SNP's Sturgeon finds kindred spirits in 3rd rate Greek populists

Confused, superficial, and shallow, it is quite possible that the SNP's Nicola Sturgeon sees a kindred spirit in Greece's Syriza. Responsible governing in the interests of real people comes second to this collection of third-rate, far-left chancers and demagogues

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Just when we didn't need another populist...
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Tom Gallagher
On 2 July 2015 10:52

Authentic nationalists, serious about self-reliant nations thriving, would be urging Greece to cut a velvet deal with the EU so that it can break free from the  Euro straitjacket and revive its economic fortunes, free of long-range diktats.

Instead, in a superficial and self-serving intervention, Scotland’s separatist-in-chief, Nicola Sturgeon has pleaded for an 11th hour deal. A compromise to keep Greece in the Euro is, apparently, imperative:

"...a “Grexit” would have consequences that would potentially be felt by all of us. It would undermine the credibility and integrity of the single currency, even in countries with much stronger economies than Greece, and could also weaken the European Union.."

And Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish National Party, is clear about what this compromise would entail: an end to austerity and investment to promote growth.

The word ‘reform’ is thrown in as a sop but it is obvious that, just like Syriza, she favours the paternalist big state, reliant on injections of capital from Germany and, if the IMF is involved, from numerous non-European nations as well.

Sturgeon doesn’t appear to be troubled by the reckless and somewhat ‘anti-European’ tactics of Alexis Tsipras in past weeks. The Greek Prime Minister’s tribute to Russia and warning to fellow EU members like the Baltic States that Greece might well make an alliance with Russia if the country exits the Eurozone, was seen as too trivial to mention by her.

So was Syriza’s alliance with an alarmingly xenophobic party, the Independent Greeks. The Greek defence minister Panos Kammenos belongs to it.In May, he warned that if the Eurozone was too demanding, Greece would give EU travel papers to illegal immigrants crossing its borders, or to the 10,000 currently held in detention centres:

"If Europe leaves us in the crisis, we will flood it with migrants, and it will be even worse for Berlin if in that wave of millions of economic migrants there will be some jihadists of the Islamic State too."

It is quite possible that Sturgeon sees a kindred spirit in Syriza as it insists to the EU that it gets used to its populist policies and brings out the cheque book otherwise the geopolitical consequences might be momentous.

She also demands that Scotland should be master in its own house. But at the same time she has no desire to see the quick end of the transfer union with the rest of the UK that allows Scotland to make up the gap between its earnings and what it spends.

She is prepared to have Scotland in NATO but it must be disabled as a nuclear alliance or the Trident base on the Clyde moved at ruinous cost to somewhere else. What the other members in places now anxious about Russian moves think about such self-indulgence is apparently of no concern to her.

Alas, she only has the retiring John Swinney at her side as finance minister and not  a roguish exhibitionist like Yanis Varouifakis.

But for sure Syriza is her kind of political gig. Governing comes second to this collection of far-left campaigners. Syriza has a reputation to uphold as the most celebrated left-wing party in the world. Soon the SNP may be up there with it.

Already Sturgeon has put aside her governing duties to cross the Atlantic to appear on the John Stewart Show. Perhaps an audience with the radical Pope in the Vatican cannot be far off or even a photo-op with Fidel Castro in Havana.

But she has found the time to pursue populist measures which even Syriza has shrunk from. Estates will be broken up or seized from their owners.

An amnesty has been announced for those unwilling to pay historic council tax arrears. An omnipotent state is appointing guardians for each of Scotland’s children.

Greece’s highly uncompetive economy is unlikely to terrify Nicola. Without a land register, a normal tax-collecting system, and with business contracts and jobs at the whim of a patronage-driven state, what is there not to like?

Its ruling politicians, adept at blaming others for their own shortcomings surely are role models. Tsipras, with his beefcake Elvis Presley looks, manages to convince many Greeks that only devotion to their cause counts for him.

Sturgeon does the same for parochial Clydeside radicals some of whom make Rab C Nesbitt sound like a philosopher of ancient Athens.

Scotland’s progress towards becoming a party-state, one where the ruling politicians subdue civil society and private enterprise, has accelerated ever since the SNP won a controlling majority in the Scottish parliament in 2011.

But without an EU that is often compliant towards subsidy-hunters who make the greatest racket, the SNP would find it difficult to fit into the Brussels order. That’s why an insincere nationalist party needs to make common cause with a phony people- friendly party like Syriza in order for  the EU to be able to accommodate Europe’s chancers and demagogues.

Yet the timing of her intervention has been poor. In 1999, her predecessor, Alex Salmond called on the EU to negotiate with Slobodan Milosevic as the Serbian strongman was emptying Kosovo of much of its Albanian population. However, Milosevic blinked  and threw in the towel soon after.

Now she is calling for the EU to erect a golden bridge from which Tsipras can gracefully retreat. But in its 5 months in office Syriza has alienated even the patient Chancellor Merkel and a string of Eurozone countries like Slovakia, much poorer than Greece, but still expected to bail out this feckless EU member.

Wolgang Schauble, the finance minister said in the German Bundestag on 1 July: "The Greek government is not doing its people any favours at all if it keeps making completely false statements. Nobody else is to blame for their situation."

Neither did the deputy chancellor, Sigmar Gabriel, mince his words on 1 July about the endemic corruption in Greece and its long-term unsuitability for Eurozone membership.

I’m glad that Nicola Sturgeon has spoken up for the Greek hell-raisers. Sympathy for Syriza’s wrecking spree is largely confined to Europe’s hard left. Her gesture shows what kind of member Scotland can be expected to be if it ever knocks on the EU’s door for individual entry.

I suspect that David Cameron will come under pressure from some of Britain’s European neighbours if his amateurish approach to the SNP continues. Syriza has shown the menace which far-left populists can cause far beyond their borders by taking advantage of the dysfunctional European Union.

There is every sign that an impractical and cult-like SNP will be disruptive in whatever entity it gets involved. At least Britain is better-placed  to face down militant populism than the broken-backed EU is.

But there is still little sign that the Cameron government sees this as an urgent task.

Tom Gallagher’s latest book, ‘Europe’s Path to Crisis: Disintegration Through Monetary Union’ has been  published in paperback by Manchester University Press

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