BY EFFIE DEANS
Scottish nationalists like to think of Britain as a mini European Union made up of four members and four different peoples. But their hatred of Britain is blinding them to what is happening, and I think this is why they are beginning to make a series of misjudgements.
We all have different ideas about how well or how badly the Government is handling the crisis. Mistakes have been made. A subsequent Inquiry will find fault and lessons will be learned.
Nicola Sturgeon has been on our television screens every day. She is a very good politician. In my view she is by far the best left-wing politician of the past two decades. She might have been the first woman leader of the Labour Party and she may well have led it to victory where Miliband and Corbyn failed. She communicates well and debates better than all but a very few politicians.
But the same thing that caused Sturgeon to become a politician and which drove her ever upwards is the tragic flaw that prevents her achievements being anything other than parochial. Someone should write a play called Lady MacSturgeon of Irvine. Is this Scottish independence I see before me? The Halo towards my hand. Come let me clutch thee.
In recent weeks Sturgeon has been performing well. She is not to my taste, so I rarely watch, but she has been very good indeed at pretending that she is running an independent Scotland and that she is in charge. She has done this by being invited to Cobra meetings, listening to what the experts say and then repeating it on Television. She has done it by pretending that Scottish wages and Scottish businesses are not being paid from the British Treasury and that the British Armed forces have not been building Nightingale Hospitals, flying in PPE from abroad and rescuing people who are dying in Scotland. She has been clutching an illusion.
If Sturgeon had made different choices, she might right now have been running things from 10 Downing Street. Instead she pretends to run things from Bute House. This is indeed tragic.
The illusion of power may please Scottish nationalists and the fact that Sturgeon is on Television pretending that she is running things may cause her and her party to be a little more popular than otherwise, but it doesn’t change the reality.
The reality is that Britain is actually working rather well compared to the European Union.
The devolved parts of Britain are cooperating very well indeed with the Government. There may be slight differences here and there. Sturgeon may suggest that we wear MacMasks and MacScarves if we are ever in a situation where we can’t self-isolate. It’s hard to think of what such a situation might be, but at least there is a Scottish policy on the issue. She may pretend that Scotland will go it alone on lock-down, but the truth is that if schools in England open and it causes no disaster then Nicola will come tumbling after.
Sturgeon doesn’t have her own set of Scottish experts behind the scenes. She doesn’t have a Scottish Treasury paying the bills. The fact that she puts a Mac before everything and gives it an Irvine accent doesn’t change the truth.
While the parts of the European Union are failing to cooperate with each other the British people are united against a common invisible enemy. While the German Supreme Court questions whether the European Central Bank can use German money to bail out Italy, Spain and Greece British money goes where it is needed without question.
Imagine if Britain really was like the European Union and the Bank of England refused to pay the wages of Scottish furloughed workers, but that would never happen because we are all equally British citizens who live in the same country.
The borders are going up all over Europe. Each country has its own policy and its own experts. But they lack what we have. While we will help every part of Britain without limit, the richer members of the European Union will only grudgingly give to the poorer parts. There is no common European people and European citizenship is an illusion, because it doesn’t give you what either British or German citizenship gives you. It doesn’t make you a compatriot. This is why Germans won’t pay Italian bills. The European Union is neither European nor a Union. It is an illusion clutched at.
Nicola Sturgeon’s beloved European Union would not have bailed out Scotland if we had voted for independence in 2014 and the price of oil which we were relying on to feed us had suddenly for a brief moment in 2020 turned negative.
As her popularity soars, she has become the leader of a party without a policy. Britain will have debts like we did on VE day in 1945 when this is over. Not least we will have an obligation to each other for the shared help we received in a shared battle. More importantly we will have demonstrated how unity of purpose and cooperation in Britain works. This was the lesson in 1945. It is the same lesson now. Saint Nicola Sturgeon would do well to learn it and pay less attention to ambition or adulation. Or she will be left clutching at halos.
The excellent Effie Deans writes at Lily of St. Leonard’s here.