BY HAMISH GOBSON
Hamish Gobson’s diary: the view from across the Uisge
AFFORDABLE GOVERNMENT will never come to Scotland so long as our leaders are carpet-baggers. While I was out on the rocks this spring quietly cutting fronds for political fortune-telling purposes, the Herald tells me that High-end Humza was gadding off to London for seditious purposes (talking to the EU Ambassador to the UK, for example) at staggering cost to the tax-payer.
Yet the Lord Advocate, the holder of an ancient and honourable office, travelled at about the same time to the same city and managed to find a room at a more democratic £287 per night. Clearly the Great Kilt demands higher-status treatment than he allows to his sub-kilts. Are we slowly succumbing to a disguised kiltocracy? I fear we might be.
Since 2007, Scotland has been progressively crippled by a well-concealed programme of state capture on the part of political kilts and their fellow-travellers in the increasingly kilticised civil service. Our £431 million parliament has completely failed to curb their greed. We pay over £100 million a year – about £100 for every income taxpayer in Scotland – for “democratic services” to an institution which does little more than publicise its members’ re-election efforts. All these apparatchiki want is permission to carry on trough-snorting the public purse. They contribute nothing to the community of the realm beyond giving cultured Scots something to laugh at. But the cost of the joke is beginning to make it unsustainable in a small country whose revenue-generating capacity is being slowly destroyed by its unpatriotic government.
The oldest living parliament was developed in thirteenth century England as a way of controlling the Executive (i.e. the Crown) through the public purse-strings. In 1997, Scotland voted to have a similar institution. It was a good idea in principle, especially as the pre-1707 parliament had no real control over national finances.
Instead we have been given a body with the backbone of dead seaweed and the greed of public sector seagulls. Carpet-baggers are less interested in politics than in their own personal enrichment. On this point, I find myself with some unexpected sympathy for the rage of Angus Brendan MacNeil, the handsomely wicked MP for Peatstack Tuath-Iar.
The worst of it is that the corruption of Holyrood is not even original. It is part of a deeply worrying trend world-wide. The best description of it I know comes from Stephen Kotkin, the most distinguished biographer of Stalin. He comments widely on current affairs in the post-Cold War world and his core idea is this: “Communism’s over; but fascism isn’t.” (You can see a talk here in which he makes this point.)In Scottish terms, this means that Jimmy Reid is dead, while expensive German motor-homes with climate-control and 12V massage gadgets are cool. There is a good reason for the difference in the fate of the two ideologies which defined the twentieth century. Both communism and fascism involved state capture by bureaucratic wire-pullers, and therefore the enrichment of those who worked for the government at the expense of those who paid taxes to it. But communism obliged leaders to give the appearance of being “just like everybody else”. That was nobody’s idea of fun. Egalitarianism is for little people.
It was not always like that. From Lenin’s cloth cap on the train to Moscow to Keir Hardie’s tweed suit in the House of Commons, the idea used to be that leaders would emerge spontaneously to run society for no reward save that of knowing that they were doing the will of the labouring masses whose hearts were full of justice and whose wives scrubbed the front step.
Fifty years later we had Leonid Brezhnev living in a vast collection of flats on Kutuzovsky Prospekt and accumulating limousines faster then James Callaghan bought Sussex farmland. Tony Blair “took it to the next level” when he ditched socialism and became a capitalist roader. Plundering the public purse was the new “business model”. That went along with the destruction of personal independence. Patrick Harvie, the helmet-less Green man in Holyrood, seems determined to go one better than Blair by forcing plain people to spend money on heat pumps in order to encourage Chinese industry at the expense of Scottish.
If Heat-pump Harvie has his way, honest Scottish working folk will no longer be able to afford the polish for their front steps. That will suit our trashocracy as it will put the electorate on the defensive against the government it choses. You criticise our hotel bills and we’ll take away the credit you need to fund your heat-pumps.
Having ditched communism, today’s high-end wire-pullers want to be able to flaunt their wealth. Humza’s £700 a night is an attempt to play in the big league. He can do that because only Holyrood has authority to curb such gross self-indulgence and he knows it will not do so. The House of Commons, for all its many faults, and despite the vanity and shallowness of so many of the “half-man, half-Hancock” people who sit as MPs post-Blair, is still able to discipline the likes of Margaret Ferrier. By contrast, Holyrood failed to do anything about the expensive antics of the lipless high-heeler who preceded Yousaf and who is now under investigation for possible crimes of a carpetbagging nature.
The question which arises is this: what on earth is the Opposition in Holyrood doing? Why do they look like seaweed too? Are they simply waiting to get their fingers in the same till? That, certainly, is the impression they give to the average beach-dweller on Great Todday.
More importantly, what is the British government doing? How is the Secretary of State for Scotland helping to preserve the civil right of Scots not to be plundered by regional wordlords – the digital equivalent of warlords – within a devolved United Kingdom? It is a form of gangsterism. The London elite stamped on the Kray brothers in the 1960s because they threatened polite society (Lord Boothby, for example). But they do not seem to have the same will to go after the carpet-baggers in Holyrood, who represent an equally potent threat to polite society. Is there something I do not know?
I had just finished relieving the pressure on my question-mark key at the end of the last sentence when my phone rang. I picked up the receiver to hear a voice I did not recognise, calling from Lord Peatstack’s private office on the croft at Bentangaval on the breath-takingly beautiful west coast of Barra. “We know what you are writing,” the lady said in a conspiratorial voice. Before I could ask how she knew, she said: “We have only one word to suggest to you: ‘Tents’.” Click.
What on earth can this mean? Tents? Was this an oblique reference to Boy Scouts, or the Charlotte Square Book Festival? Then it dawned on me – tents! Yes! Was Alister Jack not “in tents” before he moved on to politics? I seem to remember he supplied marquees for marquises when their daughters were getting married. Could that be what he has in common with Mrs Murrell? After all, she had a tent placed rather ostentatiously on her front lawn for a couple of days earlier in the year.
Was she trying to make a statement about the joys of camping? Or were the two political opponents actually in bed together as far as poles and pegs are concerned? Did they share a concealed longing to escape from political meetings and hunker down together while the rain beat on the canvas above them and they relaxed together by swapping stories of integrated ground-sheets and the best way to sex-up compo rations on a primus stove?
Or was the Uddingston camp site only a publicity stunt? If so, I trust the landowner did not over-charge the police for occupying her ground during their stay in Uddingston. We must all keep in mind the principle of affordable government, and that includes affordable policing, affordable camping and affordable hotel bills for senior kilts in cities where wild camping is not permitted, even for carpet-baggers.
Republished by kind permission of Think Scotland. Hamish Gobson lives on the isle of Great Todday (Todaidh Mór) and features in Hating Tories: How Nicola Sturgeon Got into Government (1970-2007) – A Citizen’s Biography of a Driven Woman in a Drifting Parliament (Ian Mitchell, 2023) – available on Amazon.co.uk and also reviewed here by Tom Gallagher.