Originally published in the National

Joanna Cherry: Union of Equals would furlough when needed, not wait on England

By Joanna CherryThe Tories are less than enthusiastic when it comes to supporting ordinary people through the crisis


The Tories are less than enthusiastic when it comes to supporting ordinary people through the crisis.

THE attempts by Scottish Tories to benefit from this week’s furlough fiasco would be laughable if we weren’t talking about people’s livelihoods. The shambles that have occurred is no way to run a country let alone a supposed union of equals. While Scottish ministers are trying to take important strategic decisions to protect public health the Scottish Tories are more interested in trying to ensure Douglas Ross gets a win and puts out a zinger of a tweet. It was tragi-comic to observe how his efforts failed and such glory as he managed to obtain didn’t even last 12 hours. The efforts of David Mundell to pull off the same “feat” the next day were truly pathetic.

Finally, yesterday, with the PM pantomiming false joviality at his side (he’s obviously been to the same acting school as Ross, Mundell and Ronald Villiers), Rishi Sunak announced an extension of the furlough scheme until the end of March next year. He did so trumpeting the “strength of the Union” and the importance of “reassuring people in Scotland”, etc. But the damage has been done. Everyone knows that this is a decision to which the UK Government has been dragged kicking and screaming and that without an England-wide lockdown it would never have happened.

For many jobs and businesses, the announcement came too late. Had the UK Government been a step ahead rather than a step behind of what is happening, had they listened to the SNP, jobs and businesses could have been saved.

READ MORE: WATCH: Joanna Cherry takes Tories to task over failure to respect the law

As Alison Thewliss, MP for Glasgow Central, pointed out, this kind of support is not unique to the UK and many countries have done it more competently and generously than the UK. Plus, there are still three million people across the UK excluded from support because of their employment status.

It should come as no surprise to us that the Tories are less than enthusiastic when it comes to supporting ordinary people through the crisis. This is a government and a party which was content to deny children in England free school meals during the half-term break, even if it meant some of them would go hungry. At the same time, they are showering companies run by their mates with millions of pounds under dodgy contracts. Under cover of the pandemic the Tories have ditched any pretence of open recruitment and procurement processes. Thank goodness the Good Law Project is currently pursuing some of these contracts through the courts.

Earlier this week my colleague, Richard Thomson, MP for Gordon, coined the phrase #Cronyvirus and set a new hashtag running when he referred to reports that Kate Bingham, the head of the vaccine taskforce showed official sensitive government documents to an event for US venture capitalists. Meantime the scandal over the appointment of Dido Harding as head of the failing English Test and Trace system rumbles on. Both women are married to Tory MPs. Harding is a mate of David Cameron from Oxford days. Bingham went to school with Johnson’s sister whilst her hubby was Eton chums with Boris. Neither had to go through a competitive process to get their jobs. Frankly, it stinks. Anyone who thinks these people play by the rules is either deluded or naïve.

Scotland has been calling for a full furlough extension, and the devolution of financial powers, for more than six months now – but the Tories have refused to listen and failed to act. When Scotland needed full furlough support Westminster said no. Let’s not kid ourselves. It was only when Johnson was convinced that the south of England needed to lock down that this money was forthcoming.

In a union of equals, one would expect additional financial support to be available when needed not just when the larger partner of the Union deemed it necessary for itself. If the Tories are the defenders of the Union then why couldn’t they give the certainty needed to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland that the same furlough guarantee was available to be drawn upon when needed without all this messing about? Instead, as Douglas Chapman noted in the Commons on Monday, the English tail is wagging the UK dog.

In fact, it’s the South East of England that is determining the Tories’ strategy just as it always does when it comes to the economy. After the events of the last few weeks England’s northern regions can be in no doubt that this Tory Government despises the limited amount of devolution it has granted to the English north as much if not more than Scotland’s Parliament and Wales’ Senedd. Anyone suggesting that further English devolution or federalism is a way to fix the Union is kidding themselves. Worse still they are kidding voters in Scotland. It takes two to tango. Federalism has been promised so many times without delivery that it become a running joke. Fortunately, recent polls suggest most Scots aren’t interested in hanging about waiting for something that will never be delivered and which no-one in a position of power at Westminster is interested in making actually work.

READ MORE: Channel tragedy: Joanna Cherry says Tories must drop ‘hostile’ refugee policy

The inevitable conclusion from this week’s deplorable carry-on is that these people are absolutely not to be trusted. But then we knew that already.

ALL this toing and froing to get the details tied down of something which should be have been a given in any functional union is exactly what Mike Russell has experienced in his dealings with the British Government during the Brexit negotiations. There is no reason to doubt that this nonsense will continue. Indeed, it is the shape of things to come. And so, I return to a point that has been the theme of this column for some time. In order to escape a situation in which we are dependent on the Tories largesse with our own money it would be best not to be dependent on their largesse to grant us the means to realise our right to full self-government.

It is not prudent to stake the strategy for delivering an independence vote on the assumption that once another mandate is in the bag Boris Johnson will do the right thing.

The SNP must have a fallback strategy to deal with delay and obfuscation when we ask again for a Section 30 order. I reiterate my hope that the NEC to be elected at this year’s SNP conference will make sure that such a strategy is devised and in place before next year’s election.

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26 thoughts on “ARTICLE OF THE WEEK

  1. Joanna Cherry there, hero of the “malcontents”, advocating the S30 route. Will she now join the rest of the SNP leadership in their cross-hairs? Strangely, her “route to independence” closely mirrors my own (not to mention Sturgeon’s) yet she is lauded as a possible saviour of the Party while I am dismissed as a delusional troll (and Sturgeon much worse). It’s a strange old illogical world in the heads of the “malcontents”.


      1. I only said “closely mirrors Iain, not “exactly mirrors”. However, actually reading what the SNP have to say on the matter (rather than just accepting what dubious bloggers claim they are saying), both they and I also see the need for a Plan B. I/they just don’t see the advantage of advertising it to the world at large months before it is needed. Read your Sun Tzu.


    1. Me Bungo Pony

      More than happy to be described as a malcontent.

      I want Scottish independence. The current leadership of the SNP will not deliver it. Therefore, it is logical that I should not be content with the current situation. The problem is that there are not enough malcontents in the SNP.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Me Bungo Pony

        I never said I was happy that the current leadership will not deliver independence. I was happy to be described as a malcontent because that is an accurate description. So by my logic you are content that the leadership will not deliver independence.


      2. As I said, I disagree with your reasoning. My “happy” comment only referred to the “malcontent” tag. Your conclusion that I am therefore happy the SNP leadership will not deliver independence lacks logic. But then, that is very characteristic of the malcontent mind-set 😉


  2. Great Blog! And You can bet that the SNP Government led by the Murrells Will Favour Their Cronies like Alison Thewlis, but Not Joanna Cherry or Stuart Hosie – Both of Whom are worth 10 Thewllises!


  3. Could you remind us again what your , and NS’s ” route to Independence ” is again Me Bungo ? Is it still predicated on Johnson et al having an entirely unlikely damascene conversion to behaving in a ethical manner when faced with yet another REQUEST ! for the means to prove there is a majority desire for Independence in our country ? If so , what is the strategy to deal with the almost certain refusal of such a request ?


    1. For the umpteenth time (and second thread in a row on this site);
      (1) Get an SNP majority at Holyrood both in seats and popular vote.
      (2) “Demand” an S30 from Westminster.
      (3a) If given, great, organise an uncontestable independence referendum for the Autumn.
      (3b) If refused, so what, organise a referendum anyway, all the time highlighting to both Scots and the international community how often we gave the UK govt a chance to do the right thing.
      (4) Achieve independence with the support/sympathy of the nation and international community.

      Pretty much what Nicola Sturgeon, Joanna Cherry, Chris McEleny and sundry “malcontents” have been advocating.


      1. I must have missed any reference to ( 3b ) from the SNP Leadership , I did notice it is refusing to allow any discussion of such a plan at Conference , but I’m happy to know you are confident that the will is there and , to be fair , maybe it is a case of them not wanting to show their hand in advance . I truly hope so


      2. In Thursday’s National, there is a headline on page 6 which states “SNP Will Not Accept UK Veto Over Indyref2”. The article goes on to say there is to be a motion put before conference to that effect. It doesn’t state what action a refusal would initiate but it does suggest it would be taken. And, as critics constantly harp on about, with the leadership apparently tightly controlling the agenda it is unlikely to be there if they are not happy with it. All completely in my opinion. Other’s may disagree 😉


      3. Me Bungo Pony

        Aha, the old Nicola has a secret plan that she keeps in her handbag that no one is allowed to see. Of course if anyone did have a peek in her handbag they would see the knife she stabbed Salmond in the back with.


      4. To the first statement, yes. The SNP leadership will have a plan to deal with a Westminster refusal of an S30. Again, read your Sun Tzu if you want to know why they would not want their exact plans made public months before they are needed.

        To the second statement, I have yet to hear a credible reason given by a malcontent as to why she would want to “stab Salmond in the back”. Guilty or not, the mere fact of Salmond’s “less than saintly” behaviour being publicly scrutinised in the way it was was never going to be good for the SNP or Sturgeon. The decision to extend scrutiny of ministerial behaviour to those no longer in office was ethically sound but, ultimately, a political blunder. But sometimes, doing the right thing has consequences you’d rather not face. Sturgeon, typically, did not to shy away from them.


    2. PS: Could you explain to me why Cherry and McEleny’s support of the S30 route is acceptable to the malcontents and their High Priest but the SNP leadership’s is not?


      1. Me Bungo Pony

        I am a malcontent and I want a mandate for independence in every SNP manifesto starting from May 2021. So I do not support sec 30 gold standard nonsense.


      2. That is your prerogative Cubby. But that is not what I asked. What I asked was why Cherry and McEleny’s support for S30 was fine in the eyes of the malcontents, but the SNP leadership’s was not.

        And if you read what I have actually written on the subject rather than assume I think an S30 is essential, you’ll see I don’t think we need one. I state we only demand one to be seen to be giving the UK govt every chance to “do the right thing”. I won’t repeat the whole scenario here.


      3. Me Bungo Pony

        Yes please do not repeat your tired out secret plan nonsense.

        Yes please do not repeat your tired out we must be seen to keep asking for a sec30.

        Yes please do not repeat your smearing of Salmond.

        Yes please do not repeat your raising of Sturgeon to sainthood.

        Heard all this crap so so many times.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Sorry Cubby, thought we were getting on ok there. Clearly not.

        And, for the record, I have never “smeared” Salmond nor have I “sanctified” Sturgeon. Malcontents, by-and-large, appear to have a very polarised view of issues. You are either a “Salmondista” or a “Sturgeonista” in their eyes. They cannot seem to comprehend others may not see things that way.


  4. Very good piece. A Plan B is urgently required. The incoming NEC MUST realise this is NOT just about the SNP or our members. Its a much wider societal issue.
    We know an S30 is highly unlikely, at best, and hopefully the Peoples case proves its also unnecessary. In which case there is no reason for the Scottish Government to not call a plebiscite vote in May.
    If the SNP fail to act on these matters decisively, given the National Assembly in January to discuss Indy strategy, looks like an attempt to kick Independence into the long grass, then it will face potentially a bloody nose in May with reduced seats.
    As the only political vehicle for delivery of Independence it will in all liklihood hold Holyrood but a message will be sent.
    The outcome of the NEC elections will prove crucial to the furtherance of Independence. Lets hope those in charge read the room and ensure the primary motivation of the Party is the delivery of an Independent Scotland.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Minutes after the announcement that Joe Biden had secured the electoral college vote a BBC reporter called out “BBC here can we have a comment? ”

    And the immediate response from Biden was ” No, I’m Irish !”

    And that was the BBC told publicly across the world.

    And with Biden absolutely committed and to support Ireland and the Good Friday Agreement and the EU it looks like Bojo and and the Britannic Balloons are now at war with both the EU and the USA.

    Squeaky squelchy bum time for Bojo and the boys..

    Liked by 1 person

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