Tuesday, August 26, 2014

An inconvenient truth for the Scottish secessionists

OK, Mr. Salmond won the second debate (not the first), but this fragment of an editorial by The Guardian demolishes the arguments of his last attempt to change the forecasts:
"Mr Salmond’s tactic in recent days has been to present Scottish independence as the bulwark against attempts to privatise the NHS. Logically the argument is a nonsense, given that the only person who could privatise the NHS in Scotland is Mr Salmond himself. Nevertheless his attempt to wrap himself in the NHS flag is not, from an emotional point of view, a stupid move for a politician who needs every vote he can get. It embodies an argument at the core of the centre-left case for independence – that the English-dominated UK is bound upon a wheel of deregulatory fire at the behest of global corporate power. Against this Anglo-juggernaut, many yes voters believe, Scots have only one option – an independence that would enable them to protect, in one part of these islands, what remains of the postwar Labour settlement.
If Mr Salmond can persuade enough voters that institutions and principles like those of the NHS are at risk from the union – and would be protected under independence – he may yet manage to ride a wave to victory next month. Even now, with all the polls still pointing to a no vote, and while acknowledging that public opinion tends to swing towards the status quo in the final weeks of most referendum campaigns, this cannot be ruled out. The welfarist desire to protect the people’s social gains, incarnated above all in the NHS, is rightly emotive. But social gains are also issues of material self-interest for millions of people. Such issues rightly matter to the voters, as the general election of 2015 is certain to show.
Yet the inconvenient truth for the pro-independence Scottish centre-left is this is as true south of the border as north of it. There is a myth in the yes campaign which casts the Scots as unusually social democratic, fair and inclusive in ways that the English and Welsh are not, in a Britain that has otherwise bent the knee to corporate interests. The trouble with this is that it is not true. On issues such as the NHS, there is little significant difference between Scottish opinion and English or Welsh. Even more significantly, an independent Scotland would have to face the problem of protecting the NHS and other social gains in conditions very similar to those that confront the UK.
The reality for modern nation states is that they all face a global economic order in which corporate power is in the ascendant, threatening the livelihoods of the poor and averagely well-off with no respect for borders, and against which most elected politicians can only deploy limited authority. This is what modern politics is fundamentally about. The NHS is caught in the crosshairs of that conflict, needing ever larger amounts of taxpayers’ money at a time when demands for public austerity remain strong. That would be as true in an independent Scotland as it is in the UK.
And not just in the UK. Today in France, President Hollande attempted to relaunch his presidency with a new government from which the Socialist party’s anti-austerity left would be excluded. It is a reminder that a similarly tough battle between politicians and corporate power is being fought out even in France, with its traditionally strong central state. There may be other arguments for Scottish independence, but the illusion that an independent Scotland could somehow escape these unavoidable contemporary policy dilemmas should not be one of them."

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