Donald Trump should be a warning not an inspiration for Scotland's politicians – Christine Jardine

I had the strangest dream the other night. Not the sort you would want to proclaim Martin Luther King style, however. No, this was more of a ‘wake up startled and try to put it out of your mind quickly’ sort of vision.

In this sleep-induced scenario, some Donald Trump sound-alike was holding court in Edinburgh, draped in tartan, surrounded by saltires and spouting endless meaningless slogans. Fortunately, they had stopped short of wearing a bright blue Tam O’Shanter bearing the motif “Make Alba Great Again”.

And people in the crowd which had gathered were not all there to cheer and applaud the separatist dream being espoused at the flag-laden centre of events. No. Many of those in the imaginary demonstration were instead calling for help for the nurses and other health workers who have to cope with long shifts looking after wards with too many patients and too few staff.

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There were parents and teachers calling for politicians’ attention to turn to improvements to our beleaguered education system to ensure that the next generation of children have the best chances in life possible. At the back of the crowd were a group of pensioners, largely ignored, huddled together around one of those old-fashioned braziers you used to see on building sites, warming their hands with mugs of tea and talking about the good old days.

Once awake to reality again, I made myself a cuppa and put the weird dream down to a day in the Commons arguing about the Supreme Court ruling that put paid to SNP plans for Holyrood to stage Indyref2.

I had not expected to experience the mix of conflicting emotions from relief to frustration that accompanied what was the most unsurprising of outcomes to a legal point on constitutional process. Yet it had managed to drown out discussion of those issues which impact most on our lives at the moment, and are what so many of the people who contact me each day or that I meet in the street or at social events want to talk about.

Politicians of all parties are often accused of living in either a Westminster or Holyrood bubble. Of being unaware of what is going on beyond the confines of the corridors of parliament. This was certainly true of many of my colleagues this week.

Even some who share their nationalist ambitions were privately questioning whether the SNP was really paying attention to the crises that are engulfing us. Others suggested that the whole episode might actually be in response to those same crises, and a tactic to distract from the mismanagement at Holyrood, and the rumoured internal divisions at Westminster.

Scottish politicians must not be reduced to the flag-waving and meaningless slogans of Donald Trump (Picture: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)Scottish politicians must not be reduced to the flag-waving and meaningless slogans of Donald Trump (Picture: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
Scottish politicians must not be reduced to the flag-waving and meaningless slogans of Donald Trump (Picture: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

I tend to think it’s more that, for some of their party, the separatist crusade obscures all other issues from their consciousness, along with the reality that they may not be saying what those outside their bubble currently want to hear. I am as tired of saying it as I am sure some of you are of reading it, but they are not the only or even the biggest voice in Scotland’s democracy.

At the last Scottish parliamentary elections only 47 per cent of our electorate voted for the SNP and combined with the Green vote on the regional list that figure rose to only 48 per cent. That is not a majority of those who took part and it is even further adrift from 50 per cent when it is taken as a proportion of those who are entitled to vote.

Similarly at the last General Election in 2019, the SNP gained 45 per cent of the vote – the same percentage as in the 2014 referendum, the outcome of which they refuse to accept.

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I know that there are many people in Scotland, including some my own constituents, who would want to take a different route from the one I favour. That they do not agree that a departure from the United Kingdom would have a similarly damaging effect on our economy as leaving the EU is clearly having. And I know that they accept a different analysis of how our economic, social and political future would look if we left the protective structure that we have enjoyed for 300 years.

But not only do I respect their right to that opinion but throughout our now decade-long debate, I have constantly challenged my own views and checked that I am not simply adhering to some outdated and unrealistic dogma. I have never doubted that Scotland could be independent, but my view is that it is not the best future we could have. Neither is the status quo.

I want to see devolution progress to a more federal structure for the whole of the UK. But at the moment there are more pressing and, in many cases, life-threatening issues that we have to deal with. Our constitutional considerations can wait.

That is why turning on the TV to see the metaphor of my dream reflected in news footage from Scotland and then to hear both sides of the argument hurling Trump-related insults about on social media brought my frustration to a new height.

Surely, we will not make the mistake of disappearing down the same flag-lined, slogan-heavy, progress-light rabbit hole which has swallowed up so many US politicians. There is too much work to do.

Christine Jardine is the Scottish Liberal Democrat MP for Edinburgh West



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