2007 - 2022

A Message to the Ungrateful

Mike Small on the shrewd and subtle plan to save the union been thought up by some of the Tories brightest minds.
Today sees the Conservative Party conference, which will be used we are told to launch Boris Johnson’s latest strategy to “save the Union”.
Ben Riley-Smith the double-barreled Political Editor of the Telegraph has laid out the plans after talking “to half a dozen cabinet ministers, plus Gov advisers, pro-UK camp figures.” It makes for interesting reading.
He lays out a two-pronged strategy that involves “No referendum any time soon, whatever the result of Holyrood elections in May” and “Low key campaign to counter independence by existing pro-UK bodies and a billion-pound spending spree.”
So it’s treat basic democratic principles with contempt whilst sloshing money about.
He goes on to say:
“It’s a No has been the PM’s stance for a long time that he’s not about to grant a referendum. There is a desire to elevate that in the coming weeks, clearly and loudly laying out the arguments before May elections. The reason partly due to timings. Senior figures in Unionist planning want Scottish voters to fully understand why PM won’t grant a referendum Why? So if SNP wins a majority + demands indyref2 they can say ‘no, for reasons previously stated’. Ie they don’t look bounced into it. But the messaging is more subtle than simply ‘never’. Instead it is ‘not now’. Ministers will argue it would be “reckless” + “madness” to hold a vote on a huge constitutional change during a once in a century killer pandemic.”
Interestingly, he goes on to spell out that ministers believe the web of pro-UK campaign groups / think tanks already out there can lead the charge. “They are watching them closely, sometimes interacting with key figures. Plus more are launching soon.”
Of these he cites Scotland Can, These Islands, Scottish Business UK, Scotland in Union, and Scotland Matters.
So the idea is to operate through these bodies and not directly have a campaign. They’re aware that Labour are unlikely to repeat the Better Together mistake of 2014.
I’m not sure how effective this will be, some of these bodies have a very low profile. Scotland in Union is great at raising money but not so great at spending it – and operate – as a whistleblower showed Bella via a data dump in 2017 – in very tight circles of Scottish aristocracy. By definition this is a small group. It has a lot of landed power but not much influence to a wider general public. If you own half of Perthshire you kind of think you’re the bees-knees but it’s unlikely your very street-smart.
The SIU dump was – as we said at the time “a huge cache of information about networks and money being channeled into politics by big business and the landed rich.” It was “like Debrett’s on speed-dial.” That such people should be seen as key to a new strategy should be reassuring to democrats everywhere.
These Islands churns out slightly odd academic(ish) articles irregularly (they last published over a month ago).
They were responsible for Neil Oliver’s gushy Paen to Britain:
“I love Britain more than anywhere else in the world. With all my heart I declare that those of us born here, or who have made a home here by choice, are the luckiest, most blessed of all people. I am British. I will always be British.”
Riley-Smith goes on to say (apparently seriously): “There is also blue sky thinking going on in the Cabinet. (Think on similar plains to the PM’s tunnel under the Irish Sea).”
He continues: “One of their best ideas is said to be from Jacob Rees-Mogg who is proposing the Commons sits for a fortnight each year in either Holyrood, Stormont or the Welsh Assembly.”
Far be it from me to put them off course but a number of aspects of the Unionists latest strategy seem doomed.
Riley-Smith seems oblivious to how this looks or feels to – you know – actual people living in Scotland.
He writes: “The UK Internal Market Act confirmed UK could spend in Scotland etc on devolved areas like transport and culture” but with no apparent awareness of how undermining devolution to protect the Union is perceived. He writes of Boris Johnson’s “tunnel to Ireland” project as if it’s a wonderfully popular idea being avidly followed by the people of Scotland. He even appears to think that  the entire Tory Cabinet arriving in Edinburgh would be met with bunting and admiring locals waving the Union Jack – rather than the mass protests the likes of which he can’t imagine.
But fundamentally the Unionists strategy mistakes the drive for independence as something that can be bought off and completely underestimates the extent to which just doubling-down on denying a democratic vote “regardless of the result at Holyrood”.
If Johnson really is going to attempt this strategy then this is truly great news. I can see no greater motivation for Scots of all beliefs than to be told “your election is worthless” and we don’t care how you vote.

“We treat you with contempt” is quite the campaign slogan.
The strategy reeks of political operatives who are completely out of touch, who believe they can salvage their political lives, can hide behind front groups they can secretly fund and who believe that democracy is something you can switch on and off. This is dangerous and wrong but as Napoleon said: “Never interfere with your enemy when he is making a mistake.”

The independence movement has felt fractured and divided, much of the joy and energy has left it and everyone is feeling dispirited after a year of lockdown. But nothing could galvanise and unify the entire country than the thought of Boris and Jacob arriving with all their colleagues to stay for a fortnight.
The premise behind such strategies is that we are basically ungrateful. I’m not sure that they’ve really read the room.
The pent up rage about the Conservatives mis-handling of the pandemic, the ongoing Brexit fiasco, the Royal scandal, the revelations about rampant Tory nepotism is not going to be assuaged by some naked propaganda. The Tories are about to discover that Scottish democracy cannot be bought off.


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Comments (13)

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  1. Tom Ultuous says:

    All we need to negate that strategy is have those guys with the bike and magaphone waiting for them in Edinburgh.

  2. Isobel Hunter says:

    It looks as if they need the legal mind and drive of the likes of Joanna Cherry on board. So far the legal advice on various things seems to have been either fence sitting or self serving and doesn’t show much sign of the claimed independence (small I). However farcical some of the proposals seem they will be swallowed by some. The SNP has wasted so much time and now they need to step up before it is too late.

    1. Iain macphail says:

      @isobel, All Scotland needs for indy is 》50% yes & international recognition

      Not sure where this “wasting time” line comes from when yes of over 50% has only emerged consistently since uk general election of December 2019, and a global pandemic was called 2 months later. My point is : a “premature indyref lost” would have been curtains.

      As it is, we are 2 months off an election, where the Referendum (Scotland) Act 2020 is there already to be enacted.

      In 4 words:

      Stick together, it’s time!

  3. Michael says:

    Ben Riley-Smith seems to be a conspiracy theorist. And we all know from Mike’s previous lessons that we are not allowed to theorise about conspiracies!

  4. Ewen A Morrison says:

    With appreciative thanks to Mike Small, and the slightest of my editing: “The Tories are about to discover that Scottish democracy CANNOT be bought off!”

  5. James Mills says:

    Strewth ! Why can’t this ”verminous” bunch just accept colonial rule from their betters .
    This is the second time in 300 years we’ve had to divert our precious time from making money for our friends and relatives to appease these Jocks !

    What on Earth do they want ? We’ve given them Princess Anne to be their personal Royal – if they don’t shut up about Indy2 then I’ve a good mind to send them Randy Andy instead !
    Now back to Covid contracts – how’s your Hope and Pray project going , Dido ?

  6. Lorna says:

    Maybe we should retitle the latest efforts as A Parcel of Rouges Mk2.

    1. Julian Smith says:

      They’re Tories. It must be a “Parcel of Bleus”

  7. Squigglypen says:

    Read Oliver’s ‘Paen to Britain’…I was so moved….moved to hope that he is about to wade into that loch in front of him and then pray that Nessie is waiting..not having had her breakfast..( please don’t let her be vegan, vegetarian, or fussy eater …..)

  8. Gavin says:

    There is not enough space in the Commons for all 650 MPs, if they choose to attend.
    The Scottish Parliament holds 129 members, so how will they squeeze in all the MPs? Or is it first come………?
    Do MSPs go on holiday while this charade is on?
    Is it to be every third year when the overwhelmingly English Parliament usurps democracy outside England?
    Will the Queen open proceedings?
    Where will Greased Moggy stretch out for a snooze?
    What about the Lords and Ladies?
    The BEEB will be desperate to promote Ruthie, as it has done for years, especially with a Brit Nat show in Scotland.

    1. Neil says:

      They could hold it at the new Flamingo Land in Balloch?
      Priceless photo opportunities for Rishi and Bojo riding a pedalo on the loch or Hanock lending Douglas Ross a shot of his ice cream cone at Loch Lomond shores?

  9. Robbie says:

    What was it Obama used to chant ,oh aye “yes we can” now it’s “Scotland can “from the tories, what a load of bullshitters, it’s true we won’t be bought off ,or scared off .

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