The Scottish media cannot see that Tony Blair is selling devolution to the Englishby John Lloyd / May 20, 1997 / Leave a comment
Published in May 1997 issue of Prospect Magazine
The muting of the London tabloids has been one of the remarkable features of an unremarkable election campaign. They have professed an exaggerated contempt for John Major for too long to be able to turn into his choir now. Besides, New Labour has built an appeal to England on a mixture of identifying and soothing core concerns-education, crime, tax-and on promising essential continuity with Conservative economic, social and foreign policies, all of which have had overwhelming media support.
In Scotland, the media has been more vehemently opposed to a Tory party with only 25 per cent of the vote and with a policy of opposition to devolution, the issue which more than any other has had the attention of the media and political classes.
Scotland provided Labour with its last leader; and it seems the Scots media will not forgive Tony Blair for succeeding John Smith. Smith’s belief that the Tory-voting English were a less moral people than the Scots played subliminally to the amour propre of a nation which has in the past decades turned the view of Scotland taken by the leading figures of the Scots enlightenment on its head. The enlightenment men believed union with England would civilise the smaller, poorer country. The first issue of the Edinburgh Review in 1755, half a century after the Union, said “North Britain may be considered in a state of early youth, guided by the more mature strength of her kindred country.”
Smith’s belief, shared by many of his countrymen, was that Scotland had the “more mature strength” of a tradition of social democracy which has retained its hold on all classes. A letter in the Scotsman of 4th April from Councillor Douglas Briggs of Strathpeffer in Ross-shire gave a conventional sigh of despair over falling standards in public life, and claimed that “in Scotland there is still a strong ethos of political integrity and social responsibility towards the less fortunate.”
These feelings underlie…