Scottish nationalism and Brexit nationalism mean our politics are toxic and regressive as we face multiple crises – Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP

The latest episode of the political reality TV show that is the Conservative party leadership race has served up two finalists.

Tuesday, 26th July 2022, 4:45 pm

One peddling fantasy economics in the form of unfunded tax cuts, the other promising business as usual amid a woefully managed cost-of-living crisis. Both were big players in the worst government in British history.

Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak claim to represent a new start despite having propped up a Prime Minister who took a flamethrower to the values of public service and human decency during his shambolic term in office. They won’t be able to hide from that reality.

It’s also clear there’s nothing they won’t say to get ahead, like Liz Truss pledging to send more refugees to Rwanda.

The unexpected winners in this piece of theatre are the SNP, which unveiled its latest prospectus for an independent Scotland last week. I say winners, because the leadership sideshow means nobody is paying attention. If they were, they’d see how insubstantial that prospectus is.

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The front page was proudly decorated with a picture of a wind farm. The only problem was the wind farm is in England. This lends the government’s latest tag line, Why not Scotland?, a whole new meaning. You couldn’t make it up. Even though 20 civil servants apparently had.

It bore all the hallmarks of submitting course work at the last minute without proofreading it. It’s clear Nicola Sturgeon’s heart just isn’t in it this time around. They know there’s no appetite among the public for Indyref2, never mind for breaking up the UK.

The Conservative party leadership race is down to its final two contenders, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak (Picture: Jacob King/WPA pool/Getty Images)

For too long we’ve been stuck between two forms of narrow-minded nationalism: the Conservatives’ Brexit nationalism and the SNP’s Scottish nationalism. They’re both fixated on the idea of separating us from our closest neighbours and are happy to stoke and exploit division and deadlock.

The SNP have been the beneficiaries of a self-centred, chaotic Conservative government. They were no doubt secretly gleeful about the mayhem in Boris Johnson’s Downing Street and will be sad to see him go.

He has been their best argument for attempting to inflict their own special chaos in the form of a hard border at Gretna. Meanwhile the Conservatives’ best shot at another majority is to stoke fear of a Labour government in hock to Nicola Sturgeon.

And so, the country finds itself in the sorry state of having two ruling parties depending for their survival on the toxic and regressive politics they’ve helped to create.

You’ve got to ask yourself, in a world in the grip of the cost-of-living crisis, battling climate change and facing a war in Europe, why on Earth are we debating breaking up the most successful union in history? To my mind, the answer to none of these can be found in a border or a flag.

As a Liberal Democrat, I believe in finding new and creative ideas to reform our constitution and address the challenges we face. That starts with listening to those we serve, putting ourselves in their shoes and dedicating ourselves to addressing the things that affect their day-to-day lives.

That is sadly a million miles away from the tired, self-centred politics forced on us today. The sooner we get shot of it the better.

Alex Cole-Hamilton is Liberal Democrat MSP for Edinburgh Western