Welcome to Borissia

Living in Scotland, I tend to greet news of a Downing Street reshuffle with a shrug. How does it affect me? How does it affect Scotland? Isn’t shite still shite no matter how much you rearrange the turds? I have to remind myself that, because of the Union, these people exert extraordinary, totally unaccountable and invariably baleful influence in matters which should rightfully be the exclusive province of people we actually elect. We are therefore obliged to take at least some heed of what manner of individuals hold senior positions in the government of England-as-Britain. Or what I have lately taken to calling Borissia. I may occasionally fall into the habit observing the comings and goings of British politicians much as I would the wrigglings and squirmings of pond-life under the microscope, but it is as well to be mindful that this pond-life bites.

I read that the current Minister for the Constitution, Chloe Smith, is slated to be declared the new Minister for the Union and, tempted as I may be to note this tidbit of info-gossip and move on, I also read that Ms Smith apparently takes the view that the people of Scotland are neither worthy of nor entitled to news presented from a Scottish perspective. The British news is good enough for us. She isn’t about to encourage the idea that Scotland is distinctive in any way. It just the northern territory of Borissia.

Scotland’s cause being purely a constitutional issue it’s maybe a good idea to keep a watchful eye on Chloe Smith. In the Borissian government, the Minister for the Constitution is the official champion of British Nationalist ideology, and Minister for the Union is a diplomatically dishonest euphemism for the Minister for the Subjugation of Scotland.

I read that someone by the name of Rishi Sunak is the new Chancellor of the Borissian Exchequer having formerly been Chief Secretary to the Treasury – a role I inevitably associate with one Danny Alexander now Sir Daniel Grian Alexander having been duly rewarded for his part in creating the false prospectus on which the people of Scotland voted to give the Borissian government licence to do as it will with Scotland.

I know nothing of Mr Sunak other than that he is the MP for a part of Borissia called Richmond and that he must be a British Nationalist or he wouldn’t have been given the job. Of much more interest is the reason there was a vacancy. His predecessor resigned because of Boris Johnson’s intention to create a joint set of economic advisers for the Treasury and Number 10; a move that would further concentrate executive power in the hands of Johnson and his very special adviser, Dom Cummings. We have to refer to them as Boris & Dom now as they are at least as much an ‘item’ as deserves the ampersand. It’s surely only a matter of time before some wag hack with a depleted imagination coins a joint name for them – Bordom or Doris, perhaps. Which would be marginally less excruciating than The Johnster and The Cumster, I suppose.

But we should take this seriously. The combination of Boris Johnson and Dom Cummings may be revolting, but it is revoltingly successful. While BoJo plays the chief clown in the Borissian State Circus, Cummings is pulling strings and levers behind the scenes with such deftness that Boris & Dom have each and both got pretty much everything they want. There may not appear to be a plan. But what if the plan is to appear to have no plan whilst cunningly progressing a cunning plan cunningly concealed by cunningly contrived chaos? What if the shambles of the Brexit process was exactly what was needed to create the conditions for centralising power and upgrading Borissia from satirical epithet to stark reality?

Suppose someone was mounting a coup in the UK. Isn’t control of the treasury the first thing they would think of, given that there’s no need for them to take over the TV and radio stations? Exaggerated as it may seem, isn’t that thought enough to give one pause? Bear in mind that Boris & Dom haven’t only absorbed the team advising the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, they have installed someone they know is amenable to such external influence (control?) over his department. And, perhaps more importantly, removed someone who was evidently minded to resist such a move. And do so publicly.

The Treasury represents a constraint on executive power. That constraint has at least been loosened. We should ask ourselves why?

It seems that Alister “Union” Jack is to stay on as Downing Street’s man in Scotland and titular head of the unelected and unaccountable shadow administration created by the Borrissian government to take over powers stripped from the Scottish Parliament. Thus, my somewhat tongue-in-cheek prediction that Ruth Davidson would be installed as de facto Governor-General of North Borissia. Perhaps BorDom & Doris felt that the task of defanging Holyrood still required the skills and attitude of a predator rather than the gloss and grooming of a show animal. Or maybe Ruth has set her sights somewhat higher. Having lost her crown as Queen of the BritNats in the annexed lands of North Borissia, perhaps she’s not content with her reward for loyal service to the shrivelling Borissian empire. Maybe elevation to the Dead Stoat Cloak Club isn’t enough to satisfy that ravenous ego. Maybe she has her eye on another throne to replace the one she lost. Betty Windsor might be wise to review her security. Maybe employ a food-taster. Definitely don’t accept apples from cackling crones. Just saying.

The more likely explanation is that Jack the Lackey is being kept on because he’s just the man for the job. Unfortunately for the people of Scotland, his job is treachery. His remit is to undermine and then dismantle Scotland’s democratic institutions. In practical terms, his function is to roll out a series of ‘UK-wide common frameworks’ which increasingly impinge on and arrogate the powers of the Scottish Parliament. Alister Jack squats in Queen Elizabeth House like some obscene arachnid charged with sucking the juices from Scotland’s distinctive political culture until all that’s left is a dessicated husk no longer capable of being a nuisance to the Borissian state and its rulers.

We have to know this. We have to know that turds are being rearranged for a purpose. We have to realise that this purpose has only dire consequences for Scotland. If we value Scotland’s democracy and identity as a nation, we have to be prepared to defend them. We can’t afford to suppose that a cabinet reshuffle in London has nothing to do with us.



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A vacancy for vacant

This being a political appointment the normal rules probably don’t apply to the task of selecting someone to fill the role of Secretary of State for Scotland. Or, at least, not to the same extent. Usually, one would first define the role in order that a set of criteria could be established. This must still happen. But the established criteria may well be set aside in favour of considerations which have more to do with relationships of power within the ruling party than finding the best person for the job. And we have only the Westminster rumour-mill as our guide to who is in line to benefit from the Prime Minister’s patronage and who is looking like a loser.

Let us suppose, for the sake of something to write about if nothing else, that patronage was not a factor and that the choice of Secretary of State for Scotland was being made in an entirely pragmatic manner. In such imaginary circumstances, a detailed job description would be essential. Only then would it be possible to figure out what it takes to be an effective Secretary of State for Scotland.

What constitutes effective is, of course, a function of the job description – which will include one or more aims. We are asking what an effective Secretary of State for Scotland must achieve as well as what is involved in doing the job. The incumbent will be expected to deliver on some policy objective.

The post of Secretary of State for Scotland was originally created when the Union was imposed on Scotland. It was abolished in the wake of the 1745 ‘rebellion’ when the military occupation and brutal repression made explicit the fact that the Union was in, in reality, annexation of Scotland by England. The post was revived in 1885 and upgraded to full Secretary of State status in 1926.

Originally, the Secretary of State for Scotland was supposed to be Scotland’s man in the British cabinet. (Only one woman, Helen Liddell (Lab) has ever held the post.) It was almost entirely a sop to public opinion in Scotland – an attempt to make the Union seem less unpalatable. Notwithstanding the token nature of the job, a few individuals did good work on Scotland’s behalf. Tom Johnson springs to mind. And, perhaps, Willie Ross. But these successes tended to be more than offset by the likes of notorious liar Alistair Carmichael and just plain notorious Jim Murphy.

Overall, it has never been entirely clear whether the Secretary of State was Scotland’s man (or Helen Liddell) in London or London’s man in Scotland. Any doubt on this count has now been dispelled. He (or theoretically ‘she’) is now definitely and unabashedly the British government’s representative in Scotland. He represents the interests of that government and of the Union. In no sense does he (Sorry Helen, but I have to stop this.) represent Scotland’s interests. Quite the contrary. According to the British government’s website,

The main role of the Scottish Secretary is to promote and protect the devolution settlement.

Other responsibilities include promoting partnership between the UK government and the Scottish government, and relations between the 2 Parliaments.

Secretary of State for Scotland

The language disguises a far harsher reality. While it is certainly the job of the Secretary of State for Scotland to “promote and protect the devolution settlement” this aspect of the role must be understood in the light of what devolution means. First regarded as a way of killing Scotland’s burgeoning independence movement ‘stone dead’, devolution was always more about formalising the withholding of powers than devolving them. It would never have been permitted had it been thought that it might actually empower Scotland. It was only allowed because the British establishment was persuaded that it would not jeopardise the Union. In fact, it was maintained that it would strengthen England-as-Britain’s grip on Scotland.

Best laid schemes etc. Suffice it to say that it didn’t quite work out as anticipated. After the No vote in 2014, many commentators – myself included – considered it likely that the British political elite would use the power handed to them by No voters to abandon or at least roll back the devolution ‘experiment’. This would have been very controversial, of course. In fact, the Brits did a rather clever thing instead. Taking advantage of the Smith Commission and subsequent ‘reform’ of the Scotland Act, they sought to weaponise devolution against the SNP administration in Edinburgh. That didn’t go so well either. The Scottish Government deftly avoided all of the fiscal and political traps that had been laid for them. Or, at least, mitigated or deferred the impact of measures intended to undermine the Scottish Government and make the SNP unelectable. Then it would have been back to British business as usual. Scotland’s voters had other ideas.

This brief history was necessary in order to better understand what the role of Secretary of State for Scotland now entails. The incumbent no longer has to pretend to be representing Scotland’s interests – although the media may still portray him in this light. Today, the Secretary of State for Scotland is first and foremost the defender of the Union. His task is to ensure that the Union is preserved – at whatever cost to Scotland. Post-Brexit, his task is to implement a British Nationalist ‘One Nation’ solution to the problem of Scotland.

As soon as the first SNP administration was formed in 2007, the fate of the Scottish Parliament was sealed. If devolution was not to become the threat to the Union that the British establishment fears, Holyrood had to be reined-in. The Secretary of State for Scotland has a crucial role to play in this. He is to head a shadow administration which will take on powers stripped from the Scottish Parliament under the guise of managing the Brexit aftermath. What qualities and abilities would a person require in order to do this job?

Obviously, they would have to be ruthless and thick-skinned – uncaring of how they are perceived by the people of Scotland who have realised the true nature of the Union. The individual concerned will be actively betraying Scotland every moment that they are in office. They will necessarily and inevitably come to be despised by all but the most fervent British Nationalists. Although the ‘Jock-bashing’ may make them popular in England-as-Britain, their name will be cursed in Scotland.

This suggests that it should be somebody with a pathologically diminished self-awareness. Somebody who will do what is required of them in return for personal advancement. Somebody with a craving for the prestige of high office but lacking the talent to make it on merit. Somebody who can be bought.

The candidate needs no particular skills. The infrastructure of the shadow government is pretty much complete. What is needed is a ‘face’ to front the project. Someone with a bit of charisma. Someone with a measure of superficial charm. Importantly, someone who is media-savvy. Someone who can ‘sell’ what is being done to Scotland’s democracy. All of which rules out the present incumbent. Alister Jack was chosen because of his business experience. He was considered ideal as the person to manage the seizing of the Scottish Parliament’s ‘assets’- its powers – and managing their adoption and operation by the ‘UK Government in Scotland’. A functionary.

It is likely that the rumours of his removal have been prompted by the realisation that the machinery of the shadow government is better left in the hands of technocrats and civil servants. The project doesn’t need a manager. It needs a figurehead. Alister Jack is certainly not the kind of person who is likely to impress Dominic Cummings. And he has a great deal of influence with Boris Johnson.

We now have a job description and an idea of the kind of person who would be ideal for the role. The Secretary of State for Scotland needs to be venal, mercenary, ambitious, shallow and heartless with good media skills, fluency in the language of politics, a winning personality and a photogenic face. Someone who has mastered the art of the photo-op. Someone who can trivialise the most serious of issues and treat trivialities with undue solemnity and melodramatic indignation.

Someone who has not the slightest compunction about lying brazenly and who has a natural talent for hypocrisy. Someone who can flip from one position to another with consummate ease and hold to both effortlessly. Someone neither fazed nor embarrassed by inconsistency and contradiction. At the same time, they must not pose any threat to Boris Johnson. It must be someone who is liked within the party but who has no large following. It must be someone who can easily be sidelined should the occasion arise. If they are Scottish or can carry off the pretence of speaking for Scotland, this would be a bonus.

Dear readers! I give you the next Secretary of State for Scotland – RUTH DAVIDSON!



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The right man for the job

It is becoming clearer by the day why Alister “Union” Jack was chosen to replace David “Fluffy” Mundell. The latter is a functionary. Dull, plodding, unimaginative, but mindlessly loyal and unthinkingly obedient. He could be relied upon to do his masters’ bidding dutifully and with mechanical efficiency. The ideal person to manage the setting-up of the new apparatus of the British state in Scotland. But not the man to operate it.

Some people design and build racing cars. Others drive them. The same applies to bulldozers. And to the machinery of state oppression. Not the state oppression of old. Not the crude, strong-arm oppression of medieval times. Nor the overwhelming, ‘might and main’ oppression of European imperialism. Nor even the relentlessly menacing oppression of the 20th century totalitarian state. Modern state oppression is more subtle. More efficient. More insidious.

Some will object to the use of the term ‘state oppression’ in this context. But think it through. Oppression is subjugation by means of superior power. Who can sensibly deny that the original purpose of the Union was subjugation of Scotland by the superior power of England. Those who seek to preserve this subjugating Union will insist that it has changed over time. They claim that it is a “partnership of equals”; a voluntary collaborative enterprise for mutual benefit. But is that what we see when we look at the way the Union functions?

Is there anything that has happened in the last decade that looks at all like a “partnership of equals” in operation? Is there anything about current relations between Scotland and England that seems “voluntary” or “collaborative”? From the appalling Project Fear to the impertinence of EVEL; the contemptuous disregard for Scotland’s Remain vote; the exclusion of the Scottish Government from Brexit negotiations; the seizure of repatriated EU powers; the denial of Scotland’s right of self-determination; to the competitive Jock-bashing of the Tory leadership campaign and the emergence of an unelected shadow administration accountable, not to the people of Scotland, but to a British executive wielding powers akin to those of an absolute monarch, nothing in any of this speaks of anything other than the subjugation of Scotland by the successors of those who imposed the Union on us more than three centuries ago.

What distinguishes Unionists is that they are in denial about this subjugation. What distinguishes British Nationalists is that they believe this subjugation be the ‘natural order’. What distinguishes campaigners for the restoration of Scotland’s independence is that we refuse to accept this subjugation, considering it a gross insult to the people of Scotland and an affront to democracy.

As awareness of the true nature of the Union has grown, the British establishment has been obliged to respond. That response has been much as we would expect of an oppressor. It follows the perverse logic that if oppression is failing then the solution must be more oppression.

We are not, of course, talking about overt oppression of the kind that relies on batons, CS gas and prison cells. The British state has had centuries to perfect methods of oppression which are, as has been noted, more subtle and insidious; not to mention more cost-effective. The tools of the 21st century oppressor are media and money. Adroitly deployed, these can be every bit as effective as more brutal forms of oppression – and a lot less messy. Modern oppressors don’t occupy the land with military garrisons. They occupy minds with propaganda. They don’t control the populace by means of physical force. They control the people by means of economic pressure.

David Mundell has served his masters well. Doubtless, he will be rewarded as loyal servants of the British ruling elite usually are, with some sinecure or title. For the moment, however, he has been unceremoniously cast aside in favour of someone considered better qualified to actually run the shadow administration that Mundell has been instrumental in establishing. Someone with a rather different skill set.

Alister Jack is the enforcer. Now that the infrastructure has been put in place, the British state needs someone to make sure it works effectively. This requires a certain ruthlessness. Not the violent mercilessness of the vicious despot. But the cold pitilessness of the business executive. Someone who will move the pieces around the board with the same focus on the bottom line whether they are people or plant. Someone who will be quite unmoved by arguments from principle if these get in the way of the deal.

A faithful old retainer such as Mundell has his uses. But the ‘One Nation’ project requires someone who can act on their own initiative. Someone who can manoeuvre and manipulate on the fly. Someone who can spot opportunities and jump on them without waiting for instructions from head office.

The UK Government in Scotland is, unquestionably, the most important part of the British Nationalist ‘One Nation’ project. It is crucial that the British establishment get the right person to run it. Alister “Union” Jack’s educational, business and political background is such as would, in an earlier time, have fitted him well to the role of colonial governor. It’s not difficult to see why he was considered the perfect candidate to take on the task of dismantling Scotland’s democratic institutions and readying the country for exploitation on a massive scale.



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Metamorphosis

Writing in The National, Ruth Wishart offers an excellent analysis of the not-so-subtle change from Scottish Office to UK Government in Scotland. I would only make the point that the start of this process coincided only coincidentally with the coming of “the UK’s coalition government”. What triggered the metamorphosis was the British parties losing control of the Scottish Parliament.

The day Alex Salmond took office as First Minister was the day the British establishment decided that Holyrood had to be reined in, or closed down. It is that imperative to put the Scottish Parliament back in its box which has driven the transformation of the role of the Secretary of State for Scotland from being Scotland’s representative in the UK cabinet to being the British state’s overseer in Scotland.

This is not a controversial observation. Even the British government has dropped any pretence that the Scotland Office exists for the benefit of Scotland and its people. In this instance, it is totally accurate to say that ‘everybody knows’ what Alister “Union” Jack’s remit is.

The metamorphosis of the old Scottish Office is not yet complete. It will soon emerge as an unelected shadow administration accountable, not to Scotland’s voters, but solely to the British executive. A British government department to govern a British territory in the interests of the British ruling elite.

Wielding powers similar to those of a colonial Governor-General, the head of this department is tasked with undermining, side-lining and by-passing the democratically elected Scottish Parliament in whatever ways he considers will be most effective. To this end, he will be given a generous budget funded entirely by Scottish taxpayers. Money will be siphoned from the Scottish budget and diverted from the replacement for EU funding.

Within a very short time, Alister “Union” Jack will plead that he has insufficient powers to do his job properly. He will call for ever more powers to be transferred to his department from the Scottish Parliament in order that he might more effectively create the “UK-wide common frameworks” that are a transparent euphemism for direct rule from London. This will include powers which will allow him to sanction fracking as an economic necessity and bring NHS Scotland into line with NHS England the better to facilitate privatisation and a sell-off to US corporations which will not do any kind of deal while a ‘lefty’ Scottish Government has control of Scotland’s public health service.

As powers are stripped from the Scottish Parliament, responsibilities will be left. Successful projects will be plastered with Union flags and the UK Government in Scotland will take the credit, while the British media will help to ensure the blame for any failure is placed squarely on the shoulders of the SNP administration.

The British establishment regards the Scottish Parliament as a problem. Has done since at least 2007. The UK Government in Scotland is the solution to that problem. The fact that it is an affront to every principle of democracy and an insult to the people of Scotland is of no consequence. Jealous Britannia will have her way.

The British establishment has, in fact, regarded Scotland as a problem for considerably more than 300 years. Devolution was intended to deal with that problem. That has backfired rather badly. The British Nationalist ‘One Nation’ project is seen as the final solution to the ‘Scottish problem’.

As Ruth Wishart says, “time is very much of the essence”. If we are to halt this ‘One Nation’ Project before Scotland’s democracy is dismantled and our very identity obliterated in a storm of Union flags, we must act NOW to #DissolveTheUnion.



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