The Dying of the Light

What went wrong with the Tories? There was a time when it was respectable, normal even, to regard the Conservatives as having the answers to running the country. They represented grounded common sense, economic competence and a patrician concern for the less fortunate. They embodied the Britain my parents’ generation fought for…principled and tolerant.

It sounds naïve of course. The boss class lorded it then just as it does today. Even mighty Tory figures could be smeared with avarice. Ted Heath’s finances were handled by Slater Walker whose corporate raids were the 60’s and 70’s equivalent of sub prime mortgages, ending in a Bank of England bailout that shook the financial sector. They secured Heath spectacular 60 per cent returns on investments. Say no more.

The Tories gave us Profumo and Establishment spies and the bonds of class solidarity among themselves that still stifle social mobility and talent today.

Yet the Tories I knew, or at least many of them, were finely attuned to their role in public service. And in Scotland they had a taste for small ‘n’ nationalism if they deemed it appropriate. London may try to insist, but it was they who were entrusted to know best Scotland’s national interest. Sometimes they made that clear. Make that often, in the case of George Younger. He had successive run-ins with Margaret Thatcher and claimed that on particular Scottish issues, she would defer to him. He took her on over Ravenscraig – along with other Tories such as Michael Hirst. He made the case that after a damaging series of closures from Linwood to Corpach, putting out the furnaces at an iconic industrial site would harm both the economy and the Tories themselves. She relented, again, and there was a six-year stay imposed.

By keeping up a running commentary on his activities, Younger was playing his Scottish card to the voters, saying he was not afraid to stand up for them.

Too little, too late, you say. But he was playing the game of politics by publicly siding with the people against his government in London, something I don’t believe David Mundell has done once. I find this not only a sign of contemptible weakness in Mundell but an abrogation of responsibility to his Scottish party. It is a time-honoured aspect of Unionist politics to be seen standing up for Scotland against the powers in Westminster. Even Sturgeon does it and she has no Unionist boss to answer to. Couldn’t Mundell even fake a row with Theresa May in which he’s allowed to take Scotland’s side and pretend to win?

John Mackay, who also entered the Lords, was another who understood the hard realities of Scottish Toryism. In 1989, as we approached the tenth anniversary of Thatcher’s election win, the party was in the doldrums. John was by this time Chief Executive of the party in the north and I suggested to him the anniversary celebrations would be a boost to the Tories. He gave me a withering stare. ‘You must be joking,’ he said. ‘It’ll just remind them all of how long she’s been in charge.’

He was an intelligent and engaging character who constantly made cracks at the expense of those colleagues whose family fortunes contrasted painfully with his own modest means. ‘He doesn’t care if he loses’ he said of a well-known party aristo. ‘He doesn’t need the money.’ Everybody who knew him was fond of John and I felt for him when he was pushed aside – almost literally – to make way for Michael Forsyth who commandeered his desk from him as the Press looked on. In his obituary, the Guardian said, accurately: ‘Widely popular, he did not seem to fit wholly in with the new, increasingly right wing and Europhobic regime’.

I think too of Alick Buchanan-Smith, whose gentility was reminiscent of an 18th century gentleman MP. His home was dotted with momentos of empire acquired byancestors. His endearingly warm personality concealed a man of total conviction. He believed in Scottish self-government within the UK and took constant punishment for saying so until eventually resigning over the issue. As did Malcolm Rifkind. I think of them as significant figures with a firm grasp of Scotland’s importance.

Michael Ancram wrestled with the conundrum of fitting Scotland comfortably inside the Union. A nuclear disarmer, he argued for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq. He is of course, the Earl of Ancram, or is it the Marquess of Lothian? He was an open host when I followed him for a day in Belfast when he was Northern Ireland Secretary and again when I turned up at the ancestral home – one of them – Monteviot House at Jedburgh. I was to interview him but brought the kids with me. ‘Just take them into the nursery,’ he smiled. They were delighted when it turned out to be more like the Museum of Childhood, a huge space filled with rocking horses and toys of every kind.

There were others, among them Adrian Shinwell, Tory and British and yet undeniably committed to their version of Scotland. They were experienced and mature. They were people – it seemed to me – of stature in public life. And they could debate, as Hansard attests. Jousts between Rifkind and Dewar for example are comprehensive and biting examples of the art.

My personal dealings with such characters produces a jaundiced view of today’s crop. I can think of no active representative Tory who carries anything like the credibility of their predecessors. Styles change of course and the landed gentry and posh boys are out of fashion, rightly so. But class is no marker of stature. Where are the outgoing, avuncular, open-minded Tories today? What is their vision for Scotland? Is there one?

Even those who a year or so ago I genuinely regarded as being the right stuff, have descended into a small-minded antagonisms. Are we to believe that every one of those Tories at Holyrood truly supports the rape clause? Because I don’t buy that. When policy making from London gets that socially vicious, common sense tells you that sane people are inwardly rebelling. If the Scottish Tories did issue a denunciation, who would be hurt? Surely what the old Tories understood was that there was a Scottish viewpoint and, at times, it was their duty to reflect that, even if it miffs Central Office or Downing Street. I was astonished to see Jackson Carlaw chortling that it was ‘only one page’ to fill in and that the SNP should ameliorate the effects of the policy, missing entirely the inhuman element. I usually find that experienced politicians get the key point and can separate the instant reaction for the media from the considered longer view of the public. Not in this case.

Murdo Fraser always had my respect because he could communicate a sensible undogmatic message. What happened to him? Not so long ago he was championing the idea of reinventing the Tory Party and was a serious prospect for leader. Now his Twitter account is juvenile, bitter and unfunny. The stature he was building as a distinctive figure, different and to some extent at odds politically with his leader, has evaporated.

I considered Liz Smith a class act. Blunt, level-headed, no nonsense, she has simply vanished from the scene. Are the Tories only allowed one female at a time? Don’t tell me she approves of the rape clause. And yet she sits silent.

And, whatever her value in being a ‘Tory that is different’, I fear the fake bonhomie and bully boy antics of Ruth Davidson would make the heavyweights of yesteryear reach for the scotch. Where once there was a semblance of poise, there is now decay. It is a decay of quality and content, a paucity of composure. The pointy, angry tone and one-dimensional messaging buries any softer sound of compassion or even potential governmental competence. There was a moment when she took on Boris Johnson during the EU referendum, that I thought I would have to reappraise her. She was taking a Scottish pro-EU line against big hitters in the party. That was briefly worrying territory. But it wasn’t to last. As soon as the new leader took up the Brexit baton any thought of a differentiated approach was thrown overboard for die hard loyalty.

In truth it may be that Ruthie is the embodiment of modern Scottish Unionism – cold, strident, increasingly desperate as history overtakes them. Still they will be able to bask in small-scale glory in the coming elections no doubt as Labour drains away. It will sustain them a while longer but I see no policy initiative that suggests there is strategy at work or any alternative programme for government. They are a last-gasp protest group and, devoid of the kind of talent they used to produce, they cannot reach beyond the hysterical No Referendum rabble. Just as Scotland needs a genuine party of the Left, so it needs one of the Conservative Right. But it requires intellectual foundations and people to articulate it and neither is currently available.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

The Tories Are Coming

It’s a Tory surge…they’re going to have more MPs…hunners and hunners o’ them…The bonfires are being lit on the hilltops and the message of despair is sweeping up the length of the country – the Tory Army is coming, led by Mad Dog ‘Fluffy’ Mundell. Bury the silver. Herd the ewes into the forest. Hide the portrait of Chairlie under the boards.

The opinion polls may just be having fun with us but I suspect not. The tsunami of 2015 has abated somewhat and the survivors are regrouping. Their dam wall is built around the candidate with the best chance of resisting the next flood and, like all walls, it will have partial success. There will be scattered remains after the torrent has passed. In places it will be the SNP who will be swept away – Aberdeenshire? Moray? Perthshire? The Borders? MPs will be lost, some of them no doubt pals. It’s a precarious business. Those streams of votes that float some and sink others are the arteries of democracy itself – for better or worse. Just ask Michelle Thomson and Natalie McGarry.

But need we despair? Some argue it is crucial to resist these upstarts and give no succour to the imminent majority down south – one I think we will soon be safe in categorising as a One-Party State…But not me. There are a number of reasons why, strategically, what will be seen and reported in dutiful lapdog Scottish Press mode as a Tory Revival, is good for Yes.

First of all, if it proves correct and a handful of Conservative MPs make it to Westminster, how did they get there? Primarily because of the collapse of Labour is the answer in most cases. The Tories are still bumping along with little more support than they had in Thatcher’s day – it will most likely go higher but it is struggling to reach the levels one expects of a traditional and strong opposition. In other words around 30 per cent.

The Tories are relying on the disaffected from other parties to back them for one last tilt at resistance before the inevitable. People are frightened of what is coming – self-government. We should never underestimate how profound is the contempt of our fellow Scots for what we like to call our nation. The idea that it might be self-governing with no outside help from emotional props they rest on – reassuring Radio 4, Big Ben, public school sang froid and good manners – has them palpitating. They will vote for the BNP if it will halt the Scot Nats. And even where the Tories don’t lie second, you have to give Ruthie credit for claiming the mantle of No Surrender Unionist-in-Chief. She has claimed the copyright on the Union in spite of performing screeching handbrake turns on everything else.

For the SNP the heart murmur that represents Labour shows how they have successfully taken on and crushed what was only a handful of years ago, a monster rearing above all else on the political landscape. This is an historical triumph. Labour may not be in decline so much as slipping into the grave, to disappear for ever. Now I would in all circumstances always prefer a Labour government in London to a Tory one, even under Jeremy. But I no longer vote for a government in London. It is of secondary importance to me. And I of secondary importance to them.

The key point to recall is that with either no MP at all (1997) or a single MP since, the Tories have only had the moral ability to control Scotland utilising the support of Labour Unionists. If Labour had truly put socialist ideals before party advantage – and their innate hatred of Nationalists – they would have opposed the Tories rigorously and threatened to opt for separation if their demands weren’t met. Instead they became the facilitators of Tory excess in Scotland with the apotheosis coming in the greatest single miscalculation in the history of Labour – the 2014 Better Together campaign. They held Scotland back and were appalled at what the people made of their Holyrood parliament (backing real powers and rejecting the pastiche of Scottish democracy Labour intended).

So the death of Labour removes from the field the one thing that has confused the picture – a left-of-centre pro-devolutionary party directly connected to the seat of power at Westminster. Without Labour, the games board is stark and unequivocal – progressive independence versus doctrinaire, anti-European right-wingery.

This is the ground on which the SNP can fight along with any other progressive independistas like the Greens. The logic is that, once the right-wing Labour voters have scurried off to vote Tory, those that are left have little choice to resist draconian neo-con policies except by voting for independence parties. Or, of course, not voting at all.

And, when taking on the Tories, the one thing you need is to present them as truly difficult enemy. That’s near impossible when they don’t have more than a single MP in Scotland – like trying to demonise Corbyn, it’s not easy when nobody takes him seriously. However, if there are 10 or a Dirty Dozen popping up on telly and making a noise, on a screen near you, the scare factor is palpable. They become an identifiable opponent that demands to be opposed, rather than something that happens far away in England.

The other advantage is that they will finally face the kind of scrutiny that they avoid today because the media is happy to connive at the idea that Davidson is somehow not responsible for policy-making at Westminster so can body-swerve awkward questions. Just see how uncomfortable she is over the rape clause. With a small platoon of MPs, no studio can be avoided, no question dismissed. Accountability returns.

Those of you who remember the 80’s and early nineties will recall the dwindling band of Tory MPs who held on in the last redoubts of Britnat loyalty in Scotland. Some were eccentric, some were stark raving bonkers and the grotesque image they presented deeply damaged the brand. Something similar could happen again judging by the standard of recruitment evident in their MSP selection. It doesn’t take the public long to realise they are being sold a pup.

All this, remember, against the background of an overwhelming SNP majority of, proportionately, four to one. Whatever the actual number of Tories returned, it will be marginal, leaving yet again a massive number of SNP members representing a massive mandate for independence – one that will be heard loud and clear in Brussels even if it is again ignored in London.

And doesn’t that then open up the idea laid out in the Bateman Broadcasting podcast this week on Newsnet.

It is that, instead of waiting for a request for a referendum to be met, the Scottish government calls a general election when we know the outcome of the Brexit talks, in under two years time. It says to the Scots: This is your chance. Either you follow the mad Tories down the road to ruin or you stay in Europe by voting for our independence. And that is our mandate.

With a clutch of Tory MPs making that dread future all too real for us, enough Scots will open their eyes to the trap the Union has become and finally trust themselves to run their own country.

A Tory revival? Bring it on.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Defcon One, Please

By way of explanation (of yesterday’s blog) I want to make clear I am not deviating from any prescribed path towards self-government. On the contrary, even a cursory read makes obvious that I’m using the election to claim our independence – surely the objective we all share.

I do not advocate UDI. I never have. It only applies in extreme cases where the world community realises all democratic means have been exhausted and there remains no other option. That is far from the case with Scotland. Such is our constitutional position that I believe even a referendum result requires to be endorsed by the current state – the UK – before the world will recognise us. Only then will other nations see the way clear to shake our hand. Rogue actions will not suffice.

Nor am I attempting to subvert some constitutional process by declaring the idea of a referendum null and void. It remains the most likely avenue to guage opinion and secure the mandate. I support SNP moves to achieve one.

However, I am trying to upgrade the political messaging – to Defcon One, if you like. At the moment, by endlessly pleading with a tin ear government in London for the right to consult our own people, we play their game. We make it sound as if our objective is indyref2 itself when it is of course independence. May and her team have proved themselves impervious to reason and enemies of democracy – using it only as a means of self-advancement even when they legislated to avoid snap elections. She isn’t listening to Sturgeon and won’t until the Brexit process is over and it’s too late.

To her we are bleating about needing her permission to hold a vote. Please, please, Theresa. Be nice and say Yes.

We are currently utilising Defcon Three – Force readiness upgrade above the normal. That means we’re angling for action and getting ready to repel. (Sorry about the warlike tone) It does not mean we’re deadly serious here and you’d better believe it.

Weaponising (here I go again) the general election to say every SNP vote is a demand for independence strengthens the case and drags the referendum issue along in its wake. In other words Defcon One – War is Imminent. (Are you scared yet?)

I see no contradiction in letting the SNP carry on with their politically correct requests for acknowledgment for a popular vote from Her in Downing Street and hundreds of thousands of voters declaring that for us it isn’t about the method of delivery any more. It is the actual hard fact of independence we’re voting for and we consider every single vote an endorsement of that ideal.

If we openly argue for national self-government while others emphasis a referendum, then one supports the other. Voices complaining that this is splitting the campaign miss the point. There is only one objective but there are multiple voices and approaches to achieving it. We don’t all think the same way and it would be spooky if we did.

I’m not disagreeing with anyone who wants a referendum but I am changing my emphasis away from a cri de cour for someone else to deliver my civil rights to a statement that I and others want an SNP or Yes majority to be taken as a mandate – one that no democrat can ignore. How many elections can we win hands down and still be angling for another referendum – like dookin’ for apples? I see the Unionist Press now indicates that the loss of any SNP seats, which seems inevitable to me, will be taken as failure and loss of credibility even if Yes parties win an overwhelming number of seats and 50 per cent of the vote. They, on the other hand, have only to win a seat or two or even hold Edinburgh South to claim a major victory. This is the world of distorted democracy we inhabit. I these circumstances, it seems reasonable to me to step up the game and leave London in no doubt what’s at stake in the June election.

To those potential switchers who need to be wooed carefully towards Yes – Hello, by the way – I simply say that the time to pretend the SNP is soft on independence to sway your vote is over. The stark truth today is that Scotland needs a lifeline to escape this horrendous Brexit debacle, and quickly too. Waiting to see what turns up in Boris Johnson’s briefcase won’t do. Hoping Liam Fox can sell enough electric cattle prods to Asian dictators isn’t the answer. Expecting this regressive Prime Minister, who is currently manipulating the parliamentary process for party gain, to turn into Scotland’s Mother Theresa, is for your dreams.

If you can’t hack independence in these circumstances, you never will. And that’s true for us all. For Scotland. This truly looks like the parting of the ways. Either it’s stepping off dependency into self-sufficiency in Europe or it’s downhill to right-wing hell. You personally might ride the storm but the country you know today won’t. The powers will go back. The privatisers will take over the NHS. Essential immigration will end and the tax take will decline. The demographic will age further. The London elite will organise what they can for themselves – as ever.

I’m not voting for a referendum. I’m voting for a country.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Up the Ante

Well, this changes everything. We’re now staring at the carpet-bagging of democracy as a Prime Minister who said Now is not the time to Scotland (there are more important things to do) decides it is nevertheless the right time for her own agenda.

And why does she seek a new mandate? Didn’t she tell us the narrow Brexit vote was all the authority she needed – not only to pursue an exit but a hard one at that – outwith the Single Market and Customs Union. Now it seems that wasn’t the case at all. She will use the evidence of the opinion polls, which lay bare the collapse of Labour opposition, to endorse her no-holds-barred anti-EU approach. That’s a handbrake turn you’re witnessing.

Instead of using a limited majority to persuade other parties round to her case – as the SNP does in Holyrood –and allow opponents to ameliorate some of the harder edges of her full-on Euro idiots, she dismisses the result of the election held only two years ago in order to ram through her policies. Scots, despite a clearly expressed wish to remain in the EU, can go hang. Who cares about them? The imperative, as ever, is to do whatever is required to bolster the Tory Party which is exactly how that calculating coward Cameron got us into this mess.

And, with Scotland more or less out of her calculations because of the SNP franchise, this is an England-only election in her eyes. That’s where the hotbed of racism and parochialism is to be found, mostly outwith the metropolitan centres. They are the seedbeds of discontent she claims to represent in her strident Britain First rhetoric. Cleaning up in England where the official opposition is scattered like post explosion debris, means dragging the other nations of the greatest union in the history of the world along with her, like it or not.

May is planning to use her mandate as grounds for table thumping in Brussels. (She will do it without the votes of EU nationals living here as they are excluded) When her threats and warnings of retaliation fail, she will reach for her inner Thatcher and invoke the voice of the British people.

Can we all intone together: Not in my name…

But why should we buy into her duplicitous agenda? She has throughout treated us with contempt and I’m tired of wringing our hands and MSPs running to the media to complain. This is political opportunism on a grand scale and whatever we vote in Scotland, she will ignore it. After all she already has.

If the SNP win handsomely again it will be the fifth election in succession won by the party from 2007 onwards. They have had an overall majority at Holyrood of their own and today have a pro-independence total. In 2015 they wiped the floor with the Unionist parties in the UK election. Before devolution the election of a majority of Nationalist MPs was taken as the benchmark for a mandate to split the UK and set up a separate state. In fact in 2015 they got 56 out of 59. It now seems probable in addition they will claim overall victory in the council elections next month.

Does there not come a point when the consistent level of electoral success marks more than a generalised approval for a party and turns into an effective mandate for its key objective? It’s the Unionist themselves who continually warn the SNP is really about independence – forget all the other policies, only one counts, they say. So are we being played for fools by hoisting ourselves on a referendum? It gives all the power to our opponents who won’t devolve the general powers to stage one and neither will they grant the one-off authority. You couldn’t have a clearer contradiction of democracy given the level of mandate Yes has commanded for a decade.

Now the SNP did say a vote for them in 2015 wasn’t a vote for a second referendum, it’s true. But I begin to wonder if, based on those relentless electoral successes – the very definition of democratic mandates – the demand should go beyond a referendum and instead be a call for full independence.

The 2014 referendum set the precedent of course, so there is a logic to that continuing to form the process we follow. But the Great Democrat in Downing Street has denied us that chance, at least until it’s too late and we depart the EU. An enhanced mandate will reinforce her will upon us. We will be mute, our hands tied, our will frustrated while she engineers the downgrade of our economy and closes down open access to our European neighbours. This generation of Tories have engaged in an act of national self-harm and done so for internal expediency. They lied their way through the referendum. They have turned widespread concerns about Europe’s political direction into an out-at-all-costs imperative. Xenophobia is now a familiar media riff. Families are being deported as I write – people disappeared for not having the right papers. Sound familiar?

Do Scots continue to beg for ‘permission’ to ask our own people if this is acceptable or would we rather find a home of our own inside the EU? In the face of Tory chicanery, I lack the respect for them and their process to keep on seeking their approval for a democratic right. I lack the sense of inferiority to treat them like masters who know best. They ignore our election victories, even when the results are filling their revered green benches. They dismiss our request for an escape route.

Shouldn’t we bypass the failed referendum route and upgrade our demand?

The delicate, softly-softly approach is terribly correct and I know that’s how the world of diplomacy likes it but there is now a listening ear in Brussels which was once deaf. If it hears a clear demand from a duly elected parliament in part of a member state being ignored – again – is not the basis of the EU, as a guarantor of democracy, challenged? In fact do the normal protocols which dictate non-interference in the affairs of a state – as in Catalonia/ Spain – still apply? In our case it is the continuance of membership which is threatened by the Brexit vote, something that does not apply in Spain or another member state. Can the EU really stand by and watch long-time members who have expressed a wish to stay, lose their European citizenship and get pushed out against their will? Whatever the diplomatic niceties, I suggest the image of the EU would be tarnished.

It’s clear to me that May will not relent on a free vote and will use her greater majority in June to crush it. Do we stand by and allow our argument to be flattened by those who are no respecters of democracy?

Let us take May’s lead. She seeks to use a General Election as a mandate for hard Brexit. Let us use it as a mandate for independence. Let us say a vote for an independence party in June IS a vote, not for another doomed referendum request, but for national independence.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Call of the Wild

Back from the Easter break and a ream of memories from a sunny Perthshire – towering Scots pine against a blue sky, a Landrover up into the hills above Loch Tummel, ever vigilant deer herds staring hard at us, red grouse close by…boating on the loch, riding through the woods…alone on the golf course beside the Tay with woodpecker accompaniment from the beeches on the first nine and *ptarmigan calls from the larch woods on the return…dinner on Loch Tay…and several visits to a favourite bookshop in Aberfeldy, followed by a homeward stop for a distillery tour.

Like hundreds of thousands of others we escaped the city (where I’m told our nearest highway, Great Western Road, is the most polluted street in Scotland) to breathe deeply on the tourist trail – hardly news when the country faces Brexit catastrophe. But an escape does offer a fresh perspective. Our boat trip for example, from a new jetty on Loch Tay, is underwritten by the European Development Fund – a gentle reminder of ‘Brussels interference’. But, more significantly, I’m one of many Scots who now looks differently at our country since the indy referendum which charged our view of ourselves with renewed relevance. Suddenly the way the country looks, how it operates, and doesn’t, became political. Instead of just enjoying Highland Perthshire, we looked at it through the eyes of strangers and imagined what they saw, searching for ways of justifying our expected place among the independent nations.

Does this look like a normal, right-enough European country-in-the-making? Can we improve it? How can we entice more visitors?

It was and is an expression of pride in Scotland which the oxygen of the referendum fuelled. While others talked the country down, we took pleasure in declaring openly how much we loved it. Rather than just accept that Perthshire in spring is a place of beauty, we took to the internet to say so. It doesn’t sound much but, given our natural thrawn reserve, I think it was significant in helping us all feel part of a movement that celebrated the nation and whose sole purpose was to make it better. The air of optimism was important and a counterpoint to the cynicism and scorn of the Unionist campaign.

This instinctive public engagement leads to new ideas and provides impetus. Instead of our customary complaint of What Can Ye Dae? we took to agitating and creating answers. Imagine, we said, just what we could achieve with the ability here in Scotland to invest our resources in what we think matters instead of living off powers like income tax adjustment which were only surrendered for partisan reasons along with a block grant that lets English bigots on the internet and the media claim they subsidise us. The latest example is their objection to Scotland spending on Aids prevention drugs not available in England. Why should you get something we don’t when it’s our money you’re spending…

Reminding ourselves of what is wonderful about the place we live in spreads the idea that it is worth defending and nurturing – and that it is our job to do that. That means taking responsibility and the ultimate mechanism for that is independence. Part of the process is telling the world we’re here – come and look. Whatever you thought of Scotland and whatever you imagined Scottish nationalism to be, think again.

Which is why I shook my head in despair at a couple of items Twitter directed me to, bitching (the correct word) about Nicola Sturgeon promoting Scotland in the United States. They were by Labour commentators who belittle Sturgeon and by extension Scotland. Telling the world we don’t belong, that we only exist in the shadow of others and should never venture beyond our shores because we are not worthy is a message that can only appeal to a disaffected rump of readers. Experience of current affairs in a globalised world informs sane people that you have to engage internationally because that is the now the way of the world – our food is imported, according to the supermarket shelves, from Guatemala, New Zealand and China, never mind Europe. Our distilleries are owned by companies from the Caribbean to Bangalore. Twenty two per cent of our service sector companies are foreign owned. People’s own personal lives for business and leisure mean overseas travel and communication. One of our biggest industries is tourism bringing visitors from the States and elsewhere. What kind of dog-in-the-manger, dreary 1950’s outlook on life would you need to be offended by your national leader leaving the country to play some politics? (My first visitor on returning from Loch Tay was from the west coast of America. He was enthusiastic about Sturgeon’s impact there saying she had really impressed and he hadn’t known when Scotland was so centre stage. She was taken seriously as a world political figure.)

My suspicion is that some of these journalists don’t believe a word they write. They too live in the globalised reality and hop on and off planes but there’s a living to be made pandering to the darker instincts of extremist right wing opinion. And there’s people prepared to pay so long as you can prostitute yourself and still look in the mirror. What would be interesting is the reaction of the anti-Scot hacks if they were offered money by the other side. Would the same principle apply?

I suspect it would. And never underestimate the capacity for conversion among the most ardent adherent. One of the biggest transformations was Brian Wilson’s from SNP agitator in Argyll to anti-devolution Labourite – a phenomenon akin to Kafka’s Metamorphosis. Today there those like Tom Morton and Mike Dailly who have gone public with their conversion to independence despite brutal denunciations of its evils in the past. As countless Labour voters have found, once you step over the door, you never go back. Added to the release of knowing what you really believe, is the humiliation of realising you were had by the previous lot for so long. You are embarrassed by who you were and what you thought. The zeal of the reformed becomes real.

I wrote weeks ago about the conversations I was hearing and how people sounded deeply hostile to the SNP – beyond reason, I’d say, and sometimes armed with little information but plenty of prejudice. I’m sure that remains true but the flip side is a steadily moving glacier of opinion that may now be unstoppable. Day by day we hear of foreign politicians, academics, commentators and former opponents who, in assessing the likely impact of Brexit, can only conclude that it strengthens our case for self-government. Typically, they say: I’m not a nationalist. I voted (or would have) No. But Brexit is a dreadful mistake and Scotland has a chance to escape before it’s too late.

This in turn leads them to look with clearer eyes at our economy and its prospects. They then see that even without oil, Scotland is stronger than many existing EU countries and has massive potential to expand across all fronts, that non-Scottish decisions on for example, renewable subsidies being stopped, stunt our growth.

These voices spread the idea that independence isn’t just an option, it is seriously regarded by sane people without affiliations to be a preferable one. It makes it easier to answer the question from September 2014 – What are you afraid of? We now have a clear contrast. Instead of an albeit imperfect status quo, this time we have an impending disaster covering everything from the loss of satellite navigation (all our geo-positioning for sat nav, Deliveroo and every kind of device is operated by a satellite system open only to EU members) to the numbers of EU nurses applying for jobs in the NHS – down 90 per cent.

The tables have turned. Instead of Nationalists defending what seems like a risky choice and a rocky time, it is Unionists who have to justify the choice of economic suicide and a spaghetti disentanglement of regulation and agreements led by a band of ministers who don’t command their own party’s respect let alone a wider public. Many of the arguments for Brexit descend too quickly into prejudice and incoherence based around an inflated view of Britain and a barely disguised xenophobia. This is likely to be reinforced when the campaign hots up and metropolitan luvvies begin what will be an emotional appeal to stay British. They seem to have missed what Britishness has become in the eyes of the world…self-destructive, deluded, bitter (personified by Ruth Davidson), intolerant, right wing, rejecting parliamentary scrutiny and dismissive of its constituent parts. Our claim is strong enough but the wilful neglect of the Ulster question to leave the Republic with a headache after years of peace negotiations is unforgiveable, as the EU is making clear. And when even the Labour FM of Wales which voted No, weighs in – well, it shows you got it wrong. To the balanced voter weighing up his options, the prospect of independence in the EU is losing much of its horror when compared to the unfolding tragedy of diehard Britnats embarrassing the country on a world stage, kowtowing to dictators for business and knowingly taking us down a road to ruin.

The lack of effective opposition is disturbing as Labour fails in its principle duty to hold to account – it is the UK that resembles a one-party state. I can’t help feeling that Theresa May would benefit from a democratic block on her own Brexit idiots but it looks as if we will have to wait for the EU to provide that. Britain really is in a state these days.

Affairs will resolve themselves over the next two years and the only question is if that glacier of opinion can move fast enough to save Scotland. Springtime in Perthshire was a glittering reminder of how much that matters.

*Capercaillie. Sorry – city dweller.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather