Back in the day, we lived in a flat ten minutes from Hampden Park. And every two years, when England came to play, we held a pre-match victory lunch.
On the not unreasonable grounds that there might be little cause for celebration after the final whistle. Not so much O Ye Of Little Faith, as self preserving pragmatism.
We badly need a dose of that clear sighted pragmatism in the bid for independence. Being able to start a fight in an empty room may be a hallowed Scottish tradition, but it will cost us dear if we don’t stand back from all the assorted frays and concentrate for three short months on the glittering prize on offer.
Never in my adult lifetime has that prize been so nearly in our grasp, but the main stumbling block from where I’m sitting is not merely Johnsonian intransigence but Scottish self indulgence.
The kind that convinces people there can be nothing as important than whatever stramash they personally deem more vital than the country’s constitutional future. Bulls are more protective of china shops than some of these keyboard warriors.
Particularly irritating is that strain of Scot who doth protest too much about his devotion to the cause, whilst serially trashing it. There are many ways to derail freedom’s train, and some chaps seem determined to give all of them a go.
Are there genuine causes for unrest? Of course there are. A 14 year old administration of any stripe is liable to run out of steam. Liable to incur a rather longer charge sheet than one in and out the door in five years. And some of the heavyweights retiring from the fray this year will be difficult to replace.
But cast an eye round the opposition benches at Holyrood. You’d be hard pushed to find two potential cabinet secretaries to rub together. The SNP, realistically, is the only game in town for those who consider independence the cause which matters more than any other.
Whether it continues as the main event and future party of governance post independence is a matter for the electorate.
Right now no other party can deliver Indy for us, and no other party will get within touching distance at the next election. That is just cold, hard, electoral fact. And were I to offer unsolicited advice to the Scottish Labour Party, I’d suggest that if Scotland gains independence they will find the road back to relevance a whole lot easier.
If your members keep telling you they want something, and you keep telling them the party hierarchy knows better, then the haemorrhage will not be stemmed regardless of which hand seizes the poisoned chalice. To lose forty MP’s in five years takes a certain amount of perverse arrogance.
An independent Scottish State might even benefit the Scottish Tories – there’s always a downside!
Chief among those stushies, representing a clear and present danger to the Scottish government, is the Sturgeon/Salmond saga – who did what to whom; what and when did the FM know the solid matter was hitting the fan. Undoubtedly this has the potential to turn a long running drama into a serious crisis.
And, like so many alleged political scandals, any imagined cover up will likely prove more damaging than the actual deeds. The sequential appearance of the main protagonists before the same Holyrood committee will make for compulsive and unpredictable viewing.
The fact that some of the most important dramatis personae cannot be legally named, merely adds fuel to a sorry tale which gives much comfort to the enemies of independence, and much ammunition to alleged friends.
Having said which, the constant attempts to characterise this affair as Sturgeonistas v Salmondites is way too reductive. There are people in the wider world who admire both for particular characteristics. I’m one of them.
Nevertheless, although much has still to come out in the wash, I can’t think what’s to be gained by disinterring every shred of dirty laundry in advance of the May election.
Self evidently we shouldn’t bury any inconvenient truths. But at this crucial tipping point, neither should we contrive to jeopardise our collective future.
I absolutely get why someone who could have been banged up at Her Majesty’s pleasure is still spitting blood, having been cleared by the courts. And there is little doubt that the once revered Scottish judiciary has been manipulated and utilised to muddy the waters.
For all that, I don’t get why the former First Minister would want to take independence down with his perceived enemies. Not having spent his entire professional life plotting a course to it. Salmond and Sturgeon represent two halves of Scotland’s long march, and the country’s tragedy is that these two talented politicians have now drawn their daggers.
Alex’s cold dish of revenge will surely have a sour taste if it’s accompanied by another generation of London rule and exile from Europe. You might argue that it hardly profits Scotland to gain independence at the price of losing its soul. For me, the over-riding issue is having the wider Yes movement mount a successful campaign, followed by a successful referendum.
I don’t think our national soul is too fragile to survive that process. Especially if there’s a post referendum cull of some people whose survival in pivotal roles has defied the normal rules of political gravity.
Yet whatever else the Scottish Government might be guilty of, it has not spent the last year chucking fat contracts for PPE at party donors and assorted pals. The pandemic has shone a harsh spotlight on the capacity for leadership and consistent messaging.
As it became clear that Johnson and Co would have some difficulty throwing a piss up in a brewery, the Scottish (and Welsh) administrations belatedly decided that four nations in lockstep would do little more than replicate London’s terminal indecision.
It is fair to say that lives could have been saved had they gone their own way very much earlier. It’s also fair to say that they would have been monstered by the media in the process. Not that trial by tabloid should ever be the main consideration. But neither should 20/20 hindsight be deployed by those of us who were equally blindsided by the onward march of this modern day plague.
And then there is the trans imbroglio. I will never begin to understand how this issue manoeuvred itself centre stage, or why time served feminists got routinely subjected to a wholesale battering if they had the temerity to suggest sex and gender were not actually interchangeable terms. Put a hair of your head above this parapet and you got labelled transphobic or worse. The loudest voices don’t always have the best arguments.
Nor do I comprehend why the First Minister felt the need to give this whole rammy more oxygen last week by tweeting a video underlining her party’s commitment to equality for trans members. That should be a given; no minority should ever be subjected to discrimination by any political party. And I can guarantee that of all the issues troubling the electorate in May this one will make a ripple in a rather small pond.
The other persistent fault line has been over the timing and tactics of the bid for a second independent referendum. Let’s hope that has been partially resolved by the decision not to accept a Westminster veto and dare them to overturn the democratic will of Scotland in a courthouse.
Those of us who’ve been champing at the bit these many months, take no pleasure in watching the long predicted post Brexit carnage throughout Scotland’s industries, most especially those trying to export time sensitive cargoes through a forest of newly knitted red tape. Not much point hailing the lack of tariffs on your produce if you have to watch it rot on a quayside or in a container.
We have a government of third raters in London. We have been booted out of Europe despite a huge margin for Remain. Many of our businesses are going down the tubes thanks to the shoddy last minute “deal”. Or, as the Prime Minister might have it, “pointless constitutional wrangling”
There’s no time for more vows, “radical federalism”, constitutional conventions, royal commissions, new Senates, devo max or any other variety of long grass Westminster can devise.
It’s time, Scotland. Fight for what matters, not with each other.