A FEW days ago I was talking with the Friends of Scotland caucus in the Canadian Parliament and one of the Senators asked about Scottish veterans from the Korean War given that April sees the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Kapyong in which Canadian

Troops fought alongside the First Battalion of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.

I had to admit that I knew virtually nothing about what has been called “the forgotten war”. Consequently I sought out some background and chanced upon Max Hastings’ popular history of the conflict in the Pan Military Classics series.

This is a little out of date but it is acute in its well-sourced assessment of the suffering and chaos on the Korean peninsula from 1950 to 1953. The “see-saw” nature of the fighting, the confused leadership, the lack of a clear war aim and the failure to properly supply and support the UN force (mostly American) are made clear, as are the acts of heroism including those on Hill 282 where Major Kenneth Muir of the Argylls won a posthumous Victoria Cross.

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Although I disagree with his politics, it has to be admitted that Hastings writes well which is why I found his recent 2000 word essay on UK constitutional issues so strange.

It rambles in a confused manner from expressions of affection for Scotland (even if it is an unrecognisable Scotland inhabited only by lairds and ghillies) to completely inaccurate accounts of both the Covid vaccination programme and the Scottish Goverment’s record in office (details of which have usefully been republished online this week at www.snp.org/record/).

His thesis appears to be that even if, in his words “the Scots and Northern Irish go”, England can rest easy because its interests – and particularly its position on the world stage – would not be adversely affected given that they have, in his assertion “most of the people and the wealth”.

This “it’s all about me” view from English commentators, which either belittles or ignores Scotland’s democratic right to choose its future, is not unusual. The interests of Scots are nearly always subordinated to its own interests by the British state, a matter confirmed again this week week when the UK justified its decision to withdraw from the Erasmus scheme because to continue was “not in the interest of UK taxpayers”.

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But to hear it repeated by Max Hastings is disappointing. Perhaps his lack of comfort with it is the reason for the poorly written recent essay, for in his book on the Korean War he explicitly recognised the unpleasant nature of such narrow selfish exceptionalism, drawing particular attention to the fact that, in his own words, “in all the British Cabinet debates about Korea, there is virtually no evidence of discussion about the interests of the Korean people”.

If the UK Union meant anything at all, it meant that the interests of all the four nations were considered and respected by decision makers at the centre. That was never done well but now it is not done at all. Policy is proudly asserted as being “for all parts of the UK” even if it is glaringly obvious that it is not.

What that phrase “the interests of the whole of the UK” actually means is “in the sole interests of the UK Government and the Tory party and those people and places which vote for them”.

Moreover, in order to minimise any objection to such an approach there are now moves to delegitimise discussion of how Scotland can change it by constitutional means.

I am increasingly alarmed by the intolerant language being used on that topic, ranging from Adam Tomkins’ inappropriate and wildly inaccurate remarks in the Citizen’s Assembly debate last Thursday, to Douglas Ross threatening “consequences” for individuals of the Scottish Goverment if they pursue a referendum.

The mantra “it is all about me” now dominates the politics of the UK and the “me” is Boris Johnson and his cronies. Centralisation and conformity is being increasingly enforced for reasons that have to do with benefiting them and those who support them and not – ever – recognising and promoting the interests of the ordinary people of Scotland.