest of the article is even more nonsense.

His proposed ‘solution’ is a Union of Crowns – both Scotland and England would have their own sovereign and distinct parliaments, but would be united as a dual monarchic union. He cites the example of Austria-Hungary.

There are two main problems with this idea: one anecdotal, the other rather more fundamental. Firstly, it is an inconvenient fact to this argument that Austria-Hungary was a dismal failure. It lasted 50 years, ended up splitting during one of the biggest bloodbaths the world has ever known, and if the Austrians and Hungarians I’ve spoken to about it are anything to go by, continues to poison relations between the countries to this day. It was the last hurrah of an already defunct empire. What’s more, with England 10 times larger than Scotland, it isn’t even a particularly useful comparison.

The other, more fundamental problem is where this leaves that other constituent parts of the United Kingdom, which Wheatcroft does not even name check in his article. Does Wales suddenly become part of England? I’m sure they’ll love that. And what about Northern Ireland?

The latter is an issue that I feel the SNP need to address as well. Most Northern Irish protestants are Ulster Scots and have more in cultural ties with Scotland than England. Indeed, the Unionists that I’ve known have generally been not so much pro-Union as anti-Ireland. Several have told me that they not only support Scottish Independence, but would want Northern Ireland to have some form of political union with the Scots under such a circumstance as well.

I can’t help but think that Scottish Independence is going to cause Northern Ireland some difficulty down the line. Will they be content with remaining in the UK, or will a movement for Ulster-Scots unity emerge? Or will they simply feel abandoned? Scottish Independence would potentially upset the delicate balance laid out in the Belfast Agreement. Presumably Scotland would remain in the Council of the Isles, but I would be amazed if it didn’t raise the question of whether it should have a wider role. This is a can of worms Northern Ireland could do without.

Scottish Nationalists like to wrap themselves in history, but I can’t help but feel that their self-obsessed crusade for independence means turning their back on a lot of history which is little too complicated and doesn’t fit neatly into an England versus Scotland narrative. I can’t see a United Kingdom really working without Scotland, but it does rather leave Wales and Northern Ireland in the soup.

UPDATE: Peter Pigeon has more on this and Wheatcroft gets a kicking in the Guardian letters column, including from Neil Ascherson, whose article Wheatcroft uses as the basis for his.