IT must be serious when elements of the British establishment are in agreement with the Sunday National (No China talks after minister’s ‘idiotic’ speech, February 17).

Delivered with a future post-Tory leadership leadership bid in mind, Gavin Williamson summoned up a world when the monarch’s titles included “Empress of India”.

On earlier occasions others have likened this former fireplace salesmen to Private Pike in Dad’s Army, and one imagines Captain Manwaring’s “stupid boy” retort was echoing along the corridors of Whitehall when he was not within earshot. Notwithstanding, the braided top brass of Britain sat and listened dutifully and attentively.

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In case I had misunderstood, I did actually watch the speech a second time and he really did say that Britain might on occasion take military action on the other side of the globe “alone”.

Even worse, he went on to misquote Churchill that Britain will have the ability “to bring down a reign of terror on enemy coasts”. Like Ross Greer I’m no fan of Churchill, but he was speaking in 1941 about commando raids on occupied Europe, not post-Brexit British defence policy.

When the last Tory Chancellor accuses the current Tory Defence Secretary of indulging in gunboat diplomacy, we have full-blown civil war in the party of government of the British state. The near certainty that said party would emerge as the largest if a General Election were called graphically illustrates the parlous state of the British state.

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This, I humbly suggest, might have some salience in voting intentions if/when a second independence referendum is called. But I digress from my subject, which is an insane vision of post-Brexit British defence policy and the seriousness of that issue for Scotland.

Williamson’s comments may be firmly rooted in the spirit of the early 1940s, but they were uttered in the world of 2019, with, predictably, consequences in the world of 2019.

MP Angus MacNeil’s referencing echo’s of gunboats and the Opium Wars caught the reality of this exercise in condescending British delusion rather well.

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To say China has “emerged as a power” is, actually, to fall into the Williamson mindset. China has for most of recorded history been a great power. The historical truth is that the last two centuries were but a historical blip.

There is the immediate diplomatic fall-out of the speech from the Chinese Vice Premier referenced in the Sunday National article. Though interesting too is the lack of apparent endorsement from Downing Street.

However, there is also the drawn-out, humiliating diplomatic train crash that would occur if Williamson’s cunning plan to send newly commissioned carrier the Queen Elizabeth to the South China Sea was put into action.

The images from the early part of the voyage would fit well in a late Victorian scrap book. The Queen Elizabeth framed by the rock of Gibraltar. The spectacular backdrop for the Queen Elizabeth of the 17th century fortifications of Valletta harbour. The dwarfing of the Suez Canal by the mass of the carrier.

The Ministry of Defence press office would be in seventh heaven, as would be the embedded journalists. However, as the carrier and her escorts approached the South China Sea the tone would be become more sombre.

In reality though, the ship, crew and embedded journalists would be in no life-threatening danger for the simple fact that most of the F35 planes and most of the F35 pilots are to be provided by the United States Marine Corps. The good news on which we can all probably agree is that China and the US are surely not going to risk war over perceived British “interests”, whatever they are.

The very presence of the US pilots and support staff are, in and of themselves, a military humiliation that the BBC would be called upon to do its duty and reframe out of existence. This stark, rather humbling reality that 21st-century British military clout is an illusion will be skilfully spun into something far more virtuous. It will be explained away under the rather grand and technical-sounding strapline of inter-allied inter-operability.

Crucially the scenario also throws up the reality that the so-called nuclear deterrent is nothing of the sort. Any deterrence to any Chinese response will be the presence of American air crew and maintenance staff on board the carrier. Not to mention the probability of an American carrier group lurking somewhere over the horizon.

The voyage, if it were to occur, would be remembered for how it ended and that, strangely enough, may have been predicted by Williamson himself in earlier speeches.

The Defence Secretary has told us many times that China is a leading cyber power. The computer systems of the Queens Elizabeth are built upon the “outdated” Windows XP system. Put simply, the carrier may look good, but is it really fit for the 21st century?

Bill Ramsay
Chair, SNP CND