The British Government is going to let members of the Scottish Parliament have a wee squatch at the impact study into the economic effects of Brexit on the various nations and regions of the UK. Isn’t that nice. This is the study that they’d previously denied existed. David Mundell’s office wrote to the Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament late on Wednesday 7 February to inform him that MSPs would be able to view the document by appointment only on Thursday 8 February or on Friday 9 February between 10 am and 1pm and between 2pm and 5pm at the Scotland Office building in 1 Melville Crescent. Times when MSPs are busy with Parliamentary business or when they’re due to be holding constituency surgeries. MSPs won’t be allowed to copy the papers, to photograph or scan them. They won’t be allowed to take copies away with them. They won’t be allowed unsupervised access to the papers, and they’ve been warned that the content of the papers is not to be made public. But subject to these restrictions the papers will be freely available on short notice for a short while in an office in the basement behind a storage cupboard guarded by a leopard. So that’s totally reasonable. You’ll have had your freedom of information Scotland.
Naturally MSPs were pretty pissed off about this. It’s an insult to the Scottish Parliament to promise access to the papers and then to make it as awkward and inconvenient as possible for MSPs to actually obtain access. Labour MSP Neil Findlay was pure beelin that it was outrageous that the British government was expecting MSPs to schlepp all the way to London just to get a wee glimpse of the documents. That’s the Neil who is an MSP for the Lothians, who works in Edinburgh, who lives near Edinburgh, and who doesn’t know that the Scotland Office has premises in Edinburgh. Nor indeed where Melville Crescent is. Google Maps is your friend Neil.
But there’s an even bigger insult to the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish people than the UK government’s contemptuous evasion and obfuscation over information about the economic effects of Brexit. Last year the Fluffy One told the Scottish Parliament’s Europe Committee that the UK government had not carried out any “Scotland specific” analysis of the effects of Brexit. This came a short while after he’d admitted in the media that there was in fact such an analysis. Now we know that there is after all an analysis which looks specifically at the economic effects of Brexit on Scotland and on all the other nations and regions of the UK.
There are only two possible conclusions here. Either the Scotland Secretary had been lying when he said that there was such a study because he didn’t actually know that there was, which in turn means that his colleagues in the British cabinet don’t keep him informed of Scottish specific information, or that he knew all along that the report existed and what it detailed and he was deliberately misleading the Scottish Parliament. Neither of these conclusions inspires much confidence in the ability of the man who is theoretically charged with speaking up for Scotland in the UK cabinet to speak up for Scotland in the UK cabinet. David Mundell must be a liar or an idiot, although admittedly those are not mutually exclusive possibilities.
You might think that it was an important story that the Scotland Secretary was misleading the Scottish Parliament on a topic which is vitally important to the future of Scotland, misleading the Scottish Parliament about a UK government study demonstrating that the economic damage of Brexit will be even greater than the economic damage that the Conservatives were telling us independence would be. You might think that this ought to be the lead story on BBC Scotland’s flagship evening news programme, Reporting Scotland. But then if you think that then you are kept even less informed about the purpose of Reporting Scotland than the UK cabinet keeps the Scotland Secretary informed about Scotland specific Brexit information. The lead story was naturally a story about Thatessempee being bad because of the resignation of the chief of Police Scotland, this was followed by two stories about murrdurrs, a story about a soldier’s body being repatriated from Iraq, then a story about problems with an NHS hospital in Aberdeenshire.
It was only then that BBC Scotland saw fit to present us with a short piece saying that the Scotland Office was giving MSPs limited opportunity to scrutinise the documents. There was no mention of any attempt on the part of the BBC to get the Scotland Secretary to explain himself, even though a BBC journalist had tweeted during the day that the Fluffy one was refusing interviews. There was no mention of his previous denials to the Scottish Parliament that the information existed. There was no mention or explanation of the immense damage that the documents say will be caused to the Scottish economy. There was no mention of the Scottish Conservatives calling the Scottish Government’s study “over the top scaremongering”, even though their own government’s paper showed the same, or worse, harm being caused. If you’re expecting BBC Scotland to hold the Conservatives to account, you probably also expect that Brexit will deliver everyone in the country a free bus with a misleading slogan written on the side of it.
There’s certainly no way that the majority of the Scottish print media is going to hold the Tories to account, but then we’re not obliged to pay for newpapers we don’t agree with. Their job is to keep Scotland a part of the UK irrespective of the circumstances. The same people who accuse independence supporters of supporting independence even if it were proven to damage Scotland are hell bent on keeping Scotland a part of the UK even though it’s been demonstrated that it’s damaging Scotland.
The fact however is that the Conservatives will continue to treat Scotland with contempt because the majority of the media in Scotland lets them get away with it, makes excuses for them, and enables them. It bears repeating, if Scotland had a media which spent as much time and energy critically examining and dissecting the behaviour of the UK government as they do criticising Thatessempee, Scotland would be independent already. And that’s precisely why they don’t. The Brexit papers are a metaphor for Scotland’s place in the UK. Locked away in a filing cabinet as an inconvenience.
The Wee Ginger Dug has got a new domain name, thanks to Indy Poster Boy, Colin Dunn @Zarkwan. http://www.indyposterboy.scot/ You can now access this blog simply by typing www.weegingerdug.scot into the address bar of your browser, the old address continues to function, the new one redirects to the blog. The advantage of the new address is that it’s a lot easier to remember if you want to include a link to the blog in leaflets, posters, or simply to tell a friend about it. Many thanks to Colin.
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