If Boris Johnson is to visit Scotland shortly after his expected coronation as British Prime Minister, we may anticipate that the “keynote speech” he intends to deliver will contain little in the way of charm and much that is offensive. He might be in Scotland; but he will be addressing an audience mainly in England. An audience of British Nationalists drooling at the prospect of their champion putting those uppity Jocks firmly in their lowly place.
It would be a mistake to think of Johnson as stupid. The man’s intellect may comprise little more than low cunning and an instinctive grasp of base populism, but what more does one need in order to succeed in British politics? Nobody can sensibly claim that these ‘attributes’ have not served him well. Together with the bumbling eccentricity that is all practised affectation, these apparently meagre capacities have helped Johnson rise to the upper strata of the British political elite and allowed him to survive a catalogue of gaffes, catastrophes and misdeeds any one of which would have been sufficient to end most political careers.
Johnson may be more sport of nature than force of nature, but he is not acting alone. Behind the malignant clown-child, deep in the shadows, stand unseen forces content to access power using ‘characters’ such as Johnson as proxies – or tools.
Even as he stumbles into the role of British Prime Minister by way of a series of blunders and pratfalls, Johnson will be aware – or will have been made aware – that his tenure may be short. He knows that he may face an early challenge. He will think of his visit to Scotland as an outing in a coming election campaign. It will be vital that he impress the voters who are crucial to his success in that election – whenever it comes. And Johnson knows that this demands a highly emotional appeal to hard-core ‘One Nation’ British Nationalism calling on every ounce of his instinct for base populism.
We may reasonably expect that Johnson’s ‘Scottish speech’ will signal a start to demolishing devolution and the dismantling of Scotland’s democratic institutions. It is a matter of speculation how far he will go in the early days of his reign. But we must assume he will go all the way. Because what he doesn’t do in the first few days and weeks he will certainly do in the following days and weeks.
It will all be made to sound very reasonable.There will be much talk of ‘unity’ and ‘economic necessity’. What is being done TO Scotland will be portrayed as being done FOR Scotland. The things being removed are, not the essential infrastructure of a functioning democracy, but ‘obstacles’ which cannot be allowed to ‘stand in the way of progress’. This will not be a return to less enlightened times, but the ‘opening of a new chapter’ in Scotland’s ‘proud history’ as part of a Britain about to be made great again be destroying anything that cannot be made purely British.
Much of what is said will be shrouded in obscurantist language. Only later will it be realised that the bit about ‘exploring new economic opportunities’ meant an immediate lifting of the moratorium on fracking. Only afterwards will it become evident that the stuff about ‘making the NHS more efficient’ is a euphemism for absorbing all the UK’s health services into a ‘UK-wide common framework’ the better to offer it up to the hyenas of corporate America.
There will be few references to the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government. All the talk will be of the UK Government in Scotland and all the great things that it will be doing for Scotland. There will be no mention of the fact that this unelected and unaccountable shadow administration is to be funded entirely by money that is rightfully Scotland’s.
If Johnson’s speech is not the coup itself, it will be the start of the coup. It will be the start of a process of restoring direct rule from London on a scale and to an extent that Scotland has never before experienced. It will be the birth of a ‘New Union’, strengthened at the cost of democracy. A ‘New Union’ unilaterally defined by and for the ruling elites of the British state. A ‘New Union’ in which Scotland truly is extinguished; our nation’s identity snuffed as it is smothered in a new ‘indivisible and indissoluble’ state.
In his speech, Jonson may well acknowledge the possibility that ‘troublemakers’ might try to derail or hinder his ‘Great Britain Project’. Measures to ‘deal with’ political dissent may be announced, or merely hinted at. Threatened.
We know that all of this will come to pass because we know how imperative it is that the British state keep hold of Scotland. And we know that it cannot be assured of maintaining that hold unless ‘radical’ steps are taken to neutralise the threat from Scotland’s independence movement. Incapable of learning the lessons of history, the British political elite continues to believe it has the power to face down democratic dissent, or suppress it.
One of the dangers in this time of great jeopardy for Scotland is that a timid Scottish Government might seek some compromise in the hope of fending off the worst of what has been described here. Experience and political pragmatism tell us that any such approach will actually be taken by the British as consent for and acceptance of the worst of what has been described here.
As great a threat is the complacency which dismisses all of these threats even as each becomes the reality. Or the idiotic politicking which constantly promises that it will be the next abuse that provokes an appropriate response.
Scotland can afford neither complacency nor compromise. As hard as Johnson and the forces behind him come at us, we must be prepared to go at them even harder. The threat is great. The time is short. The Scottish Government must act boldly, decisively and quickly to protect Scotland.
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