Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Too Bad

I am talking to my son, and he is describing a lecture he just had at University. It was about archaeology in war zones – what happens when a war rolls over our heritage. The lecturer showed video of military tanks clanking over ancient temples…and then said that the real story was not there, but was in the fact that these sites were looted first, that the statues, the pottery, the art was stolen, packaged and shipped out for sale to the highest bidder. With the funds, of course, coming back in the form of guns, bullets and more tanks. The pillaged loot was re-badged in Basel, and sold in London.

London! Trading in stolen artefacts! Why does so much immoral trade circuit through London?

This week’s Commons vote illustrates part of the problem. London is the node in a network of former colonies including the British Virgin Islands, which have allowed people to set up companies whose ownership is opaque, or directly anonymous. So whether you are dealing in stolen statues or offering ‘riot control’ equipment to dodgy regimes you can trade through London’s former colonies, or its Crown Dependencies.

Westminster could have stopped this years ago. But they didn’t. It took 14 rebel Tories, including the increasingly belligerent Ken Clarke, to force a Government climb-down.

Why? Because we are badly governed. We have a bad government in Westminster, a rotten government. I don’t mean the Tory party, although they are fully part of the problem. I mean the government. Westminster bends its ear too easily to the lobbyists – from the arms trade, from the City, from the architects of tax-avoidance schemes, from the multinationals… Westminster is too full of clubbable chaps who went to school with the chaps who are now doing the dodgy deals.

Westminster is corruptible, and corrupted.

And Westminster rules Scotland. ‘Rules’ in the imperial, Britannia sense, as the Brexit power grab shows. Rules in the expectation that the people of Scotland will be grateful for the crumbs from Westminster’s very fat loaf.

The big decisions – who we go to war with next, how we control the power of wealth, what we do or don’t do about climate change, which American multinational we let off the fiscal hook, how we set quotas for immigration – are all taken by a rotten government on behalf of Scotland.

Scotland needs an independent modern government. A government that is transparent, open and representative, so that everyone can walk into Holyrood and feel that someone there shares their interests or their concerns. We also need, as Lesley Riddoch keeps reminding us, good local government with the power and the money to resolve local issues. We need to pass our own laws, to work out how we live and love together, through a parliament that is not held in the palm of the lobbyists. We need independence.

There is a similar feeling about Madrid. Even the right-wing El País asks whether we should be 'organising public life [by] relying on Mafia techniques.'
 The corruption, and the extraordinary collusion of the judiciary in locking up elected politicians for their opinions, are leading many Catalans to the conclusion that independence is the only way of getting a government that functions.

An escape from under the heel of a bad government is one of the reasons why half the people of Scotland, and half the people of Catalonia, want independence. We’ve both had more than 250 years of it, and it gives us the dry boke.

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