Don’t be fooled, Alex Salmond is no socialist

He gushes over Vladimir Putin, is disconcertingly sanguine over Tory philosophy and is Thatcherite in tooth and claw

Share

“People in Scotland don't have to wait a year to kick out the Tory govt [sic]. They can do it in September.”

Those were the words of a cheery Scottish nationalist that appeared in my Twitter feed recently. And the Yes to independence camp has good reason to be in a buoyant mood. The gap between those planning to vote no in this year’s independence referendum and those intending to vote yes is rapidly closing, and as a consequence those in favour of a split are increasingly looking forward to September 18, as the date they will finally rid themselves of Tory rule.

Every time a posh city boy is trotted out on the BBC to push the message that independence will be bad for the economy the narrative is driven home: the British establishment is overwhelmingly opposed to the break-up of the United Kingdom, therefore socialists and liberals should be for it. Or so the logic goes.

Alex Salmond also cultivates the image of an amiable progressive version of Nigel Farage. The scrapping of up front tuition fees and the abolition of prescription charges have certainly helped to reinforce the message that, given the chance come September, Salmond and the SNP will build Scandinavian-style social democracy using the profits from North Sea oil. A good number of people on the left appear also to have accepted the argument that, while independence may not provide a one-way ticket to a socialist paradise, it will at least put Scotland firmly on the road to the type of social democracy that remains untainted by the sordid compromises of Blairism.

Despite my own misgivings about the break-up of the United Kingdom, I can understand at least some of its appeal to the Scottish left. Successive Tory governments have hacked away at Scotland’s social fabric, and cabinet papers released this year revealed that ministers in the Thatcher government wanted to make even bigger cuts to the Scottish budget at a time when the country was in the midst of a devastating recession. Tory ministers don’t like Scotland, and Scotland doesn’t like Tory ministers. Nor, to their credit, do Scots have much time for the toxic politics of Ukip. A visit by Nigel Farage last year to Edinburgh resulted in the Ukip leader barricaded himself in a pub to escape protesters demonstrating against his party’s xenophobic posturing on immigration. English lefties fear that an independent Scotland will mean perpetual Tory rule. For Scots, however, independence means a break with unelected shire toffs; despite electing just one Tory MP in 2010 Scotland still languishes under a Tory-led coalition.

If I said a part of me did not fear that an independent Scotland would result in conservative domination in Westminster I would be lying. I want to work with Scots to kick out the coalition so that England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland can move away from the Thatcherite model of cuts and privatisation together. That said, there is a very good reason the Scottish left ought to think twice before throwing their lot in with Alex Salmond this September: they will be voting for exactly the sort of politics they want to be rid of. Indeed, despite the left-wing affectations, Alex Salmond is Thatcherite in tooth and claw.

If you think I’m exaggerating, look at a few of the things Salmond has actually done in Scotland, as opposed to the things he’s simply said).

It is widely accepted that the impact of Thatcherism on Scotland was catastrophic. Four years into Margaret Thatcher’s first Tory government one in six workers in Scotland were on the dole, 1.5 million under-25s were unemployed and traditional industries were run into the ground. The only things which seemed to thrive in Scotland in the 1980s were drugs, as was chronicled by the iconic film Trainspotting. According to Salmond, however, Scotland “didn't mind the economic side” of the Thatcher governments and only disapproved of the “social” implications of her policies – comments seemingly ignorant of the fact that the two are quite obviously linked.

It isn’t only the past where Salmond is disconcertingly sanguine about Tory philosophy, either. Rather than open up clear water between his own party and brutal Osbornomics, Salmond has slashed away at corporation tax and mooted his own welfare cap. Those who believe that independence will mark the beginning of a transition to Scandanavian-style social democracy ought also to remember that Salmond’s economic sympathies lie firmly with Ireland, the ultra-low tax regime lionised by George Osborne as a “shining example of the art of the possible in economic policy-making”. As should be blindingly obvious to anyone on the left, you don’t get a Nordic welfare state with Irish levels of taxation.

Perhaps more damning is the international company the SNP leader keeps. Despite positioning himself as a champion of equality, in a recent interview with GQ magazine Salmond gushed over the Russian leader Vladimir Putin for “restoring a substantial part of Russian pride”. The fact that Salmond’s comments came before the Russian annexation of Crimea hardly makes them much better; they still occurred after the detention of Pussy Riot and the reinvention of Putin as the upholder of “traditional” values - see gay baiting and locking up dissenters. It isn’t hard to see why the Russian leader would want to see the break-up of the UK – a weakened Western alliance for starters – but more depressing is the way the SNP appears to dance to the former KGB man’s tune, with senior members of the party clocking up what seems like countless hours on state propaganda outlet RT (formerly Russia Today). Speaking of soft-peddling dictatorship, in 2012 Salmond also appeared to dodge a visit to Scotland by the Dalai Lama which would have kept the peace with his friends in the Chinese government. Is this the sort of socialist internationalism my Scottish comrades are hoping for?

For all its faults, at least the British Labour Party is finally moving to a place where genuinely social democratic policies are getting a hearing. Contrary to popular opinion, in voting for Alex Salmond’s vision of independence this September Scottish lefties will actually be voting to go back to the future; they will be stamping their approval on Thatcherite economics and Chavista foreign policy - hardly an attractive combination. And unless you’re into bargain basement levels of corporation tax, welfare caps and Putin, none of it is in the slightest bit left wing.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executives - Outbound & Inbound

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Pakistani volunteers carry a student injured in the shootout at a school under attack by Taliban gunmen, at a local hospital in Peshawar  

The Only Way is Ethics: The paper’s readers and users of our website want different things

Will Gore
 

Labour's Simon Danczuk is flirting with Nigel Farage, but will he answer his prayers and defect?

Matthew Norman
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick