So how’s that respect agenda working out for everyone? Remember that? Respect was supposed to be the keystone in Conservative dealings with Scotland, according to David Cameron before he won the award for worst Prime Minister ever and then flounced off to his garden shed. But it’s not all bad, we’ve now all discovered that he’s only the second worst Prime Minister ever, as Theresa May has taken the prize.
There’s precious little respect on display from the Conservatives towards Scotland. Respect means to have due regard for the feelings, wishes, or rights of someone. It means to be considerate and attentive to what another is saying. This Conservative government has failed dismally to demonstrate any respect for Scotland.
Actually, that’s being kind. To say that someone has dismally failed to achieve something that they’d claimed they were going to do implies that they had good intentions to begin with, that they had a genuine desire to do whatever it was that they’d said they were going to do. The Conservatives never had the slightest intention of changing how they dealt with Scotland or the Scottish Parliament. The respect agenda is up there with the claim that Scotland is a beloved partner in a family of nations, or the assertion that this is the UK is the most successful partnership of countries that the world has ever seen. It is now and always was meaningless cant designed to make British nationalists in Scotland feel better about themselves.
The reality of Conservative respect for Scotland was on display this week when the UK government cancelled the Joint Ministerial Council meeting that had been scheduled for Thursday, citing diary issues. The Joint Ministerial Council is a regular meeting between the First Ministers of the devolved administrations and the British government, but apparently David Lidington is washing his hair so can’t make it. The cancellation comes just a few days after Theresa May promised an “enhanced role” for the devolved administrations in Brexit negotiations.
We had some more Conservative respect on Wednesday, with reports that the Scottish Conservatives are going to vote in a bloc against Theresa May. Yay! Ruth Davidson’s Scottish Conservatives™ are standing up for Scotland just like Ruth Davidson said they were going to! Oh. Wait. Hing oan.
They’re going to vote against any proposals from Theresa May to give the Scottish Government a greater role in post-Brexit trade negotiations. So not standing up for Scotland at all then. They’re standing up for a reduced role for Scotland. They’re standing up for putting Scotland firmly back in the shortbread tin and nailing the lid down. They’re standing up for the narrow party interests of the Scottish Tories and their loathing of Nicola Sturgeon, and if that means that there will be no Scottish voice in post-Brexit trade negotiations, so be it. They’re proud Scots, but not so proud that they want Scotland to speak for itself or have its own interests and views represented. Proud Scot butters no parsnips.
Also on Wednesday, there was an excruciating example of more Proud Scot buttering nae neeps when Scottish Conservative MP Stephen Kerr was chosen to ask the Prime Minister a question during PMQs. There are a lot of things that Stephen could have chosen to ask. He could have asked about measures to protect the Scottish fishing industry, which is the only Scottish industry that has any interests which appear on the Scottish Tories’ Brexit radar. Or rather, the interests of the six wealthy families who have hoovered up most of Scotland’s fishing quotas. But even so, it would have been more worthwhile than what he came out with.
Stephen assured the House and everyone else that he was a Proud Scot. It’s only ever people who are keen to ensure that Scotland has a subordinate role and an inferior position who feel the need to tell us that they are Proud Scots. Stephen wanted the world to know that the United Kingdom was the most successful political union that the world had ever known.
It’s not clear what standard of comparison he was using here. There are plenty of other political unions in which the participants actually retain equal voices or at least equal representation at the highest level of the structures of the union. Unions which, you know, are actually unions, and not incorporations and takeovers.
Possibly he meant that the UK was the most successful political union that the world had ever seen because it gave Stephen a seat in the Westminster parliament where he could pontificate from the back benches and pretend to himself that he was important and influential. And if he keeps his nose clean and his head down he might eventually be in line for a knighthood or even a peerage.
Mainly however, he wanted Theresa May to rule out Scotland having another independence referendum any time soon. Or indeed not so soon. Stephen is such a Proud Scot that he wants to ensure that Scotland doesn’t have any say in whether or not it wants to continue remaining a part of his most successful political union the world has ever seen. He’s such a Proud Scot that he wants to ensure that a Prime Minister whose mandate in Scotland rests upon the votes received by her party elsewhere in the UK has a veto over Scotland. And he wants to ensure that the Scotland that he’s determined to trap into this so-called perfect union has no say in how it charts its course in the storms of the post-Brexit world that his party is dragging an unwilling Scotland into. That’s a strange definition of pride.
You don’t measure pride by words. You don’t measure pride by the number of times a person tells you that they’re proud. You measure it by deeds, by action. You measure it by how many neeps it butters, not by how many proud Scots say but. The proud Scots but of the Scottish Tories are not proud of Scotland. They’re just conceited. The proud Scot butters nae neeps.
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