January 15, 2012

A free Scotland? No, it's being fed into the Euro-blender

14 January 2012 10:21 PM

If David Cameron wants to hurry Scotland out of the United Kingdom, he is going the right way about it. The more he says he loves the Union, the more I fear for it.
For all his bluster, he must know that the SNP has a moral mandate to hold a referendum on independence when it wants to do so. Placing legal obstacles in its way will rightly anger reasonable Scots.
I have seldom seen a clearer example of someone setting out to achieve the opposite of what he claims to want. Mr Cameron would guillotine the Queen in Trafalgar Square if he thought it would keep him in office. So breaking up the country for the sake of a parliamentary majority would not be much of a strain for him. And getting the Scots out of Westminster is his best hope of such a majority.
How on earth do we find ourselves in this mess? Only 40 years ago, Scottish Nationalism was a weird fad, preached in garbled tones by hairy communist poets and funny old ladies. Tory Unionists held dozens of Westminster seats. Now Nationalism is a mighty force, led by an astute man, close to attaining its goal. Unionism is dead and the Scottish Tories are a laughable remnant of eccentric bystanders led by a lesbian kickboxer.
But it is not Alex Salmond’s cunning that has brought this about. It is the European Union, which needs to turn this country into manageable chunks before it can feed it into the Euro-blender and destroy it for ever.
Notice how any part of the UK can have a referendum on reducing the powers of London (and Northern Ireland can vote to leave the Union altogether, any time it wants to).
But nobody can have a vote of any kind on reducing the powers of  Brussels, let alone on leaving the  EU. The truth is obvious, but nobody observes it.
Brussels rejoices to see Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland becoming ever more separate from England. It would like to see England itself Balkanised into ‘regions’ – and the new multicultural republic of London under President Boris is a major step towards that.
As it happens, I love Scotland. I value its huge contributions to our joint history in thought, war, invention, industry and literature. I think it should make its own laws. I think it is quite right that England, far bigger and richer, should subsidise it. But I do not think it can be truly independent. It is too small, and not rich enough.
And before anyone mentions Scandinavia, they should look at the troubled history of that region, its tiny nations repeatedly occupied or menaced into subjection by more powerful neighbours. All an independent Scotland could hope for, until the EU came along, was a grim, pinched future on the fringe of Europe.
Now, it can either be a part of a United Kingdom, sharing a long and mostly happy history, a love of liberty, an astonishing inventiveness and industry and remarkable valour in war; or it can be a province of the Brussels empire, granted all the toys and trappings of nationhood but actually far less free and autonomous than it is now.
Brussels would be happy to let Scotland (like Ireland) have a flag and an anthem. There would be Scottish EU passports, token Scottish armed forces, a Scottish international dialling code and internet  code, Scottish postage stamps and a Scottish Broadcasting Corporation.
The political classes of Edinburgh and Glasgow would be able to feast on Brussels money. But every important decision would be taken by the EU. You can see why this appeals to professional politicians. But it is hard to see how it would help normal men and women. Yet, unless we all fight our  way out of the EU, our country will be broken up and our flag made meaningless.
Old age shows no mercy to women. Nor does this film

The makers of the incredibly nasty new film about Lady Thatcher seem to have been mainly worried that the feminist sisterhood might attack it. I expect that is why they invited my anti-sexist, right-on opposite number, Suzanne Moore, to a private dinner with the film’s star, Meryl Streep.
Ms Streep cooked her own-recipe apple pie for Suzanne and several other notable media women. By contrast, they didn’t even ask sexist, reactionary little me to a preview, though their PR firm ceaselessly invites me to free advance showings of other, less interesting films.
Well, never mind. I can afford my own ticket and saw it on the night it was released, so you don’t have to.
After much thought, I have decided that it is one of the most cynical, unpleasant and cruel films I have ever seen. It will be  a pity if it makes anyone rich. I am certainly not a Thatcher-worshipper. But nor am I a Thatcher-hater. And I think you would have to hate her quite a lot to approve of this film.
Many of us – even if we do not now know it – will sink into the dementia which she has suffered. Why, the people responsible for this film may themselves end their days as tragic husks of what they are now.
Will they, their friends or their families think it proper to make a public spectacle of this decline while they are still alive? It wasn’t necessary. It was wrong. And because old age is so much more merciless to women than it is to men, I think the right-on feminists should join me in protesting.

We need low-speed rail... and lots of it

The campaign against the new high-speed rail line through the Chilterns is overdone. Railways don’t do nearly as much damage as motorways, and I can’t remember anyone fussing much about the hideous, irreparable scar made in the Chilterns by the M40, visible 20 miles away.
But if there’s money to spare for building railways, what we need is low and medium-speed lines that go where we want to go, not bullet trains between big cities. Our island is  so small that a 125mph maximum is quite  high enough.
The lunatic mistake of the Beeching cuts, which left dozens of medium-size towns without a station, needs to be reversed. And perhaps above all, England needs a decent East-West link for both passengers and goods.
Here we Gove again...
I wondered how long it would be before Michael Gove said he would make it easier to ‘sack bad teachers’. Every Education Secretary in living memory is eventually reduced to saying this. Nothing changes, and it won’t until they bring back grammar schools.


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