Peter A Bell
by on September 14, 2020
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Boris Johnson wants to put Scotland’s NHS up for sale, SNP warn

The headline blares at us from the pages of The National. I know I’m supposed to be shocked and angry. Angry I can certainly manage. But it’s hard to be shocked by something you’ve been aware of for so many years. Something so obvious that you’d have to work very hard at not being aware of it. And not all of my anger is reserved for Boris Johnson and what he represents. I have enough left over for those who were evidently prepared to make the effort necessary to remain oblivious to what was not just staring them in the face but slapping them about the jowls in an effort to get their attention. The smouldering embers of that anger being fanned to a rare bleeze by a warning so tardy as to appear as if from a different age. An age when we might still be shocked by Albion’s practised perfidy.

Of course Boris Johnson wants to put Scotland’s NHS up for sale. To be more precise, he wants to destroy it. He won’t admit he wants to destroy it. The rationalisations for his actions are probably so deeply embedded in his mind by now that he may be genuinely unconscious of the fact that he wants to destroy it. It is quite likely he actually believes whatever line he’s been supplied with by his puppet-masters. Something that goes beyond a mere lie. Something that turns truth on its head. Something that denies the very concept of truth. Something bold. Something brazen. Something big. The big lie!

He isn’t intending to destroy our public health service. Even though we know that such a thing is an ideological anathema to him. Part of what makes the big lie so big is that is involves the claim that Boris Johnson is denying his very nature in the name of public service on top of the claim that he is actually seeking to make our health service more ours and a better service. It will be made more hours by being sold to some American corporation. It will be made a better service by diverting a large and increasing portion of funding to private profit and by pricing the health care that is now ours by right right out of our reach. That is not selling off NHS Scotland! That is not destroying it! These are the new facts! Accept them! This is the new truth! Believe it! How could it possibly be a lie? Surely lies don’t get that big. Surely it couldn’t be that big and be a lie.

Of course, I use the name of Boris Johnson in a metonymical sense. The name stands, not for an individual but for a set of political, social and economic forces. A set of forces that serve the structures of power privilege and patronage which define the British state. Johnson himself is as nothing to these forces. But he is part of those structures. So he can use theses forces. But not as much as the forces can use him. To what end? Always to the end of preserving the structures and perpetuating the forces. Power eventually comes to serve itself. Total power ultimately serves only itself. The corruption of those who suppose they wield the power is incidental. They are mere functionaries.

It is those forces which want to put Scotland’s NHS up for sale. It is those forces that want to destroy NHS Scotland. Just as they want to destroy everything that is distinctive about Scotland and cannot readily be turned to political and/or economic advantage. Scotland as a Brigadoon theme park is fine. Scotland as a nation is not. Those forces want to sell off NHS Scotland for the most obvious reason – avarice. People and organisations that are part of the British state’s structures and therefore influence the forces which serve and protect those structures stand to make a lot of money out of selling off NHS Scotland. That matters. It matters so much as to very often blind people to the other compelling reasons for wanting to privatise our public health service. It is about money. But it is mostly about power. It is always mostly about power. Even when it’s about money, it’s mostly about the power that money represents.

Health and social care services are among the most fundamentally essential services in modern society. (Education is another. They will be coming for Scotland’s education system in due course.) Health and social care is important enough that it becomes a signifier of nationhood. Proper nations have and control their own health and social care services just as they have and control their own education systems and their own armed forces. Scotland must not be allowed to think of itself as a nation. Ergo, Scotland must be deprived of those signifiers of nationhood that previous British governments have been careless enough to let us develop. Anything that is distinctively Scottish is a target. The distinctiveness must be eradicated. Or, at least, made manageable by those British forces. Or prevented from becoming unmanageable by those forces.

It all and always comes back to the constitutional issue. Sure! There are other factors in play. But even if there was no profit to be made from selling of NHS Scotland, British Nationalists would still want to sell it off or otherwise destroy it. For ideological reasons. For existential reasons. It has ever been thus. British Nationalists today want to destroy NHS Scotland and all other signifiers of Scottish nationhood for precisely the same reasons their forebears wanted to impose the Union on Scotland. Power, like wealth, is relative. The more power Scotland has, the less England-as-Britain has. That may seem petty. But it is the way power thinks when it comes to serving itself rather than what may have been the perfectly worthy purpose for which it was first accumulated.

It all and always comes back to the constitutional issue. There is nothing novel or shocking about the fact that Boris Johnson wants to sell off (destroy) Scotland’s NHS. It is what he is bound to do. It was always what he was bound to do. The more so as Scotland gathered to itself more and more of the signifiers of nationhood. The more so as Scotland developed a distinctive political culture. The more so as the devolution experiment backfired on the British state.

The SNP’s warning comes at least a decade too late. That too no longer shocks me. But it makes me fucking angry!

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