Green Around the Gills

As you’ll understand, a retired gentleman has more to do with his time than follow the daily tittle-tattle in the gutter Press. What with checking the share prices and giving the Burgundy bottles in the cellar a half turn, there’s barely a moment worth wasting on the verbal histrionics of the hacks.

But on putting my feet up on the ottoman in the salon yesterday and opening my Herald – from whom I am in receipt of pension provision after many years dedicated service – I was struck by a tale from Holyrood with the hysterical headline Bloody Nose for SNP.

This was one of those exaggerated coups de theatre common in the Lilliputian world of the politicians in which one gang manoeuvres the other lot to catch them with their pants down so they can point and laugh. If I follow, it means that decisions made by regional health authorities to modify services, no doubt under the relentless burden of reducing budgets, must be ratified by the government. Not, you understand, to change a single one of those decisions but merely to embarrass the government who face either the ignominy of being pointed and laughed at or else will be obliged to ‘defy the will of parliament’. And this is serious politics, we’re told, at least the kind that causes smirks of satisfaction among the plotters.

But if the changes to health services are not to be made, what I wondered is the alternative. I could find no answers from the plotters. If, as everyone agrees, the Westminster cuts to Scotland’s operating budget necessitate spending reductions, where are they to fall if not on some health services which, as I understand, will not in any case disappear but simply gravitate to other centres. They are being rationalised to make better use of dwindling resources. Unfortunate, of course, if you like all your services in a local hospital but too expensive in the current climate, remembering that 85 per cent of the budget is still operated by a London Treasury hell-bent on shredding public spending. In any case, if you face a complex operation, do you want it done in a specialist centre by an expert operating crew who do it every day, or in your local base where the surgeon does the job once a year? Seriously…

So the opposition had a laugh at the government’s expense and Kezia remembered to press the right button this time. You may wonder why that is a ‘splash’ story at all given that the vote changes nothing of substance but the answer to that lies in the newsgathering judgement of an editorial meeting which might as well be Entertainments Committee of the Masonic Lodge as far as we are concerned.

I daresay ‘government loses vote’ is news of a kind but hardly a shock when the party in power has no majority. So it would pass as just one more day at the coalface for Bob Servant and his juvenile chums except for one detail that caught my eye. The result was 64 to 62 which, even by my shaky maths, must mean the motion that defeated the SNP was backed by the Green Party. And indeed it was.

Good for them, I thought. They are quite right to vote to their hearts’ content and for anything they deem appropriate. That’s how parties are supposed to work. If they want to embarrass the government then they should go right ahead. But was this the same Green Party that leafleted my house asking for my second vote last year?

In the log basket I found an old Guardian I use for lighting the fire. There, in May, just before the vote, was Mr Harvie of the Greens. The copy read…. ‘see the Greens as a way of maintaining pressure on the nationalists to match their progressive words with progressive deeds. Bold is the word Harvie uses when he talks about pushing the SNP beyond their comfort zone. At the same time, he is clear that the Greens favour constructive opposition…’ Interesting. He is quoted thus: ‘we’ll be able to do more if people have that sense of boldness and elect a parliament with a good strong group of Green MSPs.’

Well, I agree it’s bold – voting with the Tories to back Anas Sarwar and Kezia Dugdale could hardly be anything else when you tell people you’re a radical. And it’s certainly keeping the SNP on their toes. In or out of their comfort zone.

Can’t help but wonder though at those thousands of nationalists lured into handing their second vote to the Greens because they were told they were blood brothers and soul sisters when it appears they may be more like false friends.

I totally respect the Greens and their agenda but I don’t vote for it. I didn’t vote for it in May because I wanted an SNP majority to prevent exactly the kind of petty gamesmanship we saw this week. If the vote was on a substantive motion, for example to allow fracking to go ahead, I expect Greens to do their duty irrespective of warm words to the SNP pre-vote. But I don’t expect them to play along with the glib and shallow Sarwar in point-scoring. I don’t expect them to show us how bold, daring and progressive they are by voting with the Tories. I don’t expect them to overturn health decisions made by local boards in the interests of the people they serve. Despite my cynicism, expressed forcefully before May last year about spreading votes around, even I am dismayed.

I suspect, had I lent them my vote, I would be fuming. A letter to the editor of the Telegraph would be prepared.

When the Green group failed to back Sturgeon for First Minister I took it to be a statement of intent that ‘we won’t be lobby fodder’. Churlish but forgivable. The pattern emerging is disconcerting.

Yet it won’t be long before Greens are again asking for votes under STV in the council elections and to be fair, I normally deliver for them a second preference. I don’t close my mind to doing that again but I’ll be weighing it more carefully than usual after this week.

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Go Yersel’ Jeremy!

A triumph for Jeremy. A disaster for Labour. We’ve had time to realise first, that he was likely to win again and second, to gauge the scale of victory. He lifted his levels of support across all groups, not just the £25 entryists. For the one-time Corduroy Communist who exulted in remaining dogmatically pure when all around Labour MPs were lathering themselves in pragmatism, this is the ultimate vindication. Jez, at least in the minds of his Corbynistas, now takes his place alongside those other bearded Heroes of the People – Che and Fidel. He has proved that there is another way, a people’s highway, and it can be attained without massaging the ego of the bankers and corporatists, without schmoozing with the careerists and compromisers. Jeremy is walking the shining path. And like other insurgents he has done it by dividing the party base while talking the language of unity.

He has crushed the opposition through democratic process and scattered them as comprehensively as the electorate has squashed the Labour Party in Scotland. Any lingering sense of entitlement from the zombie New Labour detritus that they are inheritors of some Labour ‘tradition’, has been scoffed at by the membership and looks likely to be confirmed by the electorate.

Labour, as the force we have known it – in my case from the Wilsonian sixties, Callaghan’s seventies through Foot to Smith, Blair and Brown – is an empty Hallowe’en costume devoid of its capacity to scare. It is over. The generational political voice of the people has been choked off, the collective force of the working man curbed, the modernising driver of social progress stalled. Under Jeremy, the name will remain but it will be the political wing of a radical social movement rather than a disciplined, hierarchical organisation built for power. Scoring points will trump parliamentary votes.

The real toe-to-toe area of combat in the Corbyn v Smith contest wasn’t left v right but activist v payroll. MPs have come to represent not the voice of the party but the symbol of its conformity. They are the accommodators too ready to concede a Daily Mail agenda, too comfortable with all but the outer edges of Tory policy and the epitome of middle management men-in-suits who defer to the boss class however it hurts the shop-floor.

There can be no doubt now that those behind Jeremy’s campaign as are astute and honed as any activists. Indeed they sound similar to many of the Yes side’s own battalions who not only know what they are doing but why they’re doing it. They have the ingredient missing for so long from the paralysed Labour movement – belief. It is the great motivator and it is making a success of Jeremy’s alternative party, challenging the weary old school charade of Parliament and exposing, as happened in Scotland, the hopeless inability of the partisan, right wing British media.

So in his own terms, Corbyn has found redemption. But has Labour?

The answer is a resounding No. There is a sizeable opposition some of which will never be reconciled. To them the party has been taken over and turned into a student protest group. It isn’t just Jeremy. For them it’s also McDonnell who always rubbed them up the wrong way. It’s Diane Abbot who is flaky. It is an assortment of younger radicals that remind them of Militant and Socialist Worker. The background irony here is that those same traditionalists whose generation wrecked Labour accuse the Corbynistas of being wreckers. And probably both are right.

The Blairites, for want a better term, lost touch with and stopped talking to and for their constituents. It wasn’t really about delivery – Blair did deliver minimum wage, working tax credits, big rises in health and school spending (whatever legitimate qualifications can be laid against him) – but more about communication. Labour looked and sounded more and more like vaguely more competent Lib Dems. The party became the embodiment of the aspirational and avaricious Blair himself, loosened from its electoral moorings by belief in being untouchable. Like him, those who left became rich and opportunistic looking for ‘business’. They missed the growing public disillusion. The Labour generation of Blair, Brown, Mandelson and Darling left a residue of weed killer that has now reached down to the roots.

But that’s the past. Jeremy and his friends are wreckers too of the party previously known as Labour. They have limited appeal to an angry and disillusioned public. Britain will never see a lunge to the left as an answer for its complaints. The latest polling puts the Tories (who gave us a decade of austerity and Brexit) along with UKIP on a combined support of 55 per cent. His appeal just isn’t wide enough and the British voting public isn’t adaptable enough to reach out to a radical alternative. The conservative nature of the majority and their priority of ‘stability’ makes them suspicious of change, especially if it can be twisted to look like left-wing dogma. UKIP appeals to many in England because its radicalism is in reality a return to a Dad’s Army Britain – Church of England, white and Spam-eating.

Which is exactly why Scotland is so interesting. From views on monarchy to helping refugees, Scot speak a different language and that language is social democracy, the very thing Labour assumed was their trade mark. In pondering Scottish Labour members’ apparent preference for Owen Smith, it seems that many of the potential Corbyn backers here had already deserted, probably to the SNP, which offers an alternative home unavailable in England.

But the truly odd thing about Scotland is they way the leadership has miscalled the result. On the face of it, Kezia Dugdale understands her own support. She spoke against Corbyn and it seems most of her membership agree. Yet, without this opposition to the newly-endorsed leader being vocalised by either leading figures or the wider movement, she now finds herself isolated. Worse, instead of finding herself a principled stance and taking any consequences that follow (it’s called leadership) she instead tried to maintain that her criticism of Corbyn was simultaneously correct and, eh, wrong. In one paragraph she said he was both unelectable and unable to unite and electable and able to unite.

She is making a comedy routine out of her party at the very time it requires authority and direction.

Ineptitude gives way to haplessness; gives way to hopelessness. The result is embarrassment which can be lived with and derision which can’t. Derision means no credibility and in turn no capacity to lead. The lack of faith and credibility is crippling. I argued that, no matter how new in the job, no Labour leader could remain if they lost out to the Tories in Scotland. The more popular view was it wasn’t her fault and she should remain to rebuild the support. But Labour is today stuck in the mid teens a full five points behind the bloody Tories! Many are to blame for Labour’s never-ending travails but it is beyond contradiction that Calamity Kez is making things worse with no prospect of improvement. It would be an act of mercy to find an escape route for her – and no doubt would aid her own sanity.

To look at Labour today, it’s as if four decades of my adult life never happened. Did I really swap bar room tales with John Reid and Helen Liddle…spend countless hours in tiny studios speaking to Donald Dewar…get barked at by John Smith…have party media types stop interviews mid-flow because ‘the minister had to go’…share a street stall with a young unpretentious Alistair Darling…get pushed aside by Alistair Campbell to let Blair go past??? Labour was the dominant force in the political landscape, built-in, unassailable and part of national life, it’s spokesmen known and respected. Nothing moved without Labour’s knowledge. It had aye been and it aye would.

Well, this isn’t coming back. Not under Jeremy. Not under Kezia. Labour as we have known it is being laid to rest. Its future is behind it.

Something will soldier on – a popular movement with energy but with limited public appeal, a tattered flag on an empty battlement.

I wish Jeremy luck. Politics needs to change and the Westminster clique broken up. In Scotland, it makes the nationalist ascendancy more secure and yet at the same time the plaintive voice of Labour defeat should send a shudder through all those who believe they are untouchable. Politics is a people’s game and people are fickle. It seems so far from possible now but voters know they can make and break both political parties and even, via Brexit, the system itself.

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Deference or Dignity

The theory runs that Scots won’t move on indyref2 because the economic pointers are all facing south and anyway, who wants to add more turmoil on top of Brexit? Perhaps that’s the explanation for unpropitious opinion polls. Then again, perhaps it isn’t. Damned if I know.

I am pretty sure though that the issue of oil prices and debt is clearing the way through the verbiage to reveal a straight path ahead. What I mean is that many of us are now confronting for the first time the true reality of self-government – that taking your independence eclipses all other transitory factors. If not totally ‘an end in itself’, it is nevertheless the platform from which everything else can be addressed in the Scottish national interest.

As it stands, we are largely powerless to make strategic moves to transform key areas of national life – we have limited access to borrowing, can’t adjust corporation tax, set VAT or alter competition policy or industrial relations. We have no separate foreign or immigration policy, our defence needs are (not) met elsewhere, our energy likewise – even our broadcasting is not our own. But we do at last control traffic signs.

A country denied the ability to run its own economy is blamed for being bankrupt by the authority which exercises those macro economic powers over it. The British Treasury pulls our wings off and then laughs when we can’t fly.

One of the underlying aspects of the debt is that we are paying not just for Scotland’s borrowing and spending but for Westminster’s too. This is a debt over which Scots have no direct control and stands at nearly £1.7 trillion. We pay a population share.

http://www.pieria.co.uk/articles/scottish_debt_mountain_is_a_molehill

Debt comes and debt (hopefully) goes. At the time of Waterloo British debt was twice GDP. We know from more recent history that oil can go through the roof – as in the oil crisis of 1973 – that inflation destroy savings, pensions and jobs – it stood at 24 per cent in 1975 – that house prices can lead to damaging borrowing and that, if you trust bankers, as in 2007, they can cause catastrophic results (and get away with it).

These are all the freak waves that hit any and every country and still the battered vessel remains afloat, just as the UK will after the Brexit finale. Britain survived the currency controversy with the IMF loan in 1976 and parachuting out of the ERM in 1992. What makes us think Scotland can’t also cope with the storms and headwinds that the UK and other countries have survived? We’re pretty sanguine about stormy weather, aren’t we?

And oil price fluctuations are nothing new. Throughout the 1950s to 1970, oil was between 20 and 30 dollars. It rocketed to nearly 120 in 1980 and was back below 18 in 2000. Eight years later it stood at 140 dollars. It’s volatile, remember?

My point is that we can fret and become fearful at every passing squall or else we decide it’s time to pilot our own course in our own vessel. Everything else is transitory. Ask yourself this: If today we’re too poor yet when the books balance we’re rich thanks to the Union, when will the time be right for independence?

I was gratified to read the First Minister say that independence supersedes the economy and all other factors because that’s my side of the argument. It isn’t that I don’t understand the utilitarian case because I am also convinced that we will do a better job than the rats-in-a-sack Tories who are little more than an on-going class war in office. Things will be better after self-government but the impulse isn’t, or shouldn’t, be to vote Yes for a fat wallet. Even the case for jobs and investment on which so much of Better Together was based simply isn’t a solid enough case either way because the promises of employment have already been dashed…from the Clyde shipbuilding work on planned frigates to the hundreds of job losses at HMRC where 17 centres will close.

(I did a hustings in 2014 with Linda Fabiani where the Unionists planted a union rep in the audience to ask if tax jobs would be guaranteed at HMRC East Kilbride if we voted yes. I said no one guarantees jobs that way and anyway 200,000 public sector jobs had been lost already in the UK. A year later hundreds of those staff had gone and the office will shut in a few years. Better Together in a paragraph.)

No other country I know of has taken its independence to be richer. You do it to be free to make your own decisions in your own best interests and, yes, to make your own mistakes. Ireland did just that when the Celtic Tiger turned round and bit them. They took their medicine and fought their way back, recording recent GDP growth of 26 per cent. I know it sounds dubious but even if it’s exaggerated, it was nearly 8 per cent in the previous period. The UK’s latest figure is 0.6 per cent.

I’m taking Sturgeon’s remark as a sign that her argument is moving beyond the policy detail of independence to the real meat of the case. Scots have a right to run our own country and will never be at ease until we do. If you’re frightened by passing storms, then stay indoors and keep your head down. If you really do think your own people couldn’t run a whelk stall – unlike the statesmen who brought us Brexit – then vote No the next time too.

But it’s becoming clearer that we can either suffer helplessly as collateral damage from the mess created by the Union or trust ourselves to run the country and tidy up ourselves. Deference or dignity, you might say.

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You’ll Have Had Your News

Because, of course, I always believe everything I read in the old media, bless ‘em, I take it the chances of the emergence of the whiskery plan for a Scottish Six is as dead as Kezia’s branch office. What appeared to be an olive branch held out in final recognition that Scotland probably did deserve to be served by its own grown-up news programme, has been snatched away in the BBC Charter renewal.

Twenty bloody years later after the establishment of our own legislature, a squeak of a win in a separation referendum, the wipe out of Scottish opposition at Westminster and a decade of nationalist self-government – and the arrogant, backward, dismissive bastards are still too scared to let journalists handle the news.

These, remember, are the libertarians who oppose the big state and detest government interference, the champions of individual rights and freedom of speech who fight political dogma. In the space of three days they have denied the people of Britain any oversight of their plan to remove us from treaties linking us to our friends in Europe and even any parliamentary say in the final deal. Now they have stamped their right-wing boot on the throat of Scots aspiring to watch news programmes shaped to their own life experience.

Some of us strive not to use liberally the language of colonialism. It is legitimate at times in order to make rhetorical points but it implies subjugation which can never be true in a democracy. But it is impossible to escape the sense of wilful containment as if tethered to a tree for the entertainment of some cruel master. What does any governing authority gain by suppressing such a small idea which is normal in every other country? A simple, do-able plan that hurts no one and costs them nothing in which some of us have invested hope for the revolutionary idea of better journalism and a better informed public…

Is there in this the twisted pleasure they seem to derive from denying access to sterling for example, or their glee at Scotland’s relative impoverishment when the oil price falls? What is wrong with these people? Just today the same Downing Street that is briefing the Scottish Six is finished has agreed a deal with a Chinese company with a history of industrial espionage. China, whose record on human rights we deplore and which has been rightly viewed as a security threat to the West for decades, now is a key part of the UK’s essential service infrastructure. We haven’t heard it yet but do you think the security services are sanguine right now?

Yet in Scotland – remember, dear Scotland – which they love so much and which should not leave but lead the UK, our longest, dearest friends in the greatest union in history, can’t be trusted to run their own television news programme. They can get Hew like every other bugger.

The answer of course lies within. The BBC should, we hear reflect the ‘national mood and national news across the UK’ says the minister while in briefings Downing Street says the Scottish Six is an entirely SNP initiative which is to be stopped. You’ll notice that the news made in London reflects ‘the nation’ – even when its about grammar schools, whereas the news where you are can only be parochial. This entirely misses the point that the Scottish version will include all international and UK news the journalists think appropriate, not exclude it. But they – and by implication, you – can’t be trusted to do that. London and Theresa know best.

Sorry but that is a fucking insult to everybody at BBC Scotland and by extension to every single Scot. (You’d get more news variety in China). The specific complaint, made by among others the BBC Audience Council is that the news failesto reflect properly peoples’ lives in Scotland. You won’t change that keeping the decision making in London.

The case against throughout the last 20 years has been that somehow the BBC news would be manipulated by Nationalists. It is the same line from Number 10 today. Yet what is this decision but direct political interference in BBC news? The hypocrisy of the Tory anti libertarians is blinding. And how exactly will the SNP run the news programme? Entryism? Brown envelopes? Clearly BBC staff are seen as corruptible as well as incompetent.

Meanwhile, if you missed it, there is now to be no automatic seat as of right for a Scottish representative on the main BBC board. They are actually reducing Scotland’s access to the big strategic decisions. There’s your respect agenda. What has Kenny McQuarrie been doing while this emasculation goes on? He and head of news Gary Smith gave a dispiritingly poor showing before MPs recently and the feeling that there is no champion of Scotland’s interests in broadcasting is now evident. Kenny was asked by the Director General to stay on until the renewal process was completed because of his experience. Well, that paid off handsomely. Can we get some guts in BBC managers any time soon or are we always to be served by puppets?

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Brit Pap

A foundation stone of the Better Together case was the integrity of the UK. In other words, the political and constitutional construct we know as Britain was sound, time-honoured and powerful. Our alternative was uncertain, untried and shaky. You needed faith to buy into our idea. Theirs just was

We were all brought up with its inexplicable eccentricities and unchallenged authority. Even after devolution the common complaint was Holyrood had neither the intellectual content nor rhetorical ability to emulate Westminster. SW1 had quality in spades. EH99 didn’t even have spades.

The presumption of jaw-jutting dominance was encapsulated in the alacrity with which even our ‘left wing, radical’ representatives took to London. You might be elected by the voters of some desperately impoverished burgh but that was only the catapult which propelled you into metropolitan ascendancy. Gordon Brown was first offered junior ministerial promotion to the old Scottish Office. He rejected it out of hand, he having bigger fish to fry.

The same assumptions could be heard time and again in the questions fired at – mostly – Alex Salmond. The Radio Four presenter, asking about automatic entry to the EU, tagged on a final: this is your first foray into international affairs – didn’t go very well, did it? (Over-reaching yourself, yokel?)

The answer was along the lines of not taking lectures on foreign affairs from the people who led us into Iraq and the worst diplomatic debacle since Suez.

But in a way that summed it up. The broadcaster was (is) afflicted by the same default mind-set as the Great British public. In essence it is that Britain is the good guy whose intentions are always true whatever mistakes are made along the way. No matter how egregious the UK’s decision-making, no matter how catastrophic the effects, Britain isn’t wrong for long. Or something like that. It gets hard to tell sometimes just what the public do think such is the myopia and short-term memory syndrome of the voters. Austerity? Starving ex soldiers committing suicide? Food banks in every town? Top one per cent richer than ever? Can’t remember that, mate. I’m voting for Cameron. Don’t trust that Miliband bloke.

I’m tempted to describe this as an extreme branch of nationalism, one so fixed in its fundamental positioning that it overlooks or overcomes every shortcoming of both the British state and those who defend it most openly. This differs considerably from what has become the hallmark of the nationalist case in Scotland.

It’s true, I think, that there is a tendency by Yes to deny or dismiss criticism of the SNP government. But in my experience that is mostly a form of fending off what they see as unreasonable partisan attacks from opposition and media on anything the SNP does rather than rational analysis of policy. It is in the nature of insurgency that the whole array of existing voices will contest your right to exist and the result is a dreadnought defensive reaction. Repel! Repel!

Asked about this default blindness to SNP failure by a Ph.D student filming an interview this week, I outlined some of my own specific, and public, criticisms of the SNP from mistakes over indyref European policy, the currency, the way Named Person was announced to the glorification of Nicola. But I qualified it all by saying that for me and, I suspect, most Yessers, the dismal quality of the opposition and its collective empty offer of serious alternatives still left the Nationalists miles ahead, whatever their limitations. If Sturgeon talks big on education but the outcomes contradict her, do I turn to the Tory opposition for answers? Hardly. If poverty stats worsen do I give my vote to Kezia instead. Erm…

I’m backed up by the Scots themselves who still, nine years on, give a measure of support to the SNP that defies political gravity. (52 % support for Holyrood against 21 % for the Tories in second) You can’t tell me none of those SNP voters disagree with one iota of policy or non-delivery. How many are teachers who resent curriculum change but still vote SNP? Or farmers paying off loans after subsidy payment delays? Or independence non-believers who don’t buy the SNP project at all but just want competent devolved government?

But the difference here is that the SNP is not Scotland. Scots, as shown by the indyref and by the continuing polling, can simultaneously vote SNP and No (to independence). The belief in country that I think allows Unionists to be nationalistic about Britain, more or less despite the political parties, does not yet extend to Scotland. Sure, we do all the bluster about emblems and history but that’s not belief, it’s nostalgia. We’re not a state of course and we’re pushing against the grain of accepted history. We’re trying not just to change politics but to change our perception of ourselves.

One way of doing this is by comparison. Obviously. This hasn’t gone well for us as touched on above. We simply haven’t had the armoury needed to compete with the UK – no credit history and no strategic control of the economy to quote, for example. But something has changed. Britain has become defective.

The seemingly ageless nation, the mother of parliaments, its diplomatic finesse and the other accoutrements of the admirable British, are in decay. Some of us have argued for years now that Britain wasn’t what people thought. It had become a place scornful of the working and non working class, encouraging contempt instead of compassion. It elects and appoints from a tiny elite while talking of meritocracy. It talks human rights while engaging in torture, talks peace while being constantly at war – see Ian Cobain’s latest book, the History Thieves.

Now we see on a regular basis catastrophic decision-making outlined at Hillborough (with Orgreave to come), Bloody Sunday, Chilcott, today, via the Commons, Libya, Hinkley Point and of course the ongoing ruin of Brexit. The vote to come out of the EU is Britain’s Mr Bean moment. It is an inadvertent slip on a banana skin from a careless Prime Minister and a bigoted media feeding a disenfranchised public. It is going to hurt, mostly the low paid, the outward-looking student, the traveller and enterprising businessman. The price in loss of respect and friendship will be incalculable.

If the leadership had a plan for the aftermath and had hit the ground running, you could be reassured there was meaning to this whatever your own misgivings. Instead the instigators have vacated the field. Those left behind are clueless, blaming each other. There is a seismic split of Labour proportions to hit the Tories in the next year between theological outers, the hard Brexiteers, and those moderates who seek a deal allowing (qualified) membership of the single market.

Thus far Britain is irritating the EU leadership, a mistake in itself as the capacity to wound is greater by far in Brussels. It is one thing to be denuded of the professional expertise to negotiate – and in addition to have stripped the civil service bare through budget cuts – but so far the UK hasn’t even an idea which approach to take while ministers disagree over the destination. Notice how quickly the notion that parliament might be consulted was swept aside. Nominally, that’s you and me being kicked in the teeth.

I can see a time when the Brussels machinery really will have to listen to voices in the UK pleading to stay if for no other reason than the image the EU will give to the rest of the world. I see a political temptation to focus on Scotland with a history of nationhood and anti-British resistance, making us an irritating example or a pawn in the game. After all, the British membership chair will be invitingly empty throughout the exit talks. Who will be there when the music stops?

Yet, to go back to the start, the deep belief in the British brand remains embedded here in Scotland. Over the generations the British have done a remarkable job in building a reputation that survives everything. For probably a majority it trumps the efficiency and appeal of any sort of SNP-led self-government. No doubt there will be a moment when a tipping point is reached and resistance falls away. Certainly demographics are on our side. But as opponents have discovered over the ages, the UK still stands. Crumbling and unstable she may be but there nevertheless. If nationalism is core belief in country, it looks like their nationalism is stronger than ours.

 

 

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