If you were writing the script for a movie about a global pandemic, you’d not look to the British Government as a model for your plot. This is because no one would seriously believe that a government could be so incompetent, chaotic, and confused. This is a serious movie about a serious health issue, your script editor would tell you, not an end of the pier farce.
From the very beginning, those in charge in the British Government have acted irresponsibly. The Prime Minister was absent much of the time, aides were told to keep briefing papers short because he lacked the interest to read anything longer than a sheet of paper. We learned on Channel 4’s Dispatches programme last night that despite his assertions to the contrary, Johnson told his Italian counterpart that the UK was planning to pursue a policy of herd immunity. That policy has had disastrous results – which is why Johnson is now desperately claiming that he never advocated any such thing. During the programme, health analyst George Batchelor estimated that if the lockdown had been enforced just eleven days beforehand, some 13,000 deaths could have been avoided. The incompetence of Johnson and his ministers and the mishandling of the crisis by British Government at every step along the way means that the UK has ended up with one of the highest rates of deaths from Covid-19 anywhere in the world, and with the highest death toll in Europe in absolute terms.
And now the British Government wants the UK to come out of lockdown in the same unprepared, mistimed, and chaotic manner as it entered it, putting the UK at serious risk of a second spike in infections and deaths.
On Wednesday of this week the British Government reported that there had been 359 deaths from Covid-19 in the previous 24 hours. This was more than the 314 deaths reported for the 27 countries of the entire EU over the same period. Of the 359 UK deaths reported, 11 were in Scotland, 17 in Wales, and 8 in Northern Ireland. England, where the Conservatives bear sole responsibility for the response to the pandemic, suffered the remaining 323 deaths, which means that in England alone there were more deaths from Covid-19 than in the entire EU combined. This is the record that part time Prime Minister Boris Johnson told us yesterday that he was very proud of.
It’s this woeful and lamentable record which means that it’s not mere distraction for people in Scotland to point to what’s going on in England when there are criticisms of the Scottish Government’s handling of the crisis. On any objective measure, the government of Scotland is performing better than the British Government which has sole responsibility for England’s response to the crisis. There is considerably greater trust in the Scottish Government amongst the public than there is in the British Government. That is of deep concern to British nationalists, because they fear that the incompetence, callousness, and chaos of the British Government may move undecided voters in Scotland into the pro-independence camp. So they are desperate to attack the Scottish Government’s handling of the crisis, and to reject any comparisons with the British Government’s handling of it.
Yet it is perfectly valid for people in Scotland to point to the UK Government’s handling and say that Scotland is performing far better in a way that it’s not valid to point to, say, the governments of Denmark or Ireland. The British Government doesn’t just have responsibility for what’s going on in England, it also represents a level of government which constitutionally and legally within the UK reigns supreme over the Scottish Government. And it’s the policies of the British Government which are precisely those which British nationalists in Scotland demand that Scotland also follows.
The criticisms of the Scottish Government’s response are most typically made by those who are opposed to independence, yet when it comes to attacking the record of the Scottish Government they appear to forget, or to want us to forget, that Scotland is not in fact an independent nation whose government has the full range of powers and abilities that independence implies. They wish their criticisms to operate in a conveniently devolved vacuum in which there is no British Government to place any constraints upon the freedom of movement of Holyrood.
Moreover, Scotland is not an independent nation with an independent media. There is no other nation in Europe whose government has to contend with an overwhelmingly hostile media which is constantly attacking it for any divergence from the policies of the government of that nation’s southern neighbour. These are the very same press and media critics who are now demanding with the benefit of hindsight that the Scottish Government must be held to account for not adopting policies different from those of the British Government more decisively and at an earlier stage of the crisis. Yet if the Scottish Government had done just that, they’d have been leading the charge against Nicola Sturgeon for undermining the scientific advice that the UK was following.
It is not mere anti-English whataboutery to compare the response of the Scottish Government with that of the British Government. Scotland, just like the other nations of the UK, operates within parameters set for it by the British Government. Scotland does not have the full powers to deal with the epidemic that the Irish or Danish governments have. Just this week we learned that the Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak will refuse to extend furlough payments in Scotland if the Scottish Government decides that another lockdown is necessary. Scotland is to be dragged into following British Government decisions irrespective of what the scientific advice is for Scotland. That is a major constraint upon the freedom of action of the Scottish Government, and it’s one which British nationalists have refused to condemn – or even for the most part to mention.
If you wish to attack the Scottish Government’s performance during this crisis as though it were the performance of the government of a fully independent nation, then it’s rank hypocrisy of the worst kind not to support efforts to ensure that Scotland has the powers of a fully independent nation. You cannot ignore the British Government elephant in the room. But we should not be surprised. Rank hypocrisy is the stock in trade of British nationalists in Scottish politics and the Scottish media. A nationalism which is founded upon the proposition that it is by definition non-nationalist has hypocrisy at its very core.
And finally, because we could all do with a laugh during these difficult times …
You can help to support this blog with a Paypal donation. Please log into Paypal.com and send a payment to the email address firstname.lastname@example.org. Or alternatively click the donate button. If you don’t have a Paypal account, just select “donate with card” after clicking the button.
If you have trouble using the button, or you prefer not to use Paypal, you can donate or purchase a t-shirt or map by making a payment directly into my bank account, or by sending a cheque or postal order. If you’d like to donate by one of these methods, please email me at email@example.com and I will send the necessary information.
Please also use this email address if you would like the dug and me to come along to your local group for a talk.
Gaelic maps of Scotland are available for £15 each, plus £7 P&P within the UK for up to three maps. T-shirts are £12 each, and are available in small, medium, large, XL and XXL sizes. P&P is £5 for up to three t-shirts. My books, the Collected Yaps Vols 1 to 4 are available for £11 each. P&P is £4 for up to two books. Payment can be made via Paypal.
My new book has just been published by Vagabond Voices. Containing the best articles from The National from 2016 to date. Weighing in at over 350 pages, this is the biggest and best anthology of Wee Gingerisms yet. This collection of pieces covers the increasingly demented Brexit years, and the continuing presence and strength of Scotland’s independence movement.
You can order the book directly from the publisher. Ordering directly means that postage is free. You can order here –
You can also order a book directly from me. The book costs £11.95 and P&P is an additional £3.50, making a total of £15.45. To order just make a Paypal payment to firstname.lastname@example.org, or alternatively use the DONATE button below. Please make sure to give me your postal address when ordering. Orders to be sent outwith the UK will incur extra postage costs, please email me for details. If you can’t use Paypal, or prefer an alternative payment method, please email email@example.com