Scotland, you don’t exist. For years people have been walking around and thinking that they were Scottish, talking with Scottish accents – or trying not to talk with a Scottish accent if you’re Michael Gove – eating potato scones and drinking Irn Bru, arguing about just how crappy BBC Scotland is, living under an ancient and distinctive legal system, voting for a Scottish Parliament, and other assorted Caledonianness. Yet all this time we’ve been deluding ourselves. None of it is real. We are in fact a subspecies of the Northern Northern English. Thank you Boris Johnson for clearing that up for us. We’ll now stop with all this independence nonsense and get back to important stuff, like writing to the BBC to demand more repeats of England’s World Cup victory in 1966 on the telly, because they’re so self-effacing about it and hardly ever mention it.
According to our part time Prime Minister speaking at PMQs in Westminster yesterday, there is no border between Scotland and England. He made the point in response to a question from Aberdeenshire toady Andrew Bowie MP, who wanted to know on a scale of 91 to 100 just how outraged Johnson was that Thatessempee wasn’t going to rule out imposing quarantine measures or health checks on travellers crossing the Anglo-Scottish border. Was he extremely outraged, hugely, outraged, or merely just very outraged. Definitely far more outraged than he was about the fact that he’d presided over a government whose chaos and incompetence had led to the deaths of over 60,000 of its citizens, but Andrew was going to take that as a given because neither he nor his boss is outraged about that at all. What they are outraged about is the fact that there’s a government in the UK which is handling matters in a considerably more competent way and giving them a showing up. Andrew wanted to know whether Johnson was as incensed as he was that the Scottish Government’s perverse insistence on saving people’s lives was bad for business.
You know what else is bad for tourism Andrew? People dying. Most business owners will tell you that having their customers die on them is not generally regarded as a good way of doing business. And when those customers bring a virus with them which then spreads amongst the local population and kills them, there’s going to be no one to operate and open all the local attractions that the visitors have come to see. But hey, never mind all that dying horribly from a dreadful disease nonsense, those public health measures are getting between Andrew and what he really loves -which would be knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing, least of all the value of a human life.
Johnson said that he found talk of enforcing health checks on travellers crossing the border to be ‘shameful’. This is the sort of thing that only a person who is themselves utterly shameless could say. If health checks are necessary for public health reasons it would be shameful is when you don’t introduce them for political reasons, because you value the supposed unity of the UK more than you value the lives of its citizens. That is properly shameful, but then Tories don’t really understand shame. They only understand their own entitlement and their own anger at being challenged.
“There is no such thing as a border between England and Scotland,” Johnson went on with all the confidence of a man who thinks that atlas is a fragrance for men that covers up the sour stench that comes from not having a sense of shame. Wee Andrew sat down, looking extremely smug, like that shitty kid in class who just before the bell goes makes sure to remind the teacher that they were supposed to be setting double homework. Those lips couldn’t be pursed into a more self-satisfied smile if they’d been stapled to the net curtains that Andrew twitches when he’s not at work. Everyone needs a hobby, and the Conservative society for pulling wings off flies has a very long waiting list for membership.
So there you go Scotland, you don’t really exist. And there was you thinking that there must be some way of defining what was part of Scotland and what wasn’t, you know, maybe some sort of line that you could draw on a map. They could call it a border. Nicola Sturgeon pointed out the absurdity of Johnson’s statement by remarking that Johnson would have plenty to say if she popped up in Newcastle and started to impose Scottish Government policies there. Although the people of Newcastle might not object too much.
Interestingly enough, the British Government was quite rapid in imposing checks on the border between Scotland and England after the Stone of Destiny was recovered from Westminster Abbey by Scottish nationalist students in the 1950s. Border checks for the purposes of protecting a symbol of Scotland’s subjugation are just fine, border checks for the purposes of protecting human lives are not. There’s some very British values for you there.
There are of course several reasons why Johnson doesn’t wish to acknowledge the possibility that there may come a time when health checks are necessary on people crossing into Scotland from England. Along with his fellow British nationalists, he’s appalled by any idea that people might see that it’s perfectly possible for their to be some sort of checks along the Scottish-English border and for people in Scotland to realise that it doesn’t mean the end of the world. It would destroy their “but there will be border checks at Gretna” argument against independence if there are border checks at Gretna while Scotland remains a part of the UK.
He’s even more concerned that health checks being imposed upon travellers coming into Scotland from England would mean that Scotland and the Scottish Government is proving far more successful than his own government in its efforts to control and contain the virus. Every check on every traveller coming into Scotland from England is a sign that Johnson has failed. Every check on a traveller coming into Scotland from England means that Scotland is more successful at controlling the epidemic. Every check on a traveller coming into Scotland from England is a sign that the Scottish Government cares more about human life than the Conservatives do.
But what he’s most concerned about is that a Scotland whose public trust in the Scottish Government during a global crisis far more than it trusts in the British Government is a Scottish public that’s already halfway out the independence door. The Scottish public, despite the carping of Scottish Tories in the Commons and on social media, broadly supports the more cautious approach of the Scottish Government, and increasingly it is coming to support independence. The more that the Tories double down on their hardline British nationalism, the more support for independence is only going to grow. The border between Scotland and England will once again become a border between two independent states, and that will come about in no small measure because Johnson and the rest of his party all too frequently cross the border of common human decency.
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