Channel 4 is generally the best of the broadcasters when it comes to coverage of Scotland’s independence movement, although it needs to be stressed that we’re talking about a very low bar here. However last night they let themselves down with a report on “the union” which was billed as giving Scotland’s perspective. A significant chunk of the report was taken up with speaking to farmers in Cumbria, because of course how England is affected by Scottish independence is the most important part of the Scottish debate.
We also heard from those two groups much pursued by the Tories, farmers and fishermen. What we didn’t get was much in the way of comment from those of us who live in the Central Belt, in industrial Scotland, in the big cities. You know, where the great majority of us actually live and where the question of independence will ultimately be decided. If your sole source of information on Scottish politics was reports broadcast on the UK media, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Scotland was made up of fishing communities and dairy farmers, and little else. But then that’s precisely how they think of us in London. Rural, far away, and scattered in isolated communities.
What we did get were a few Better-Togetheresque sound bites from Ian Rankin. If it’s proving so difficult to leave the 40 year old union of the EU, just imagine how hard it’s going to be to break up a union that’s over 300 years old, he opined in a sentiment that came straight out of Jo Swinson’s Little Book of Reasons to Say No. Or rather, Sigh Neuw. The exact same point had been made by the Lib Dem leader when she was interviewed on ITV for her segment in the “Oh bugger we need a sop to tell the court because they’ve sued us for not allowing her or Nicola Sturgeon to participate in the leaders’ debate” Show. What we didn’t get was much in the way of input from anyone putting the other side of the argument.
So I’ll do it here, even though I’ve done it before. The reason that Brexit is proving so difficult is not because it means leaving a union. The reason that it is proving so difficult is because those doing the leaving have no clear idea of what their final destination ought to be, and because they hope to achieve mutually contradictory aims by leaving. On the one hand Brexiteers want to have the freedom to make trade deals as they please, and to rip up all EU rules and regulations. On the other they want to keep an open border with Ireland and expect full and unfettered access to the EU’s markets. You can’t do both.
Scottish independence is a very different proposition. Those of us who advocate independence have a very clear idea of our final destination. We seek a status that is the same as that of the Irish Republic. There you go, in one simple phrase you can explain the final destination of Scottish independence. You can’t do that with Brexit.
One reason that Brexit is full of unknowns is because no country has ever left the EU before, however dozens of countries have become independent of the UK. Comparing Scottish independence in terms of difficulty with Brexit is rather like saying that someone you know had a terrible time when they went on a road trip, they got lost, they ended up being stranded in the wilderness, because they had no maps, no GPS, no idea where they actually wanted to get to before they left the house, and wanted to visit two different places simultaneously, and then saying that this means that it’s going to be equally traumatic to set off on a journey where you know the route and you know exactly where you want to go. It’s like comparing an Arctic expedition into the wilderness with a train journey. Now ScotRail might have its issues, but as far as I know no one has ever actually been eaten alive by a polar bear while waiting on the platform at Edinburgh Haymarket.
However the highlight of Channel 4’s coverage was an interview with Michael Gove. Well, I say highlight. I say interview. It was rather more like being slimed very politely by someone who thinks that good manners mean that you can’t be a sociopath. “I’m always happy to answer questions,” oozed Michael. Other than the ones he’s actually asked, that is. He refused to apologise for the Conservative Campaign HQ disguising itself as a neutral factchecker and deceiving the public, and he refused to say that it wouldn’t happen again. The sense of entitlement is of a Prince Andrew level. The difference is that Prince Andrew is a 59 year old man who got grounded by his maw. The Tories don’t think that anyone can ground them. For the most part the media doesn’t even try. Ciaran Jenkins’ interview was a rare exception.
The interview was a classic exercise in gaslighting. How very dare Channel 4’s Ciaran Jenkins try to hold him to account. When he was asked precisely how many hospitals the Conservatives are building, six or forty, there was no answer, only an attempt to cast aspersions on Channel 4 for daring to ask the question. Watching Michael Gove in action is like watching Donald Trump twitching net curtains and tutting like an elderly Daily Mail reader.
It can only be because Channel 4 is a left wing broadcaster trying to make a polemic argument with a socialist agenda, and not because the Tories have actually done anything wrong when they disguised their twitter account as a neutral factchecker or because Michael is incapable of providing a simple answer to a simple question. The irony of someone who campaigned for Vote Leave posing as a factchecker is off the scale. Michael Gove is about as reliable and trustworthy as a month old prawn sandwich that’s been kept in a hot car.
On Scotland, he was concerned to make sure that Alister Jack was slapped down for talking out of turn when he said the previous day that if Scotland’s voters gave the SNP a majority in 2021 then there might possibly maybe perhaps be a mandate for another independence referendum. There would be no such thing, he harrumphed. Scotland would get another independence referendum when the Conservatives in Westminster said so. Which would be never. It’s not for the Scotland Secretary to make decisions about Scotland. That’s way above his pay grade.
The Tories have sunk to depths that we wouldn’t even have imagined that they were capable of during the Thatcher era. They lie shamelessly, and when caught out on those lies shrug their shoulders and tell us that they don’t care. They deny that the people of Scotland have any right at all to determine their own future. They have destroyed the understanding of the union that Scottish unionists have always prided themselves on. They dismiss anyone who tries to hold them to account with tactics straight out of the Trump playbook. They scoff at the damage that they cause to social cohesion, to the poor, to the vulnerable. They have become a grave threat to the future of democracy. They are the party of sociopathy. Breaking up with the Tories isn’t hard to do. Ensuring that we vote them out in Scotland, and in the rest of the UK, is a moral priority.
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