Inexplicably, these budding librettists had not taken account of Ms Sturgeon’s capacity for offence. They thought they were celebrating ethnic diversity of which Bradford is a good example, and Britain’s capacity to assimilate it.
Any reference to unity carries a more sinister message for our First Minister. How could the words “we have a dream, to unite all people in one great team” be other than an implicit attack on her own divine right to divide them?
Her horror at how anyone could “insist” on children singing such a song (nobody had – apart from anything else, it was against Covid rules) was tempered by relief that Scottish schools are shut and would thus avoid this imperialist indignity.
I switched hastily to Radio 4 but there she was again, with the same indignant sound-bite – this time played to the man behind One Britain One Nation Day. Inconveniently, he was not a Lord Snooty but a Punjabi-born retired policeman, grateful for the opportunities this country had given him.
The poor man was bewildered. How could anyone be offended by these sentiments? What reasonable person would think this was about the constitution rather than equality and respect? He might have added: “Not all nine year-olds in Bradford see life through the prism of the Scottish independence debate.”
The dafter the cause, the more likely my own MP, Angus MacNeil, will tweet his way into it, so he thought it was like the Soviet Union wanting Baltic children to sing “We are Soviet”. The farce was compounded by Ms Sturgeon inviting us to “imagine the outrage” if Scottish children were told to “sing some song about how great Scotland is”. Imagine!
Personally, I wouldn’t be outraged at all. Though I was pretty outraged when Ms Sturgeon’s government falsified Scotland’s history timeline in curricular material to an extent that Sir Tom Devine described as “arrant propaganda” and “dangerous nonsense”. Singing ‘Hail Caledonia’ would be welcome by comparison.
Song-gate came on the heels of Ms Sturgeon’s “travel ban” – utterly unenforceable – on Greater Manchester, to which most Scots intending to go there would not have paid a blind bit of attention, any more than myriad tartan platoons did over the Euros. The disconnect between edicts and reality is now extreme which is hardly surprising given their inconsistency.
However, those who had no choice but to obey were hit hard in the pocket. Entirely reasonably, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, took exception to unilateral action directed against a part of the UK with a lower rate of Covid cases than Dundee, East Lothian and Edinburgh.
Mr Burnham is no effete Old Etonian but an accomplished politician held in high regard among the three million people he represents – and also pretty favourably viewed in Scotland. So when she started throwing juvenile insults at him for questioning her actions, she was not on the safe, populist ground she usually relies upon.
Next up, Ms Sturgeon accused Michael Gove of “sneering, arrogant condescension” for the offence of re-stating the obvious, that there is not going to be a referendum any time soon. His only way of escaping that indictment would have been to say there is going to be one. But for Ms Sturgeon to accuse anyone of sneering, arrogance or condescension – far less all three – is a bit rich.
These episodes are linked by a common theme – the absolute determination to create division with the rest of the UK on any basis, however petty, that can be manufactured. At some point, Scotland will decide if this really is the way we want to be represented – and perceived.
More urgently, there is the price Scotland pays for this demeaning nonsense. There are huge policy areas, however much it offends Ms Sturgeon, on which it is overwhelmingly in our interests to work together rather than have every discussion poisoned by a permanent state of rancour. Is she capable of anything else?