They are shocked, m’dears. Outraged. Will be making formal complaints. Shouting at anyone still listening. And what has sparked this outpouring of fabricated indignation? Well, you are simply not going to believe what the Scottish Government has gone and done now! Only run an advert saying how welcome Europeans would always be on Scotland’s shores. Douglas Ross and Michael Forsyth can barely speak for spluttering their rage.
I mean the absolute brass neck of it. A Scottish government re-stating its longstanding policy. A government responding to the democratically declared allegiance of almost two thirds of Scottish voters in the Brexit referendum. And, get this, doing it with French sub titles, a daud of humour, and a lovely wee lassie on the voiceover with a backdrop of some cracking scenery. Scandalous or what?
This is risible on so many levels, but let’s start with the principal stated complaint of Mr Ross, who gave up a Scottish seat to scurry to Westminster, and the Lord Forsyth who morphed from Secretary of State “for” Scotland, to an ermine clad berth in the House of Lords.
(An unelected chamber which now boasts more denizens than the elected variety along the corridor. Bit of a pattern here, what with Ruth Davidson about to join him, having accepted a peerage from the PM she used to love to hate.)
It seems the less than dynamic duo are well shocked at civil servants being complicit in dispensing political material, thus endangering their sacred neutrality. Aye right. That sacred neutrality so much in evidence as they stood aloof from any smidgin of bias in the last Scottish referendum.
Let me give you just a few wee quotes from the official UK Gov website in 2014 as they stayed above the fray:
“The UK government is not neutral on the issue of the referendum. It has a clear policy that it wishes to see Scotland remain part of the UK.”
Or how about:
“The civil service’s role is to support the elected government of the day and implement its policies. While the referendum is politically contentious, it is correct that civil servants carry out their duties on this issue as they would any other government policy – this applies equally to policy and media work, including social media.”
There was also a booklet devoted to the “benefits” of staying in the UK for which you were urged to apply, and state how many copies you’d like. Which doesn’t quite suggest the contents were only for personal perusal. It had all kinds of stuff about how being part of Britain would protect savings, make trade easier, and keep everything in your garden properly rosy. (I didn’t have the energy for the chapter which doubtless suggested the Malkies would come when you were in bed asleep if you became independent.)
They even wheeled out the then top treasury mandarin to suck air in through his exquisite choppers, shake his manicured locks in despair, and doubt that the proponents of independence had yet mastered the art of counting on their fingers.
So the UK government manipulates the civil service when it suits it – Brexit anyone? – but berates any other administration for also thinking it unremarkable that “the civil service’s role is to support the elected government of the day.”
The core problem here is that so many Tories, not excluding the PM, have never accepted that there is a functioning government in Scotland. One with a mind and policies of its own. According to Bojo, devolution for Scotland has been “a disaster”, so we can expect him to address the question of Scottish independence with his own legendary neutrality on the subject.
The unlovely Internal Market Bill is a transparent attempt to address the problem of there being a Scottish government by cutting it off at the post Brexit knees. Denuding it of any powers that matter whilst garlanding it with the wherewithal to do all kinds of shiny new things like deciding whether real Scotsmen wear knickers.
What they also don’t get – big time – is the profound sense of loss so many Scots have at being torn out of the EU despite overwhelmingly supporting continued membership. The so called unshakeable will of the people in June 2016 comprised under 30 per cent of the voting population of the UK. And squeaked home with almost exactly the same tiny majority in favour of Leave, by which Scotland voted yes in the first referendum in 1979. Don’t recall anyone hailing that as the settled will of the people.
In fact, as you’ll remember, a London based Scottish MP manipulated the voting system by ruling any Yes vote with less than 40 per cent of the entire Scottish electorate – whether voting or not – would be invalid. So all non voters, and don’t knows, were promptly filed under No.
You might argue that any major constitutional change should always be subject to a more stringent test of public opinion than a simple majority. By which logic Brexit should never have been allowed – or the havoc it will create – on a vote of 51.9 per cent constructed on the back of some blatant porkies. And an envelope.
That is history. The future however beckons. And I predict ever more irrelevance in Scotland for the party of Ross and Forsyth. The party which refused to vote for protection for Scottish farmers and fishing communities. The party which, in the words of that part time Scot Michael Gove, believes that Northern Ireland has the best of both worlds as it continues to enjoy the privileges of EU membership. Fair do’s given it voted Remain
But no fair do’s for Scotland’s majority remainers. They must be shackled to the balrmier wing of the Brexiteers who appear to have taken the UK government hostage. They must pay for their insubordination in having a parliament by having the latter’s influence reduced to the point of impotence.
And they certainly mustn’t even think of telling their friends in Europe, that they’ll be part of the family again just as soon as circumstances permit. To update the immortal lines of Scottish Tory Andrew Bowie: “Scotland will be back in Europe. Get used to it.”
First published in The National 4.1.21