On 20 December 2019, Alister Jack, Secretary of State for Scotland (at least that’s what he’s meant to be, and no I’ve not misspelt his name, that’s how his mum and dad spelt it) was interviewed by Gillian Marles for Good Morning Scotland. Vey cannily, the GMS team had Dr Philippa Whitford MP waiting in the wings to respond to his interview.
Here is Gillian’s interview with Alister: It can take some seconds to load. Patience is a virtue.
Congratulations Gillian on your questions and your pursuit of Alister. In retrospect I can think of options that you might have pursued further but on the whole : no bad at a’. And you get extra appreciation for having Philippa standing by to respond. Because we all know just how good Dr Philippa is. Here is her response, starting off with a very dry “Good morning” that let’s us imagine a long-suffering eye roll that perhaps went with it.
And here’s a bit of debugging of what our esteemed Secretary of State told the five millions Scots whose interests he is paid to look after:
Gillian (50secs in): The Frist Minister has called the United Kingdom a voluntary union of nations. What do you make of her description?
Alister (1min): It’s a long-enduring Union that’s existed for 300 years and has been fantastic for all countries within that Union. I completely disagree with that.
Debug: Whether or not the Union has been successful (or disastrous) has nothing to do with it being voluntary or not. Bit of a distracting red herring being waved about there by Ally. Or perhaps a ‘straw man fallacy to entice Gillian away from her main point.’ . Either way, Gillian knows not to get drawn into it.
Gillian (1min20s in): The result of the general election offered a mandate for another referendum, did it not?
Alister: No, 55% of the votes cast were cast for parties which support the Union. 45% were for separatist parties and that’s no different from what happened five years ago in 2014. the desire to support separatist parties has not increased over five years.
Debug: Alister’s reply is factually true but taken out of context. Commonly known as the cherry-picking fallacy. Gillian pursues him on this. More about that in a minute. He’s also drawing a false analogy, comparing two things as if they are compatible whereas they are actually are actually more different than they are alike. The voting statistics in a yes/no choice in a single issue referendum are not comparable to those from a multi-choice, multi-issue, multi-party general election. Alister isn’t daft and knows this very well but he’s hoping to put one over on GMS listeners who don’t realise it..
Gillian pursues him on those statistics (2mins in): Except that the democratic mandate for another independence is stronger (45% of Scottish vote) than the one that Boris Johnson claims for his Brexit deal (43% of UK vote).
Alister: I don’t recognise that. The Brexit vote was a referendum across the Uk where Leave got 52% of the vote and that was a democratic referendum that we are respecting.
- Alister is saying that the 52% of people who voted leave provide the mandate for carrying out Brexit and that Boris now has an additional mandate from having won a UK general with 43% of the UK vote on a policy of Get Brexit done. That’s fair enough.
- But what he’s ignoring are the Scottish results within those, ie that 62% of Scots voted Remain and now 55.5% have voted for clearly pro-EU parties (SNP, LibDems, Greens). Hence the cherry-picking.
- You could say that it’s fair enough that he takes his stance on UK-wide statistics. On the other hand, remember that this is the man who job is to speak up for Scotland. Well that was what the job description used to be anyway.
Alister carries on (3mins in):…. in the Edinburgh Agreement Salmond and Sturgeon agreed to respect the outcome of the referendum and they went on to talk about once in a lifetime, once in a generation and we’ve not had a lifetime or a generation.
Gillian argues back: But after the referendum there was the Smith Commission and they said that it was agreed that nothing in their report prevents Scotland becoming an independent country in the future should the people of Scotland choose. Is it not the case that the people of Scotland are now choosing to have another referendum and possibly become independent?
Alister (3min27s in): No, it’s not the case at all….. SNP campaigned on Brexit not on independence.
Gillian: Well your party was fighting to stop IndyRef2 and we know what happened there, you lost six seats. Nicola Sturgeon has a higher vote share in Scotland you have in UK and she says that you are showing a contempt for Scottish democracy. She has a point there, doesn’t she?
Alister repeats what he said at 1min20sec in. Adding that Sturgeon wants power over referendums moved to Holyrood and away from Westminster. And that means Scotland’s economy would be damaged and we would end up in perpetual neverendums until she got her own way….. its not good for jobs, taxation, public services. Everyone gets damaged by it.
Debug: This is very close to another straw man fallacy as no-one is suggesting holding a succession of referendums until they get their way. It’s also a slippery slope fallacy where one change is claimed to lead to many much worse changes.. It might be true that a succession of referendums on independence would destabilise Scotland’s economy but Alister doesn’t quote any authority for that claim. He also doesn’t acknowledge the harm done to UK economy by one referendum about Brexit.
Alister then goes to quote Ruth Davidson. He must have been getting desperate.
I’m sorry I’ve had enough. Just go back to the top of the post and listen to Philippa Whitford take him down.
She starts off with “Well according to Alister no matter what we would do, we wouldn’t have a mandate for a second referendum.”