Whenever there is talk of austerity the Tories reference low-income families as though they are stray dogs that must be fed scraps. They produce a spectrum of poor relief that ranges from “enough for them to live on” to “keeping a roof over their heads”. The concept of disadvantaged people having anything beyond the basics is an alien one.

They compile imaginary shopping-lists as blueprints for survival in straitened times. You’ll have seen a few of these in recent days. They seek to explain how, for just a few quid, the average family (provided they apply diligence and rigour to the task) can feed themselves for a week. Such lists often feature robust comestibles such as porridge, rice and lentils. Butter? Sugar? The odd bar of chocolate? Behave yourself: this is no time to be self-indulgent.

What, you all sleep in separate rooms? Isn’t that a tad hedonistic? Surely, you can all bunch up together in the one chamber. And besides, your collective body heat will help cut down on the energy bills. If it gets a bit stuffy, well; what do you think windows are for? It’s like a gonzo version of Monty Python’s Four Yorkshiremen. “A whole week without electricity? Luxury! We learnt how to make one candle last a whole year!”

Some right-wing commentators then hark back to a golden age of self-denial and iron discipline. Maybe we should return to the days of a communal outside toilet or build latrine trenches. When there was a scarcity of heat everyone just started running on the spot.

Siege of Tory policy

Underpinning these prescriptive solutions to dire poverty is an inhumanity bordering on outright wickedness: that poor people are entirely the authors of their own distressed circumstances and that by giving them anything beyond the bottom-scraping basics we are acting irresponsibly. Kwasi Kwarteng’s response to criticism of his mini-budget was to hurl accusations of class jealousy.

His economic prescription was the harbinger of several such subsistence treatises. In 12 years of Tory administrations much of their economic and social policy-making has been leading to this moment: David Cameron’s one-sided austerity; the gradual erosion of trade union rights and workplace protections; the privatisation of state assets and infrastructure providing windfalls for corporate pension-funds and overseas investors. Mr Kwarteng’s move to further enrich the most affluent people in the UK is simply peak Tory, the one ring of iniquity gathering all previous villainies to itself.

Taken alongside Jacob-Rees Mogg’s stated belief that paid holidays are an unaffordable frill, Liz Truss’s pledge to criminalise the right to strike and the move to re-instate bankers’ bonuses, the mini-budget begins to look like part of a revolution from above. A strategy to destabilise British society and sow class-based civil disorder to the extent that a state of emergency can be declared, civil liberties suspended and martial law imposed.

The staunch and militaristic fervour attaching to the Queen’s funeral ceremonials were a stark reminder of where real power lies and how easily it can be brought to bear, amidst claims of loyalty and patriotic pride, if events were ever to get out of hand.

The billionaires calling for the Scottish Government to follow a similar path of cutting taxes for the super-rich to stimulate the economy were as predictable as they were incoherent.

Some of this came from Scottish tax-exiles whose businesses have already benefited from preferential treatment from the state. It assumed that cash-rich corporations and business types would provide the sort of jobs needed to bring about a national recovery. Some of these people can’t even build a boat to order. Wood, metal, engine, rudder, steering-wheel, float, go. Apparently not.

We all know though, that the notion of a redistributive class of billionaires exists only in the realm of fairytales. That profits get concealed in a web of offshore larceny designed specifically to protect them from the exchequer. And that a series of bribes disguised as donations ensures that wages never rise with inflation and that collective action by workers is deemed illegal.

They refuse to entertain the proven wisdom that paying people better wages and providing them with job security increases their spending power. And that this reinforces the local economy much more than tax-cuts for the wealthy. Low-wage families spend locally and tend not to employ accountants to hide their assets.

At several points in the last decade it’s seemed that Scotland and England have never been more divided socially, culturally and politically. Among them were the dark and racist overtones that fuelled Brexit, Priti Patel’s cruel Nationality and Borders Bill and the mafia enterprise operating at the heart of Boris Johnson’s cabinet during Covid.

False opportunities

All of them ought to have provided renewed impetus for the stalled campaign for Scottish independence. Instead, each fresh Tory assault on British society is seen as a career opportunity for the leeches and bottom-feeders that attach to the SNP’s pension enterprise.

We’re less than 12 months out from the SNP’s fabled 2023 referendum target. The promised stream of White Papers has resulted in two woolly statements of the bleeding obvious on energy security and currency, both of which would struggle to gain a pass at Higher Modern Studies.

A wretched assortment of Westminster party hacks seem to spend most of their time as NATO propagandists when they’re not trolling feminists and lesbians or hurling infantile insults at Alba.

Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon made so many appearances during this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival that she’ll soon be entitled to a grant. She used these to tell us that she was wearying of the struggle which has paid her and her husband a few million pounds. She longs for the day she no longer needs to care about any of this. But not before her and Peter’s joint pension pot is fully topped-up, you understand. And here we were all thinking that Scottish independence was a lifelong commitment that could never wane. Aye right.

Why should any of the rest of us take independence seriously when the main party of independence so obviously doesn’t?

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald.