Gove ann an Steòrnabhagh a’ dùsgadh cuimhne air àm eachdraidheil, le Murray MacLeòid

Bha Mìcheal Gove ann an Steòrnabhagh an t-seachdain seo agus abair fhèin gun robh e airson innse gun robh e gu bhith a’ gabhail pàirt ann an coinneamh dhen chaibineat fhad ‘s a bha e ann.

Michael Gove dials into a Cabinet meeting from his accommodation in Stornoway. (Picture: Fiona Rennie)
Michael Gove dials into a Cabinet meeting from his accommodation in Stornoway. (Picture: Fiona Rennie)

[English-language version below]

Tha fios gun robh seo co-dhiù ann am pàirt mu dheidhinn a bhith a’ togail aire gu cùisean, le dealbhan air an cur a-mach ga shealltainn air beulaibh coimpiutair agus e a’ bruidhinn ris a' chòrr dhen Riaghaltas.

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Tha fios gur e nàdar de phlòigh a bha seo, ach dh’fhaodadh e a bhith na chomharra air dè tha a’ tighinn agus e ag ràdh “le cinnt gum bi coinneamhan den chaibineat air an cumail ann an Alba sna mìosan ri thighinn”.

Tha fhios g’ eil iad dhen bheachd gun deàn seo rud beag de dh’eadar-dhealachadh nuair a thig e gu aire muinntir na h-Alba a ghlacadh. Bha Mìcheal Gove a’ togail tric air a thuras air an fhacal “co-obrachadh” (Cha tuirt e e, ach bha e a’ feuchainn ris an smuain fhàgail nach eil an taobh eile dhen aon dhol a-mach).

‘S iongantach mur h-e seo a’ chiad uair a-riamh a ghabh ministear bho Riaghaltas Bhreatainn pàirt anns a’ Chaibineat agus e fhèin na shuidhe ann an taigh-òsta anns na h-eileanan.

Ach tha e a’ toirt beò dhuinn tachartas eile ann an eachdraidh.

‘S e Aonta Inbhir Nis fear de na laghan as cudromaiche ann an eachdraidh riaghladh Bhreatainn, air ainmeachadh an dèidh mar chaidh coinneamh èiginneach dhan chaibineat a chumail ann am prìomh bhaile na Gàidhealtachd.

San t-Sultain 1921, bha am Prìomhaire David Lloyd George air a shaor-làithean ann an Geàrrloch. B’ e àm duilich a bha ann. Bha an eaconamaidh ann an staing – bha còrr air dheich sa cheud gun obair – agus bha mar a chrìochnaich Cogadh Neo-eisimleachd na h-Èireann a’ ciallachadh gu feumadh saorsa air choireigin a thoirt dhaibh.

Aig an àm, bha oighreachdan na Gàidhealtachd a’ tarraing an t-uabhas de dh’uaisealan; bha e mar St Tropez an-diugh, ach an àite grian is fìon bha clò is meanbh-chuileag.

Chan e a-mhàin gun robh Lloyd George ann an Geàrrloch, ach bha an iar phrìomhaire air oighreachd ann an Siorrachd Inbhir Nis agus Rìgh Seòras V anns a’ Mhoigh.

Le suidheachadh na h-Èireann a’ fàs èiginneach, dh’iarr Lloyd George air a’ Chaibineat tighinn gu tuath agus rinn iad sin.

Ann an Talla-bhaile Inbhir Nis, chaidh coinneamh dhen Chaibineat a ghairm agus chaidh am bunait airson cùmhnant a bheireadh saorsa dha Èirinn aontachadh.

Chuir an dà riaghaltas an ainm ris san Dùbhlachd, a’ cruthachadh an rud a dh’aithnicheas sinne an-diugh mar Phoblachd na h-Èireann (ged a bhiodh bliadhnachan fhathast ann mus tigeadh iad a-mach bho eismeil na Bànrigh).

Thuige seo, ‘s e sin fhathast an aon triup a chaidh coinneamh de Chaibineat Bhreatainn a chumail taobh a-muigh Westminster no Chequers agus tha e a’ ciallachadh gu bheil àite eachdraidheil aig prìomh bhaile na Gàidhealtachd ann am bùnrachd Bhreatainn agus Èireann.

Ma thà na bha Gove ag ràdh ceart, agus cuimhnich gur e fear a tha ann a tha àrd san Riaghaltas, tha seo a’ dol a dh’fhàs nas cumanta, ged a tha e ri fhaicinn dè cho soirbheachail ‘s a bhios sin ann an a bhith a' toirt barrachd dhaoine ann an Alba gu taobh an aonaidh. Leis an t-seòrsa bheachd a th’ aig a’ mhòr-chuid de dh’Albannaich air Boris Johnson, bhiodh e na b’ fheàrr dha-san co-dhiù, fuireach far a bheil e.

Fios bhon neach-deasachaidh:

Tapa leibh airson an aithris a tha seo a leughadh. Tha sinn an eismeil ur taic nas motha na bha riamh agus buaidh a’ Choronbhirus air buaidh a thoirt air luchd sanasachd. Mur eil sibh air a dhèanamh mar-tha, ma se ur toil, nach beachdaich sibh taic a chumail ri ar obair-naidheachd earbsach, a tha sinn a’ dearbhadh a tha fìor, le bhith toirt a-mach ballrachd digiteach.

Michael Gove’s participation in a meeting of the Cabinet while visiting Stornoway earlier this week was no doubt partly inspired from a publicity perspective, with photos emerging of him sitting in his island hotel in front of the laptop while (seemingly anyway) engaged with the rest of the government.

A deliberate ploy though it may have been, it is also indicative of the future as he took the opportunity to make clear that they will “definitely have Cabinet meetings in Scotland in the months to come”.

The hope, clearly, is that all this will make some sort of difference in the battle for Scotland’s hearts and minds with the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster keen to stress the need for “cooperation” (sub-text: the other side aren’t quite so minded).

While this was (probably) the first ever time a minister had joined a Cabinet meeting from Stornoway, it is not without precedent. One of the most important pieces of legislation ever drafted by the UK Government – the Inverness Formula – was so named because the emergency Cabinet meeting at which it was agreed was held in the Highland capital.

In September 1921 Prime Minister David Lloyd George was holidaying in Gairloch. It was a time of huge tension. Britain was in recession, with unemployment at over 10 per cent, and the bloody culmination of the Irish War for Independence meant that some form of free-state solution was incontrovertible.

At the time, the sporting estates of the Highlands were a favoured retreat of the wealthy; the St Tropez of their day, just with tweed, drizzle and midges instead of sun, shades and cocktails.

Not only was Lloyd George in Gairloch, his deputy was enjoying himself at an Inverness-shire estate and King George V was at Moy. So, with the Irish situation developing into an emergency, he summoned the rest of the Cabinet north.

At a townhouse in Inverness, they held a formal Cabinet meeting that came up with the basis of a treaty for an Irish Free State. It was signed off by both governments in December of that year, effectively creating what we recognise today as the Irish Republic (though it would be some years later before they would relinquish their dominion status).

To date, it is still the only time a UK Cabinet meeting has been held outside Westminster or Chequers and has meant that the Highland capital retains an important place in the history of British, and indeed Irish, legislature.

If what Michael Gove was saying this week – with his title of Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster harking back to the days of Lloyd George – is anything to go by, we’re going to be seeing a lot more of UK ministers north of the border, though quite how effective it will be terms of the wider “love-bombing” campaign remains to be seen.

Given Boris Johnson’s popularity among Scottish voters, and his blundering approach liable to do more harm than good, he’d probably be better staying well away.

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