KAREN ADAM: Comments by Liz Truss were attack on democracy
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The relationship of ‘to ignore’ and ‘to remain ignorant’, or put differently, between telling people to ignore a person, their political message or by implication that of the people of Scotland as ‘irrelevant’, is of course related to whether you wish to promote understanding, respect and truth.
The red meat comments thrown to the Tory faithful at a debate in Exeter surely reveals a deeply disturbing dip into the dystopian abyss (of Trump or Johnson) as to what truth is, and why it is increasingly recognised that such persistent ignorance poses a deep challenge to democracy. To take only one example – albeit an especially distressing one – people are told to ignore or approach as attention-seeking the role of human activity in climate change, and the various risks that it poses, and can bask in ignorance why we burn or are flooded etc.
And if it’s an onslaught against Nicola Sturgeon, it’s against a political mandate over a series of elections, and by implication, it’s an attack on the democratic will of the people of Scotland as manifested at Holyrood. So we are all simply attention seekers who will go away if you ignore us. Just brush us aside like the dust on your shoes.
What happened during that election debate was truly horrific (I’m not even including the references to blocking Scotland off by building a wall – although that is Trumpian in itself), but the comment has undoubtedly been met with anger in Scotland, with deputy first minister John Swinney calling the language “completely and utterly unacceptable”.
Indeed, how can Scotland be expected to be at the heart of the UK when the democratically elected leader of our country is, in the view of the person most likely to be the next Prime Minister of the UK, somebody that should be ignored? Is this not a fine example of political gaslighting? We are being asked to question our own democratic mindset as faulty, deluded and pointless.
Barack Obama once spoke of the first rule of leadership as ‘don’t do stupid s**t’ and I note with interest that the Tory leaning Spectator commented, “this Tory leadership contest offers ample reasons for thinking neither Rishi Sunak nor Liz Truss is remotely capable of being prime minister.” They went further: “Liz Truss’s comments in Exeter last night that Nicola Sturgeon is merely an ‘attention seeker’ who should be ‘ignored’, rather as one might suggest a stroppy child should ideally be neither seen nor heard, were excruciating.”
Liz Truss has a clear lead in the Tory leadership race and could be the Prime Minister during the future independence referendum. Is this a partnership of equals? Is this a relationship based on respect?
The comments will infuriate pro-independence Scots as well as those opposed. With a naïve piece of rhetoric fuelled by personal ambition and popularism, Liz Truss has fundamentally undermined the argument unionists put forward: that Scotland, somehow, can be trusted and well treated within a Westminster run United Kingdom.
All this whilst the grown-ups in the room place the matter for now in the hands of the Supreme Court on the question of whether the Scottish government can unilaterally hold a referendum without prior consent from London and within the law. If the bid fails, the SNP will contest the next general election on the issue of whether or not Scotland should be an independent country, as the First Minister announced in June.
For now, the tone in which Scotland is discussed, matters much more than many English Tories appear to recognise. Truss’s comments were crude enough; the audience in Exeter with their Trumpian whooping and hollering in response was a touch of the lynch mob and distasteful. Respectfully, these people have little idea of the realities in Scotland and they are not afraid to demonstrate that. They might think they are only speaking as and to Tory members, but they might from time to time remember that other folk are listening, watching and learning from their actions.