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A Closer Look at British Politics…

By Donald “Braveheart” Stewart

As I sit in my Kailyard I often wonder about the future.

British politics is never easy to comprehend.

You have the UK government which sits in Westminster and then devolution has given us an Assembly in Stormont for Northern Ireland, a Senedd in Cardiff for the Welsh and the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, or Holyrood for the rebellious Scots.

We are naught if not up in arms about something.

The UK parliament has a Prime Minister whilst the devolved parliaments each have a First Minister.

Scotland had, and still has for the moment, Nicola Sturgeon, as the First Minister of Scotland: longest serving and first female.

A few weeks ago, she resigned and there is a battle for the new leadership of her party, as well as to become the new First Minister of our wee nation. It was a seismic shock for everyone in politics in Scotland, though with the benefit of the political runes – hindsight – we could all have seen it coming, but only after it happened…

Sturgeon has been in politics since she was a teenager. Her life mission is to have Scottish Independence. She leaves without realizing it.

For some that is a failure. For many the cause of independence is now, because of her departure, much less likely. Sturgeon, until recently, was universally popular. She was not a populist, but recently her ratings have suffered.

There were never any doubts over how effective she was during the COVID crisis. She appeared daily at news briefings. She comforted children that the restrictions being placed on people would not be imposed on either the Tooth Fairy or Santa. She knew how people saw her and she loved being lampooned by Scottish comedienne Janey Godley. She was known by all as a “Nippy Sweetie” and every time she saw something with that on it, she bought it, photographed it and tweeted it.

Her self-deprecation was endearing and humane. In a time when the human touch was desperately needed she had a steady supply of it, despite the fact she appeared like someone who had been awkward as she grew up around others. She loved books and shared that love. She was an auntie, unable to bear children and shared that too. She was never old enough to be our mothers, but she was wise enough to be our counsel.

She has now begun the short departure into her new career. As a politician she was singular.

She recently published her tax returns – there is no requirement to so do – and has refused every wage rise since becoming a Member of the Scottish Parliament or MSP. Any wage rise has been given back to the public purse and of her salary right now, 20% of it gets paid back.

She has sought to bring Scandinavian style policies into the Scottish communities she serves and so, every baby born in Scotland gets a box from the government with nappies, cream for rashes and their parents get a condom – amongst many other things. We have free prescriptions for people needing medication and free dental care for those who need it. University and college tuition is free and adult elderly care is too. To top it all off, under 18s have free bus travel throughout the whole of Scotland.

Of course, Sturgeon was not responsible for every one of these policies being enacted, but she was the head of the government making them happen.

But she was all about Scotland becoming a sovereign nation.

We had a referendum in 2014. We have had several elections before and since. Sturgeon lost the referendum but managed to win every other vote with wide margins. Her party, the Scottish National Party (SNP) has been in power in Scotland for over a decade and is the dominant force in local government, national government and down in Westminster.

At the last election she announced a second referendum on Scottish independence as the Scottish people had once again voted for a majority of pro-independence parties. But she did not have the legal means to so do., she needed the UK government in Westminster to allow us to hold it as they had done in 2014. Sturgeon referred the matter to the Supreme Court for a decision. When the independence vote was lost in 2014, the pro union folk, against the cause of independence made a great play out of the United Kingdom being an ideal of equal members. England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland were equally part of this union.

The Supreme Court disagreed and legally told us that without the say so of the UK Parliament any referendum held by the Scottish Parliament would be illegal.

Left with little choice, Sturgeon announced that the next UK election would be fought on one issue. But there were many who thought this was the wrong strategy. Sturgeon announced a special conference to debate this.

She seemed less confident than before. The SNP were facing a scandal over political funding, there was a scandal over ferries being built for use in the islands and rumblings over a scheme to have bottles brought back for and environmental scheme, important for the planet, but feeling trivial over how badly it seems to be organized. Scotland also has an appalling level of drug deaths and our public services need reformed – badly, mainly as they were badly reformed before.
And then came a rapist who was to be housed in a female jail.

The most contentious issue in Scotland has been Transgender Rights. The Gender Recognition Reform Act allows self-identification of gender for people. For those of us in support of the move, this has become the most toxic of debates. Both sides have a lot to answer for as social media and appalling abuse was sparked up.

Within that context there was a convicted rapist claiming to be female who was incarcerated in a female jail by the Scottish Prison Service. In fairness to them, the process of trying to formulate policy in a toxic context when they want to do “the right thing” as well as accord with the law has proven quite the struggle for most of us.
But it seemed to start the beginning of the end for the SNP’s ultimate dominance.

As a woman, Sturgeon became a focal point of that abuse. It was extreme. Her resilience was already being hammered and this just added more to the fire. Her own performances in interviews was less assured than before. People could smell the blood associated with defeat and there were few willing to give her any comfort when they went all out and attacked.

The UK Government have taken legal moves to stop the Gender Recognition Reform Act – which was passed by a majority in the Scottish Parliament – thus showing again that the United Kingdom is not a union of equals.

And so, we have an election within the SNP for a new leader and a new First Minister. The candidates? A profoundly religious Christian who is against abortion, having babies outside of marriage, and the Gender Reform Recognition Act in its entirety, a renowned troublemaker who resigned from the Scottish Government over the Gender Reform Recognition Act and a practicing Muslim who abstained over the Gender Reform Recognition Act but has come out to support Trans Rights.

The media are pushing up the candidature of the first, there are many who see the second as a compromise and there are a few who believe the third may be the guy to go with.

It is a worrying time, not least for the ordinary members of a community at the margins of our society who deserve much better than the toxic fuel of a debate which gives people the right to trample over their rights. Trans people are hoping for one result, independence supporters are hoping for any result that sets us free form the interference of a UK Government who use fork tongues in their communications.

There is, however, one voice we shall all miss – the nippy one…

A view from the new Kailyard or, how you look over there, from over here…

(Kailyard n. a cabbage patch, often attached to a school of writing – the Kailyard School – a genre of overly sentimental and sweet Scottish literature from the late 19th century where sentimental and nostalgic tales are told in escapist tales of fantasy, but here we seek to reverse it by making the Kailyard Observations of effective invective comment from that looks not to return to the past but to launch us into a better future by the one Donald worth believing…

Nippy Sweetie – A person, usually female, who annoys people just by talking. Mostly used in southern Scotland and Glasgow media.

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