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The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain


Post-COVID-19 Speculations

by our Scottish political affairs correspondent

On Tuesday you could buy a barrel of Brent crude oil for as little as $18 dollars if you bought it at the right time of day, carelessly hanging on would mean you would have to pay as much as $21. In Texas you would actually be paid $37.63 to take away a barrel of the black stuff that is no longer remotely gold. Storage facilities for crude and refined oil are at a record high, and refineries are rejecting any new oil for processing.

At the time of the Scottish independence referendum the Scottish National Party (SNP) were proclaiming that a separate Scottish economy would prosper on the basis of the then-prevailing price of around $100 per barrel, which we were assured was all but set in stone.

These facts give us pause to consider what the possible post-virus impact on Scottish politics will be.

Whenever a serious crisis concludes there are basically two possible outcomes: people can either become radicalised and want to alter the existing order; or simply be glad it is over and that they have survived, and want to get back to whatever normality is possible. The different outcomes of the two general elections in 1918 and 1945 demonstrate this. To give another example, this correspondent has seen both responses amongst German refugees from Nazism. Some became fervent anti-fascists all their lives; others became conservative with both a large and a small ‘c’, grateful to live in a country where the police did not routinely batter down their door at two in the morning.

Likewise, the long-term implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on politics are uncertain. The Tory government has come under justifiable criticism for its lack of preparation and might well pay the price at the ballot box and on the streets. On the other hand, depending on the final body count at home and abroad, it might earn itself, if not a gold star, a silver one. That is entirely possible, particularly if Britain gets off comparatively lightly, even if only in comparison to the third world countries who will shortly be suffering from decades of neoliberal destruction of whatever health services they once had.

It is noticeable that the Green Party’s paradise of few planes in the sky and a drastic reduction in pollution as a result of factories closing down has not been hailed by them as a great step forward because this would simply be rubbing the noses of laid-off workers in the brown stuff.

In any case, the government of Boris Johnson is not the only one responsible for the well-being of these islands. The devolved assemblies of London, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, which all have non-Tory administrations, will also come under fire if people get angry about how badly things have been handled.

The SNP seems to follow the line of the UK in all essentials but moans that they are doing things slightly differently. Depending on what time of the day it is, the SNP boast about developing careful plans to lift the lockdown themselves or are busy denouncing Boris Johnson for even thinking about doing the same thing.

Sturgeon’s main contribution seems to be announcing the results of the COBRA meeting before anyone else. One SNP MP has been tweeting about differing death rates whilst other nationalists call for the Scotland–England border to be closed. Others have tastefully commented that the deaths of older people will be good for the SNP at a second independence referendum. All without comment from the First Minister of course.

For obvious reasons the SNP have been uncharacteristically silent about the advantages of their beloved European Union (EU) coming to the aid of Scotland as much as it did in Italy. The SNP’s ‘Brexit Minister’ has said Britain should delay its departure from the EU for two years. One wonders why he bothered because he was given an instant brush-off.

The SNP has now been running Scotland’s health service for over a decade. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was herself health minister, followed by two of her close cronies – one of whom had to resign because of her repeated features. When the time comes to give an account of the crisis only the most devoted of her followers will believe that Westminster must get all the blame for anything that goes wrong and that all successes are due to Nicola Sturgeon personally.

Quite apart from the opposition parties, Sturgeon is also going to come under attack from her deadly foe Alex Salmond sooner or later, almost certainly before the next Holyrood elections.

At the next election both Labour and the Tories are sure to draw attention to the collapse of the oil price and ask how Scotland could have coped without its £2.2 billion from the UK Treasury, which came from the Barnett formula that the SNP want to abolish by becoming independent.