Are the SNP principled defenders of Scottish values or Westminster Politicians?
Those of us who voted for the SNP in the General Election were delighted at the result. 56 MPs in the UK Parliament being a strong voice for Scotland. They also promised to be a principled opposition, refusing to indulge in the horsetrading and old boy Westminster network. And they began well….as exemplified by their decision to stand up to the Conservative Governments attempt to change the Sunday trading laws in England and Wales. Because they were concerned about the effects on Scottish workers (and I suspect because they wanted to give the government a bloody nose), they compelled the government to back down. So far so good. I was happy with the way my vote was working out!
And then last week, news of an alarming nature reached me. The Keep Sunday Special Campaign and the Christian Institute contacted me and asked me to comment on a proposed deal between the SNP and the government, in which the SNP would not vote against the governments proposals when they come up next week, in exchange for more money/concessions for the Scotland bill No, I said, the SNP would not stoop to that kind of horsetrading. But it turns out I may have been wrong. The Herald, the Sunday Post and others reported this weekend that indeed a deal has been done. Angela Eagle, the shadow business secretary, has written to Angus Robertson, the SNP Westminster leader, asking him to clarify his stance. Things are not looking good when you get the following statement made by Hannah Bardell, the SNP’s business spokeswoman.
“Without the strong and principled action of the SNP, such protections may never have materialised. On behalf of the SNP I have met with and engaged with a wide range of interested stakeholders in recent weeks and will continue to do so in the run up to report stage of the Bill before we reach a final position.”
Well now is the time for the SNP to show just how strong and principled it really is. David Cameron and his government, despite their endless trumpeting of ‘British values’ are quite prepared to get rid of one of our core values, the principle of Sunday being special and all the social justice implications of the fourth commandment. They want to get rid of that because for them commerce overrides everything – including local customs, workers rights and any sense of Sunday being special. I expect that of the new Tories. What I do not expect is that the SNP will ally with them on this issue. The SNP decided to oppose this legislation in November because they saw that it would drive down workers wages north of the Border as well – shops opening on Sunday will not mean that more goods are sold, it just means greater expense for the retailers, which will be carried by the customers and the workers. So what has changed?
The reality is not much. Although the SNP will say there is greater protection for workers, this would be a shabby deal, done behind closed doors. I hope that these reports are completely false because if true, they would show that the SNP, rather than being a breath of fresh air to the Westminster wheeling and dealing, would have become as unprincipled as any of the other parties. It would be an absolute disgrace if the SNP, who claim to be a progressive party, were to support this attack on workers rights, as part of a back doors deal concerning the financial settlement in Scotland.
Why does this matter? Because the SNP hold the balance of power on this issue, as there are at least twenty Tories who have not sold their principles to the corporate supermarket giants. The Tory government thus requires SNP support (and abstaining is in this instance the same as supporting) in order to get this measure through. I very much doubt the SNP will allow a free vote on this issue as they basically don’t have free votes on anything and SNP MPs are not allowed to deviate from party policy – even if that policy is made up on the back of a fag packet in closed door deals with the Conservative government. The authoritarianism of the SNP in this kind of issue as always, as an SNP supporter, disturbed me. I want to elect a Member of Parliament who will represent me, and all their other constituents with some degree of thought, compassion and independence. I don’t just want to elect a monkey who will push the button as ordered by the party hierarchy. Will any of the ‘56’ dare to break ranks?
From a Christian worldview this matters because the Lords Day is special. The Fourth commandment is not just about having a weekly ‘holyday’, it is also about social justice, workers rights, and all having the right to Sabbath and a day of rest. We may be a nation of shopkeepers but we should not have commerce and commercialism as our be all and end all. The Conservatives it seems to me have forgotten Britain’s Christian heritage – they serve money and use Christianity when it suits them. The other side of the same coin is that our liberal progressives serve an anti-Christian agenda and use money when it suits them. As an SNP supporter it disappoints me to see the SNP behaving in such an unprincipled way. Instead of being a headache to the Tory government and the thorn in the side of David Cameron it looks as though they are becoming much needed allies in the EU referendum campaign, and now helping to deliver this other key part of the Tory manifesto.
If the SNP does not stick by its original guns, and Scotland ends up voting to get rid of the last remnants of the Sabbath in England (despite our history and tradition) then I would suggest that Burn’s words would be apposite. I plead with SNP MPs to consider Burn’s words before you support the Tories in this retrograde policy…
But English gold has been our bane-
Such a parcel of rogues in a nation!
We’re bought and sold for English gold-
Such a parcel of rogues in a nation!
Click the video above to hear a superb (English!) version of Burns Song!