NOBODY really knows who he is. Or what he stands for. Alister Jack, the nearly anonymous Brexiteer millionaire who serves as Boris Johnson 's man in Scotland, sought to put that right this week with a kind of 'get to know me' opinion piece in The Times.

He sought to quash the suggestion that leaving the EU made Scots more likely to seek independence, and to counteract some of the doomsday scenarios outlined in the UK Government’s own “Operation Yellowhammer” papers.

“Far from destroying the Union, Brexit gives us a great opportunity to strengthen it,” Mr Jack wrote. He emphasised the benefits. “When the UK leaves the EU, Scotland will take back control of Scottish fishing waters... We will have a historic opportunity to introduce new funding schemes to support Scottish farmers.”

His fellow columnists were not impressed. After all, Mr Jack - nicknamed, you guessed it, "Union Jack" - had decided to equate the SNP with nasty xenophobes overseas while ignoring his own government's crude nationalism.

The Times

Former Daily Record editor Murray Foote is a late convert to the cause of Scottish independence. But he is smart enough to know that there are nationalists and non-nationalists alike on both sides of Scotland's constitutional debate.

Mr Jack had said the SNP, "like nationalist movements the world over, requires an enemy to make it thrive".

READ MORE: Brexiteer Scottish Secretary equates SNP to extreme nationalists overseas

This, retorted Mr Foote, "employed the dog-whistles of the anti-EU right against the Scottish independence movement". Indeed, Mr Foote argued, Mr Jack's description of "narrow angry nationalism" was a "bullseye description of the Eurosceptic campaign against Europe".

He added: "As an advocate of Scottish independence, I seek no enemies. I want Scotland to be open and inclusive. One attraction of independence is NOT to blame others for our problems."

For Mr Foote, Mr Jack was, like his boss, Boris Johnson, capable of "shameful misdirection".

The Scottish secretary had accused the SNP of scaremongering over Brexit. "Even from a member of this hard-Brexit government, this is shameless beyond parody," said Mr Foote. Why? Because the whole scheme to leave the EU, the writer said, was based on scaremongering. And the No Deal Brexit threat, he added, is real enough.

Mr Foote continued: "This was the Scottish Secretary's first big intervention in his new capacity and he flunked it with a scattergun attack on the entire movement rather than choosing specific targets - but then nuance has never been a Brexiteer strength."


Nicola Sturgeon

Ironically, Mr Foote found easier targets for criticism in the Yes movement than Mr Jack.

He rounded on internet conspiracy theories attempting to delegitimise the Scottish Government's own Gers figures on the country's notional public finances.

READ MORE: Mark Smith: Yes First Minister, anti-Englishness is a problem in the SNP, but so is anti-Scottishness

"Scunnered soft No voters who recognise and reject Johnson and Jack's duplicity will not be encouraged to take the leap to independence if to do so would mean voting for more of the same but wrapped in a blue and white saltire. "

Conspiracy theories that Gers are a unionist plot are "embarrassing, dispiriting and deeply unattractive", according to Mr Foote.

Those who push such theories are "doing more damage than good", he said suggesting energies were better spent on finding real-world solutions to real-world problems.

The Scotsman

Alister Jack's column may have lacked nuance and self-awareness but it inspired a higher calibre of thinking from Joyce McMillan. It is "absolutely unacceptable", Ms McMillan wrote, "for supporters of the party that has visited Brexit on to us to....start haranguing independence-supporting Scots about the evils of nationalism, the grievance culture on which it allegedly thrives, or the division it foments."

And that, according to Ms McMillan, was exactly what Mr Jack had done. But the Tory's "proud Scot" routine prompted Ms McMillan to question how much self-belief was right for a nation.

Scotland, she said, has had too little, "as its citizens internalised an assumption that to achieve is to move south, and leave Scotland, its language, accent and culture behind".

Mr Jack's hypocrisy, she said, represented "the Scottish cringe, par excellence, the unthinking application of a constitutional and ethical double standard to which no self-respecting Scot could seriously subscribe."

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon: Anti-English nationalists 'not welcome in SNP'

Moreover, Ms McMillan reckons bad arguments such as those made by Mr Jack threatens the union he says he loves.

She added: "For the rest of us, the task is to believe in ourselves as much as is sensible...and then ensure our self belief never expands in to flatulent self-aggrandising exceptionalism that leads to wards delusion, disillusion and conflict.

"For the present UK government, lost in empty bluster about Empire 2.0 and a buccaneering Atlantic future, I fear it may already be too late."

What of Scotland? Can it get self-belief right? "We still stand a fair chance," Ms McMillan concluded, "provided we stay calm."

Daily Mail
Mr Jack had support, of a kind, from Nigel Farage. The former Ukip leader poured scorn on the warnings of impending doom. “While I have never disputed that such a major disruption will inevitably lead to short-term difficulties, the contents of Operation Yellowhammer are baffling,” he said.

“Its suggestion that the flow of our goods could be halved in the event of a No Deal Brexit is frankly laughable. Even the German U-boats were not as useful at lowering our levels of trade!”

Too much emphasis has been placed on the alleged disruption Britain faces if and when we leave the EU without a deal, he added. 

“For too long, Brexit has been the thing which divides us as a society... It is up to everybody to make the best of this opportunity.

“Past generations would have done so without question. And future generations will not thank 
us if we continue to waste it.”