John Mason MSP has featured in these pages before, usually when he’s made a not very sensible remark, once when I felt he was being less than honest about the SNP’s proposals for the governance of Scottish universities. With that exception, my observation of him is that he is an honest chap and a decent Christian (his Twitter profile says he attends Easterhouse Baptist Church). He will also engage, apparently tirelessly, in debate with opponents without returning any of the abuse he sometimes receives. However, being decent and honest doesn’t also mean you can’t be very wrong.
He’s been on holiday in Ireland recently. I know because he’s tweeted profusely from what looks like a perpetually grey and rain-soaked landscape (I remember it well). Some of his tweets include holiday snaps of the sort that most of us perpetrate. But a surprising proportion make a political point. I’ve chuckled at some of these, even though I don’t think he meant me to. Others have made me wonder if some nationalists ever relax and forget about their single obsession. One in particular caught my eye:
If you’re only an occasional visitor to the curious world of Scottish politics, let me explain what this is about.
During the Scottish referendum campaign (two and more years ago) a number of companies and senior business people made public statements saying they supported the union and pointing out the negative impact that separation would have on their organisations. Barrhead Travel, which Mason refers to, was one of those companies. This seems entirely legitimate to me. A much smaller number of business people made opposing statements about the benefits of independence, many through the egregious SNP front-organisation Business for Scotland (BfS). Many commentators observed at the time that much of what BfS claimed was false but I wouldn’t dispute their right to speak in what they saw as their self-interest.
Unfortunately, many ‘Yes’ campaigners did not take the same view and for a while lists of companies circulated that ‘patriots’ and ‘true Scots’ should boycott. This culminated shortly before the referendum itself when ex-SNP politician Jim Sillars said
when we get a Yes majority, we will use that power for a day of reckoning with BP and the banks … in an independent Scotland, [BP] will need to learn the meaning of nationalisation.
Well, that was all during 2014 when everyone was up to high-do with the referendum. I thought and still think that to boycott and threaten companies because they express a view about a political matter is both wrong and counter-productive.
But here, two years later, we have a member of the Scottish parliament, an accountant by profession and someone who wears his ethics and religion on his sleeve, saying that he boycotts a Scottish-owned and based travel company (very successful in its sector by all accounts) because of something their owners said two years ago. He says Barrhead ‘is [my emphasis] on the No side,’ forgetting that the issue of separation, if not totally dead, is moribund at best.
Mr Mason is also a member of parliament’s economy, jobs and fair work committee, which sits curiously with his boycott of a successful Scottish company that employs 900 people. If his boycott were taken up by Scots generally there would be no Barrhead Travel and no 900 jobs, including for the employees I’ve taken the liberty of showing at the top of this post.
The truth, of course, is that taken alone Mason’s sourcing elsewhere of his Euros for a fortnight in Ireland will make damn all difference to Barrhead. But I do hope, for the sake of his conscience, that he was able to find an organisation to change his British pounds that had not expressed a view on separation in 2014. Perhaps the Post Office? Pity it’s an agent of the British state he so despises.
The photo of Barrhead employees is already in the public domain on the company’s web site. I make no assumption about their political views, if any, but hope they continue to have jobs in that successful organisation.