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Sketch: Drinking bleach and the bridge to nowhere

Credit: Iain Green

Sketch: Drinking bleach and the bridge to nowhere

It’s very hard to look at the current chaos consuming the world and not find yourself wondering what it might all mean for the bridge to Northern Ireland.

The worry, of course, is that the plan starts to look unrealistic. That with the world in the grips of a deadly pandemic, with transport systems and industry on hold, that the idea of building a 28-mile long bridge across a notoriously stormy body of water, over trenches filled with unexploded bombs, will start to look like a bad idea.

But then, what is this if not the time for bad ideas? From attacking 5G towers to heckling broadband engineers, that’s exactly what this is. This is a time for the worst plans. This is a time to inject yourself with bleach.

Or, as US President Donald Trump put it: “I see the disinfectant where it knocks it [coronavirus] out in a minute. One minute. And is there a way we can do something, by an injection inside or almost a cleaning? Because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it’d be interesting to check that.”

Disinfectant does a tremendous number on the lungs. Well, who can criticise? He’ll probably win the next election. Yet Nicola Sturgeon was forced to speak out against the plan – the Scottish Government opposes people drinking bleach – with the FM arguing: “It is clearly not the case that ingesting disinfectant in any way shape or form is a good idea. It’s a very, very bad idea, and extremely dangerous.”

Meanwhile Downing Street too has chosen a different strategy. One that isn’t based in injecting deadly poison into your lungs. Or as a spokesperson put it “it’s not something that’s being looked at here”.

No, instead the UK is apparently considering a flyover from the Red Arrows in an attempt to beat coronavirus, at least if comments from Tobias Ellwood are anything to go by. And the plan does have upsides and downsides - the downside being that it is totally useless, but the upside being that it is better than drinking bleach.

Yet still the FM faced criticism – though not for her refusal to down disinfectants, live on stage. This time it was after she suggested the Scottish Government would look to come out of lockdown separately from the rest of the UK if evidence supported it.

And to the Scottish Tories, this was more worrying than drinking bleach. As Jackson Carlaw put it, in an attempt to continue his party’s long-standing commitment to talking about how we shouldn’t talk about the constitution, “there’s no border between Scotland and England”.

It’s a bold argument, certainly, and not least because there is a border between Scotland and England. In fact, according to Google Maps, there is actually an area called the “Scottish borders”. There is a Conservative MP for Penrith and The Border, it seems. The Tories are actually in charge of the council in the borders, apparently. It is called the “Scottish borders council”, or it was, before Carlaw abolished it.

And at times like this you really have to be grateful the Scotland Office is around to mediate. Finally, it was their moment to shine. To govern. To do whatever its role may or may not be. Though sadly, on this one occasion, the office didn’t get involved, with Alister Jack instead believed to be occupied with getting the foundations sorted for the upcoming bridge to Northern Ireland.

Staff were probably surprised he is taking such a hands-on role, to be honest. He’s probably somewhere out around Beaufort’s Dyke at the moment, operating a remote submarine, slowly and single-handedly clearing away the millions of tonnes of unexploded World War Two munitions, chemical weapons and radioactive waste that was dumped there.

Yet people ask what the point of the Scotland Office is.

But to be fair to Trump, he does sort of look like a man who has survived drinking bleach. And at least for his part, he had the sense to claim the decision to suggest the plan was sarcasm, while Alister Jack, even before the pandemic began, was viewing the bridge as ‘a euphemism for a tunnel’, in a sentence which raises questions about his understanding of both engineering and euphemisms.

But still, if people believe drinking bleach is a good idea then who are we to judge? We should have a full and honest discussion on the subject. Experts are divided – though not evenly – so let’s see how it fares in the old marketplace of ideas. Debate must not be shut down. Maybe we could put it to a referendum.

No, for too long politicians have danced around the subject of whether or not to drink bleach, and finally Trump has addressed it.

Still, regardless, it’s hard not to miss the days from before all this started. Simpler times, when the dumbest idea we had to contend with was for a euphemistic bridge.

Read the most recent article written by Liam Kirkaldy - Refusal to extend Brexit transition could cost billions, warns Scottish Government

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