I truly respect Arlene Foster but wild claims on SNP are simply not worthy of her

Former DUP leader Arlene Foster during a photocall for female MLA's on the steps of Parliament Buildings at Stormont. PA Photo. Picture date: Tuesday June 08 2021. See PA story ULSTER Politics. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire.
Former DUP leader Arlene Foster during a photocall for female MLA's on the steps of Parliament Buildings at Stormont. PA Photo. Picture date: Tuesday June 08 2021. See PA story ULSTER Politics. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire.

IF we harboured any doubts that the second Scottish independence referendum campaign has started in earnest these have been dispelled by various comments from assorted members of the UK establishment.

The first referendum was conducted in an exemplary way, a fact manifest in the Electoral Commission adjudging it to have delivered a “gold standard” in democratic engagement. This was in spite of disparaging comments throughout by the Unionist side as their chaotic campaign (they shipped 18 percentage points in two years) began to disintegrate.

This time around they have opted to get their retaliation in early with a couple of absurd interventions from people who ought to know better. First, we had Arlene Foster, former leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, accusing the SNP of being anti-English; anti-Semitic and anti-Indian.

Like much of that which characterised the No campaign in 2013/14 it was devoid of any evidence. Ms Foster is a politician for whom I have great respect, due to her faithfulness to her Christianity and the traditions of her support base in Northern Ireland. Like many other female politicians she attracts squalid criticism about her appearance and her faith. Wild claims like these though, which she must know in her heart to be untrue, are not worthy of her.

WHAT are we to make though, of the extraordinarily foolish claims – bordering on the outright sinister – by Iain Livingstone, the Chief Constable of Police Scotland?

Mr Livingstone told a board meeting of the Scottish Police Authority: “When there are times of a potential breakdown in social cohesion: there are more intense industrial relations, there’s clearly a level of constitutional uncertainty within society at the moment – all of those put wider pressure on the cohesiveness of local communities and inevitably that can manifest itself in pressure on local policing.”

A Police Scotland spokesperson later said that Mr Livingstone’s comments weren’t intended to be political. My arse!

The Chief Constable had made an almost identical observation in August, but without the clause “there’s clearly a level of constitutional uncertainty at the moment”.

It feeds into the false narrative that Scots are incapable of conducting civilised debate about the independence debate. As with Arlene Foster’s comments his were devoid of any evidence.

Certainly, it’s inevitable that there will be civil unrest as the cost of living crisis and the onset of winter drive the most vulnerable people in our society deeper into abject poverty. Surely Scotland’s senior police officer wouldn’t be attempting to pin the blame for any expected – and entirely understandable – aggravation at the door of supporters of Scottish independence?

If he’s looking for reasons why this might become a problem for the police he should be looking at the simmering resentment among many hard-working people at the mounting evidence of profiteering by the UK Tories during a lethal pandemic.

CHIEF Constable Livingstone’s comments coincided with the news that much of the UK will come to a standstill during the winter as a wave of strikes by public sector workers threatens to hit the nation’s infrastructure.

The BBC, being a multi-billion-pound beneficiary of British state largesse, is never slow to frame such industrial activity as greedy workers holding the rest of us to ransom.

For two years though, these workers – rail employees; teachers; nurses and Royal Mail staff - put their lives and the lives of their families at risk by continuing to keep Britain functioning during the lockdown.

And then they discovered that at the very top of the UK government a kleptocracy was operating which skimmed off emergency money made available specifically for the procurement of life-saving PPE equipment. Any public inquiry about the way the pandemic was handled by the Scottish and UK Governments that doesn’t scrutinise this isn’t fit for purpose.

Indeed, the levels of greed and cynical disregard for the rules operating inside Downing Street during this time amounted to a criminal enterprise.

The striking workers are right to be angry and their pay claims - modest when compared to the squalid profiteering of Tory politicians and Tory baronesses - should be met. They deserve every penny and our full support, not to mention gratitude.

FOR reasons beyond my control (I wasn’t invited) I was unable to attend The Herald’s annual Politician of the Year bash last week in Edinburgh. The main award was won by Anas Sarwar, leader of Scottish Labour and it was probably deserved.

I’ve often been disobliging of Mr Sarwar, but he’s a class act and is never anything other than warm and gracious when we meet. I detect too that he has matured as a politician and is beginning to develop real leadership qualities.

One of my moles at Prestonfield House last Thursday said that almost all of those attending from right across Scotland’s political spectrum greeted Mr Sarwar’s accolade with more than a degree of approbation. Names will surely be taken.