THE cooncil elections are coming up, and we get a vote on the make-up of the bodies who are going to be in charge of local issues. The Tories have got this all carefully thought through and have a carefully and rigorously thought out set of policies about every area of local government competence. They’ve got local policies for local people. Well no, actually, that’s as much a lie as the statement that Theresa May is listening to the concerns of the Scottish Parliament or that Michael Gove isn’t really the mutant offspring of a guppy and the Winston Churchill fan club.
The truth is that the Tories’ local election policy begins and ends with fighting the entire campaign on the basis of opposing that referendum they’re always accusing other people of being obsessed with.
The reason it’s wrong for anyone else to be obsessed with the referendum is because that’s what the Tories are for. Opposing the referendum is the day job for Scottish Tories. That’s why they’re constantly demanding that Nicola Sturgeon gets back to her day job, because they feel they’ve pretty much got the referendum thing covered all by themselves.
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They don’t have any other job, with the possible exception of getting all apoplectic when confronted with the sight of Gaelic signage. If you give a Tory a railway station sign with “second referendum” painted on it in Gaelic, their head will explode. That’s a true fact too. And I’m strongly tempted to try it, just to see what happens.
Voting for a local cooncillor because they’re going to oppose a second Scottish independence referendum is a bit like voting for an X Factor contestant because they’re opposed to a referendum on the monarchy. The X Factor contestant would probably have a greater influence on whether a referendum is held than a Tory cooncillor in North Berwick, because they do get on the telly and could at least croon about it. All the Tories know how to do is crow, and that’s never going to make the top 10 of the Spotify charts. Jackson Carlaw, Murdo Fraser and Oliver Mundell would be the worst boyband in the world, Naw Direction.
Tory cooncillors only ever get on the telly when they’ve been convicted of something, and even then it’s only for a five-second mention on Reporting Scotland because it doesn’t do to dwell on the shortcomings of Unionists. Dwelling on the shortcomings of the SNP is far more important.
The Tories want to turn the Scottish council elections into a referendum on a referendum, because they don’t have any policies that anyone outwith the comments section of The Scotsman might find remotely appealing.
The Scottish Tories begin and end with opposing a referendum, and opposing the SNP. That doesn’t mean that they’ve got any alternatives to the SNP – it’s enough to say that the SNP are bad without bothering their not-so-pretty little heads with anything that amounts to substance.
Or at least they don’t want the rest of us to consider their substance, because that substance is pretty rank. Tory substance is supporting the rape clause. Tory substance is denying child support to third children. Tory substance is demonising the poor and blaming them for problems created by the rich. So they prefer to concentrate on criticism, without saying what they’d do differently. It’s better to concentrate on criticising your opponents because it means people might not realise that you are in fact the incarnation of Satan. Or at least Satan’s love child with a goldfish, in the case of Michael Gove.
Take the recent chorus of manufactured outrage about Nicola Sturgeon’s trip to the USA. It coincided with the release of figures showing that the UK economy in Scotland wasn’t performing as well as the UK economy in London.
This is of course entirely the fault of the Scottish Government, despite the fact that the Tories and the other Unionist parties have done their utmost to ensure the levers of macroeconomic control remain firmly in the hands of Westminster. This is why it’s misleading to speak about the Scottish economy, and it’s far more accurate to talk about the UK economy in Scotland.
The poor performance of the UK economy in Scotland was the cue for Unionist after Unionist to line up and demand that Nicola Sturgeon return from the USA and get back to the day job. Although since Holyrood is in recess for Easter, the day job means MSPs being on holiday and sitting at home trying to get to the next level of Minecraft on Playstation.
To be fair, this is the closest that a Tory MSP ever gets to doing anything constructive. It’s either that or making eejits out of themselves on Twitter.
One after another, Unionist politicians and their media backers lined up to harrumph that Nicola Sturgeon should get back to Scotland and concentrate on the day job and focus on the state of the UK economy in Scotland.
Yet, surprise, surprise, not one of them were able to give a single concrete suggestion about what she should do to improve the UK economy in Scotland, other than forgetting about another independence referendum. Because in Unionistland, the uncertainty Scotland faces is entirely about the prospect of another indyref, and nothing whatsoever to do with the great unmentionable, the looming catastrophe of Brexit. Complaining about the uncertainty of another independence referendum while ignoring Brexit is a bit like getting angry about the rescue helicopter while you’re dangling off a cliff on a rapidly fraying rope.
Labour at least has the fantasy fig leaf of federalism, but the Scottish Tories are a single-policy party, and that policy is making an angry face whenever anyone mentions a second independence referendum. So if you want to waste your vote in the cooncil elections, vote Tory. They don’t want you to vote on local issues, they don’t want you to vote on rubbish collections, dog mess, local schools, local planning decisions, the state of your parks or libraries. They want you to use your vote to say that you don’t want a say on your country’s future, or indeed on anything else. They want you to use your vote as a meaningless gesture that won’t make the slightest bit of difference, because that’s what the Tories see Scotland as – a meaningless place that doesn't make the slightest bit of difference. Vote Tory, vote to be irrelevant. It’s quite appropriate really.