First, credit where it is due. Our first minister Nicola Sturgeon showed genuine emotion when she spoke in parliament this week about the Syrian refugee crisis. She was clearly affected, not least by the (endlessly reproduced) photo of a dead child on a Turkish beach. Why then did she have to spoil it by making politics out of the situation?
Amongst other things at first minister’s questions this week, as reported by The Independent, she said
I am angry, very angry, at the ‘walk on by on the other side’ approach of the UK government. I implore David Cameron to change his position and change it today.
Now you can argue about what the UK government has or hasn’t done. On the one hand, scarcely any Syrian refugees have been given shelter in the UK. On the other, according to some reports the UK has spent more on supporting Syrian refugees elsewhere than any other government except the USA, and certainly much more than many other European countries (as I write in haste I cannot source the statistics for this – I’m happy for anyone to provide them or correct my understanding if it’s wrong).
What I find difficult to stomach is what seems the absolute and invariable response of the nationalist mind-set to find cause for dispute. It’s as if it’s hard-wired into their DNA. They seem unable to accept that there’s a time and place for opposition and anger, and a time and place for conciliation, Rather than being ‘angry, very angry’ how much more effective, statesman-like even, it would have been if the first minister had found it in herself to say
We have our differences with the UK government, inevitably, and we believe they should do more, much more, to help Syrian refugees. But on this humanitarian crisis we pledge ourselves to do what we can within our powers to work in harmony with them to improve a desperate situation. I have already written to the prime minister to that effect.
But no, all she added in parliament was
And I pledge as first minister of this country that we stand ready to help offer sanctuary to refugees who need our help.
Note that – ‘this country.’ Yet again the pretence that Scotland is a separate state that can do what it wishes, no qualification about the Scottish parliament’s powers, no acknowledgement of the role of the UK government. Perhaps the only small benefit of her prominence in the sudden SNP response to the situation is that it has temporarily at least silenced or side-lined her Commons foreign affairs spokesperson, one A Salmond, and her ‘minister for Europe and international development’ (not devolved functions as I’ve pointed out before, but what do they care?).
As always, for nationalists, everything but everything is grist to the mill of their single over-riding objective. Sad really.
In reading this, I realise some might accuse me of playing politics with a desperate situation as I claim others have. In part-mitigation, I will make a modest contribution to the Red Cross Syria appeal every time this post is read in the next 24 hours (WordPress has a statistics page that records ‘Top Posts’ every day so I will know how often it’s read). I won’t specify an amount in case some unfriendly person abuses my offer and gets their pals to read multiple times. But the donation will be, by my standards, a reasonable sum. A second footnote will record the result of this small pledge.
Update – after 24 hours 212 people had viewed this post. I thought 50p per view was reasonable so I’ve made an online donation of £106 to the Red Cross appeal. Together with HMG’s generous tax relief scheme that makes a total of £132.50. Thanks for reading.