A bitter war of words has broken out north of the border as Holyrood looks set to criticise Margaret Thatcher’s legacy in Scotland on the day of her funeral.
On Wednesday MSP’s will debate a motion tabled by the Scottish Green Party entitled ‘There is Still Such a Thing as Society, provocatively titled in response to Thatcher’s remarks in 1987 to Women’s Own magazine.
In declaring that he feels that there are those on both sides of the independence debate in Scotland who remain vehemently opposed to Thatcherism and all that the former prime minister stood for, Scottish Green Leader Patrick Harvie has said of the debate:
“Margaret Thatcher has died, but the tragedy for huge numbers of people is that Thatcherism as an ideology still lives. We aim to encourage honest consideration of the legacy of Thatcherism, the core elements of which – competition and selfishness – continue to affect our society and our economy.
“Despite her efforts to undermine Scotland’s shared values and public services, it is important to assert that our society still exists.”
“Collective solutions to shared problems are all the more important in light of the failure of the Thatcherite economic model. By encouraging an open debate I hope we’ll see a bit less of the tribal politics Holyrood has suffered of late and bit more of an effort to acknowledge our shared aspirations for Scottish society.
“There are those on both sides of the independence divide who oppose the values of Thatcherism; they will need to find ways to work together after the referendum, whatever the result.”
Unsurprisingly the motion has provoked extreme anger across much of the Scottish Conservative Party. Threatening to contest the timing of the debate, the party’s chief whip at Holyrood, John Lamont, has said:
“We will be contesting the timing of this motion which seems to have been designed to cause the most upset and controversy. The Scottish Conservatives will have no problem partaking in this debate when it arrives. But we believe the Greens should reconsider whether their own narrow-minded agenda is more important than the funeral of one of the UK’s finest-ever leaders.”
Senior Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser dubbed the move “crass and thoughtless and entirely inappropriate”.
A spokesperson for Scottish Labour meanwhile explained that whilst the party was calling for respect for the family, its MSPs would take part in the debate, concluding that given that people across the country “are debating the impact of Mrs Thatcher during her time as prime minister…it is right that the Scottish parliament does so”.
SNP MSP, John Wilson went on to call for a “frank” debate to “highlight how the Conservative governments of the 1980s inflicted lasting damage on Scottish society”.
Writing in the Herald, columnist Iain MacWhirter has sought to answer the question of why Thatcher remains so toxic north of the border so long after she lost power. Concluding that she made Scots feel like they were living in a different country, he argued over the weekend that “the answer lies in a potent mix of anti-Englishness, moral indignation, legitimate grievance and philosophical revulsion”.
“Her Sermon on the Mound in 1988, with its crass celebration of wealth, offended something deep in Scotland’s Presbyterian soul. It convinced Scots that they really did live in a different country, and began the process that could still lead to Scotland leaving he UK for good.
“The cross-party Scottish Constitutional Convention was set up in the same year as the poll tax and within a decade Scotland had won a parliament with primary legislative powers. Now, Scotland faces a referendum on independence.
“If they do erect a statue, it should really be outside the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood. After all, Margaret Thatcher was the politician who made Scottish home rule inevitable. And she may yet cause the break-up of Britain.”
Meanwhile, a former Labour Scotland office minister has attacked the funeral arrangements for the Iron Lady as being tantamount to a “V” sign to taxpayers. Writing for Scotland’s Sunday Mail newspaper, Brian Wilson, who entered parliament in the year of Thatcher’s final election victory, argued:
“While most of us will not be attending street parties to celebrate her demise, the zealots and sycophants who surrounded Margaret Thatcher in her heyday have emerged from the undergrowth.
“It is they who are turning her funeral into a taxpayer-funded V-sign to millions who paid the price of her politics.
“The panoply of a state funeral is being accorded, in all but name, to this most divisive of politicians.
“Why is this being done other than to re-write history and seek political capital for her Tory heirs?”