Conservative MPs and MSPs pop up like mushrooms in a cowpat-strewn field whenever there’s an opportunity to condemn Thatessempee for something. It doesn’t matter what. Thatessempee can be condemned for things that are actually the responsibility of the UK Government – like broadband provision – and failing that they can always be condemned for things that the Conservatives have made up – like changing the rules about flying Union flags. Conservatives care a great deal about flags because they’re not nationalists. The point however, is that the Scottish media is generally hoatching with Tory spokesfrothers getting outraged about something that Thatessempee has done, even if it’s quite imaginary or someone else’s responsibility.
Compare and contrast with the dearth of responses from the Tories after the UK Government’s Brexit impact assessments were leaked. Despite rubbishing the Scottish Government’s impact assessment of the economic effects of Brexit on Scotland, and condemning it as over-the-top scaremongering from Thatessempee, it transpired that the Conservative government’s very own economic assessment of Brexit showed that the malign effects of Conservative-led Little Britainery on Scotland are going to be at least as bad and possibly even worse than the Scottish Government’s forecasts.
Despite what the Conservatives have been telling us, there can be no such thing as a good Brexit, or a Brexit that works for Scotland. There are only varying degrees of damage limitation, rather like there is after Ross Thomson makes a public pronouncement, come to think of it.
You might imagine that this is a story of considerable public interest. You might think that the Scottish media and the BBC would be door-stepping Conservative politicians about it like they do when an SNP MSP says something daft on social media.
But for once, the Scottish media was a Tory-free zone. The once ubiquitous Scottish Tories were nowhere to be seen. Not even staring plaintively from a milk carton underneath a legend saying MISSING in large lettering. The Scottish Conservatives were as silent in the media as they are in UK Government discussions about the future of Brexit. All there was was a general press statement from No 10 that the report didn’t cover the Prime Minister’s favoured outcome of a special bespoke deal. The fact that the super-special bespoke deal wasn’t covered in the report was because it was dealing with reality, and not outcomes which are only going to occur in the imaginations of people who believe that Brexit ill deliver £350 million a week for the NHS and free unicorns for everyone.
The various news stories about the alarming reality of the damage that Brexit is going to cause were remarkably free of comments and responses from the usual Scottish Tory suspects. Yet again when there is bad news for the Tories, Ruth Davidson was nowhere to be seen, as she always is whenever her Westminster bosses have demonstrated that the Tories are as toxic as they ever were. David Mundell, the supposed voice of Scotland in the UK Cabinet, who had denied the existence of the report, declined to be interviewed by the BBC or anyone else. There was not even so much as a tweet from Murdo Fraser, an MSP who normally suffers from chronic Twitterrhoea.
The very same day that all this was going on, a new Scottish Conservative party political broadcast was aired. Well, I say a Scottish Conservative party political broadcast, you wouldn’t have thought from viewing it that you were watching a puff piece from the party of the UK Government.
The Scottish Conservatives don’t want us to think of them as the ruling political party that’s responsible for ripping away the last shreds of social support from the poor and the disabled, for the embarrastrophe of Brexit, and for the destruction of the devolution settlement. Most disappointingly, there wasn’t even an appearance from anyone who vaguely resembled David Torrance.
The Scottish Conservatives want us to think of them as rather more the kind of charity that finds middle-class students socially useful things to do on their gap years, like picking up litter on beaches, or speaking in a vaguely condescending manner to elderly people who’ve brought along some stuffed toys and brightly coloured crayons so that they can explain their problems to Annie Wells.
Brexit and how it’s going to wreak far greater economic damage on Scotland than we were claiming independence would? Oh that’s got nothing do with us. No sirree. Nope. Not us. Look, here’s Bill Grant talking about how his da was a miner, and we’re not going to mention that the closest thing we’ve got to a tax plan is to give away money to rich people.
The entire exercise in policy-free cringery was topped off with a statement from the Supreme Leader herself. Sadly she didn’t have any policies either, not unless you count obsessively going on about how Thatessempee are obsessed with independence as a policy. The entire schtick about the Scottish Conservatives being the doughty party of opposition in Scotland would be a whole lot more convincing if they weren’t actually the party which was making unilateral changes to the devolution settlement without bothering to consult with the Scottish Parliament or the Scottish people. Ruth Davidson used to think that Brexit would be a disaster for Scotland, and now that it’s been proven that it will be a disaster, she doesn’t want to talk about it. That’s getting on with the day job Tory style, and letting Ruth get away with it is getting on with the day job Scottish Unionist media style.