I was broadly in favour of a 'no' vote during the Scottish independence referendum. I didn't have much of a reason beyond still not being totally over America's secession 200 years before my birth, but I wanted Scotland to stick around. Ewan McGregor and Gordon Strachan and whisky... They seemed worth keeping hold of. I was mistaken.
My typical Sunday routine goes something like this: Get up the wrong side of midday; have some toast; watch the football; realise there's nothing for dinner and Sainsbury's closed two hours ago; have more toast. The dietary aspect contributes to Sunday being my least favourite day of the week. Occasionally I'll realise I need food sooner, giving me the 40-minute interval between football matches to jog to the aforementioned supermarket, but is that enough time? Am I going to miss kick-off? I could do with a shower first... What if it's raining? What if I can't be bothered? Meanwhile members of various interest groups, enforcing their will through legislation, shout "Stop stressing! You shouldn't be shopping anyway! Sunday is a day of rest!" Because as everyone knows, nothing settles the nerves like an order to calm down.
(Aside: A lot of the rhetoric accompanying rest-day characterisations of Sunday is inevitably religious in nature. In his take on the Government's attempts to deregulate Sunday trading, the Chief Rabbi claimed, "We are being confronted today with what I call an increasingly aggressive secularism. It's not only atheism; it is anti-religious, aiming to drive religion off the streets." David Burrowes - the Conservative MP who proposed the amendment that sunk those efforts - referenced this in his comments during yesterday's Commons debate. It reminded me of the tone in which some people spoke when the legalisation of gay marriage was at issue; the concerns about religious values being eroded, despite the fact people would be able to continue not marrying people of the same gender if they so wished. I was thus prompted to check which of yesterday's Tory rebels also voted against same-sex marriage. It was all those who were MPs at the time.)
Less than a week ago, it appeared this could finally be over. Sunday trading regulations in England and Wales would be devolved to local councils, and while there was no guarantee they wouldn't be dicks about it too, it was something. Then on International Women's Day (it accordingly occurred to me there are maybe better things to be angry about, but it's my life and these are my problems, and you know, there are other people to be angry about wage disparity and sexual harassment and genuinely terrible things, so I'm going to be angry that I can't get a ready meal at 7pm on a Sunday), the Scottish National Party indicated they would block the Government's bill. Scottish National Party. Scottish.England. And Wales.
Initially I was confused. "This can't be right," I thought. "We have English votes for English laws now, and Scotland doesn't impose restrictions on Sunday trading, so it's evidently a devolved issue. Every major news outlet must be wrong." Surprisingly, every major news outlet wasn't wrong. It turns out EVEL legislation is hopelessly inadequate, or the construction of the bill was inadequate, or both, or no one apart from John Bercow actually knows, or they do know but it will never be comprehensively explained to the wider public, so the SNP wasn't entirely to blame when the bill was ultimately struck down, but come on guys... Nobody forced you to vote. You could have let us have our 24-hour consumer utopia. You didn't have to do us like this.
Generous commentators have suggested the SNP was looking out for workers across the UK rather than throwing 55 million of us under the bus for the sake of preventing a possible reduction in Scottish wages by a process even more mysterious than EVEL, but given the SNP has made no effort to restrict Sunday trading in Scotland itself, that seems unlikely. Indeed, they must believe there is a net advantage to having unlimited trading hours; apart from the consumer benefit, I can very strongly empathise with workers who want more hours - who need the money - but can't get them because the hours don't exist. Where are those workers' rights?
All this comes against the backdrop of intimations by Nicola Sturgeon that, should the UK vote to leave the European Union, there will be a second referendum on Scottish independence. In other words, while the Scottish electorate wouldn't want to be part of the UK, they would want to be part of an even larger, more ungainly union (admittedly with fewer legislative powers), reconciling the desires of an even more disparate collection of peoples. It's difficult not to take personally; not to see yesterday's vote as a petulant act of aggression against the neighbours who just want to get along. Maybe it's time we go our separate ways.Suggest a correction