Saturday 6 December 2003

Is Scotland "socialist"?

On Thursday I wrote about a recent survey published by Reform. This has attracted quite a few comments.

Geoff Matthews points out that the differences of opinion between Scottish and English people on the tax question were “small enough as to mean no difference”. I agree. What’s interesting though is that most political commentators see Scots as being considerably more socialist than people in England. This is not the first survey to challenge that belief.

Patrick Crozier sees a “gap in the market” for my views. I do my best, but the survey suggests that it’s the political and media establishment that needs re-educating rather than the electorate. That may prove somewhat difficult.

Neil Craig notes the Scots “tradition of financial stringency”. I think that Neil is quite right to draw attention to this in connection to the McLeish affair and indeed to the Scottish reaction to the Parliament building fiasco. As far as Glasgow’s latest £40 million boondoggle is concerned: Will the cheques bounce before the bridge does?

Yes, the underlying cause of Scottish “socialism” is probably a rejection of pretension rather than a love of statism as a quick glance at Burns may confirm.

Stuart Dickson says that Scotland does not have five and a half socialist parties but only one.

There’s not much point being a blogger if I can’t go over the top now and again! I am a libertarian, or “classical liberal”, and strange folk like myself believe that the only legitimate function of the state is that of protecting citizens against those who initiate force or fraud. That means eliminating perhaps ninety percent of government activity. On that basis perhaps I should have said 6 socialist parties! I do of course accept that there’s a world of difference between the SSP and the mainstream parties but I note that Scotland is now said to be the country with the largest state sector in the EU. Reducing taxation would therefore make us more European. On the constitutional question I am a British federalist. I think that defence should continue to be organised at the UK level, quite possibly with an increase in expenditure. The traditional local regiments should remain. Just about everything else should be devolved to the three nations and the province.

Gordon and David bring us back to the question of Scotland’s “socialists” and just how many there are. It’s the task of Scottish libertarians to demonstrate that liberty is in the interest of the vast majority of Scots, although maybe not those drawing a hundred grand in salary and expenses at our Parliament. It would give hope to the most deprived in our society, create more opportunity for all those youngsters who seek careers outwith Scotland and attract entrepreneurs to come here from other lands. A free and libertarian Scotland is the only one in which we could say “A Man’s a Man for A' That”.