With all the pomp and ceremony of an obscurantist and ossifying feudal monarchy the British parliament was opened and David Cameron addressed the Lords and Commons through his elderly mouthpiece the Queen. For Scotland and our independence movement this means that the games have begun. All irony was lost on the establishment when an unelected head of state with a net worth of £550 million pontificated on her government’s plans to continue its programme of austerity by slashing public services to ensure Britain lives within its means.
In a nation which has been described repeatedly by Cameron as broken the Lords and Commons were given advanced warning of the measures that will be taken against the poor and the vulnerable. New, lower caps will be placed on social welfare designed to further victimise young people and the unemployed. Zero-hour contracts and other methods of labour exploitation will increasingly be used to replace the social safety net in a frosty economic environment where social welfare and military enlistment are often the only options. On top of this blatant attack on the weakest the British government will set about strangling what power the trade unions have left. Now, no longer do the unions need a majority ballot to strike. They must present a ballot of at least 50% of their membership, and greater than this for essential services – effectively outlawing industrial action.
Efforts will be made by the government to guarantee that people’s human rights are not violated by these spirit-crushing schemes. Its efforts will be to make sure that the people who need them the most do not have human rights. While plans for a British bill of rights and the repeal of the Human Rights Act may have been put on hold, the Queen went to great pains to remind her listeners that these plans were still very much in the pipeline. No doubt the full weight of this bill will be brought to bear on the backs of the immigrants the government seeks to control.
All of these moves are designed to weaken the power of resistance, and ease the ongoing transfer of wealth to the wealthy, but as the United Kingdom shows signs of deterioration, and as the constitutional question becomes more dangerous to the establishment, the attention of the Queen had to turn to Scotland. Loyalty for the union must be won in the north of England. For it is there that the unity of England itself is most in danger, and with the support of the north Westminster will find it easier to hold Scotland with or without its consent. As Scotland’s obsolete Labour Party has done, so the Royal establishment is doing. In her speech the Queen referred to the nostalgic idea of the “northern powerhouse” to remind the people of Manchester, Leeds, and Sheffield of their proud industrial past. She failed to remind them that during her reign her government systematically reduced their powerhouse to a poorhouse.
Not since its creation in 1707 has the constitutional question in Scotland been settled, but now in the twilight days of the union – a union enforced often at gunpoint and always by pauperism – Britain’s unelected head of state speaks of creating a strong and lasting constitutional settlement. We have to wonder if she reads the newspapers at all. Scotland has already run like sand through her fingers, but, as always, the tyrants are the last to know of their demise.
It is pleasing at least to see that in her 80s, as the last of her imperial territories prepares to lower the union flag, this noble woman has kept her sense of humour. She knows more than most that this sorry union has never been based on “mutual respect,” but it was lovely of her to crack the joke anyway. It lightened the mood. Her parliament is open, and we are hoping that when it closes it will close for the very last time Scotland.
Jason Michael, Ayrshire