The closer politicians are to the people they lead, the better decisions they tend to make. And while the SNP has comprehensively demonstrated in recent years that this does not mean mistakes will not be made, the general principle still holds.
Frost, the Conservative peer chiefly responsible for Boris Johnson’s flawed and hard Brexit deal, has probably made the mistake of conflating the SNP with the Scottish Parliament as a result of their 16 years in power – in much the same way that the SNP regularly does with Westminster and the Tories. However, both parliaments are about much more than any one party.
Leading Scottish Conservatives were quick to dismiss Frost’s advice – “nonsense” and “a load of baloney” were among the printable responses. They know that devolution is now an accepted reality in Scotland and the challenge for opposition parties is to oust the SNP, not undermine the parliament.
However, although Frost is very much “yesterday’s man”, with Brexit supporters increasingly realising how much damage leaving the European Union has caused to this country, his contribution to an important debate about the state of devolution and Scotland’s place in the Union was nonetheless unsettling. But it should be treated like the off-the-cuff, unserious rhetoric that it was and contrasted with the thoughtful and considered report from Gordon Brown’s Commission on the UK’s Future last year.
Frost’s view was to be expected from a bombastic ‘Brexit nationalist’ and its main effect was to provide a new means for the SNP to deflect attention from the party’s current troubles. Their equally predictable responses produced the kind of clash of competing populisms that delights both sides, but achieves nothing worthwhile whatsoever.
The Covid pandemic and cost-of-living crisis have both underlined the need for practical, serious politicians whose main focus is the well-being of their people, not those selling vague visions of one promised land or another. Brexiteers like Frost and the SNP are more alike than they would ever care to admit.