Plotting to the left of us, plotting to the right of us. Today we may find out if the disparate factions of the opposition parties in Westminster have managed assemble something resembling an act before the Commons shuts up shop. Again. Before Her Maj is wheeled out mid morning in full evening dress to read out Boris’ election address.For the one thing on which pundits of every stripe are agreed is a poll will be upon us sooner rather than later. It will be more welcome in some quarters than others. Consider the Scottish Tories. Once triumphantly hailing a new dawn as a bakers dozen of MP’s hit the UK parliament; a larger group than the unlovely DUP, but evidently not important enough to be worth a backstairs deal. A group whose members had seen off two of the SNP’s heavyweights.
The Scottish Tories, once led by a woman held in a warm embrace by media outlets up and down the land having proved that, unlike her then dear leader, she could speak reasonably fluent human. A woman who declared her paramount ambition was to become First Minister. A woman who has nevertheless retired to spend more time with her family, having concluded that holding hands with Johnson was not a good look for respectable women. Right down to the wire in the Tory leadership campaign she plighted her troth to pretty well anyone not called Boris.
So now they have interim leader Jackson Carlaw. Once he might have at least earned the right to the “safe pair of hands” award. Then he went to the Tory conference and did a pirouette on Brexit which found him pulling his party into the No Deal camp. Apparently without prior consultation. He may find that a hard sell in a Remain voting country. He may find it a hard sell with his own colleagues today when they meet.
At least two of them fancy their chances of taking his monitor’s badge away. There is Murdo Fraser who has stood for everything from the National Anthem up, and won nothing. I note one commentator suggesting that he lost his last leadership bid because he backed a UDI from head office. And that Ruth Davidson won because she didn’t. Not buying it. He just lost to a better candidate. Step forward too Adam Tomkins, currently a household name in his own household. Another esteemed member of the commentariat suggested yesterday that we shouldn’t write the Tories off because they won a council by election seat in Bridge of Don. I suspect this did not denude the stores of bunting in Edinburgh.
And the Lib Dems? They too are trying to navigate through a bad Brexit moment as Jamie Stone seemed to suggest midweek that No Deal was better than Jeremy Corbyn as temporary PM. Christine Jardine attempted damage limitation yesterday, but she and the rest of us know that whoever wins a slice of serious power in Scotland it won’t be her lot. The Greens have lots of friends, and lots of policies which chime with the political zeitgeist on climate change and the rest. But with only one vote per elector in play in UK polls they always struggle to make a bigger impact.
And so to the party of government in Scotland. Saturday offered compelling evidence that the appetite for pulling an independent Scotland out of a rotting UK is undiminished. Indeed the numbers, and the make up of the crowd, suggest it continues to grow as the UK government offers daily evidence of a duplicity matched only by its arrogance and ineptitude. But it would be idle to pretend that the 200,000 who came from a’ the airts to pledge their support, and the SNP administration are singing entirely in harmony from a shared hymn sheet.There was a time when it could be argued quite legitimately that we needed “the gold standard” of a successful referendum preceded by a Section 30 order granted by Westminster. As happened with the Cameron/Salmond deal five years ago.
That was then. Now a large proportion of the hundreds of thousands of Scots who have joined marches all over the country, many of whom have never before marched further than the bus stop, are fast losing patience with the safety first approach. To be blunt, they want more than a cheery pre march message from their First Minister. They want her out there front and centre leading the last long mile to independence. Let’s be honest. All the sterling attempts to protect Scotland from the consequences of a no deal Brexit have foundered not from a lack of Scottish will or effort, but because our negotiators have been sidelined. Our government has been sidelined. And as far as the Brexit Referendum goes, respecting the will of the people evidently doesn’t apply north of Berwick.
We are not dealing here with a rational, experienced government in London who respect democracy and the rule of law. The last few weeks have demonstrated their utter contempt for both. Yesterday I listened to endless debates about how the Prime Minister could circumnavigate the courts and the will of parliament. Even typing that sentence was difficult with my jaw insisting on hitting the floor. Boris Johnson is not someone to whom any self respecting nation should bend the knee. And in the midst of his blundering and bullshitting it’s long past time we allowed him to be a stumbling block to sampling the will of the Scottish people; letting them decide on their future path without begging for approval from the charlatan in chief.
We already have a mandate for a Referendum. The upcoming election gives us a chance to double down on that. Let it be crystal clear that what will determine Scotland’s future in Europe is Scotland’s voice in Scotland’s election results. No messing. No prevarication. Most especially, no begging.
First published in The National 7.10.10