The term “power grab”, as favoured by the SNP/Scottish Government, is something of a misnomer. It suggests a sudden snatching or rapid seizing of power. In fact, what we are witnessing is more pauchle than putsch. More an insidious, creeping erosion of our Parliament’s capacities than an outright coup. Dictionaries of the Scots Language defines ‘pauchle’, in part, as pilfering or “a minor dishonesty”. The term is better used to describe low-level cheating and swindling and embezzling than the bold, brazen robbery suggested by the word ‘grab’ – as in ‘smash ‘n’ grab’.
Brazen it certainly is. Scotland Office minister David Duguid shouldn’t imagine he’s fooling anybody other than those who want to be fooled with his talk of an “opportunity” to “engage directly with Scottish councils” as it was described by fellow British Nationalist (LibDem) MP Wendy Chamberlain. Those with eyes to see and minds of their own to process what they observe are well aware of the process he’s actually referring to. A process of not-so-gradually and faux-surreptitiously peeling away the capacities of the Scottish Parliament while also working assiduously in the background (but in plain sight) to undermine its status in the eyes of Scotland’s people and alter perceptions of its legitimacy. We see what the British political elite is up to. We see it because we’re supposed to see it.
The pretence of subtlety goes hand-in-hand with the constant refrain about the Scottish Government’s ‘failure to engage’ as a device by which to deflect accusations of disrespecting devolution. The British know that even among Unionists – particularly those of the traditional Scottish Tory stripe – there is considerable fondness for the Scottish Parliament. To keep those Unionists on-side it is necessary to at least make a token gesture that allows plausible deniability of those accusations. By the account of David Duguid and his ilk what they are doing is not that big a deal and besides it’s being done respectfully and only because the Scottish Government has made it necessary by their ‘failure to engage’. For those who see past the pretence it’s brazen thievery born of cold contempt. For those who choose not to see it is gallant Britannia rushing to rescue her ward from the obduracy and ineptitude of a Scottish Government too obsessed with independence to get on with the ‘day job’. The latter impression having the advantage of being daily reinforced by mercenary hacks toiling in the British propaganda mills.
When historians write the chapter of Scotland’s history dealing with the dismantling of our democratic institutions they will not refer to it as ‘The Great Power Grab’ but as ‘The Great Pauchle’.
As is so often the case with professional politicians, it is not the issue under discussion that is significant but what they say and how they say it. Superficially, the issue is the £20m generously made available by the beneficent British government for the purpose of improving Scotland’s transport infrastructure. For context, the Scottish Government’s Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity budget for 2021/22 is in the region of £4bn. So the amount involved is relatively miniscule – about 0.5% of the budget if my notoriously unreliable arithmetic is uncharacteristically up to scratch. Suffice it to say that the sum involved is insignificant. Especially when one takes into account that is sourced from funds provided by Scottish taxpayers and almost certainly relabeled money taken from a previously announced allocation. So what’s all the fuss about?
The fuss is what it’s all about. The fuss is all it’s about. The issue itself is a non-issue. Its only value lies in the opportunity it affords David Duguid to add his few drips to the drip-dripping erosion of the existing constitutional settlement. It gives him the chance to read from the script prepared for him by his bosses in London. Although ‘script’ may be another misnomer. The likes of Duguid are given guidance as to the message they are required to convey. The message that the British Prime Minister decides on – perhaps with input from cabinet accomplices selected for their ‘agreeability’. This message is then honed and polished by professional spin-doctors before being passed down to the individual mouthpieces in the form of bullet points and key terms/phrases. The bosses then rely on the skills of the professional politician who is expected to communicate the message as if it were their own. Which explains why it so often goes wrong. Many of those professional politicians simply aren’t up to the task. If Andrew Kerr MSP or Douglas Ross MSP immediately suppose I’m referring to them there’s probably a good reason.
The basic instruction issued to David Duguid and others is that they should take every opportunity that arises or can be contrived to portray the Scottish Government as incompetent and intransigent. At the same time, they are expected to chip away at the reputation and authority of the Scottish Parliament in particular but also other parts of our democratic infrastructure and anything that is identifiably Scottish i.e. Police Scotland or NHS Scotland. Oh! And whatever it is, stick a Union flag on it! The actual withdrawing of powers from the Scottish Parliament is probably above Duguid’s pay-grade. He does his bit to aid the British Nationalist ‘One Nation’ project mainly by providing those mercenary hacks in the British state’s propaganda mills with the material from which they can stitch together yet another piece in the ‘Scotland as hellhole’ genre perfected by the likes of Tom Gordon at The Herald.
(Incidentally, it is invariably in the contriving of opportunities to disparage the Scottish Government and demean the Scottish Parliament by politicians over-eager to please their bosses that it all goes turd-shaped. Watch FMQ and you’ll see what I mean. If Andrew Kerr MSP or Douglas Ross MSP immediately suppose I’m referring to them….)
So the pauchlin’ proceeds. To the people of Scotland, what is being pauchled is the very essentials of our democracy and our distinctive identity as a nation. As far as the likes of David Duguid is concerned it’s just collateral damage incidental to him/her doing their job as agents of what Gerry Hassan has called the “Empire State” and seeking preference within the structures of power, privilege and patronage which constitute the imagined state of ‘Great Britain’.
The pauchlin’ o’ Scotia proceeds all but entirely unhindered by an SNP/Scottish Government which excuses its faint-hearted inaction as abiding by the rules and giving our opponents enough rope and not interrupting them when they’re making mistakes and letting them drive more people to Yes and enough such pish to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool where the Sturgeon/SNP faithful can paddle to their faint heart’s content. And that, dear reader. is what the White Rose Rising: #UnionNoMore demonstration now less than a week away is all about.
We gather at Holyrood on the afternoon of Tuesday 31 August not to protest against the Great Pauchlin’ being perpetrated by the British government, but to demand that our own government act immediately to put a stop to this malicious dismantling of our democracy. We should expect nothing of the British state other than that it will continue – at an accelerating pace – to eviscerate the Scottish Parliament and denigrate the Scottish nation in preparation for constitutional ‘reforms’ which will see Scotland stripped of its distinctive identity at it is subsumed in a new ‘Great Britain’ molded in a form dictated by the demented delusions of British Nationalist ideology and the vaunting pretensions of British exceptionalism.
It is futile to make demands of the British state. It is foolish to rely on the goodwill, good faith and good nature of a British political elite implacably determined to preserve the Union. It is madness to delay intervention to put a stop to the erosion of our ability to resist when a new Union is imposed. The time to challenge the assumed authority of the British state is now, while the Scottish Parliament still has the potential to be effective and the Yes movement may yet recover some of the strength it once possessed.
Time has always been the enemy of Scotland’s cause. And our enemy is a friend to those who oppose that cause. The British government can afford to pauchle rather than grab because we have been giving them all the time they need. It is time to put an end to the British Nationalist ‘One Nation’ project before it puts an end to the Scotland we know and to any hope of the Scotland to which we aspire. It is time to say NO MORE! And say it loud enough that we cannot any longer be ignored by the government we mandated to rescue Scotland from the British Nationalist onslaught.
It is time to shout loudly enough that we cannot be ignored…
No more delay!
No more excuses!
No more Union!