If by some cosmic reordering of the very atoms of his body, Alister Jack suddenly ceased to exist and turned into an item of soft furnishing, would anyone notice any difference? The answer is no, because Alister would turn into a union jack bedspread to be draped over the policy of the British Government in Scotland, which is exactly the same function that he has just now. The only difference is that the bedspread will keep you warm as it envelops you in British nationalism. Alister has only ever been known to leave people in Scotland cold.
Search through the pronouncements of Alister Jack and you will look in vain for anything, anything at all, which could be construed as ensuring that Scotland has a voice and a presence at the topmost levels of the British Government. All that Alister ever does is to promote the British Government and British nationalism in Scotland, and in doing so he does not have the slightest hesitation in using taxpayers’ money to make party political points – as he did when he used the official website of the Office of the Scotland Secretary to republish an article that he’d written for the Daily Mail attacking the Scottish Government and praising the leader of the Scottish Conservatives.
So it’s not really a surprise to discover that on the official website of the Office of the Secretary of State for Scotland there’s a banner bearing the English slogan “Stay alert, control the virus, save lives” and not the official government slogan in Scotland “Stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives”. And let’s not even get into the ludicrousness of being told to stay alert by a man who’s not even alert to the difference between a bridge and a tunnel. The Herald newspaper points out that the links on the official website point to Westminster’s “Stay alert” advice, which only applies in England. Even in the midst of a national emergency which has taken hundreds of lives in Scotland, Alister Jack still sees his main job as being to undermine the Scottish Government. And he’s using your tax money to do so.
What applies to Alister Jack applies equally to Ian Murray, Labour’s Shadow Scotland Secretary. You might think that his job title ought to give him a wee clue as to what he’s supposed to be doing. That would be shadowing the Scotland Secretary, criticising him, demonstrating where he’s not standing up for Scotland within the UK, and framing better ways of ensuring that Scotland’s voice can be heard at a UK level. But no. Ian thinks that his job title is really Alister Jack’s Mini-Me. Ian is what you’d get if Alister Jack was less posh and wore polyester suits.
Search through the pronouncements that Ian Murray has made in his relatively short period of time in office, and you will be searching in vain for any criticisms of Alister Jack or his office. From Ian there has been not a word about how Alister is party politicking in the office of Secretary of State for Scotland and using it as a weapon in the campaign against those vile nats. There’s been nothing at all about how Labour would use the Scotland Office to ensure that Scotland has a stronger and clearer voice at UK level. Instead all you get from Ian are criticisms of the Scottish Government. His job, as he sees it, is to pander to the Tories in Edinburgh South who voted for him tactically. He’s certainly not going to attack the Tories.
British nationalists are very fond of telling us that within the UK Scotland enjoys the best of both worlds. It’s always been a dubious claim at the best of times, but it has been utterly destroyed during the current crisis. What Scotland has within the UK is the inability to use the full powers of an independent country combined with representatives within the British state who use their power and their offices to undermine the devolved government that Scotland does have. They’ll twist anything that they can find in order to do so.
Ian is now demanding to know why the Scottish Government didn’t impose lockdown earlier than it did, given that we now know there was an outbreak of the virus at a Nike conference in an Edinburgh hotel at the end of February. He insists, without evidence, that the Scottish Government both knew about this outbreak at the time and that it deliberately covered it up. This is Ian Red White and Blue Murray here, who if Scotland had imposed lockdown before the rest of the UK would have screamed from the rooftops that Nicola Sturgeon was politicising the virus and using it to promote separatism.
Now he’s claiming that he’d have supported an early lockdown all along. Suuuuuure you would Ian. You’re not a hypocrite at all. Does Ian honestly expect us to believe that the Labour party in Scotland would have supported an SNP government in unilaterally diverging from UK policy extremely early in the outbreak, knowing only what we knew then? All we’d have heard from Ian and his pals would have been condemnation of Nicola Sturgeon for risking Scottish jobs and livelihoods. Health may be devolved, but economic policy is not.
All that Ian is doing now is using hindsight to attack the Scottish Government for doing precisely what Ian always wanted the Scottish Government to do all along – to follow UK policy. It’s just a shame that he doesn’t exhibit even a tiny fraction of the same prosecutory zeal when it comes to the actions of the British Government.
Today Ian is telling anyone who will listen that the situation in Scottish care homes is a “national shame”. There is a tragically high death rate in care homes in Scotland, just as there is in the rest of the UK and across Europe. Just today Ian’s boss Keir Starmer asked Boris Johnson during Prime Minister’s Questions why the early advice to care homes from the British Government was that an outbreak in care homes was unlikely. Johnson denied that this was the case. However the exact passage from the guidelines as given by Public Health England at the time reads : “This guidance is intended for the current position in the UK where there is currently no transmission of Covid-19 in the community. It is therefore very unlikely that anyone receiving care in a care home or the community will become infected.”
(Source : https://twitter.com/PaulBrandITV/status/1260532184739389440 )
Scottish care homes, exactly like those in the rest of the UK, relied upon that advice from the British Government. Now we’re all playing catch up because of faulty advice from the British Government in the early days of the outbreak. Unlike the British Government which has direct responsibility in England, the Scottish Government has made far more assiduous efforts to collect data on deaths in care homes and in the community. And now because it has done so it is being criticised by the likes of Ian because the official Scottish figures are worse than those in England. Yet even as Ian was criticising the Scottish Government, his own boss was pointing out to Boris Johnson that the true extent of deaths in care homes in England was likely to be considerably worse than the official figures admit to. There is an excess of 10,000 deaths in English care homes which are not counted in the official figures.
None of this is to pretend that the Scottish Government has never made mistakes. All governments dealing with a crisis of this magnitude have made mistakes. However what is not legitimate criticism is when people who spend their entire professional lives berating the Scottish Government for diverging from British policies now demand that the Scottish Government should have diverged from British policies earlier and more assertively. That’s not criticism, that’s rank hypocrisy. And that is why the Labour party in Scotland is descending to a minor party in the polls. We see what you are Ian, even if you can’t see yourself.
Update 7.20pm: Number 10 has used the passage from the Public Health England advice quoted above to claim that Keir Starmer was misquoting the advice and therefore Boris Johnson was correct to state that the British Government did not claim that people in care homes were not at risk of infection. Downing Street said that Keir Starmer had added a “remains” and missed out the “therefore” in the statement he read out during PMQs. However it turns out that Keir Starmer was actually quoting from a different section of the advice, which reads as follows: “During normal day-to-day activities facemasks do not provide protection from respiratory viruses, such as COVID-19 and do not need to be worn by staff in any of these settings. Facemasks are only recommended to be worn by infected individuals when advised by a healthcare worker, to reduce the risk of transmitting the infection to other people. It remains very unlikely that people receiving care in a care home or the community will become infected.” So Boris Johnson was incorrect after all. Who’d have thought it. See HERE for source.
And finally, because we could all do with some cheering up during these difficult times…
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