Of course, it was a stupid thing to say.
When Liz Truss, current favourite to become the next prime minister of the United Kingdom, was asked during a hustings event earlier this week how she would deal with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s demand for a second independence referendum, she went in studs-up.
The best thing to do with Sturgeon, said Truss, was to ignore her. The First Minister was nothing more than an attention seeker.
The ageing duffers at the event applauded this response but it hardly helped the cause of those who oppose Scottish independence, did it?
In fact – and this was entirely predictable – all Truss truly achieved was to give nationalists something to complain about. And, boy, did they make the most of this opportunity.
Appearing on the BBC, deputy first minister John Swinney explained, sorrowfully, that Scottish voters would be “absolutely horrified” by these obnoxious remarks. Truss, explained Swinney, had fundamentally undermined her own argument that Scotland was a valued part of the UK.
Many people, added Swinney, would feel insulted by what Truss had said.
‘People in Scotland will be absolutely horrified at the obnoxious remarks made tonight'
#TheNine speaks to Deputy First Minister, John Swinney after Liz Truss branded Nicola Sturgeon as an “attention seeker” and that “the best way of dealing with her was to ignore her.” pic.twitter.com/4tG0qRgDqW
— The Nine (@BBCScotNine) August 1, 2022
All politicians are attention seekers
This was a theme developed by a number of SNP politicians who spent much of the day on media both traditional and social explaining that Truss had displayed nothing but contempt for Scotland.
This was classic stuff from a party that excels when it comes to generating grievance. Outrage is the fuel that keeps the SNP motor running, after all.
Let’s be honest, though. Sturgeon is an attention seeker. All politicians are. In fact, being an attention seeker counts among the qualities necessary for anyone to enter – and then succeed within – the world of politics.
Liz Truss is currently cavorting around the country telling us that only she has the skills to lead the UK through difficult times. If that is not what we might legitimately describe as attention seeking behaviour, then I’m afraid words have lost all meaning.
So, let’s treat that particular accusation as the – not terribly impressive – stuff of political pugilism.
Nicola Sturgeon is not Scotland
More interesting – and troubling – is the weird idea that a political attack on Sturgeon is somehow an attack on all Scots.
Sure, the nationalist mindset might encourage this sort of thinking but it is entirely possible – let me assure you – to choose not to feel offended.
We are not obliged to be horrified just because John Swinney says we are.
Truss may well feel contempt for Scotland but her remarks about Sturgeon don’t support that charge. Nicola Sturgeon, after all, is not Scotland.
The SNP might wish Liz Truss’s remarks to be the catalyst for increased support for the break-up of the UK but I suspect a great many Scots will have heard her doing nothing more than defending the majority view that independence would be a costly mistake.
Euan McColm is a regular columnist for various Scottish newspapers.