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Fox hunting, fracking and the categorical imperative

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Fox hunting, fracking and the categorical imperative Empty Fox hunting, fracking and the categorical imperative

Post by Jill Segger Mon Aug 10, 2015 5:15 pm

If an outcome pleases, do you ask questions as to how it was achieved? Politicians depend upon us not doing so and there is therefore a responsibility to interrogate our own reactions.

In the week which has just passed, both the SNP and the Conservatives executed about-turns on policy undertakings. The former had an outcome which I support, the latter, one which I deplore. It is therefore tempting to treat them differently.

In February this year, the SNP stated its policy of abstaining on any vote at Westminster which would not have an impact on Scotland. This was both wise and principled. However, Nicola Sturgeon's decision that the SNP would vote against the government's manifesto pledge to relax the law on fox hunting led to David Cameron suspending the vote as, in the words of Shadow Environment Secretary Maria Eagle, the Prime Minister was “running scared because he knew he was going to lose the vote.” Although Cameron claims that the vote will return when EVEL (English Votes for English Laws) legislation has been passed, the general feeling at Westminster is that this is unlikely to happen and that the issue is effectively dead. Many of us welcome that.

However, the volte-face carries some worrying baggage. It seems to have come about because the SNP were understandably annoyed at the government's refusal to consider any amendments to the Scotland Bill. But resorting to tit-for-tat point-scoring does not reflect well on a parliamentary grouping which had given many of us cause for hope. And on the level of real-politik, the SNP have made an error of judgement in pursuit of short term popularity, which will hand Cameron exactly what he wanted, bolstering his claim the Scots now exercise too much power in the UK parliament and pose a threat to 'English democracy'.

The other promise overturned was the government's reversal of its pledge to exclude fracking from sites of special scientific interest (SSSIs),arguing instead that the shale gas industry would be held back by such exclusion. There are 4,000 SSSIs in England, more than 1,000 in Wales and 1,425 in Scotland so this represents a huge expansion of the controversial process and flies directly in the face of the undertaking given by the Energy Secretary, Amber Rudd in January: “We have agreed an outright ban on fracking in national parks [and] sites of special scientific interest.” Doubtless, there will be those who think that the supposed gain is worth the broken promise. I am not one of them.

So here we have two betrayals of trust. A commodity in scarce supply in our political culture has been further endangered and if we are to maintain the integrity which that statement laments, we need to examine our own confirmation bias and its effect on consistency of conscience. That temptation to treat ends as separated from means is pernicious and can only feed back into an expectation on the part of the political body that electoral conscience is at the service of expediency and tribalism.

Kant's categorical imperative may be demanding, but on what ground may we stand without it? “Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law."

This blog first appeared on Ekklesia and is reproduced with acknowledgement. www.ekklesia.co.uk


© Jill Segger is an Associate Director of Ekklesia with particular involvement in editorial issues. She is a freelance writer who contributes to the Church Times, Catholic Herald, Tribune, Reform and The Friend, among other publications. Jill is an active Quaker. See: http://www.journalistdirectory.com/journalist/TQig/Jill-Segger You can follow Jill on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/quakerpen

Jill Segger

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Jill Segger
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