The Inadequates

I knew. You knew. Pretty much everybody knew that Jackson Carlaw wasn’t up to the job. Not that the job is massively demanding. But it was fairly obvious he was going to crash and burn sooner rather than later. There’s a fatal flaw in Jackson Carlaw’s character that renders him unsuited to the role of leader of the Scottish Tories. He isn’t shallow enough.

That may seem counter-intuitive. But think about it! By the standards of the population as a whole you have to be exceptionally superficial to be among the British politicians squatting in the Scottish Parliament. Consider the basic qualifications. As a representative of a British political party you are seeking election to an institution that you neither trust nor respect. You do not recognise the authority of the Scottish Parliament. You do not accept that it speaks for the people of Scotland. At the extreme, you would have the whole thing dismantled tomorrow.

You are standing for a fake party. However successful the British media have been at obscuring the truth, the fact remains that the British parties in Scotland are not real political parties. They are mere offshoots of the actual parties. They have no autonomy. They decide nothing. They cannot make policy independently of the party bosses in England. Arguably the largest part of your function as an MSP simply doesn’t exist if you represent one of the British parties. Moreover and for the most part you agree that this policy-making role doesn’t belong in your hands and must be left to your superiors.

Another major part of the role of an opposition MSP – the terms ‘British party’ and ‘opposition MSP’ being virtually synonymous – is also all but entirely absent. Being from one of the British parties you will not be called upon to do very much in the way of scrutinising government policy. In most instances you will default to the ‘Bain Principle’. Also referred to with the hashtag #SNPBAD, this is the automatic and unthinking assumption that if it emanates from the SNP it must be opposed. There are exceptions. Some things are not easy to speak against. But as a rule you will not be required to even look at proposed legislation. As a British party MSP you will be provided with a list of stock words and phrases which can be deployed regardless of the content. Things like ‘ill-considered’ and ‘draconian’.

Thinking is not required. In fact, thinking is actively discouraged if you are an MSP for one of the British parties. Sometimes this discouragement can be too successful. Look at the likes of James Kelly and Murdo Fraser for examples of British party MSPs who have taken to intellectual abstinence as if born to it.

Of course, if you’re not thinking, you’re not thinking things through. You will tend to be oblivious to the consequences of whatever you say and do. An aspect of this is something I call constrained thinking. As a British party MSP you will be expected to think things through only as far as the first thing that can be used against the SNP administration or any organisation or institution that is closely associated with that administration – Police Scotland and NHS Scotland being two examples of what can stand as a proxy for the hated SNP. Damage the NHS and you hurt the SNP. That’s the guiding principle for British party MSPs.

I use the word ‘principle’ very loosely here. Because principles are not useful if you are part of the British political elite. Come to think of it, the word ‘elite’ may be inappropriate too – given that we are not only talking about that part of the British establishment which extends into the annexed territory of Scotland, but the small subset of same which chooses to squat in the Scottish Parliament. I hesitate to use the term ‘dregs’. But it is generally allowed even within the British parties in Scotland that the squatter contingent is what’s left over when those with larger egos and ambitions to match have headed south.

Getting back to those ‘principles’ that for British parties are advantageous in direct proportion to their absence, it may be said that anything resembling a moral or ethical code is a distinct handicap for a British party MSP. As much as or perhaps more than in the case of others who aspire to the British political elite. Bear in mind that these are people who have sought election to Scotland’s national Parliament, not to champion their constituents nor to defend and further the interests of the Scottish nation, but to represent solely the interests of England-as-Britain. Where there is a choice to be made, British MSPs will tend to favour the British state and the Union at whatever cost to the people of Scotland. I feel no need to expand on something we have all witnessed and continue to see enacted every day.

Given the foregoing it should not be surprising to find the the most important deficiency for a British party MSP is a total lack of self-awareness. Some can survive even encumbered by principles. We immediately think of Malcolm Chisholm in this regard. But none can rise to any prominence unless they have rid themselves of any capacity to be embarrassed or ashamed. Or even to reflect on whatever they’ve done that would normally be expected to induce embarrassment or shame.

Of course, the more the individual British party MSP is required by the duties of office to appear and speak in public the greater the need for lack of self-awareness. Because, self-evidently, being a public figure brings both increased scrutiny and more opportunities to do or say something cringeworthy or outrageous. The British party MSP cannot afford to be affected by any of this. Aided by an entourage of sycophantic advisers and such, the British party spokesperson will remain convinced that they are performing brilliantly despite having just appeared before a TV audience of millions delivering a catalogue of gaffe and gaucherie with a string of luminous green snot hanging from their nose.

Jackson Carlaw’s problem, and the reason he has lasted mere months as ‘leader’ of the British Conservative & Unionist Party in Scotland (BCUPS) is not that he is lacking in deficiencies or that he is defect-challenged. It’s not that he is burdened with principles – as forensic examination will surely reveal. It’s not because he’s rendered unsuitable for the role due to possession of an intellect impressive enough to interfere with his performance. Quite simply, Jackson Carlaw isn’t shallow enough.

In terms of superficiality he cannot compete with his predecessor. He’s not in the same league as Richard Leonard, nominal ‘leader’ (pro tem) of British Labour in Scotland (BLiS). He doesn’t compare favourably with Willie Rennie, a man who is known for taking shallowness to the molecular level. Jackson Carlaw just hasn’t got the shallowness the job demands.

Not that I’m suggesting the possibility of hidden depths. Not a bit of it! To survive as BCUPS ‘leader’ it must be that the slings and arrows of cruel FMQs either bounce off a carapace of self-regard or pass straight through without hitting anything vital. Or anything at all. Jackson Carlaw’s frailty is a membrane of self-doubt that makes him vulnerable to the barbs. The skin is just thick enough for those barbs to stick.

Jackson Carlaw is inadequate. He’s inadequate enough to be a British party MSP. He’s just not inadequate enough to be the face and voice of British Nationalism in the Scottish Parliament. His going is neither to be mourned nor celebrated. Peak inadequacy has yet to be reached. All eyes are on Douglas Ross.

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Business as usual?

I don’t think it follows that the Scottish Government can simply assume that the people of Scotland are all going to fall in behind them when it comes to an election where we’re debating the future of Scotland after that.

Jacskon Carlaw

If Jackson Carlaw had stopped talking at that point then he would have looked considerably less pathetic. To say that no political party can take the voters for granted is merely to state the obvious. Although it does no harm for politicians to be reminded of this. Few things serve democracy so well as the shoogly peg.

But, of course, Carlaw couldn’t leave it there. He had to strut his stuff as Scotland’s leading British Nationalist. He had to establish his credentials as the figurehead of the British Nationalist cause in Scotland. He had to respond to the urging of his insecurity. And so he went on to do exactly what he was warning others against. He makes sweeping and simplistic assumptions about voters’ motivations.

I am not about to fall into the same error. But I strongly suspect that the people of Scotland may be setting their sights rather higher than Carlaw can possibly be comfortable with. I seriously doubt if, having been told that the Covid-19 pandemic changes everything, they are going to settle for some minor tweaks and cosmetic changes that leave the old order intact.

Carlaw’s words should serve as a warning to us. As Scotland emerges from the pandemic the British propaganda machine will be devoted to persuading us yet again that we should settle for less than we might have. That we should be less than we might be. That we should once again shy away from an opportunity to break the structures of power, privilege and patronage which advantage the few at incalculable cost to the many.

Decide now how you intend to respond to the efforts of Carlaw and his ilk to drag us back to “business as usual”.

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A BritNat referendum?

I doubt very much whether there are any senior ‘Scottish’ Tories who “now back indyref2”. It may well be that there are many senior ‘Sottish’ Tories who believe it necessary to rethink the arid and blatantly anti-democratic denial of Scotland’s right of self-determination which characterised Ruth Davidson’s reign as Queen of the BritNats. Which was, in fact, the sole characteristic of that undistinguished reign.

It would be surprising if anyone of normal intelligence wasn’t prompted to reconsider a one-line manifesto which, having hoovered up the votes of all Scotland’s most hard-line British Nationalists, had nowhere else to go. A party whose appeal is to the extreme must be limited by the appeal of that extreme. Its potential support hits a sharp cut-off point where that extreme comes up against the mass of moderate opinion. In electoral terms that cut-off point seems to be within a point or two of 20%. It is all but inevitable that some in the upper echelons of the ‘Scottish’ Tories must have recognised this. Even if Jackson Carlaw lacks the intellectual acuity and political nous to do so.

But advocating for a new independence referendum? I don’t think so. Preserving the Union is as much, perhaps more, of an imperative for British Tories as it is for the other British parties. None of the British parties will ever facilitate or tolerate any process which places the Union in jeopardy. The Union must be preserved at any cost to Scotland and its people. Unlike when David Cameron agreed to the 2014 referendum, a vote now would all but certainly favour the restoration of Scotland’s independence. So there is no way any senior ‘Scottish’ Tory is going to “back indyref2”. Unless they can be assured that the Yes campaign might be thwarted.

There is a strong possibility that those senior ‘Scottish’ Tories, along with other British Nationalists, have identified Nicola Sturgeon’s commitment to the Section 30 process as a weakness that they can exploit.

Andy Mciver is correct when he says that the SNP administration’s supposed policy problems aren’t sufficient to significantly weaken the party, far less have any knock-on effect on support for independence – which all but the most blinkered British Nationalists realise is a separate thing. But a referendum held under the constraints of the Section 30 process can quite readily be manipulated to greatly disadvantage the Yes side. After all, the whole purpose of Section 30 is to serve as a choke-chain on the Scottish Parliament. Given that the Scottish Parliament is crucial to any process which might lead to independence, the British political elite retains ultimate control so long as the Section 30 process is being adhered to.

The ‘Scottish’ Tories are unlikely to come out in favour of a new independence referendum. They cannot afford to lose the British Nationalist vote. But they may seek to broaden their electoral appeal by softening the rhetoric and being less openly anti-democratic. Carlaw will go wherever the political wind blows him. If it is decided that the party should go into the 2021 Holyrood elections portraying itself as grudgingly prepared to accept a new referendum on certain conditions, Carlaw will read whatever script is handed to him. The worst that might happen is that their vote would hold. Which is probably the best that they might realistically hope for.

Should this less strenuous opposition to a new referendum become apparent it may be seen as cause for cautious celebration in some quarters. It will certainly be hailed by the British media as making the ‘Scottish’ Tories more electable and Jackson Carlaw a credible contender for the office of First Minister. It may even be welcomed by the less thoughtful parts of the Yes movement. Which would be a serious error.

We must all be mindful of the fact that anything British Nationalists are prepared to countenance must, by definition, be contrary to the aims of the independence movement and against Scotland’s interests. Any referendum that British Nationalists find acceptable must be powerfully suspect from a Scottish perspective.

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A man of many ‘qualities’

Did you gag on the sickening hypocrisy of Jackson Carlaw talking about respecting democratic votes and honouring promises? This coming from someone in thrall to a British Nationalist ideology which says that democratic votes are only to be respected when doing so doesn’t compromise the Union or threaten the structures of entrenched power, unearned privilege and corrupt patronage which define the British state. An ideology which insists that the democratic choices of the people of Scotland are only valid when they happen to coincided with the choices of voters in England-as-Britain.

To compound this sickening hypocrisy, a man closely associated with the false promises of the anti-independence campaign presumes to lecture us about the importance of good faith. And even as he does so he lies. He trots out the threadbare falsehood about an undertaking that the 2014 referendum would be a “once in a generation” occurrence. Of course, no such undertaking was ever made. Indeed, no such undertaking could be made. Jackson Carlaw exhibits the British Nationalists’ characteristic ignorance of and contempt for democracy when he imagines any politician might have the authority to impose constraints or conditions on a nation’s right of self-determination.

Scour the Edinburgh Agreement as you may, you will find no mention of any ‘once in a generation” promise. Nor will you find it in the Scottish Independence Referendum Act 2013. Or in any other agreement, act or formal accord associated with the 2014 referendum. The “once in a generation” thing simply doesn’t exist. It never existed. Carlaw is a liar.

Carlaw is also a craven coward. Had he the courage of his British Nationalist convictions then he would take responsibility for his own anti-democratic dogma rather than trying to rationalise it by reference to an entirely mythical promise.

Hypocritical, duplicitous, mendacious and cowardly. Such are the ‘qualities’ British Nationalists bring to our politics. Scotland can do better.

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Playing the fool

This could be seen as a highly controversial statement, but Jackson Carlaw may not actually be an idiot. Calm down! I’m not saying he’s particularly clever. Only that it’s possible he may not be as daft as you would assume just from listening to him. He might be a man of normal intelligence. How would we know?

You see, as a British Nationalist politician, Carlaw is obliged to say really stupid things. It’s the same for all of them. They all have to behave in public as if they’re in an episode of ‘BritNats say the craziest things!’ They all have to act stupid, whether or not they actually are. Take Richard Leonard, for example. (In case you don’t recognise the name, he’s the nominal ‘leader’ of a particular British Nationalist clique calling itself ‘Scottish Labour’.) He has to pretend that, despite having been an MSP (Central Scotland Region) since 2016, he still doesn’t know which powers are reserved and which devolved. He must be aware that this makes him look woefully ill-informed and not very bright, but he happily accepts the sacrifice of his dignity in the name of the British ruling elites to whom he owes unquestioning loyalty.

They’re all at it. All the British politicians squatting in the Scottish Parliament have to act stupid as required by their sole mission to preserve the Union at whatever cost to the nation and people of Scotland. Some, like James Kelly, play the fool with effortless ease; unfailingly giving a performance that is utterly convincing. Quite how he does that thing with the slack jaw and the blank eyes is a mystery, and must be the envy of stars of stage and screen from the great method actors to Nicolas Cage.

So, when you hear Jackson Carlaw banging on about a non-existent “commitment” that the 2014 independence referendum was a “once in a generation” event, cut him some slack. He’s probably just hamming it up for the cameras. And go easy on him when he compounds this idiocy by insisting that, having made a decision on the basis of what they believe to be the circumstances prevailing, the people of Scotland should not be permitted another opportunity to exercise their right of self-determination for forty years. That’s eight parliamentary terms. Potentially eight different governments. To put it in some kind of perspective, there was only a little more than forty years separating the first powered flight and the breaking of the sound barrier.

A lot changes in a lot less than four decades. Someone who is just old enough to vote in the coming UK general election will be 58 years old by the time Carlaw thinks it appropriate for that person to make a choice about their nation’s constitutional status. It is, whatever way you look at it, a ludicrous proposition. Made all the more ludicrous by the fact that there never was any “commitment” such as Carlaw refers to. It never happened. There were a few instances of phrases such as “once in a lifetime”. But, unless you’re genuinely stupid or unfamiliar with the English language, it is clear from the context that these phrases are being used idiomatically and hyperbolically to describe the opportunity and not literally to describe the event.

What you will not find is any reference to “once in a generation/lifetime” in the Edinburgh Agreement or the Scottish Independence Referendum Act 2013 or any legislation or concord which would constitute a “commitment”.

It may well be argued that the SNP administration at the time gave a hostage to fortune when they used that phrase. Maybe they should have seen how British Nationalists might take a common expression and weave around it an entire script to be parroted by British Nationalist politicians doing their ‘village idiot’ routine. (A script that has to be kept simple if it is to be used by such as James Kelly and Boris Johnson.)

It could be said that the SNP acted foolishly on a few occasions. But that is a very different thing from acting the fool constantly, as Jackson Carlaw and his fellow British Nationalists are wont to do.

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The cancer

Jackson Carlaw is the individual who also complained about the Scottish Parliament Corporate Body purchasing an outfit for the use of Holyrood’s official piper. The cost was around £1,000. But the issue for Carlaw isn’t the expenditure of public funds. It’s the fact that official piper is one Stuart McMillan – Scottish National Party Member of the Scottish Parliament for the Greenock and Inverclyde constituency.

As the Scottish Parliament’s official piper Mr McMillan has played at numerous events and does not charge for services. He has thus saved the public purse rather more than the amount spent on the piper’s outfit which, in any case, remains the property of the Scottish Parliament.

I mention this to illustrate just how petty, puerile and senseless British Nationalists like Carlaw can be when it comes to attacking the hated SNP.

The issues surrounding the allegations against Alex Salmond and the conduct of the investigation by British civil servants are, of course, very far from being as trivial as other matter that the likes of Carlaw have latched onto in their desperation to smear any SNP figure. But Carlaw’s motives are just as malicious.

The bitter resentment and hatred of the SNP harboured by the British parties squatting in the Scottish Parliament is a cancer at the heart of Scotland’s politics. Our nation will not be well until we remove that tumour.

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