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Another day, another step in the Conservatives’ destruction of the United Kingdom. They just can’t help themselves, can they. Jeremy Hunt has announced that he’s withdrawing all UK diplomatic support for the Scottish First Minister on her trips abroad to represent the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament. “She can fly Ryanair with a hen party from Caldercruix and then fight her way onto a bus 120 miles from her destination,” said Jeremy, “That’ll teach her for being a vile separatist.” Well he didn’t really say that, if only because he doesn’t know where Caldercruix is and wouldn’t know how to pronounce it even if he did. But his sentiments were along an equally petty vein. The really scary thing here is that this is the guy who’s considered the better option.
The reason that the UK Foreign Secretary gave for his undiplomatic decision was that Nicola Sturgeon uses her foreign trips to promote the policies she was elected on, opposing Brexit and supporting Scottish independence. Now we know that politicians who are elected in the UK will only enjoy the support of the UK diplomatic corps if they happen to agree with the politics of whoever happens to be the Foreign Secretary at the time.
Perhaps if Jeremy Hunt possessed a modicum of historical awareness he might have realised that it was a very similar issue, that of consular representation, which brought about Unionsoppløsningen the dissolution of the Union between Norway and Sweden in 1905. Norway felt that it was not adequately represented by consular officials abroad who were appointed by the Swedish foreign minister. The issue became emblematic of the increasingly divergent political paths that Norway and Sweden were then taking, and the union between the two countries, which had existed since 1814, came to an end. Jeremy Hunt’s childish and petty decision will not be the hill that the UK dies on, but it’s one more illustration to Scotland of a UK that is not serving our needs.
According to a spokesapologist for the Tories, in future elected representatives of the devolved administrations will only get support from the Foreign Office if they “avoid supporting activities intended to campaign for policies contrary to [the UK] Government’s position”. So if at some point in a post-Brexit Britain, the British government decides that the NHS is very much on the table in a trade deal negotiation with the USA, then according to this ruling the Scottish government wouldn’t be allowed to speak against that during any official visits to America.
That’s the kind of thing that had it happened under the government of Recep Erdogan or Vladimir Putin would provoke British handwringing about the threat to democracy from authoritarian regimes. Yet here we are. Nicola Sturgeon won’t get support from the Foreign Office when she’s on an official visit abroad, that Foreign Office that is paid for out of Scottish taxes too, because she favours Scottish independence and opposes Brexit and those are policies that Jeremy doesn’t like.
This isn’t just petty on the part of the Foreign Secretary. It’s downright sinister. The Conservatives are a party which is prepared to refuse Scotland another independence referendum “under any circumstances”. The fact that there’s a democratic mandate for one doesn’t matter. They are a party which is prepared to suspend Parliament in order to ram through a no deal Brexit that doesn’t have majority support in the Commons. And now we learn that they are a party which is happy to rule out official support to democratically elected politicians whose policies they don’t like. The Conservatives are not just the party of English nationalism, of English exceptionalism, and of Brexit at all costs, they’re profoundly undemocratic and authoritarian. They represent precisely the kind of extreme right wing politics that they themselves warned Scotland could only avoid if it voted against independence.
What this is really about here, of course, is the Conservative leadership contest. The Scots are a convenient whipping boy. Scotland is about as popular amongst Conservative party members in England – where the vast majority of them reside – as explaining uncomfortable truths about their Brexit policy is with Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt. By showing them that he’s prepared to act the hard man with Scotland, Jeremy is hoping to curry a few more votes from the unreconstructed English nationalists who will be voting for the Tory leader in a short while. Scotland’s interests are being sacrificed so that an unprincipled careerist can make himself look good in the eyes a party that prioritises Brexit far above Scotland’s interests. That’s pooling and sharing for you.
Jeremy tells us that he’ll never allow the break up of the UK because although he’s English he also has Irish blood and Welsh blood, and he spent some time in Scotland when he was a wean. Posho Jezza hasn’t realised that insisting on telling people about your blood while waving about a can of Irn Bru for a photo op really isn’t a good look when you’re trying to make out that this nationalism lark is a bad idea.
Jezza son, I mean this kindly, but no one in Scotland gives a tuppenny where your great great great grandparents were from, and we care even less that you spent a few months during the school holidays with your da the admiral on a navy base in Scotland when you weren’t at your posh boarding school in Surrey. So just shuttit, gaunnie. Because you’re coming across as a dictatorial wee nyaff and that really doesn’t play at all well in Scotland. And you’re meant to be the sensible one in this leadership contest, god help us. It’s like saying that because my parents once took me to Whitley Bay when I was a wean, it gives me the right to tell England to forget about this Brexit nonsense.
It’s hard to decide which of the two Tory leadership candidates is worse. But then we don’t get a vote or a say and exist in this contest purely as a tartan piñata to be beaten with a stick in the hope of dislodging a few more votes from some anti-Scottish bigots. There’s a choice between a lying fantasist or a lying opportunist. You can have your liar either shambolic and brazen, or sleekit and boring. Both of them are equally peddling myths and false expectations about Brexit, and both of them are going to come crashing down just as soon as their false promises hit the hard reality of the EU.
When that happens, as it inevitably will, they’ll blame the Europeans for their failure, they’ll blame the Scots, they’ll blame remainers, they’ll blame everyone but themselves and the lies about English exceptionalism upon which Brexit was founded. All that faces Scotland within the UK is more of the Tories’ diplomacy of contempt and a future as a saltire piñata that they will beat with a stick in order to extract a few more votes from the golf clubs of Surrey.