Can Scottish voters trust Westminster civil servants to work with the SNP?

I think it’s pretty clear that “Frenchgate” has been comprehensively debunked. Even though that link comes from the Scottish National Party, which would obviously want it debunked, the overall evidence presented there and in numerous other places is pretty compelling. One of the people cited in that set of slides is Jamie Maxwell, who in offering a rebuttal on Bella Caledonia of the whole sorry saga, explained the apparent source as follows:

The Telegraph claims to have a copy of a memo written – take a deep breathe [sic] – by a British government official based on a conversation he/she had with the French Consul General based on a conversation he had with the French ambassador based on a conversation she had, in February, with SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon.

Err, yes. As I write, it seems the “leak” comes from Scottish Liberal Democrat Alistair Carmichael’s Scotland Office (you know, the one that “…ensure[s] the smooth working of the devolution settlement in Scotland… represent[ing] Scottish interests within the UK government and… represent[ing] the UK government in Scotland”), though Nicola Sturgeon has now called for an inquiry into the leak to find out what has happened, and the civil service is now investigating itself (ah, gotta love British democracy at work! Why isn’t the police involved?)

What is, I think, already clear, is that the old Better Together tag team of Conservative, Liberal Democrat, and Labour parties, the right wing press, and the civil service are functioning together as well as they ever have. I’ve seen this comment made several times on Twitter today; for example, here’s Liam McLaughlan, Scottish Socialist Party candidate:

I think it’s hard to disagree. But I want to briefly look beyond all that and instead think about the post-7. May landscape. At the moment, unless there is some huge upset, the SNP will probably win a lot of Scottish seats, and some kind of alliance/co-operation with the Labour Party seems likely. This means that they might even have some kind of role in offices of state – and would therefore have increased contact with the civil servants who run these offices. But should SNP parliamentarians trust Westminster civil servants? Could the SNP act like a “normal” Party (i.e. Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democract) and seek to create and enable legislation, relying on civil servants who time and again have shown themselves to be partisan, opposed to the party democratically chosen by the Scottish people, and willing to operate behind-the-scenes to undermine and destabilise the SNP?

On what basis can we, the Scottish voters, trust the Westminster civil service to work honestly with our elected representatives if we choose representatives who are not from one of the three British nationalist/unionist parties? I don’t really have any answers for what the SNP might do about this, but as a normal voter (and not even an SNP member), I see no reason to assume that Westminster civil servants will not seek to constantly undermine anything the SNP might seek to do at Westminster if they were in a position of any power. Democracy in Britain, insofar as it could ever call itself that whilst maining First Past The Post and the un-/anti-democratic House of Lords, is truly broken. Perhaps the radical reform the SNP is advocating at Westminster is the only hope for salvaging it?

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One thought on “Can Scottish voters trust Westminster civil servants to work with the SNP?

  1. What was interesting to me with this issue was the framing of ‘Otherness’ of FM Nicola Sturgeon and SNP (and in the eyes of the other parties, perhaps the whole of Scotland!). It was noticeable that the rhetoric of ‘the party that tried to break up Britain are making backhanded deals with the Tories’ was prevalent in the way other parties subscribed to a news story that was false. When I saw the Guardian website story of Labour Party criticising the FM, my thought was, surely the FM denied the report and the Labour Party must have heard about it. Why join the group and spout the same lies?

    But what you have written here is much more practical- more than focusing on what has happened now with the news story, it is important to emphasise on what would happen after the elections. One can only hope that they will not stoop down to the level of the political parties in the US (Republicans) and India (any opposition party, really!).

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