In seeking to span a bridge over troubled waters, President Macron's offer to lend the Bayeux Tapestry to the UK was smart diplomacy. The consequences of the Norman conquest continue to define modern Britain. William the Conqueror's subjugation of England imposed feudalism and its concept of absolute power resting with a hereditary monarch, whereas in Scotland this was adopted only partially, and by consent.
Sovereignty, the absolute authority of any nation, continues to be held by the UK Crown and technically is only delegated to the Westminster executive by the monarch. Normanised Scotland, by contrast, renounced this concept some 250 years after the Battle of Hastings in the Declaration of Arbroath by proclaiming its commitment to independence on behalf of the people as being supreme over any monarch.
Hereditary privilege is the embodiment of feudalism, and evidence of its continuance in the UK is overwhelming. This is manifested in various forms, for example, the sycophancy of the state broadcaster towards our immensely rich royal family, an unelected House of Lords, and the powerful lobby to further entrench inequality by the removal of inheritance taxes.
There's a fundamental conflict in politicians claiming to promote equality while subscribing to a status quo designed to maintain the opposite. As a matter of principle the SNP rightly refuses to nominate appointees to the House of Lords, yet an SNP government in Scotland now finds itself dependent on that assembly to block a 'power grab' by the UK government, entirely based on Westminster holding absolute authority on behalf of the monarch.
The Scotland Act setting up the Holyrood parliament only left certain powers at Westminster, so that parliament is not authorised under the legislation to reclaim those being repatriated from the EU with Brexit. Only the feudal concept of Westminster effectively exercising complete sovereignty allows it re-write its own rules.
Scotland's long-established principle of popular sovereignty gives Nicola Sturgeon the high moral ground, but she needs to be careful not to squander that political capital. A better campaign in the 2017 parliamentary election could have retained a handful more SNP seats which would have swung the balance of power in the House of Commons, and opened up the prospect of negotiating much greater autonomy for Scotland.
In repeatedly appearing to promote 'indyref2' as the sole option for a future Scottish constitutional referendum the SNP’s current leadership is missing a trick, and unnecessarily polarising opinion. Ms Sturgeon may be playing to the gallery within the SNP, but she is alienating many who are repulsed by the antics of Westminster politicians cavorting in the present power vacuum.
Being decisive doesn't necessarily mean being dogmatic, and now, more than ever, Scotland needs 'big tent' politics.
'Was it such a good idea to spend three months in a Glasgow housing estate pretending to be living on supplementary benefits while being secretly filmed by BBC television?' This sentence from Andrew Hook's review (ambit, January
) of the collection of Kay Carmichael's writings is so wrong that, as someone intimately connected with the subsequent Lilybank programmes, I cannot let it go uncorrected.
Kay was, at the time, a member of the Supplementary Benefits Commission and her project was to find out what it was like to live for three months on social security payments of £10.50 a week. To this end and in complete secrecy she moved into a flat in the Lilybank housing estate, not far from Parkhead. And week after week she did ration herself to that amount. There was no pretence, and no secret filming. No one knew she was there.
The BBC became involved because she was also a member of the Broadcasting Council for Scotland and some time after she returned to her normal life she suggested to Alastair Hetherington, then controller Scotland, that a programme might be made about the living conditions of the Lilybank tenants who were suffering considerable ill-treatment because of a refurbishment programme being imposed on them by Glasgow Council.
It was during the filming of this story that Kay's social experiment came to light and she was persuaded to take part in what ultimately became the Lilybank trilogy.
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