Nationalists now open the door to toddler-friendly activism

THE COLIN CAMPBELL COLUMN

A NEW “child friendly group to foster activism” has been launched by an enterprising independence supporter. Nairn woman Victoria Gianoplolous Johnson believes the key to the concept is that it allows women with babies and toddlers, who she considers would not normally be able to get involved in political discussions, to “fully participate” in democracy while taking their children along as well.

The first meeting was held earlier this month, with babies and toddlers almost outnumbering those attending in person.

Ms Johnston said: “Over and over when I am speaking with other mums and ask their opinion on independence I hear the same response: ‘Yes, I am interested but I just don’t know enough to have a strong opinion on the matter’.

“I feel like those of us with young bairns at home have been under-served by the current meeting and event structure which is always held at night just as we are putting bairns to bed and held in not child-friendly venues.”

Local MSP Fergus Ewing and cabinet secretary Maree Todd have expressed in attending future meetings.

It strikes me that the SNP and the nationalist movement are pretty child-friendly as things stand.

Votes for 16-year-olds and unqualified support for kids who stage school “strikes” in support of whatever cause takes their fancy are high on their agenda.

One of the abiding images of the last referendum was of kids with their faces painted engaging in all-singing, all-dancing parades and demos.

The fact that most of them don’t have a clue about things like currency, trade, mortgages and pensions is neither here nor there. As long as the nationalists can engender a boisterous singalong to keep them in step, that’s all that matters.

The SNP, as I’ve said before, would eagerly lower the voting age to 12 if they thought it would gain them more support.

However this new initiative, involving tots and toddlers, doesn’t go there. Not unless there are plans to give them the vote as well.

Young mothers, according to Ms Johnson, say they’re interested in the issues surrounding independence but don’t have a strong opinion on the matter.

If they listen to the one-sided views expressed at the new toddler forums there’ll be every effort made to change that.

But being a young mother doesn’t exclude you from TV, radio and newspapers, and at least give you some kind of way to “form an opinion”.

However there’s no denying that, no matter how partisan she may be, Ms Johnson is not guilty of a lack of determination and imagination.

“Child friendly groups to foster activism”? Who else would have come up with that?

There is nothing cynical or underhand in this. It’s quite clever, with a purpose. And it just shows you how independence activists never stop planning and seeking ways to encourage “engagement” – of a very particular kind. That’s morning, noon and night. And now at toddler-friendly time as well. Family-man Fergus Ewing will no doubt be delighted go along and dish out the sweeties.

‘Boris’ may be a threat to the Union – but at least Queen Nicola is still there to preserve it

 ANOTHER Johnson is preoccupying the minds of many, and there’s no need to guess who that is.

Now that the admirably resilient Theresa May has handed in her notice, “Boris” is the front-runner to become next Prime Minister.

Unionists in Scotland can only hope that the “Stop Boris” movement which has swung into action among Tory MPs at Westminster will in the end exclude him from the final two candidates who will be voted on by party members, because if he gets to that point, he’ll win by a landslide.

There’s a sense of foreboding among some supporters of the Union that Johnson could do more for the nationalists than Brexit, Sturgeon, Yes campaigners and child-friendly action groups lumped together.

Tory party members, for reasons that elude and baffle so many, many people, think he’s the man to see off Corbyn, Farage, the Euro-bureaucrats and lead us successfully to the promised land of Brexit.

They simply cannot see that the “Boris” charade is loathed and despised in many parts of the country and is toxic to many north of the border.

The good news, however, is that Nicola Sturgeon also remains as polarising a figure as ever. She immediately pounced on the results of the EU elections to emphasise it was time to legislate immediately for indyref2. It was reminiscent of her over-excitable response on the morning after the Brexit result itself back in 2016, when she made a fresh declaration of her intent to force another referendum on the Union-supporting majority in Scotland against their will. Sturgeon’s combination of cynicism, arrogance and naked opportunism will engender the same reaction as last time around, generating a new wave of revulsion among many. Think only “Boris” is toxic north of the border? Think again.

Blackford blusters on – 24 hours a day 

I STAYED up late on Sunday for the EU election results out of habit, fully expecting at the end of it all to be none the wiser what it all meant, and so it proved. Neither do I have any faith in any politician or pundit trying to tell me what it supposedly meant, because I suspect they haven’t a clue either.

On the new BBC Scotland channel (and what a barren, generally unwatched waste of money that has proved) Labour and the Tories representatives seemed deflated but defiant, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens were cock-a-hoop, and the SNP…well they had Ian Blackford to finish the night – or start the week – with a typical Blackford bluster.

The result had shown yet again that “the people of Scotland have spoken”, he declared. He seemed less than clear what they’d spoken about, but it was immensely favourable to the SNP in any case.

In fact his party gained 37 per cent of the vote on a 39 per cent turnout, which meant it had been backed by around 14 per cent of the electorate.

Nevertheless “Scotland had spoken” squeaked the Ross and Cromarty MP. I doubt if more than a couple of dozen people across Inverness and Ross were still watching by the time Blackford showed up. But for me, it proved blustering Blackford has the capacity to be unfailingly irksome, 24 hours a day.

Council chief in credit for giving up cash

 HIGHLAND council chief executive Donna Manson has said she will donate the £8,000 due to come her way for presiding over these elections to support voluntary groups in the area.

Given the level of flak directed at her predecessor over the money he raked in for cursory duties at elections, that must have been one of the easier decisions she has had to make so far.

Nevertheless, it is a substantial amount and if she was completely tone deaf to public opinion, she might still have decided to pocket it in the forlorn hope that it would somehow have gone unnoticed.

So Ms Manson at least deserves some creditable acknowledgement for what she has done.

Could Gathering Place quietly be shelved?

 THIS column would not be complete without referring to the Gathering Place. You’ll read about it here, but you won’t read or hear about it anywhere else.

The furore over the £300,000 riverside project has dissolved into total silence. No-one – including those councillors who are vehemently opposed to it, is saying or writing anything about it. The subject has disappeared from public discourse and the media.

Personally, I would be happy, nay delighted, never to have to write another damn word on the subject. I understand the meaning of  “Gathering Place fatigue” more than most.

But that can only happen if the plan to adorn a natural and unspoilt part of the riverside with a wall and concrete pathways has quietly been allowed to slip off the council agenda, to remain at the bottom of the pile of priorities for the foreseeable future.

Is it too much to hope for that sanity has prevailed and that has happened? Probably. But we live in hope. Those who think opponents of this riverside-ruining travesty have enjoyed and been energised by the controversy we’ve seen in recent months and want to use it as a stick – or concrete block – to beat the council with are mistaken.

We just want the beautiful riverside to be left as it is. A simple desire which could and should be painlessly accepted by the council. There are so many other important matters for them to focus on. For now, we’ll take the silence as good news, and would be very grateful if it persisted for a very long time to come.

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