What with a global pandemic and everything, it’s easy to miss some important events.
I was catching up on the papers over the weekend, and came across a story in the Times in which Wiltshire MP Danny Kruger mentioned that the instruction to vote down the amendments in both the trade bill and the agricultural bill last May had come, not from the elected Prime Minister, but from his unelected, visually challenged Covid superspreader chief advisor, Dominic Cummings. With a few honourable exceptions, pretty much everyone did what they were told, including the six remaining Conservative MPs all based in Scottish rural areas – like mine, Dumfries and Galloway – that will be disproportionately hit by a no-deal Brexit and Trumpian trade deals that allow cheap imports of hormone treated beef and pork containing asthma drugs so dangerous that they are banned throughout most of the planet.
This affects us all. Not only could it see the end of around one third of farming businesses and the huge number of people in supporting industries in the food and drink sectors: that’s about 400,000 people in Scotland alone. It affects what we eat and what we feed to our children. Tens of millions of Americans contract food poisoning every year – which if replicated here would only add to burden of an already stretched health service. It means we’d be complicit in continuing the poor welfare standards of countries we wouldn’t have dealt with whilst operating within rightly stringent EU rules. And, of course, by importing much more food, regardless of its quality the extra food miles only hastens the thing that is a much more existential threat than Covid – climate change.
So why am I bringing this up today?
This afternoon, the Agriculture bill comes back to the House of Commons after the Lords rejected it on the not unreasonable basis that it was a threat to both farming and health.
Remember, the Internal Market Bill – which Holyrood rejected last week by a huge margin – threatens to veto both new and standing Scottish legislation in devolved areas, effectively ripping up the devolution settlement (along with the Withdrawal and Belfast agreements), farming is still devolved – for now.
So this is a big week for both the farming industry and the health of the nation. A poll shows that around ninety percent of voters want nothing to do with chlorinated chicken or ractopamine pork. There’s a petition to keep standards at least as high as they currently and it has more than a million signatures.
The question I’d be asking is: who are these people working for? In whose interests are working? In particular, this week I’ll be looking very closely at the votes cast Messrs Ross, Duguid, Lamont, Jack, Mundell and Bowie – the six remaining Conservative MPs supposedly representing the farming constituents who put them into positions of power. With all six having so far voted, en masse, against protections for food and welfare standards, this week offers them a final chance of redemption. In short, do they vote for what the overwhelming majority of their constituents elected them to do? Or do they meekly follow the instructions of the wholly unelected yet de facto Prime Minister Dominic Cummings?
I’d watch. The answer to that question will tell you everything you need to know about the narrow limits of Scotland’s democracy within this most unequal of non-unions. Luckily, Scotland has an escape route. When the outsourced democratic structure that you’re tied to starts to affect your health, it really is time to leave. Like, today.
Keep safe everybody. I’ll meet you further on up the road.