There’s a test that scientists use to discover whether a species possesses self-awareness. They anaesthetise an animal and paint a dot on its forehead using an odourless and chemically inert paint. When the animal wakens, it is presented with a mirror, it it reacts to the image in the mirror by attempting to examine the dot on its own forehead, it’s taken as a reliable indicator that the the species possesses self-awareness. Great apes pass the test, so do Asian elephants, dolphins, and orcas, proving that they are sensitive and thoughtful creatures. Failing the test is taken as demonstrating a lack of self-awareness. Baboons fail it. And so, at least given his performance speechifying on Monday, would Michael Gove.
The occasion was a series of lectures to a less than packed house about the State of the Union. It was a Better Together reunion gig, with added DUP. You know, bigots for inclusivity. The event was a desperate attempt to come up with some new arguments to deploy in a future Scottish independence referendum seeing as how they’ve broken all the arguments they trotted out the last time. Scottish nationalism is parochial and insular. Oh wait. Valued partner in a family of nations. Oops hang on. Europe won’t want you. Eh, give us a minute we’ll get something in a bit. Why risk the safety and security of the UK. Ah, oh, eh, uhmm.
Featuring a line up of has-beens, never-weres, and never-will-bes, they could have saved themselves, and us, a lot of bother by simply admitting that there is no Union only an incorporating state that really doesn’t trouble itself with the opinions of its Celtic peripheries. However in a day of magical thinking and unhinged self-delusion, it was Michael Gove’s brass neck which shone the shiniest. During the EU referendum campaign Michael complained that people were fed up with experts. He’s certainly proving that people are fed up with politicians who are expert in prattling such utter guff as he does.
Michael was terribly concerned to tell us all how vile Scottish nationalism is, what with it being, according to him, divisive identity politics. According to one of the leading proponents of the anti-immigration politics of taking back control for Britain, identity politics are a bad thing. You don’t say, Michael. You don’t say. Once again a leading British nationalist proves that the defining characteristic of British nationalism is the unshakeable belief that it’s better than other nationalisms by virtue of not being nationalist at all.
Not that any of this should be surprising. We’re talking here about a man who asserts, with an entirely straight face insofar as Michael Gove is capable of being straight about anything, that Britain has become more welcoming to immigration since the Brexit vote. That rise in hate crimes against ethnic minorities since the EU referendum is entirely coincidental then, and the Home Office’s hostile environment for immigrants magically turned into a fluffy cushion the day after the referendum. This from a man who went about in 2016 warning of a mythical influx of 70 million Turkish people. There are people whose lips are firmly attached to a crack pipe who have a better grasp of reality.
It may be technically true to claim that public attitudes towards immigration have softened since the Brexit vote, but there is no evidence that this is directly because of the Brexit vote. It is far more likely that any softening in public attitudes towards immigration since the Brexit vote is because of a widespread revulsion towards the rise in hate crimes caused by weaponising of immigration by the likes of Michael Gove, and a sympathy with and empathy for migrants that is entirely alien to the government that Michael is a part of.
In any event the softening in public attitudes towards immigration has not been accompanied by any softening in government policy, quite the reverse. Michael Gove has made people feel revulsion and anger towards what he and his fellow Brexiteers have done, and then seeks to take credit for it like he’s done us all a good turn. It’s a bit like someone who robbed candy from a baby taking the credit for people feeling greater sympathy for the baby since the candy robbing incident. And then appearing all smug in the national press to tell us what a great guy he is for making people feel sympathetic towards the baby whose candy he’s scoffing.
Michael’s self-serving claims about immigration were bad enough, but they were by no means the least delusional of his claims, and this let us remember from a man who is hailed by his party as one of the Conservatives’ leading intellectuals. But then you look at Ross Thomson and David Mundell and think, well yeah, they have a point.
There was the claim that Brexit was motivated by a desire to restore public trust in British institutions. How’s that working out for you all then? But even that howler wasn’t the worst of it. The highlight of the speech was the claim that Brexit has made the Union stronger and that Scottish nationalism is in retreat. That’s what comes of taking all your information about the state of Scottish politics from Ruth Davidson’s press releases. So that’s Michael, and most of the British nationalist press in Scotland then.
The reality is of course the exact opposite of what’s going on in Michael’s red white and blue reveries, Brexit has energised, enthused, and activated the Scottish independence movement. We’re not talking any more about if there should be another referendum, the only debate is about the timing of one. All across Scotland, independence groups are getting themselves organised, developing strategies, working on preparations for the campaign ahead. All this is happening because of Brexit, and because of the repeated failure of the British state to take account of the views of the people of Scotland.
What Michael Gove and the other speakers at the Better Together reunion gig can’t accept is that we are where we are because of their failures and shortcomings. If they have fulfilled their promises to Scotland, we wouldn’t be planning for and preparing for another independence referendum. There wouldn’t be the largest march and rally seen in Scotland since the Iraq War protests, calling for independence. The British state isn’t breaking apart because of Scottish nationalism. It’s breaking apart because of British nationalism.
Mapa Gàidhlig na h-Alba / Gaelic Map of Scotland
The Gaelic map of Scotland is now available, the cost is £15 plus £7 P&P within the UK. Please note P&P outwith the UK is more expensive. P&P to Europe is £10, P&P to the rest of the world is £15. If you require multiple copies of the map, you only need pay once for P&P, up to 4 copies of the map.
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