The Slow Liberalism of the UK Tories must be abandoned by Scots, argues Corrie Douglas.
The offices of MSPs at the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood, Edinburgh
In 1977, the then-108-year-old Florence Pannel was interviewed notably on the changes she had seen in her long life; she was asked, ‘what’s the biggest change of all you’ve seen?’ She replied, ‘everything. Nothing is the same, everything’s changed.’
Reflecting now, Queen Elizabeth II’s rule has seen perhaps the greatest social liberalisation in history – that we know of, at least. Those alive during her coronation and the younger generation today can hardly be said to be of the same nation: one Christian, the other secular; one local and communitarian, the other global and atomised.
Interestingly, for most of Her Majesty’s reign the Conservative Party has been in power.
Outwardly presented as the conservative option, there is some truth to it. Indeed, it views the new with an initial apprehension. However, it is still ever-inclined to implement change, but just a bit slower than its left-wing rivals.
The great decline of the Liberal Party has brought an unforeseen opportunity for the Tories in the form of acting like a liberal yet dressing like a conservative. Keeping ‘Conservative’ in the name does have advantages. It appeals to the often-prudent character of the population whilst in practice still remaining (all things considered) largely inoffensive to the left.
But for the sake of transparency, it is perhaps best that the Conservative Party is renamed to the Slow Liberalism Party - traditional conservatives deserve better than the Slow Liberals.
One of the biggest problems facing Scotland is the Westminster stranglehold that Labour and the Conservatives – that is, the Fast Liberals and the Slow Liberals - have over politics.
The setup is deceptive as they are one party split into two, all the more perfidious by giving the illusion of choice. Even if one brings up that the Tories tend more toward economic liberalisation and Labour social liberalisation, one is trapped into one or the other – and the rotating election door means you’ll eventually get both.
In the Scottish Parliament this deception is held up merely by the question of independence: without that, can we really say the Scottish Conservatives are any less socially liberal than the SNP?
An independent Scotland would necessitate a change of available parties. As with what was almost achieved with Brexit, the return of the Kingdom of Scotland would ideally be so significant that the present-day party-setup would have to cease.
Whilst the precise details of the new parties cannot be predicted, it provides the opportunity for something greater, the chance that one would not have to choose which liberalisation this time around.
Instead of social progressivism, one could choose Christian tradition that emphasises the family over the individual; a tradition that asks questions of morality, duty, and common good instead of obsessing over obligation-less rights.
Instead of neoliberalism, one could choose a strong welfare state that protects local and small business; one could choose a state that measures its wealth not in GDP but in the quality of life of its residents and the extent to which they are fulfilled.
Why, in this current setup, must authentic socially conservative policy always be buttressed by a more formidable liberalisation on the other front, to which the party in power must plainly ignore? Ultimately, this direction is the result of the consensus of the social elite that emanates from the top-down.
Scottish independence is almost always, then, viewed in the lens of progressivism: old, archaic England stopping Scotland from leaping into the 21st century. This partisanship has been a hinderance for the independence movement.
Scotland has a rich tradition of social conservatism: looking past the romanticism, its involvement in the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, the Jacobite risings, or even more recently at Scotland’s support for local industry in the face of Thatcherism, there is no reason why a conservative-minded person cannot support independence.
Even pragmatically, how can there be a supposedly inclusive independent Scotland without including its past and those who wish to preserve it?