So many things come in threes, if not fours.
The weekend I’m in London – all my Scottish notes were accepted, thank you very much – the first minister pitches up in Beijing and on my return home I see this tweet from the estimable Muriel Gray:
Oh dear. There’s a bit of a gap between the two visits abroad, isn’t there? (For the avoidance of doubt the two visits were Muriel’s to the US of A and Nicola’s to the People’s Republic. Unlike nationalists I obviously don’t count a visit to London as a trip abroad).
I confess to not following the Chinese trip as closely as I could have. I assume pandas were on the agenda and the Dalai Lama wasn’t. What does seem to have featured is a bit of a lesson from the FM on gender equality in public bodies. Presumably because her cabinet is 50:50 male:female she feels entitled to lecture the world on the subject, although I hope the outriders of the Chinese diaspora in Dundee don’t report home that only two of the sixteen SNP members on the largest council the party controls are women.
Where was I?
Oh yes, lecturing the Chinese. Not a good thing. I know (well I do after checking Wikipedia) that they’ve got some way to go on the subject of gender equality. Their communist party central committee, which you can see here,
and which is what I call a committee, has 205 full members, of whom ten, or 4.9%, are women. So definitely some way to go.
As someone whose name I missed said on Twitter the first minister will be received politely and respectfully and the only interest the Chinese will have is how she can further their trade interests. The deputy premier and other officials she meets will doubtless have been briefed on this head of a regional government in a small state on the far side of the world.
The point about lecturing the Chinese is that that’s not how they do things. If, a big ‘If”, they genuinely want to achieve gender equality they might be interested to know how she did it in her own central committee although they have their own less irksome ways than our liberal democracy of getting people into and out of positions of power. They’re probably not too fussed about such a tedious subject anyhow and a touch of humility from Ms Sturgeon might not go amiss. But the omens are not great. I saw a clip on TV of her striding purposefully across a stage in her heels and grasping some bemused official firmly with a handshake. The demeanour, the body language, the assertiveness, fine here, just looked very alien there.
At the time all this was going on, I was fulfilling a small promise I made to myself that I’d visit the memorial to the women of World War II in London’s Whitehall:
I wrote about this before when it was vandalised by some mindless numbskull in an anti-government demo. I was pleased to see there was absolutely no sign of the graffiti I had objected to so vehemently before. I didn’t lay a flower as I’d originally intended. But I did stand there silently for a minute in the rain thinking of my own mother, the connections I’d made in my earlier blog and how in the UK we’re all linked together.
To get to the memorial I’d passed through Charing Cross station which, as railway aficionados might know, serves a swathe of South London and Kent. Nothing Scottish about it at all except on the concourse was a small exhibition about the railways in World War I and this panel:
Don’t care about us at all, do they, the English?
And just to complete the circle that I started with Muriel Gray’s thoughts on what Americans know about Scotland, when I retweeted them an American in Fife responded:
I could have told y’all that!
It’s something Sturgeon and her various ministers and Westminster MPs who dabble in foreign affairs would do well to remember. And meantime, there’s enough for the SNP to be doing at home. Please.