Earthquakes and Aftershocks

Political earthquakes, like any other variety, leave a number of corpses and walking wounded, a lot of rubble, and an urgent need for re-building. David Cameron falling on his sword was not expected given his constant campaign assurances that he wouldn't resign win or lose, but, in fairness, his farewell speech was long on dignity and short on blame. As they say`; nothing became him so much as the manner of his going.

Amongst the wounded are certainly Labour's UK leader who watched his erstwhile heartlands in England and Wales contemptuously ignore his urging to vote Remain.  There are echoes here of Labour's collapse in Scotland, though  it's fervently to be hoped that left wing England doesn't  fall into the poisonous embrace of Farage's UKIP. Corbyn's many enemies and detractors are already sharpening knives barely sheathed since last year's leadership election, but they might ponder this thought: nobody who stood against him last time round mustered anything resembling enthusiasm for their candidature.  To plot against a leader you really need a credible alternative.  Not sure who that might be.

In contrast Kezia Dugdale, like Ruth Davidson before her, grew visibly in stature during her recent outings on the UK airwaves.  She may be at the foot of the electoral mountain her party needs to climb, but, unlike in England, there's no liklihood of rebellion in the Scottish ranks against a leader who is inexperienced and not always sure-footed but palpably decent. Not being Jim Murphy was a positive start!

And the rubble?  Look no further than the predicted tumble of sterling, the instant turmoil in the financial markets, and consternation in mainland Europe where the only people cheering on Brexit are the far right anti migrant parties.  With friends like these etc...

And what about the re-build?  The urgent question for Scotland of course is how and when to react to the fact that Scotland palpably wants to stay in the EU; that it is being dragged out despite voting to stay; and that it has to think through a workable strategy for a second referendum - one where losing would be catastrophic and put an independent Scotland beyond our reach for the forseeable future.

For Nicola Sturgeon and her cabinet there is now great oppportunity matched only by the size of the risk it poses.

On the minus side there is the not implausible prospect of a second poll characterised by voter fatigue and irritation and held during a period of considerable financial uncertainty. If the arguments over currency proved tortuous and difficult the last time round, this new world order needs some very hard thinking and scenario plannning  before  a second pro Indy campaign sets out its fiscal stall.  

The plusses though are quite seductive. There is no shortage of erstwhile No voters this morning rushing to assure social media that next time round they wouldn't fall for the fallacy that setting their face against independence would protect their status as Europeans. And, when you look at the likely face of a pro-Brexit government in London, why would you ever fancy that ragbag of loudmouths and not so closet racists over a competent adminstration in Edinburgh?  Watching Farage strutting around the airwaves this morning was a sickening reminder of his own distasteful #euref campaign persona.

The First Minister has often suggested that she wouldn't risk another Scottish referendum unless and until the polls indicated a healthy and sustained majority for Yes. I understand that caution, but am reminded that the independence campaign the last time round put on over 20 percentage points in the run up to September 2014. Campaigns always generate momentum.  

And there is another consideration.  She enjoys great popularity and her government continues to poll well.  But all people and all parties are subject to the laws of political gravity.  There is a strong argument for utilising that enthusiasm whilst it is at current levels and before an opposition - now with some serious  players - might start to land some telling blows. Also, with Cameron and probably Osborne about to be history, two of the bogeymen from the 2014 battleground will have been removed, whilst their successors may have a modest honeymoon with the electorate generally, and will doubtless have learned from some of the 2014 mistakes.

We have come a long way in terms of self government. We have distinctively different policies in health, education and much else from a market obsessed England. We have, albeit limited, new powers over welfare and taxation. The result of the EU referendum emphasises a totally different world view. We are much further along the road to restoring the Scottish nation state than we could have dreamed in 1999.  The question now is whether to go for a sprint finish, or keep a steady stride.  Tough call.