BuildingScotland.pngThe delayed debate on Thatcher’s famous quote about society (and no, there’s no amount of context which excuses it) will be taken this afternoon at Holyrood, and the reaction to the debate topic at the weekend was fascinating.

The UK coalition parties were united in their desire for the debate to be moved, perhaps surprisingly, although of course they are jointly responsible for the turbo-Thatcherite direction Westminster’s taking. The SNP took a public “it’s up to them” position, but appear to have argued for a delay at the Bureau. Labour were the only other party to take a clear position supporting the original debate, while understandably calling for it to be conducted with respect.

This unfortunate accident of timing meant the Greens and independents were forced to choose between irrelevance and debating the legacy of Thatcherism, probably not the topic they would have picked if their one chance each year to pick what the Scottish Parliament should debate had fallen on another day.

Nevertheless, tactically, the outcome is pretty good – the reaction effectively illustrates the range of positions at Holyrood. At one end you have the Greens and independents, united by a broad rejection of Thatcherism. At the other, you have the coalition parties determined to defend it, and then Labour and the SNP taking a middle position. And the changed date means the Tories will be in the chamber to defend her, which always helps retoxify them in the eyes of much of Scotland. I’m personally very comfortable with the Greens and independents leading the charge against them on behalf of those Scots who didn’t like the economic side of Thatcherism any more than they liked the social side.

Because this is a popular position to take. By an extraordinary coincidence, on the very eve of the Iron Lady’s death, the Greens published the results of a poll which suggests that Thatcherite selfishness won’t be the primary motivation for Scots deciding how to vote in next year’s referendum (full tables here). Pleasingly, 58% of respondents said that they would want to pick whichever outcome was more likely to deliver a fairer and more equal society, with just 10% saying they would pick on what would make them personally better off.

The coincidences don’t end with the timing. In his comments on the poll, Patrick Harvie said:

Margaret Thatcher famously declared society does not exist. It’s quite clear Scots value society highly and next year’s referendum is an unprecedented opportunity to start shaping the fairer society we want to live in.

Turning to another famous comment from the former PM, when she was asked what her greatest achievement was, she said “New Labour”. As one of those who bitterly regretted Blairism’s acceptance of her core principles, it’d be great if a fairer, more equal and independent Scotland turned out to be her truly greatest achievement.