THE COLIN CAMPBELL COLUMN
“The prospect of him becoming prime minister of the United Kingdom is, I think, one that will horrify many people across Scotland.”
That’s Inverness MP Drew Hendry’s view on the reaction to the possibility of Boris Johnson taking over from Theresa May. And I think he’s dead right.
The SNP/Nationalists have had little to boost their morale in recent times.
But now they have a new scenario to fixate on.
The reality is that the elevation of Johnson to PM would give them the biggest boost they could possibly wish for.
Nicola Sturgeon has described “Boris” as a complete charlatan.
There are many other things that could be said about him but that description goes some way towards summing him up.
Sturgeon got it hopelessly wrong when she assumed Brexit had set Scotland on a clear path to independence.
She seized the opportunity to make hay out of the Brexit vote the very day after the poll.
That led to her declaration in March, 2017, that she was going for another independence referendum.
Two months later the SNP took a pounding in the council elections and a few weeks later in the General Election they got well and truly stuffed, losing nearly a third of their MPs.
She wildly overestimated the willingness of Scots to part company with our English, Welsh and Northern Irish cousins and throw in our lot with the French, Germans and Italians. And for that gross miscalculation she paid a heavy price.
As of now, they are faring no better.
The polls haven’t moved an inch towards independence despite the SNP hyping up the “Brexit chaos” and wallowing in a burning desire for the worst possible outcome to it all.
And the notion that there’s an appetite among a majority of Scots to react to the Brexit confusion and division by plunging straight into another hugely divisive independence referendum in the months ahead is the stuff of sheer fantasy.
But Sturgeon is correct in her belief that if Boris Johnson becomes Prime Minister the sense of disbelief and revulsion among many north of the border could fundamentally change that.
Genghis Khan could become PM and I still wouldn’t vote for independence. But Johnston moving into No.10 truly would be a head in the hands moment.
I’ve written about this in papers several times over the past couple of years and there’s no point in trying to back away from it now.
Those of us who have followed his career in print long before he became a politician are liable to mark him as a lying, cheating, conniving hack who’s barely fit to be called a journalist. And unfortunately, given some of the reptiles who have practised this trade over the years, that’s saying something.
Respected former colleagues, like Max Hastings who was his editor at the Daily Telegraph, were truly aghast when he became Foreign Secretary. They know him personally and know what he’s like.
Comparisons have been made between the showmanship of Donald Trump and Boris Johnston. Trump is a figure of towering integrity, rationality and trustworthiness compared with “Boris”. At least Trump believes in at least some of the causes he promotes and espouses. Johnston believes in nothing other than furthering – at all or any cost – his own status and ambitions.
The gulf between me and nationalists who want to break up Britain – even excluding the economic recklessness with which they plan to do it – is unbridgeable. But the gulf between folks like me and English Tories who see “Boris” as the saviour of the country is wider than the Grand Canyon.
It may never happen. The Tory grassroots in the shires would have him in No.10 tomorrow, but the final selection process is carried out by Conservative MPs, and, mercifully, there appears to be a large number who will give heart and soul to keeping him off the final ballot.
Ruth Davidson is fully, shudderingly aware of the impact a Johnston premiership would have on Scotland and will expend every ounce of power and influence she has towards preventing it.
He is the bookies’ clear favourite and every time I check on his narrowing odds I wince. Unionists should pray that he falls before the final hurdle or we are in trouble.
As of now, Drew Hendry and co are as far away from achieving independence as they’ve ever been.
Only one man could change that. And only one man could yet lead to Queen Nicola reigning supreme.
Silence over the Gathering Place cannot last
SO if, or when, the Gathering Place is to be built on the Ness riverside, when will work on it start?
Don’t we have a right to know?
The last we heard was that the wall and concrete pathways planned for this idyllic location was due for completion in July. Since then we’ve been confronted by another wall – a wall of silence as to the future plans for it.
Inverness news and views last week produced a new series of reports on this £300,000 riverside-ruining travesty. In one we noted that a correspondent to a local paper had become the first – the very first – member of the public to publicly support it. And we also revealed the even more pertinent fact that, in total, for every individual, including council members, who had publicly expressed support for it, around 270 had publicly expressed opposition. To repeat, that was not conjecture or speculation or a matter of opinion, based on the number who had signed a protest petition, it was a cold, hard fact.
Provost Helen Carmichael has said there will be no change of heart, no U-turn on the Gathering Place, regardless of the level of hostility it has engendered. So when do they plan to build it?
There’s no doubt that things have all gone quiet in the past couple of weeks, which is just how the council wants it.
My guess – bordering on a certainty – is that many on the council wish the whole damn business would just go away. They have not enjoyed being the targets of criticism from so many quarters over their dreadfully stupid project but they’ve gone too far to get out of it now.
Is there a reluctance to break the peace and quiet by announcing a starting date? They know the reaction that would get, and that the protests would start rolling in all over again.
As I’ve previously said, there’s a very long way to go in this wretched affair. It’s surprising that a large proportion of people in Inverness are still blissfully unaware about what’s planned for the riverside. Gathering Place? What Gathering Place? That’s been the reaction from quite a number of people I’ve talked to, and it no doubt is reflective of a wider lack of awareness.
But they’ll know all about it if and when the hard hats and heavy machinery move in to fence off and tear up this beautiful and unspoilt part of the riverside. Speaking objectively and journalistically, I have to concede it’s gonna make some great and supremely ugly pictures.
So the current lull in protest is only a blip, the peace and quiet won’t last. At some stage, if they’re going to build this thing, the public will have to be told when it’s going to happen.
We’ve had Stage 1 of this controversy which has whipped up so much anger and condemnation. Stage 2 is yet to come.