“My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the armies of the north, general of the Felix legions, loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius, father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife, and I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next”
My name is Maximus Deckimus, commander of the zoomer armies of the north, general of the Nat legions, loyal servant to the true emperor, myself, father to a murdered indyref, husband to a humiliated wife, and I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.
You can see it now, though Russell Crowe was in better shape….
Actually, The Ecktopus was wisely concise, dignified and, for him, gracious after today’s verdict. His reputation as a decent human being has been wrecked, if you laboured under that delusion, in fact his personal failings were a cornerstone of the defence case. The single “not proven verdict on a charge of sexual assault with intent to rape” out of 13 charges from allegations made by 9 women will no doubt rankle with him too. Most seriously, the many women with whom he’d had “encounters” that are not really denied, now fall between the two awful prospects of being named and savaged by Eck’s gauleiters, and also being discarded as rapidly as possible by their former friends in the Sturgeon camp. Deeply unpleasant. But here is The Ecktopus in his triumph:
However, the peace won’t last.
Scottish journalists already know many of the details regarding Sturgeon’s mob trying to destroy their erstwhile hero, and I’m sure that there’ll be a lot of gobsmacking stuff to emerge. Coronavirus has virtually destroyed any prospect of independence for a long time, and it would be nice if the SNP could just destroy themselves, to tidy things up. It may happen. Sturgeon herself released a very brief statement, evidently written through gritted teeth, as it were (“The court has reached a verdict and that must be respected”).
Stephen Daisley hinted at what is to come here. One of Eck’s longstanding foes, who nevertheless admits to a grudging respect is Gerald Warner, a very fine writer. Here are his initial thoughts, in full:
When it was first announced that Alex Salmond, former SNP leader and First Minister of Scotland, was to stand trial on 13 charges of sexual misconduct, the Scottish media and political village looked forward to witnessing an exceptional courtroom drama: Scotland’s equivalent of the Dreyfus case. In the event, due to even more dramatic developments in the world of epidemiology, it was something of a damp squib in terms of public interest. It was as if the Dreyfus trial had taken place at the height of the Black Death.
That does not mean there were no fireworks in the courtroom – it could hardly have been otherwise, with the formidable Gordon Jackson, Dean of the Faculty of Advocates, leading Salmond’s defence team.
Unfortunately, due to health preoccupations, public attention was at best patchy. Beyond that, even intelligent observers found themselves perplexed by the reporting of some of the evidence.
The scrappy reporting by Scottish mediafolk made it difficult to form any clear impression of the case – understandably, in view of the other preoccupations assailing reporters. Salmond remained impassive throughout the proceedings and betrayed no triumphalism after the verdict, closing his remarks to the media today with expressions of concern for people during the epidemic.
He was cleared on 12 charges. On a 13th charge the verdict was “not proven”, a unique feature of the Scottish system.
After the verdict, Salmond delivered himself of one ominous observation: “As many of you will know, there was certain evidence I would like to have seen led in this trial but for a variety of reasons we weren’t able to do so. At some point that information, that fact and that evidence will see the light of day…” Or, in plain language, “Watch this space, Nicola.” When normal political activity is resumed a Salmond counter-offensive is to be expected, one that will make the internal activities of the SNP resemble the Battle of Kursk.
At least on his native heath, Salmond is no ordinary politician. He is a veteran operator with skills far superior to anyone else on the Scottish political scene. Unless he gets religion sometime between now and the resumption of normal public life, the clever money is on him seeking revenge against all those he perceives as his enemies.
If he does so, it will be with reinforced credibility after his vindication by the courts. In that context, there is more legal ammunition in his locker than the acquittal on charges of criminal offences. It should be recalled that Salmond had already won a civil case, in January 2019, when Lord Pentland ruled in the Court of Session that the Scottish government’s complaints process against him in relation to sexual harassment allegations had been “unlawful in respect that that they were procedurally unfair” and had been “tainted with apparent bias”. The Scottish government admitted it had breached its own guidelines by appointing an investigating officer who had “prior involvement” in the case.
Salmond was awarded costs of £512,250. That embarrassed surrender by the Scottish government is the worst possible foundation on which to mount a defence against the Salmond counterattack that will surely come. Already the Salmondistas are making warlike noises. Kenny McAskill, MP and former Scottish justice minister, tweeted after Salmond’s acquittal: “Some resignations now required.”
Joanna Cherry, MP, whom some have touted as a possible successor to Nicola Sturgeon, said: “Some of the evidence that has come to light both in the judicial review and at this trial raise very serious questions over the process that was employed within the Scottish government to investigate the alleged complaints against Mr Salmond, and I am sorry to say some of the evidence also raises serious question marks over how these complaints were handled by the SNP.”
To Scottish separatists Alex Salmond is a messianic figure. He led them from a taxi-load of Westminster MPs to a near-clean sweep of Scottish Westminster seats, an independence referendum and 13 years of government at Holyrood. He came closer than any other individual to securing an independent Scotland: in that respect, though he would not relish the comparison, he is separatist Scotland’s Nigel Farage. Now he has come back from the reputational brink after facing allegations that many SNP supporters, instinctive conspiracy theorists, will see as a politically motivated attempt to destroy him.
This will split the SNP as never before. The clear target of the rage that Salmond’s supporters feel will be Nicola Sturgeon, in tandem with the Scottish government apparatus. While the fog of an epidemic cloaks the political battlefield this may not be immediately obvious; but, in the long term, it looks as if we are witnessing the beginning of the end for Nicola Sturgeon and her administration. In market terminology: buy Salmond, sell Sturgeon.
One of the occasional regrets of online media – which is now pretty much my only media apart from a Spectator subscription (which I can sadly go for weeks without opening up the magazine) – is great writers hidden behind a paywall. The number one example of this in my world is the Clintons’ British nemesis, the cerebral and highly readable Ambrose Evans-Pritchard in the Telegraph. Not only does AE-P make academic economics seem understandable, he spots the future trends with an unerring eye.
So when he turns his gaze to Nicola Sturgeon’s fevered antics, it’s going to be worth reading. Accordingly I have been behind the paywall and lifted yesterday’s brilliant analysis in its entirety, for which I apologise to the Telegraph in advance. It is essential reading, particularly given the free pass that Ms Sturgeon mysteriously gets from almost all of the London media (@afneil excepted). Though when you’ve lost your Glasgow Herald fan club, the writing is on the wall.
So here is the great man, from 18th December, on the hard facts. Terrific:
Boris Johnson’s hard Brexit makes Scottish independence all but impossible, whatever the emotions
The harder Brexit becomes, the less economically plausible it is for Scotland to break away and rejoin the European Union. The costs rise to prohibitive levels. Such is the Brexit paradox for Scottish independence.
Nicola Sturgeon missed a trick earlier this year. She should have told her Westminster troops to abstain on Theresa May’s deal and let it limp over the line, since it created unique circumstances for secession on tolerable terms, or at least as tolerable as could be hoped for post-Brexit.
This is not obvious to those who see the Scottish drama chiefly in terms of emotion and identity politics. The relevant point is that Mrs May’s Brexit package removed the risk of a hard economic border on the Tweed for an independent Scotland: specifically, in the words of a leaked EU briefing note, it “required” a customs union as the basis of the future UK-EU relationship.
It would have let Scotland leave the UK on terms that preserved intimate trade linkage and supply chains with its hegemonic market – England. There would have been no need for rules-of-origin documents and extra customs clearance at the Scottish land border.
If it is such a calamity for Britain to leave the EU customs union – as the Scottish National Party tells us – then it must logically be a greater calamity for Scotland to leave the UK union since the same problems exist and are greatly magnified. “The links between Scotland and the UK are much deeper, so the pain for Scotland would be commensurately larger,” says Sir Andrew Large, ex-deputy governor of the Bank of England.
Over 60pc of Scottish exports go to the rest of this Kingdom. Just 18pc go to the EU. The imbalance is overwhelming and Scotland is not geographically close to Europe’s industrial core, stretching from the Ruhr valley to Lombardy. It would face the logistical distance of Italy’s Mezzogiorno.
I leave it to others with fingers on the northern pulse to judge whether the Scottish people really would wish to go through the trauma of withdrawal having observed how difficult it is to break up a 44-year union, let alone a 400-year merger of the kingdoms, especially if Boris Johnson ensures that powers devolved from the EU over fisheries, farming, the environment, etc, go generously to Edinburgh and are not whittled down by ‘Section 12 regulations’ in Westminster as Theresa May seemed bent on doing.
It is surely a unionist imperative at this juncture to endow Scotland with greater self-government as a nation within the UK than it would enjoy as a nominally-sovereign member of the EU, without a legal opt-out from the euro, at the mercy of the Fiscal Compact and the deflationary anti-Keynesian ideology of monetary union.
From a strict economic point of view nothing has improved for the independence cause since 2014, and much is now worse. Gone are hopes of an oil and gas rentier endowment. Brent crude no longer trades in a range around $110 a barrel as it did from 2011 to 2014, creating the illusion of a permanent plateau and permanent subsidy.
Agile frackers in the US shale belt have upset the balance of power in the global oil industry with short-cycle operations that kick in whenever prices rise above $60, leading to a supply surge that nips each rally in the bud. The OPEC-Russia alliance keeps having to extend output cuts to stop prices falling.
Yes, US shale growth might level off in the early 2020s but by then electric cars will be cheap enough to match the combustion engine, eating away at the proverbial ‘marginal barrel’, with the prospect of fossil car bans in the major cities of Europe accelerating the switch. In short, North Sea oil is in terminal political and commercial run-off.
I have no doubt that the resourceful Scots could make their way alone once they get over the first decade of economic trauma, welfare cuts, and systemic austerity – certainly faster than Ireland’s half century in the wilderness, thanks to De Valera’s autarkic obscurantism. But from a fiscal standpoint Scotland is currently a dependency state, in stark contrast to Catalonia, Flanders, or Alto Adige. It is not a net contributor to the central budget: it is a recipient of net transfers on a grand scale.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies says the implicit budget deficit was 7.9pc of GDP last year. Somehow the SNP is going to cut this to under 3pc over a decade, to placate EU inspectors and bond market vigilantes, and do this in the midst of a first order macroeconomic shock, with an ageing crisis for good measure. “It is a recipe for an almost never ending dose of austerity,” says Professor Ronald MacDonald from Glasgow University.
Such was the retrenchment imposed by EU-IMF Troika on Greece, which failed even on its own crude terms, causing the debt ratio to rise by shrinking the underlying economic base. The cuts cannot be squared with the SNP’s promise of a nordic social policy paradise. “Global investors should not worry about Scoxit any time soon,” is the acid verdict of Mike Gallagher from Continuum Economics.
The 2014 confusion over the interim Scottish currency remains. Would it shadow sterling without the Bank of England acting as a lender-of-last resort in a liquidity crisis, and without adequate reserves to defend the peg in the way that Hong Kong’s well-armed currency board defends its shadow peg?
Would a future Scottish coin be fixed to the euro (ERM-2), and therefore be painfully misaligned with UK and US trade flows. The incoherence is spelled out in “Choose Your Poison: the SNP’s Currency Headache” by These Islands, the forum of Scottish pro-union economists.
What of the SNP’s assertion that an independent Scotland would begin “debt free” (by some off-books conjuring trick) and with a “solidarity payment” from London as a dowry? One might reasonably suppose the exact opposite: that Scotland would inherit its share of the accumulated UK debt, and that this would spiral upwards to 100pc of GDP in short order due to the structural deficit. Were it to repudiate these shared liabilities by asserting the doctrine of “odious debt”, as if it were a conquered Baltic state escaping the Soviet Union, its woes would compound.
Were Scotland to go further and declare unilateral independence – like Catalonia, where regional leaders have been locked away in an Iberian Gulag – it would start life in diplomatic as well as economic ostracism, a turbo-charged variant of the worst ‘no deal’. Spain would without question block EU accession in such circumstances. Scotland’s position would be catastrophic.
This is now the post-Catalan, post-Brexit reality. Nicola Sturgeon may have to settle for less than she lets on – whatever the pro-forma demands for Indyref2 – instead exploiting the SNP’s electoral triumph this month as leverage to secure full ‘Quebec’ status within the UK.
A Borisian Brexit is not the clincher for Scottish independence so widely assumed in the world media. One might equally argue that it renders the dream all but impossible. Money matters in the cold light of day.
All of which is far too intelligently argued and truthful for the SNP to cope with. But that’s their problem.
And there’s a lot more. Apart from the reliable brilliance of Effie Deans (history, sovereignty and all that) and Kevin Hague(economics, real life) on the blogging front, there’s an emerging guerrilla movement in the press, and here is Jennie Hjul in the Courier…
Like most people who’d heard the quote, I assumed that it was original to Isaac Newton.
In 1676, Newton wrote “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants”, which is indeed a memorable phrase, and speaks well to the natural humility of an extraordinary person.
However, Wikipedia gives the palm to Bernard of Chartres (a 12th century philosopher), and possibly much earlier: “Bernard of Chartres used to compare us to dwarfs perched on the shoulders of giants. He pointed out that we see more and farther than our predecessors, not because we have keener vision or greater height, but because we are lifted up and borne aloft on their gigantic stature.” The giants being the ancient philosophers and scholars of Greece and Rome.
Which preamble is to bring us with a bang back to Brexit and the state of the British polity. Here is a nice little summary from a Spectator Coffee House commenter Paul Sutton, of what the ludicrously self regarding Speaker, John Bercow did:
It is clear to all that the Speaker has torn up three lynch-pins of our constitution – and ones which are essential safeguards:
1. The executive controls the order paper: Bercow (like something out of Mugabe’s Zimbabwe) allowed “emergency legislation” (i.e. it’s an “emergency” for Remainers, if we leave the EU) to propose a bill.
2. The bill involves massive additional expenditure, and so should only come from the executive.
3. The bill completely removes the use of prerogative power, from the executive. Comically, the Speaker (under probably non-existent “legal advice”) decided it didn’t, so no Queen’s consent was sought.
Even more fundamentally, the net effect is to cancel the 2016 vote to Leave – the first time in our history where the legislature has cancelled a popular vote.
…which just refers to the latest Benn Bill – never mind all the preceding attempts from Cooper-Letwin etc, which were also unconstitutional if we can really claim that the UK has a constitution (it doesn’t, it probably should, but one worries who would draft it).
So it’s all down to Useful Idiot Bercow, in whom, like the similarly self regarding Gina Miller with her legal case to give the final say to our mostly awful MP’s, we can identify a key figure in the attempts to derail democracy in the form of overturning the referendum result. It’s not a good look.
The four Speakers preceding Bercow, over the period in which I’ve followed politics, have been exemplary, unbiased public servants, irrespective of their party allegiance.
I can remember vividly Bercow’s persona as a genuinely far right Tory from the hang ’em flog ’em weirdo crew of the Monday Club. There was always an air of inadequacy about its members, with a strong undertone of failure with their preferred sex**. Numerous people over the years have commented on his diminutive stature, even though in reality he’s not that small (5’4″ – 5’6″). I’m not one to pick on physical characteristics normally, but it is the case, I suggest, that his behaviour in seeking and clinging to the role of Speaker has an aura of ‘compensation’ about it. As recently as 2014, The Guardian, of all media outlets, described their current hero in this way “Those who target Bercow are more likely to do so because of his foolish comments and insufferable, pompous interventions at Prime Minister’s Questions“. …as opposed to his height, which is what he was claiming. The Guardian was right.
Yet it is this vain, prickly, spiteful, bullying luvvie, with no discernible principles other than self glorification, and his weird fake gruff voice in the Commons, who is the rock on which the desperate Remoaners, who have no qualms at all about ignoring history, convention, tradition etc, have built their case.
I wasn’t intending to write this post, as I’m aware that it has an intrinsically unpleasant theme. Such is the situation though, created by this gang of dishonest, voter-hating, elitist unpatriotic tossers, some sort of analysis seems unfortunately necessary.
We can do better than Bercow***, whether we’re Remainers or Brexiteers.
**…and as if by magic, The Guardian comes up trumps. He really is revolting
*** the day after this piece, the poisonous pygmy quits. Long overdue. Tim Stanley on Twitter has it right though. Even in his departing he ruins it
I think it’s a good time to briefly examine a favourite Remainer trope, which is: the voters were lied to/misinformed/duped/not in full possession of the facts.
Intimately associated with this hilariously patronising approach is a weird compulsion to label the other side of the debate with particularly vicious terms – racist, fascist, white supremacist (eh?), uneducated, xenophobes, little Englanders (plenty of Brexit fans outside of England’s green and pleasant land), blah, blah, blah, blah.
It’s not reciprocated. I do like to occasionally insult the worst Remainers (think Alastair Campbell, Ian Dunt etc), but by and large the Brexiteers are a calm and peaceable lot. They’ve had to be.
Their problem though, is partly that Remainers don’t understand democracy. They really don’t get one person, one vote. They really don’t, in practice. It’s just been tested, and they’ve been found wanting (again and again).
The thing is, a vote is a vote is a vote. It is an integer, a marker, a single voice. It cannot be parsed, interpreted, reinterpreted or dismissed, it just is.
Which is why, that even if every label in paragraph three above was true, for every one of the 17.4 million who voted for Brexit, it doesn’t matter. It is intrinsically irrelevant. That is not how democracy works, or can work.
It is beautiful.
And the corollary of that is the ugliness of the Remainer rage.
I leave it to John Locke, courtesy of Wikipedia, to explain the basics to the diehard Remainer horde:
“There is no practical alternative to majority political rule – i.e., to taking the consent of the majority as the act of the whole and binding every individual. It would be next to impossible to obtain the consent of every individual before acting collectively … No rational people could desire and constitute a society that had to dissolve straightaway because the majority was unable to make the final decision and the society was incapable of acting as one body.”
If you want to know just how out of step the NHS is with the healthcare in the rest of the developed world, consider this, from a piece by Conrad Black on Bernie Sanders’ policies. The italics are mine:
Like everyone on the Left, he bandies about the phrase “single payer” as if it were a silver bullet. It isn’t, other than in the sense of being a self-inflicted wound.
The single payer is the government, federal or state, but under a unitary system and the government pays all doctors on the basis of number of appointments and formulaic relative complexity of treatment. It is arbitrary and challenges the free market in that no distinction is made for results, thoroughness, or special circumstances that attach to most medical conditions. The doctors essentially are public service employees. There are customarily no user fees, so hypochondriacs and lonely people turn waiting rooms into therapeutic or social occasions, and the experience of single-payer countries is generally one of unacceptable waiting times for many treatments. In his Town Hall meeting with Fox, Sanders was good at emphasizing the shortcomings of the present health care system for the 25 percent of people who have no public or private plans, but he simply ducked and dove when costing arose.
What Lord Black is describing with a degree of scorn is actually more sophisticated than the current NHS setup. Irrespective of workload, talent, complexity, productivity, all NHS consultants get paid basically the same. No other country in the ‘developed world’ would see merit in paying the heart transplant surgeons the same as geriatricians and public health consultants – for good reason.
Try watching the unusually excellent BBC series Surgeons: At the edge of life. These are serious professionals with exceptional skills and high stress jobs. They’re all rewarded on the same scales as people who do two ward rounds a week and a clinic.
Interestingly, although anaesthetists occasionally grumble about it, the UK private sector (in which I don’t work, for the record), recognises these differences explicitly – surgeons often get about three times what the anaesthetist does.
Not only is the NHS ‘everyone is the same’ approach intrinsically unjust, the poor rewards combined with a punitive level of scrutiny (at times) is making recruitment a nightmare. I used to see a value in paying everyone roughly the same – not any more. Again for the record, I do alright, I’m not complaining about my salary.
I like economics as a discussion point, whilst acknowledging no expertise or training in it. Some things are obvious – like Adam Smith was largely right, socialism doesn’t work in economics terms etc. One of the strange things is that while maths and complex modelling are a smallish part of the ‘discipline’, it is a topic where one can readily claim expertise without using any numbers or giving any proofs from empirical data.
Nice work if you can get it. Hence the IMF, the IEA, the CBI, the exchequer/government of the day, the Fed in the USA, the EU, the IFS and the OBR frequently make – and have in the past done so repeatedly – wildly inaccurate predictions upon which big decisions are mysteriously taken. Not unlike witchcraft, in a way.
Which leads me to quote extensively from a great article by Ralph Benko, ostensibly about Trump’s nominations to join the Fed, whose predictions and policies Trump has had a beef with recently. He begins with a quote from a blog run by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York:
Model uncertainty is pervasive. Economists, bloggers, policymakers all have different views of how the world works and what economic policies would make it better. These views are, like it or not, models. Some people spell them out in their entirety, equations and all. Others refuse to use the word altogether, possibly out of fear of being falsified. No model is “right,” of course, but some models are worse than others, and we can have an idea of which is which by comparing their predictions with what actually happened.…
In the end, we have shown that policy analysis in the very oversimplified world of DSGE models is a pretty difficult business. Contrary to what it may sometimes appear from listening to talking heads, deciding which policy is best is very rarely a slam dunk.
This can only be interpreted as an admission of the fundamental unreliability of the Fed’s core analytic. Bravo for the dose of honest candor!
[M]acro-economics is now [astrology’s] modern incarnation: Only instead of stars, macro-economists look at “aggregates” gathered religiously by governments’ statistical agencies — never mind if the country has a dictatorial regime, be it left, right or anything in between, or has large black markets, as Italy and Greece do, where tax evasion has long been the main national sport. So let us first forget about this “macro” stuff, whose beginnings are almost a century old, and offer a simple alternative for shedding light on the situation today and on possible solutions, hopefully demolish this modern pseudo-“science” once and for all.”
No less than Hayek, in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech titled The Pretence of Knowledge, acidly criticized the economics profession for something he called “scientism,” meaning emulating the style but not the substance of the natural sciences. The Fed, with its many hundreds of PhD economists on staff is operating a pseudoscientific model.
…and pseudoscience carries a lot of weight these days. Ask the useful idiots of Extinction Rebellion
I think it is the awful Lib Dems who have frequently pointed out that we should, like the US, have a written constitution. We don’t, but we do have hitherto accepted norms that have in the last two years – and particularly the last two weeks – been gleefully trampled down by the Remainer mob. This is generally aided and abetted by much of the media, who don’t report these quite unprecedented decisions as being anything other than ‘normal’ in these trying times.
But normal they are not.
The unwritten constitutional arrangements of the UK, with their checks and balances, have been chucked out where it suits the Remainers. However, where it doesn’t suit, the screeching starts immediately…
There are innumerable examples of what we should continue to call ‘constitutional vandalism’ – it’s beginning to catch on. A few at random:
Theresa May handing the control of government business over to backbench Remainer MP’s
Rushing a banning No Deal bill through parliament then whining about a bit of filibustering (which is entirely licit)
The big one of course is attempting to ignore the 2016 referendum result
and try this tweet…
…but there really are lots of others. Does it matter? I think it does. It seriously matters.
I am not a fan of the theatre, despite many attempts. Actors declaiming loudly while stomping around the floorboards just make me cringe. That’s why movies were invented**. I suspect that I’m not alone, even if it sounds like philistinism (it’s not). However, one play with which I am familiar – written, on stage and on film – is Robert Bolt’s work of genius A Man For All Seasons. The scene which applies here, and I realise that this is not an original point, is when Thomas More is debating with his son in law, Will Roper, who is protesting self righteously about his view that what he considers ‘right’ trumps the law of the land (from 2:14, but watch it all):
That’s where we are today with the attempt to destroy a legitimate democratic vote. God help us.
Bolt was not religious, despite the magnificent portrayal of (Saint) Thomas More, but he tended to develop certain themes, one of which was the corruption that developed in authority figures and institutions. How right he was.
It was another irreligious, but intelligent, man who provided the prediction of what we’re witnessing currently in Britain. Thanks to the great Kate Hoey for this:
**for what it’s worth, I think Paul Scofield’s Oscar-winning portrayal of More is just about as good as acting gets.
Brexit Is An Obsession With The British Media The Way Trump Derangement Syndrome Is With The American Media
The dysfunction in the UK political system is unbelievable. I think they took a look at the U.S. Congress and thought, “Hold my beer!”
Had they simply obeyed the will of the people after the referendum in June of 2016, the current ridiculous mess would never have happened. Sure, there would have been a few months of bureaucrats frantically proclaiming the end of the world because milk carton labeling was non-standard and salt shakers had different sized holes, but the UK and the EU would have figured it out.
What the elites in Parliament don’t understand (and our “elites” are no different) is that the purpose of Brexit was an expression of dissatisfaction with being ruled from afar. It had very little to do with finance and business dealings and streamlined customs procedures. Those are trivial in comparison to the desire of the people of the United Kingdom to shake off the yoke of EU control, and return to an independent country.
But the media in the UK is all in on gutting Brexit, and that means obstructing the will of the people. They can’t let anyone express pro-Brexit sentiments, and criticism of the EU is simply unacceptable, even from one of the grand old men of England!
There is a long series of SNP decline and fall pieces on this blog. Rational observers foresaw their demise a few years ago now.
One such observer is the great Gerald Warner, one of the wittiest and acerbic commentators on the body politic, and, if you bump into him, a generous, convivial drinking companion for visitors to Glasgow’s West End.
I reproduce his latest piece in full, as it’s behind a paywall. It strikes me as being entirely accurate and true, and also wickedly funny, even in the unlikely event that one retains a vestigial admiration for the SNP Follies: see references to the hapless Kenny MacAskill, and ‘Salmond Agonistes’.
The end is nigh!
The law of probability always dictated, in defiance of apparent likelihood, that somewhere on the planet there must be someone leading a government as chaotic, incompetent and beleaguered as Theresa May’s. The challenge was to identify such a politician. Now, however, the quest is over: come on down, Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland and precarious leader of an imploding and fissiparous SNP administration and party in meltdown.
When two women civil servants made complaints of sexual misconduct against Alex Salmond, former Scottish First Minister, last year, the allegations provoked a buzz of interest in the Holyrood village and in the media; but nobody could have foreseen the seismic consequences of this development. Salmond was out of office (though the allegations related to the time when he was First Minister), so it was widely assumed his status as a private citizen would reduce the impact of the controversy.
Fat chance. Nothing involving Salmond is ever low profile. One does not have to support his disastrous separatist agenda or warm to his rebarbative personality to recognize that Salmond has for two decades been one of the very few big beasts in Scottish politics. Admittedly, as the minimal impact he made in his career at Westminster demonstrated, Salmond’s eminence at Holyrood was that of the one-eyed man in the kingdom of the blind. In the pygmy environment of post-devolution Scottish politics Salmond dominated Holyrood like Gulliver in Lilliput.
He has always been a highly dangerous politician. He had his lapses, some of them ludicrous, such as his “penny for Scotland” tax hike proposal and his denunciation of the “unpardonable folly” of Nato intervention in Kosovo. Yet he always bounced back, seemingly undamaged. Any wise opponent knows that getting into conflict with Salmond means encountering a ruthless scorched-earth policy.
That is how Salmond reacted when the Scottish civil service made him the first subject of its newly minted complaints procedure on sexual harassment. Incredibly – to anyone unfamiliar with the crass incompetence of all levels of governance in Scotland – the woman appointed to investigate the complaints had had prior contact with the two female civil servants who made the allegations, having given them “welfare” counselling in November 2017. The complaints were formally lodged in January 2018. A separate police inquiry is still ongoing.
Salmond took legal action, crowdfunded by his supporters, and sought a judicial review in the Court of Session. The Scottish government initially stated that it would “defend its position vigorously”. That stance crumbled into humiliating surrender last Tuesday as the lawyers for Sturgeon’s government conceded that prior contact had occurred – denounced by Salmond’s legal team as “encouragement” to the complainants.
The court ruled that the Scottish government’s actions had been “unlawful in respect that they were procedurally unfair and that they were tainted with apparent bias”. Salmond then called for the head of the Scottish civil service, Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans, who introduced the new code of investigation which the court found her own staff had breached, to consider her position.
He has also now lodged a complaint with the UK Information Commissioner’s Office over apparent leaks about his case to the media. So far, therefore, Salmond has put the Scottish civil service on the back foot, humiliated Sturgeon’s government in Scotland’s highest court and opened a second front on the data protection issue. Yet all that is the least of it.
His principal victim is Nicola Sturgeon, whose credibility lies in tatters following startling revelations about her behind-the-scenes involvement. Until April last year, in accordance with official procedure, Sturgeon was apparently kept in ignorance of the allegations against Salmond. On 2 April, however, she met Salmond at her Glasgow home, with her chief of staff Liz Lloyd (now also in Salmond’s cross-hairs) in attendance. On that occasion Salmond told Sturgeon about the complaints against him.
Generous-minded people might give Nicola Sturgeon the benefit of the doubt over that first meeting, when she might possibly have been ambushed. But her two subsequent meetings with him in Aberdeen and Glasgow, as well as two telephone conversations, one as late as July, drove a coach and horses through all governmental propriety. The kindest term for this backroom conduct would be a catastrophic error of judgement. But people who make such errors are unfit to govern, so that Sturgeon’s political career is now hanging by a thread.
At this week’s First Minister’s Questions she was harried mercilessly by opponents and clearly no longer in command of her brief. She insisted her meetings with Salmond had not been connected with government matters, but were “party” business. For the Conservatives Jackson Carlaw said: “Her position appears to be a meeting between the First Minister of the government and the former first minister of the government, about a government investigation, involving two government employees was not government business. Really, how?”
The knives are out for Sturgeon on all sides. Alex Neil, a former SNP health secretary, has called for a public inquiry into the government’s “unlawful” handling of the complaints against Salmond. Sturgeon is also under enormous pressure to refer herself to ethics watchdogs under the accusation of having broken the ministerial code.
Kenny MacAskill, the former SNP justice minister who first articulated the doctrine that it is no part of the responsibility of the police to protect the public and who famously released the Lockerbie bomber (Oh, the past triumphs of SNP statecraft!), claimed that a puritanical clique (sic) around Sturgeon was “driving out” people perceived as a threat to her reputation. Er – thanks for injecting that Da Vinci Code flavour into the proceedings, Kenny.
Nicola Sturgeon did make one significant point during FMQs, but it is likely she herself did not recognize its sinister implications. She said there was an inconsistency in her being accused by Mr Salmond of a conspiracy against him while being accused by others of a conspiracy in his favour.
That is perfectly true, but it brings no comfort to Sturgeon. The SNP has sundered into two factions: Sturgeonites and Salmondistas. The underlying reason is the frenzied frustration of the SNP’s ultra-nationalist wing at Sturgeon’s failure to deliver a second independence referendum. The IndyRef2 brigade makes the wildest Home Counties Remainer headbangers look sane and sensible. The ideological magma has been boiling up below the surface and the perceived victimization of Salmond is the perfect proxy cause for a political eruption.
This independence faultline always posed the gravest threat to the SNP, but until now has been managed fairly adroitly by party managers. But the SNP is already a minority government, it has been in power for 12 years and the electoral pendulum is likely to put it out of office at the next election. So, the fundamentalists are in a mood to go for it, persuading themselves that Brexit is an opportunity when, in reality, it is a guarantee against the Scottish electorate taking a further leap in the dark.
The SNP was approaching the end: it has run Scottish Health and Education into the ground. But with Salmond Agonistes pulling down the pillars, the edifice is in imminent threat of collapse. The infighting in the SNP now resembles a saloon brawl in a John Wayne film: hardly anybody knows why they are fighting; the joy is in the conflict.