Welcome to Scotland. As you’ve finally crossed the border (quite a feat, given that you’ve been denying its very existence recently), and as we only seem to hear from you when we’re looking like walking away, I’m looking forward to a blether. Nothing like an eight point deficit in the polls and an approval rating nearly a hundred points behind our own First Minister to concentrate the mind I suppose. A commentator today said you could be remembered as the man who “lost” Scotland. It was, I thought, an interesting choice of words, as it presumes that Scotland’s is yours to lose. It isn’t. Sovereignty here rests with the people, and I thought a keen student of history like yourself would have known that. We, not you, get to decide whether we stay or go. We might as well get that straight from the start. Cards on the table.
I’m told you’re beginning your charm offensive in Orkney. Lovely place, but, given that it’s been Liberal / Libdem since the days of Jo Grimond in the 1950s, hardly a hotbed of Conservatism. Are you floating the idea of a bridge between John o’ Groats and South Ronaldsay perhaps?
I’ve a specific question for you about Orkney (and other strongly rural areas) later, but before you leave Kirkwall airport and start giving us the usual tired, third rate after dinner speaker, unkempt posh boy schtick (spoiler – we’re no’ buying it), I’d like to ask you a few questions. Indeed, I’ll email them to you now so you can read them on the plane north. I hear Dom’s eyesight isn’t what is was, so although you really can’t be bothered you’ll have to read them yourself. I know, it’s a pain in the arse but it kind of goes with the job description. I cared little for your predecessor Mrs Thatcher and less for your hero Churchill (and I notice you’ve adopted his trademark stoop recently. Frankly, I’ve seen better tribute acts on a wet Friday night in Stranraer), but, God, the pair of them knew what hard work was. They put a shift in. And it reminded me of what really annoys me about you. It isn’t getting sacked – twice – for lying. It isn’t just your dog-whistle comments about Muslims and gay people and Africans. It isn’t just that you conspired to get a journalist beaten up, and it isn’t just that you published a poem calling for the Scottish people to be ethnically cleansed when you edited The Spectator. Or that you called poor folk “work shy” and “feckless”. Or that you told the Hillsborough families that they should get over it. No, what really gets me is that you really, really, can’t be arsed. You don’t care. In truth you never have. Your handling of the pandemic has been appalling and people are dead because of your incompetence and your sheer laziness. So I have no idea whatsoever why you have come here, and still less what you think you might achieve by being here.
However, I’m prepared to listen. So before you get off the plane tomorrow we need to know the following.
The Office for Budget Responsibility is suggesting that at least 3.5 million people are likely to be unemployed in the UK very soon. I know other reputable economists are forecasting unemployment for as many as 6 million people. It does not seem to matter which of these estimates is right: either is a disaster, and something in this range seems certain. I am then writing to ask what you intend to do about this.
I stress that question is personal: I am aware, for example, of what the government has proposed and so do not need it repeated to me. I am seeking your opinion in what is happening so that I can understand what you are going to do about this crisis.
Here’s what you need to tell me.
1. How many people do you think will be unemployed in Scotland if even the lower of these two estimates proves to be correct?
2. Do you have any suggestion to make as to the likely age range, gender or skill set of those who are likely to lose their jobs in Scotland so that the consequences can be planned?
3. Do you know which industries or sectors will be hit hardest by the downturn and so make most people redundant in Scotland?
5. How many new jobs will the government be supporting Scotland? Can you specify which scheme will be supporting those jobs, for how long they will last, who will be eligible to apply for them and which employers or organisations have agreed to create these job opportunities?
5. Can you suggest what job opportunities there might be for those who will not qualify for a government supported post?
6. How many vacancies do you think there might be per person seeking to find work in Scotland over the next year?
7. Might you advise what the average universal credit claim is per week within Scotland?
8. If a constituent cannot achieve that goal because, for example, their mortgage could not be paid, what would you advise that they do? What would you also advise if this unemployment is long term, as the Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts suggests it might be for many people?
9. In your opinion, how many of those who might become unemployed in Scotland might lose their homes due to inability to pay their rent or meet their mortgage commitments?
10. Can you tell me where you think those people might be rehoused if this happens, which given current Universal Credit rules seems likely in a great many cases?
11. Can you tell me what you think the impact of even the lower of these estimated unemployment figures might be on child poverty in Scotland will be? Please specify this in terms of the number of children who will now suffer poverty and please advise how their needs will be met?
12. Likewise, do you think our local NHS services, including mental health services, have all the resources they now need to meet the needs of those who will now become unemployed in Scotland? Have you checked with them? Might you supply a copy of their confirmations that they can cope?
14. Lastly, do you think all our local schools have all the resources they now need to meet the needs of those children of those who will now become unemployed in our area? Their needs are very particular to deal with the disruption that this will create in their lives. Have you checked with them? Might you supply a copy of their confirmations that they can cope?
15. Finally, might I ask what policy proposals you (not your party, but you individually) are proposing to deal with all the issues noted in this letter?
I understand that some of these areas – like health and education – are devolved, but as your party is currently attempting to enshrine a law that legislation in any area brought forward by Holyrood would be subject to scrutiny from an unelected body that would decide whether it passes the “UK internal market” test before it is approved, I thought it best to ask for your views on devolved matters as well as you clearly wish them to be in your remit. They certainly seemed to be earlier this week, when you voted against the clause 17 amendment that would have protected the NHS from external control. And they certainly were in May, when you voted down an amendment designed to protect Scottish agriculture from a lowering of food and welfare standards in the now all but certain event of the no-deal Brexit that you have clearly wanted from the beginning. This clearly affects strongly rural areas like the place you are now flying to – Orkney – disproportionately. This may be – to a man born into privilege for whom the system determines will only ever fail upwards – but we will not be slow in letting you know. We see you.
You arrive tomorrow. Please provide answers.
Finally, Prime Minister, thank you for visiting my country. I’ve campaigned all my adult life for it to be free, and that you have selflessly traveled north to make my dream a reality means that I shall, sir, be eternally in your debt.
Yours aye, and on behalf of (at least) half of Scotland.
PS: It’s “Orkney” or “The Orkney Islands ”. Calling it “The Orkneys” just compounds the felony.
(With thanks to Richard Murphy’s Tax Research blog, which framed many of these questions)
Stay safe everybody. I’ll meet you further on up the road.