Yet again we’ve got a leading Brexist appearing on a politics show on the telly in order to inform us how dreadfully unfair it is of the EU to put conditions on the unicorns and cake that the UK expects from Brexit. This time it’s David Davis, who fancies himself as the Action Man of Brexit, small, plastic, hollow, lacking balls, and a figure of 1960s schoolboy fantasies.
Appearing on the Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, David opined that, “There is no other treaty in the world I’m aware of where a sovereign nation undertakes to join up and can only leave when the other side says so.” To which Scotland went, ahem. I’ve got a Treaty of Union to show you. Andrew Marr was quite happy to wade into the Scottish independence debate in 2014, but surprisingly he failed to point out the obvious to David. Well, I say surprisingly.
It is a safe assumption that although David has his political disagreements with the current government, none of them are because he feels that the British government which is refusing a referendum for Scotland is guilty of a degree of hypocrisy a mile wide. He is presumably quite content that Theresa May insists that it’s her right and her right alone to decide whether the people of Scotland can excerise their democratic voice on the future of this country. The UK didn’t have to ask the EU for permission to leave the EU, but Scotland is expected to ask the UK government for permission to even ask itself about its own future.
You don’t have to search very hard to find other examples. There’s Michael Gove, who complained during the EU referendum campaign, “Our membership of the EU stops us being able to choose who makes critical decisions which affect all our lives.” But the UK has a seat at the top table of the EU, it returns MEPs to the European Parliament. In certain aspects of EU policy it has a veto, and its list of opt-outs from those EU policies which it dislikes is legendary. As an EU member the UK has considerably more power to affect the course of EU policy decisions than Scotland has to affect the policy decisions of the British government.
Then there’s Michael Forsyth, the political failure who lost all his party’s seats in Scotland in the 1997 election and who was then bumped up to the House of Lords by his pals so he can still influence our laws and have a role in public life. Michael appeared in a TV debate during the EU referendum and in all seriousness complained about the unfairness of our laws being made by people we didn’t elect whom we can’t vote out of office. Really Michael. You don’t say.
Or how about Boris Johnson, who complained that Theresa May’s Brexit deal was unacceptable because it turned the UK into a vassal state of the EU. By which he meant that the UK would be forced to accept what the EU chose to impose on it without being able to influence the EU’s decision making process. So just like Scotland within the UK then, in an analogy he didn’t make.
It’s not just Tories. A former UK Prime Minister stood before an invited audience of hacks in London in November 2018 and said, “the situation will have been seen to have changed since 2016, and the people should in the end have the final say.” Or there’s a certain children’s author who wrote, “The whole point of democracy is the freedom to change your opinion when the circumstances change.” Except for viewers in Scotland.
It would be nice if the Scottish media made it their business to put the contradictions to British politicians, and demand that they explain why it’s such a dreadful thing that the UK gets dictated to by the EU whereas Scotland getting dictated to by Theresa May is just fine. It would be nice to know why they’d be outraged when there was a UK government with a mandate to hold a referendum to leave the EU which had to ask the EU for permission to hold it, but when there’s a Scottish government with a mandate to hold an independence referendum it has to ask permission from Theresa May. Permission which she is refusing. Pointing out the hypocrisy and demanding our rulers in Westminster explain themselves is the job of a media whose role is to hold power to account, but the self-appointed role of the British media in Scotland is not to rock the UK’s boat while finding aspersions to cast at the SNP.
The hypocrisy and sense of British exceptionalism is off the charts. The American conservative writer William F Buckley Jr. once said of an opponent, “I won’t insult your intelligence by suggesting that you really believe what you just said.” The problem we have in Scotland is that the Tories really do believe what they just said. It’s hard to argue with self-serving stupidity when a person’s job and reputation rest upon them failing to grasp the point. Their hypocrisy insults our intelligence while they have no intelligence to insult.
British exceptionalism means there is one rule for Britain, and another rule for everyone else. That’s clearest of all in the UK’s treatment of Scotland. All those terrible impositions, all those insults to democracy, all those restrictions on sovereignty, which Brexit supporters complain about with respect to the EU, every one of them they are happy to impose upon Scotland. They talk about a union when it suits them, but they act as though Scotland is not a nation. For the British nationalist, Scotland is not a nation and has no more rights than an English county council. British exceptionalism means that the UK demands its rights, demands respect, but it doesn’t recognise that others have the same rights and require the same respect. Except for viewers in Scotland.
But we’ll leave the last word in British exceptionalist hypocrisy to Theresa May herself. The Prime Minister told the House of Commons in December 2018, “Ultimately any union that involves the pooling of sovereignty can only be sustained with the consent of the people.” Except for viewers in Scotland.
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