Michael Gove has a very important job in the British Government. He’s the Minister of State for Gaslighting, Glib Lies, and Oleaginous Mendacity. His role entails lying to the people of the UK, and specifically to the people of Scotland, by repeating blatant untruths so often yet so scrupulously politely that they become embedded in the public narrative and replace the actual truth. His job is to cast doubt on the lived experience of all of us, in order to make us believe that our knowledge of events that we all lived through, and not too long ago at that, didn’t really happen in the way we remember them to have happened.
In this endeavour he is aided and abetted by an overwhelming anti-independence Scottish and British media which has a vested interest in not challenging his obvious lies but rather in propagating and reinforcing them. As far as his lies about the outcome of the Scottish Parliamentary election and the existence of a mandate for another independence referendum are concerned, he’s also aided and abetted by Keir Starmer of the Labour party, who likewise has an interest in denying the outcome of Scottish democratic events which are not to his liking.
Gove is trying to deny that the Scottish Parliament, with its unassailable majority of pro-independence MSPs elected to bring about another independence referendum in an election campaign in which the question of another independence referendum was by far and away the dominant issue, actually possesses a mandate for another independence referendum. The pro-independence parties won a handsome majority, despite a well funded and well organised British nationalist tactical voting campaign designed to deprive them of victory.
Gove is now retrospectively trying to change the rules of Scottish elections, which use a voting system which was deliberately designed to make it almost impossible for a single party to win a majority in its own right in order to deny that the Scottish Government has a mandate for another independence referendum. He is trying to assert that a mandate would only exist if the SNP had won an absolute majority by itself.
Together, the anti-independence parties did not come close to winning a majority or depriving the pro-independence parties of a majority. You can be quite certain however that had they collectively done so, Gove would be the first to crow that this constituted a cast-iron mandate to oppose another independence referendum.
As far as Gove is concerned, Scottish Green MSPs do not exist and the votes cast for Green candidates who were standing on a clear and unequivocal platform of seeking a mandate for another independence referendum are to be discounted. Had the Alba party or any other pro-independence party succeeded in getting MSPs elected to the current Scottish Parliament, Gove would still be making the exact same specious and mendacious claim. We expect Gove to lie, but what is most shocking of all is how the majority of the media in Scotland colludes in Gove’s lie.
Gove’s transparent lies didn’t end at his predictable and ludicrous attempt to deny the incontestable truth that the current Scottish Parliament was elected with a mandate to deliver another independence referendum during the five year term of this Parliament. He also lied about his Government’s constant attacks on the devolution settlement and the fact that the Conservatives at Westminster are betraying the promises and commitments to respect and strengthen devolution that they themselves made to the people of Scotland in 2014 as part of their desperate attempts to secure a No vote in that year’s independence referendum.
The fact that the demand for another independence referendum remains a live issue in Scottish politics is in no small measure because the promises and commitments made by the anti-independence parties in 2014 have been so thoroughly traduced by those same anti-independence parties.
Right now the British Government is undermining the devolution settlement by blatantly side-lining the Scottish Government and dealing directly with Scottish local authorities concerning projects and funding which according to the terms of the Scotland Act fall squarely within the remit of the Scottish Parliament. The Conservative government gave itself the legal authority to do this by sneaking in a clause in their UK Internal Market Act. They did not even bother to make the pretence of obtaining the agreement of Holyrood to do so, never mind seeking a mandate for it from the electorate of Scotland despite the fact that the Conservatives vowed in 2014 that no changes to the devolution settlement or the powers of the Scottish Parliament would ever be made without the express consent of Holyrood and the people of Scotland.
Gove had the unmitigated gall to claim that what the British Government is really doing is “augmenting devolution” which is like your flatmate in a shared flat stealing your dinner out of the fridge and then claiming that they are really augmenting your dinner choices because now you’ll have to go to Tesco and find something else to eat.
Politicians like Gove will always lie, deceive, and twist words in order to present a narrative that suits their own interests and the aims of their party, but democracy can only survive when the media is willing to hold them to account and not to allow them to establish their lies and semantic contortions as fact. Michael Gove lies with the glib fluency of a man who has lied repeatedly in the past and got away with it without any consequences, he knows that he can continue to lie without facing any consequences because the media will continue to allow him to get away with it. In doing so he is directly undermining democracy and in the process providing yet more evidence that the independence referendum he is so desperate to prevent is absolutely vital to ensuring the security of democracy and political accountability in Scotland.
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