A matter of (dis)respect

Members of Holyrood’s Finance Committee have for a second time written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt, asking him to appear before a meeting of the committee in the Scottish Parliament so that he can answer MSPs’ questions about the impact of British Government economic and financial policies on the Scottish budget. Members of the committee had previously written to Hunt early in November last year to make the same request. Eventually, Hunt’s minion John Glen, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, wrote a brief letter in mid-January saying that neither he nor his boss would be attending. It took them the best part of three months to say that they would not be coming. You can put money on an eventual refusal from Hunt to attend after this second invitation.

There is now a very clear pattern of Conservative Government ministers snubbing invitations to appear before Scottish Parliament committees in order to give an account of British Government decisions. In just the last month Scotland Secretary Secretary Alister Jack has declined invitations to the equalities and constitution committees to give evidence on his decision to block the Gender Recognition Reform (GRR) Bill and to explain to MSPs what changes the Scottish Government can make to the bill in order to meet his objections. A couple of weeks prior to this the Equalities minister Kemi Badenoch also dismissed an invite to the equalities committee to discuss her concerns about the GRR legislation, despite going public about her reservations. It seems that UK ministers want the Scottish Parliament to flail around blindfolded in the dark, playing a legislative game of pin the tail on the donkey so that when Holyrood makes an attempt to meet their concerns they can go, “Haha! That’s not it!”

It was a similar story last year when Scottish Government minister Keith Brown was repeatedly snubbed by Conservative ministers when he was on a trip to London. Then Home Secretary Priti Patel and defence minister Leo Docherty both declined invitations to meet him, apparently being unable to take 40 minutes out of their hectic schedules of pulling the wings off flies in order to meet with the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Justice and Veterans. But fair’s fair, at least they deigned to reply. Attempts to arrange meetings with Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab were not even answered.

Likewise it took numerous attempts in order to arrange for Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove to appear before Holyrood’s Finance Committee in order to answer questions about the replacement of vital EU funds with the UK Government’s levelling up agenda. At least Gove did finally show up, after repeated snubs, that’s more than can be said for his colleagues.

This is not proper or sensible government. It’s childish and insecure lightweights playing pathetic power games, making an ostentatious show of exerting their dominance over Scotland. This is the sort of thing you’d expect in a troop of monkeys, bullying less dominant members in order to ‘put them in their place.’ If it had only happened very occasionally that a Conservative minister snubbed the Scottish Parliament, or it only involved a single individual, we could put it down to circumstance or to the arrogance of a particularly self-important cabinet minister – we are looking at you, Alister Jack. But these snubs happen repeatedly and involve many different Conservative cabinet ministers.

This can only mean either that there is a deliberate policy on the part of the Conservatives at Westminster to display what they believe to be their superiority over the Scottish Parliament, or that there is a widespread attitude of contempt amongst members of the British Government for the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament. Admittedly these two possibilities are not mutually exclusive. Cabinet ministers might hold back on open displays of naked contempt in public, but Conservative journalists and commentators need not be so circumspect. In January there was an appalling display of blatant anti-Scottish hate speech from Conservative journalist Rod Liddle when he wrote a piece for the Spectator, a publication with a history of anti-Scottish racism, about his horror at the discovery that his genetic heritage was majority Scots. The piece was naturally brushed off as ‘banter’ to which only a ‘dour and humourless Scot’ might object.

However can you imagine the outcry if I had penned an equivalent piece in the National about learning I had English DNA. Anglo-British nationalist double standards strike again. But you will have to imagine it, because I’d never have written such a racist piece of dross, I would not be remotely concerned if I found out I was of English ancestry, but if I had suffered some brain fart even worse than the stroke and had written it the National would never have published it.

Just this week another Conservative journalist, Amanda Platell of the Daily Mail, dismissed the Scottish First Minister as an ‘overstuffed little haggis,’ on G Beebies TV and then laughed at her own joke, because is seems that asinine racial stereotypes count as wit and repartee in the Daily Mail.

The likes of Platell and Liddle say out loud the kind of thing that senior Conservative ministers think but dare not openly say. Conservative politicians and Conservative journalists move in the same social circles, the attitudes and prejudices that the journalists and commentators openly express are equally held by the politicians. But Tory politicians do not need to say such things for us to know that they have nothing but contempt for Scotland, it is abundantly clear from their actions. Their message comes across loud and clear.

We have come a very long way from the respect agenda which the Conservatives swore to adopt if Scotland voted No in the referendum of 2014. That ‘Union of equals’ which we were also promised has turned out to be as mythical as the benefits of Brexit. But then the Tories were only ever going to show respect for Scotland up until the moment that Scotland gave them that No vote which they so badly craved. Once the No vote was in the bag, it was back to contempt as usual. Contempt is all that Scotland will ever get as long as it remains in this so-called union.


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