It didn’t take long for the BBC to need a bit of a rest from the potentially terminal crisis facing Britain. By yesterday afternoon the story of the decade, if not of the entire post-war era, had been pushed downpage on its website in favour of the shattering news – from which we all still recovering with some difficulty – that Chris Evans, one of its employees, had 'resigned’ as co-presenter of a motoring programme.
By the way, I was wrong in my assumption that the ghastly Johnson, since his fall from grace, was no longer being addressed in headlines as 'Boris’. An informant in the far north assures me that, as SR went online with this erroneous claim, the headline on the BBC website read: 'Set out Brexit positives, urges Boris’. In the interests of equity, should the Evans story later in the day not have been headed: 'Chris resigns from Top Gear’? Or how about: 'No guarantees for EU nationals, pledges Theresa’?
By this morning, the public service broadcaster – already under fire for its disservice to democracy by the fatuous extremes to which it took its duty of impartiality in the EU referendum campaign – had fled to the hills. No, it hadn’t. It had actually gone into orbit – with the story of the Nasa probe, which it assured us was 'ready to undertake a survey of what lies beneath the giant planet’s obscuring clouds’.
On a somewhat smaller planet – our own – it rained incessantly in many parts of Britain yesterday. The obscuring clouds were indeed obscuring. Yet a study of what lay beneath would have revealed to the BBC, if it were in the least interested, that a civilised society is falling apart before our eyes.
We have a home secretary, the bookies’ favourite to be the next prime minister, who refers to the EU nationals living in this country as 'those people’ during a television interview; who refuses to give them any undertaking about their future; who declines to go to Parliament to explain and defend her position; and who leaves the dirty work of facing the House of Commons to a junior minister. No doubt this heartless exhibition will be applauded by her friends at the Daily Mail and endear her to the anti-migrant mob also known as the membership of the Conservative Party – who, in fine democratic fashion, will decide for us who is to be the next leader of the country.
Did I really say a few days ago that I 'respected’ Theresa May? I wish to offer a full and unqualified apology. The readers of the Scottish Review have every reason to be disappointed in me, as I am in myself. (I’ve just pinched that from a full and unqualified apology on another matter by Ayr's very own Niall Ferguson. It's a classic of its kind.)
May’s main rival for the crown, now that Gove has been exposed as a traitor, a gossip and a tippler, is one Andrea Leadsom, a banker, alleged tax avoider and devout Christian, who has, as they say, risen without trace in a matter of hours; she is so resistible in everything she says and stands for that I fear she may be known in these parts as Andrea Loathsom. When challenged at the weekend, she refused to rule out Farage as a member of her Brexit negotiating team – she is that bad.
Loathsom said yesterday that the UK government should give an unequivocal commitment to Britain’s 3m EU nationals. But would you necessarily believe her? This is the same banker, alleged tax avoider and devout Christian who only three years ago was dreading the 'economic disaster’ that would follow if Britain left the European Union. Since then, she informs us, echoing the psycho-babble of the age, that she has been 'on a journey’. Is that really the best she can do? We are all on a journey, and a smug, intolerant England cut off from the world and led by Loathsom no longer feels like a destination worth heading for.
For the honest voice of Ukip, hark to the words of Lord Pearson of Rannoch. Lord who? He, vigilant readers may recall, is the former leader of the party who resigned when he admitted on television that he had no idea what was contained in its poisonous manifesto. Quite big in deer-stalking circles; known for his extreme utterances on Islam – you know the type; they own half of Scotland.
'Do the government agree’, he said in the Lords yesterday, 'that if the EU were to get difficult with the [UK] nationals living there, it is we who hold the stronger hand if we retaliate, because so many more of them are living here?’ What his lordship is saying – what Theresa May is also saying in more polite terms – is that EU nationals in Britain are in effect to be hostages in negotiations. And they are saying it in a Britain where our friends and fellow Europeans are already subjected to harassment, threat and abuse.
In the last 14 years, since the Scottish Review’s charity launched the Young Programme, it has been our privilege to work with outstanding young people from many of the EU’s nation states. They have come here in good faith to study, to work, to contribute positively to the life of our communities.
From the many living in Scotland who have taken part in our programme, here are a few examples of 'those people’:
R from Greece: works for an environmental charity; tai chi teacher; bassist in an Edinburgh band
R from Ireland: staffer at one of the Scottish universities; volunteers for the Samaritans and at the Special Olympics
S from Poland: student; volunteer at a child law centre
A from Poland: represents the interests of voluntary organisations to the Scottish Parliament; director of a family support centre
M from Poland: nominated by the Scottish Refugee Council; volunteered to work in a refugee camp in Istanbul for unaccompanied children and in a school for Iraqi asylum seekers; has helped to set up an international network supporting refugee minors
L from Hungary: works for NHS practitioner services; volunteers for a human rights organisation; advocates for asylum seekers
C from France: plant pathologist; campaigns for public engagement in science
O from Spain: assistant economist with the Scottish Government
L from Denmark: volunteers with a children’s charity; researching for an MSc; group secretary for a Save the Children support group
N from Sweden: student; volunteers at the Refugee Survival Trust
All of them – and the many more we have worked with over the years – are admirable people, assets to the society and culture of Scotland. The idea that we will be deprived of their energy, idealism and talent is abhorrent; and the prospect that they are meanwhile condemned to lives of fear and insecurity is unbearable.
A grave injustice is being done by the UK government and its home secretary. When the BBC is finished with disc jockeys and planetary probes, it might care to look under the obscuring clouds and consider how much longer Scotland will be prepared to tolerate a regime for which it never voted, an outcome that it emphatically opposed, and a society that it finds increasingly and profoundly hostile.