Herald letter: It is baffling that nationhood is being put before having food on the table (no £wall)

Tuesday 24 March 2015

IT is unusual, but as a member of the Labour Party, I find myself in full agreement with Ian Bell, in his analysis of the way in which Scottish politics now appears to be very different to those of the other parts of the UK (“Uniform swing in the polls that is not an aberration”, The Herald, March 21).

I also agree with him that I find this state of affairs to be baffling.

It is baffling to me because I believe in the British philosophy formulated by a Scot* (John Stuart Mill) and refined by an Englishman (Jeremy Bentham) that the aim of government policy should be to provide the greatest possible benefit to the greatest number of people.

It is also baffling because as a social democrat I believe that we achieve more collectively than on our own: as individuals in families, as workers in unions, and as neighbours in communities. The principle also applies to regions and nations within the UK and the EU: we share that all may prosper. This also demands a shared politics.

I am therefore baffled that so many Scots appear to be ready to support the Scottish Nationalists, whose belief is that the relationship between Scotland and England is unique in that it does not work for the greater mutual good, and that it never can, so a new political border is required as a result.

Just as baffling is that Scottish voters are now increasingly in favour of the SNP and therefore its policy of full financial autonomy (FFA). FFA would mean the end of the sharing principle of the Barnett Formula and would cost Scotland something like 138,000 jobs, an extra 15p on taxation or huge cuts in public expenditure.

In other words, Scottish politics are indeed very different, as Mr Bell says. They differ in that self-interest appears to be valued above sharing resources and finding common solutions. They also differ in that even that self-interest is a false prospectus, in that it looks like it is no longer “the economy, stupid” which will drive how Scots vote – the focus seems to be a nation once again, even if that aim risks a large number of incomes and livelihoods.

Or, Scots seem to be taking the old saying: “You can’t eat a flag'”and adding: “So what? That flag is more important than the food on our table and that of our neighbours and family.” Baffling indeed.

Peter A Russell,

(*NB: Correction: JS Mill born London.)

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