There are many claims to be the originator of the increasingly useful term “clusterbourach” as may be applied to the latest Whitehall farce, but Mike Russell appears to be the front runner.He certainly has had greater opportunity than most to view at first hand the serial unravelling of the Conservative government and its temporary leader, whose well cut jacket, is on an increasingly shoogly peg.
He has had greater opportunity than most to confirm that not only is the Scotland Office an expensive anachronism, but that its current incumbent gives a whole new meaning to wasted space. Mr Mundell, whose threats of resignation carry all the weight of my promise to be a size ten again, has given a series of recent interviews which made much the same order of sense when played backwards.
In short, the UK government of the day has never been more catastrophically shambolic. Earlier this week Michael Fry argued in these pages that “given the present constellation of forces there is no chance of an independence referendum this year or next year – in fact not before the parliamentary term runs out in 2021.” The earliest possible date, he goes on to suggest would be 2023/4.
Perhaps he and I are observing the political night sky from different vantage points. But it strikes me, not at all for the first time, that the aligning stars of a weak Prime Minister, hapless Secretary of State, and onrushing economic disaster argue for greater momentum towards another independence vote rather than stalling the process until all sense of urgency may be spent.
The First Minister, by her own admission has spent the last two years trying to stop Theresa May fiddling while Britain burns. The FM accepts that her determination to try and help steer the ramshackle Brexit vehicle away from the cliff edge has proved frustrating for many supporters but says, with reason, that Scotland would be just as much damaged – perhaps more – than anywhere else in the UK if it were allowed to crash over.
But this week her own frustration led her to make the observation that the tiny band of fundamentalists in the DUP had been allowed to hold more sway over Scotland’s future than its own government or parliament. Mr Russell, who, with John Swinney, was technically Scotland’s Brexit negotiating team, noted bleakly that all promises of consultation proved hollow, whilst forums like the Joint Ministerial Council were ignored from a great height. Our team found out about seminal developments like the PM’s Lancaster House speech and the decision to trigger article 50 through the media – not so much partners as afterthoughts, if indeed they were considered at all.
After the nonsense of the late night Strasbourg shenanigans, Arlene Foster was briefed on the text, but not Nicola Sturgeon. We have been serially ignored, patronised, insulted and demeaned by this travesty of a government and at some point we have to recover our national self respect. I understand the desirability of getting Section 30 permission for a new referendum, but not why it should be a deal breaker. How many of those nations who de-coupled from the Empire waited for the nod from on high? How many would be independent entities had they done so?
Mrs May is wont to tell us “now is not the time”. There will never be a right time for those wedded to the Union at all and every cost, and hostile to second ballots for anything. In any event she hardly has the strongest hand to play right now. Should we hang on for the coronation of an more wily and implacable PM like the blessed Boris? For that matter, is there any current contender for May’s crown to whom you would want to bend the knee?
It was widely noted amongst the twitterati that when the 27 remaining EU nations would be invited to opine on the merits of an extension to the failed negotiations, many of their number would be significantly smaller than Scotland. Our futures would thus be determined by such powerhouses as Malta, and Cyprus. But these are sovereign nations. As are the former Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. And the erstwhile Yugoslavian states of Croatia, and Slovenia. Being small is no barrier to EU membership. But the required qualifications include self determination and self belief.
This week a poll suggested that the long awaited Brexit effect was beginning to bite. Faced with a choice between May’s Brexit and Independence more favoured the latter. And support for staying in the EU in Scotland had risen to 66%. I have long dispensed with rose tinted glasses. I know that polls will continue to vary; know too that even the most favourable will not guarantee a Yes vote second time around.
There will be other bumps along the way; differences of opinion over currency and many other important aspects of setting up shop as Scotland the nation state rather than Scotland the reluctant appendage.
Neither do I suppose that moving the requisite number of voters from No to Yes, from definite maybes to full hearted supporters will be an easy, or swiftly accomplished task. But I do know we have to get going. I do believe there is passion and energy and pent up frustration that can be harnessed. The Scottish Independence Convention has been beavering away with both research and recruitment. 123 Yes groups from every part of Scotland have affiliated to it, testament to the appetite to get out there with a positive message. The fruits of the SIC’s labours will be put in the public domain at the end of next month.
We’ve not always been Scotland the brave. It’s time to be Scotland the bold.
Published in The National 15.3.19