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Henry Hill is a British Conservative and Unionist activist, and author of the blog Dilettante. Follow Henry on Twitter. He is also editor of the non-party website Open Unionism, which can be followed on Twitter here.

Escape
and evasion

Despite
standing tirelessly against European fascism during the war, a decade of
wrangling over Home Rule wearied even Winston Churchill. He observed in 1922:

"The whole map of Europe
has been changed … but as the deluge subsides and the waters fall short we
see the dreary steeples of Fermanagh and Tyrone emerging once again."

That
might be an uncharitable description of what is apparently, geographically if
not always politically, a lovely part of the world. Ten years of stalemate will
do that to a person. Yet David Cameron appears to have taken it to heart, at least when it comes to putting off troublemakers.

According
to Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers, whilst taking the opportunity
to show Northern Ireland off to the world the PM elected to hold the G8 summit
in Fermanagh in part because of its remoteness
from anywhere
that the largely urban protesting sort might be willing to
travel to.

Villiers
credits the smooth running of the summit to this cunning stratagem, so perhaps
we’ll see more exercises in evasive tourism from the government in future.

Question Time is a British political programme, even in Scotland.,.

…and that irks the SNP no end.

I
fell out of the habit of watching Question Time whilst in Ireland, as BBC
iPlayer is not available outside the UK (although 4OD, the rival service of a
largely for-profit channel, is). Tuning in on Thursday reminded me what I’d
been missing.

For
those you didn’t see it, it was in Edinburgh, in front of an audience composed
entirely of newly (and temporarily) enfranchised 16 and 17 year-olds. The panel
consisted of representatives of the Conservatives, SNP and Labour in addition
to George Galloway of Respect, Nigel Farage and a pro-independence newspaper
columnist, Lesley Riddoch.

There
were several stand-out moments: the young nationalist who appeared to sincerely
believe that whenever a Scot sets foot south of the border, they are treated to
much the same sort of angry mob that Farage met in Edinburgh, perhaps. Or the
immense surprise that is finding yourself nodding along as George Galloway
tears into the nationalists; firing on all cylinders on what I suspect is
probably our only source of common ground. Or the latest re-emergence of the
surreal notion that an independent Scotland would have its pick of pan-British
arrangements and its representation therein.

All
in all, it was pretty good television. Yet the SNP weren’t happy with it, and
have gone so far as to propose a
motion criticising Question Time
in Holyrood, for having the nerve to
put together a panel for a British audience, rather than treating a
Scotland-based episode as Scottish domestic television.

The
nationalist complaint was that the panel was not divided evenly on the issue of
independence, notwithstanding the fact that QT is about bringing together a
panel to debate lots of issues in an episode that was not a ‘Referendum
Special’. (The audience, meanwhile, was split 50/50 on the issue).

They also lambasted the failure to have the
panel reflect, for want of a better term, electoral Scotland. Thus their ire
fell on George Galloway, a Scot, and Nigel Farage, a public figure who recently
had a politically-interesting and widely reported run-in with protesters in
Scotland.

If
the criteria were “relevant and interesting”, they both qualify. Yet both Angus
Robertson and Lesley Riddoch, the Scotsman
writer and the panel’s second separatist, were obsessed with (Scottish) vote
share. UKIP and Respect don’t have elected representatives in Scotland yet,
ergo they were of no interest to the Scottish people, the thinking seemed to
run.

Meanwhile,
since Question Time was broadcasting
from Scotland it ought to have the decency to act as if it were running on BBC
Scotland rather than broadcasting to the whole nation, and put together a panel
targeted entirely at Scots. If I recall correctly, Robertson even suggested
that in an independent Scotland, all the panel shows will have proper Scots on
them, or something along those lines.

Freedom of speech is not portioned out by the voters

A
little bit of rather silly political whinging is par for the course, and would
warrant little more than a humorous aside had this fixation not reared its head
when the subject of Nigel Farage’s mobbing came up. Neither Robertson nor
Riddoch could manage to express an unqualified, wholehearted and sincere defence
of freedom of speech. Instead, both focused on the fact that UKIP is at best a
very marginal presence in Scottish politics.

Why
does that matter? It is surely ridiculous to suggest that freedom of speech and
assembly be restricted to the electorally popular and those they approve of,
but that appeared to be exactly what they appeared to suggest. Thus viewers
were left with the spectacle of (the wholly unelected) Riddoch and Galloway in
a shouting match, with the former bellowing UKIP’s tiny vote share to justify
their treatment and Galloway, matching decibel with decibel, maintaining that
freedom of speech didn’t work that way.

I’m
sure it’s possible to be a sincere, unabashed and generous-minded liberal and
be a nationalist, somehow. Yet if the independence camp contains such people,
it isn’t deploying them on Question Time.
When George Galloway is facing you down from the liberal side of the field,
you’ve gone badly astray.

Former
Plaid Cymru leader announces retirement from the Assembly

Ieuan
Wyn Jones, the Welsh Assemblyman and former MP who was from 2000 to 2012 the
leader of the Welsh nationalists, has announced his retirement.

The
Welsh nationalists have never been quite the threat to the UK that the SNP have
managed to become, so Jones has never enjoyed anything close to the profile of
Alex Salmond in the rest of the UK. Yet whilst they haven’t rocked the boat
Plaid have certainly established themselves as the second or third force in
Welsh politics, chasing the Conservatives and well ahead of the Liberal
Democrats, and Jones can likely take much of the credit for that. It will be
interesting to see whether his successor, the more strident, avowedly socialist
and republican Leanne Wood, can maintain that position.

Jones’
retirement has been met with warm sentiments from all sides of the Assembly (if
its consensual layout has sides at all), which Betsan Powys summarises in a profile for the
BBC
.

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