Party drinks and gingerbread from the cheery new neighbours

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MP Drew Hendry and MSP Maree Todd cut the ribbon to open the new SNP campaign ‘hub’.

by Colin Campbell

I DON’T know if many in our locality felt the need to attend the housewarming party for the new neighbours, but when folks move in, isn’t it the cordial and welcoming thing to do? It would have been a bit of a squeeze if more people had turned up, because it was crowded enough in any case, standing room only in fact.

 So it’s only fair to record that the meet and greet party for the new SNP “hub” in Kenneth Street was a cordial success.

 I strolled along to partake of the drinks and gingerbread on offer around six o’clock yesterday. Would I have done the same if their Kenneth Street premises had been converted into my preferred alternative option – namely a hostel for the destitute, as I said in my last column? Probably not. But I had an urge to sample their mood.

 And it was, of course, resoundingly upbeat.

 This is a big deal for those involved, the culmination of a lot of work and a spearhead for their efforts to win fresh converts in advance of “the final push”.

 Special guest, of course, was MP Drew Hendry, looking fit and tanned and bloke-ishly dressed in a jacket and jeans. He told the gathering that the new hub represented “a breakthrough moment” for the SNP in these parts, “on the final leg of a journey”. His sunny mood reflected the relaxed and cheery atmosphere.

“But now,” he added, “it’s time to get down to delivering.”

 Meeting and talking with a few of those folk, it’s almost impossible to brand them as fanatics and zealots. Because they are very nice people in face to face conversation. And they are probably the same wherever they go. Rather like the bulk of those marchers who have paraded through Inverness twice in recent months.

 But – and it’s a big but – it’s easy to exchange pleasantries at the moment. Because, as yet, nothing is at stake.

 However, if Nicola Sturgeon tries to pull the trigger on the indyref2 many nationalists yearn for, all that will change.

 The mood, the atmosphere, and the potential for reasoned dialogue.

 With the future of the country at stake as never before, we will be plunged into the most divisive battle many have ever experienced. And it’ll take more than offerings of drinks and gingerbread to offset the anger, bitterness and rancour which will erupt on both sides.

 The SNP and the nationalists want to tear the country apart for reasons that many of us simply fail to comprehend. And even worse, they have no back-up plan for currency, pensions, trade and so much else. Another independence referendum is an appallingly confrontational prospect and a triumph for the nationalists would bring the dawn of swaggering nationalism in a desperate new era.

 Yesterday, however, Drew Hendry wandered over to me for a friendly exchange, which shows he can take it on the chin, most of the time, anyway. I told him that in 2014 at one point it seemed half – or at least a third – of the houses right there in Kenneth Street had Yes banners draped across windows. At the time, I remember thinking, in a moment of near despair, that it seemed an overwhelming show of force for independence. But as I told the amiable Mr Hendry, I’d got it wrong. I should have been counting the number of houses which did NOT sport such regalia. When it comes to the independence movement, maybe it’s best not to take everything at face value.

 But after a pleasant hub opening party, a warm welcome to the new neighbours. What a pity it’ll be if Nicola Sturgeon acts to satisfy their yearnings, and relations then turn so horribly sour.

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