Did the Chinese really pull out of a trade agreement with the Scottish Government because of the political furore whipped up by Unionist politicians and the media? I don’t know. We’ll never know if the much touted £10 billion of investment would have come to pass.
What we do know is that where there was once the possibility of lucrative trade deals, there is now nothing, if The Sunday Times newspaper is to be believed. We know that the Chinese have officially blamed the political narking for their decision to withdraw from the memorandum of understanding.
The ‘Chinagate’ episode has shone a light on a dark corner of Scottish Unionism rarely acknowledged. It has brought to the fore one of the most uncomfortable topics for defenders of the Union. Do they put the interests of the Union before the interests of Scotland? Chinagate provided the answer.
When the agreement between the Scottish Government and a Chinese consortium was first reported in April this year it was headlined as a good news story. Few will know that the Scotsman newspaper broke the story with a positive headline ‘Scotland and China agree £10 billion investment deal’.
The newspaper altered its headline some time later after obtaining critical quotes from the Scottish Labour party. The Scotsman also published another separate article on receipt of the Labour comments. Labour inspired innuendo was to become the essence of Chinagate.
It was Saturday April 2nd and the Holyrood election campaign was entering its second week. Scottish Labour was already in complete disarray. Kezia Dugdale’s key campaign weapon of income tax had backfired spectacularly when she U-turned on the tax rebate element. Her naivety in an interview in which she signalled possible future support for independence compounded her woes.
Unionists needed something to divert from the catastrophe that was Kezia Dugdale. When Scottish Labour issued its innuendo laden statements targeting the Chinese agreement, it gave the Scottish media the ammunation it needed. Chinagate was born.
The story initially centred around the failure of the Scottish Government to announce the agreement. This was used in order to imply secrecy, which in turn allowed Unionists to paint the SNP as having something to hide.
Unionist innuendo made it onto TV and radio news bulletins on Sunday and Monday by dint of there being an election campaign where all parties are given equal air time.
Newspapers headlining Chinagate were rewarded with ‘reviews’ of their front pages by the Good Morning Scotland team.
However BBC Scotland gave the attacks on Nicola Sturgeon a massive boost when it decided to run the story for a third consecutive day. The broadcaster prioritised a blatant smear against a member of the Chinese consortium.
This kept the story at the front of the news agenda for an additional day. More importantly it turned the attack onto the Chinese themselves. The potential investor was now being smeared.
This was the point at which the interests of Scotland were displaced by the interests of Unionism. There was now no thought for what was best for Scotland. The solitary reason for Chinagate was to undermine Nicola Sturgeon.
The Chinese observed Scotland’s national broadcaster, our national newspapers and a host of apparently senior Scottish politicians going out of there way to smear a business group that was implicitly representing the Chinese government. Is it any wonder they viewed the coverage as a shambles and, having seen their own reputation slighted, tore up the agreement?
A £10bn investment may be significant to Scotland but to the Chinese it is but a tiny fraction of their international portfolio. It wouldn’t have registered.
Such a negative reaction by the Chinese to the attacks must have been considered by these reporters and politicians. It’s inconceivable that they didn’t realise that there could be a backlash from the Chinese that would place the agreement in jeopardy. Thus, the only conclusion to be drawn is that Scotland’s economic interests were considered acceptable collateral damage in an electoral war against the SNP.
Chinagate has parallels with the event that I consider to be the moment the media in Scotland decided anything was acceptable so long as it damaged the nationalists. That event was the release of the dying Libyan from a Greenock prison.
Al-Megrahi’s release on compassionate grounds witnessed a media turn against its own democratically elected government and against its own country. The BBC promoted each and every attack on the Scottish government during this period. The broadcaster openly promoted a little known internet campaign urging a boycott of Scottish goods.
BBC Scotland reporter Glenn Campbell was sent on an excursion to the US in order to find any anti-Scottish sentiment. Unionist politicians urged American Senators to attack the decision, promoting outrageous fasehoods in the process. Indeed Scottish Labour MSPs welcomed a delegation from the US and encouraged poorly informed criticism of the release.
Chinagate is a reminder, perhaps even a wake-up call, to those in the Yes movement who believe that placating the corporate media, especially the BBC, will somehow lead to more mature and balanced coverage of Scotland’s constitutional debate. It won’t. The corporate media is a Unionist beast and will react instinctively whenever Unionism is threatened.
The Chinese agreement was jeopardised because it offered an opportunity to undermine the SNP during an election campaign. Unionism is not anti-Scottish per-se, but it does encourage anti-Scottish behaviour if it helps the cause of Unionism.
And that’s the rub. Unionists and their media allies will act in a manner that would damage their own nation. We would do well not to forget that.
As I complete this article I have learned that the agreement may not be as dead as was initially believed. An article in the Chinese Global Times suggests rather than cancelled, the agreement may just have been stalled.
Interestingly a spokesman for the consortium says: “The opposition parties may simply aim to frustrate the deal which would allow the Scottish National Party-led government to seek less economic support from the UK government,”
Perhaps the Chinese understand more about Scottish Unionism than we give them credit for.
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