THE COLIN CAMPBELL COLUMN
THE famously gusty isle of Shetland took the wind out of the SNP’s sails when their candidate was trounced in last Thursday’s by-election. So much for Nicola Sturgeon’s “independence is now completely inevitable” declaration on the day of Boris Johnson’s controversial declaration to suspend Parliament in advance of the October 31 Brexit deadline.
Of course as rank outsiders they never expected to win in Shetland, or so their twisting explanation of defeat now goes. So that’d account for no fewer than three visits by Sturgeon to Shetland in advance of the vote. Maybe if she’d moved into a semi-detached in Lerwick for the duration of the campaign she’d have made more impact, and they’d have gained even fewer votes.
The nationalists’ obsession with “Boris” and Brexit really has convinced many of them that Sturgeon is right and independence is now “completely inevitable”.
Wishful thinking piled on fantasy supplemented by complete delusion.
The only certainty is that more and more nationalists are now gripped by a frenzy of expectation which makes their fanatical cult look even more wildly irrational.
The independence supporting National newspaper – which I read far, far too often – is now foaming with anti-English rhetoric which translates into sheer hatred of the “British state”.
Last Thursday they illustrated an anti-Tory diatribe with a picture of Hitler. Any self-respecting politician or journalist is aware of the old adage that once you go down that road your argument is lost before it’s even begun. Invoking the Nazis in any modern-day political debate is the one thing you must never do if you want to retain credibility. In any and all circumstances, it’s widely acknowledged as being a step too far.
But it shows the depths to which some nationalist fanatics – ever growing in number – are now sinking.
Last week former respected BBC journalist Lesley Riddoch, now one of the leading female adherents of the cult, displayed her lust for indyref2. She wrote: “The First Minister’s law-abiding streak may have worked when her adversary was the cautious Theresa May, but times have changed. Boris is in charge, all bets are off and bold, disruptive calculated risk-taking is the new order of the day.”
And so, according to Riddoch, is breaking the law. The implication from this darling of the nationalist movement is that independence must now by gained by any means possible, legal or illegal.
When I read this I wasn’t angered or outraged – “outrage” now seems to be the perpetual mindset of Riddoch and co.
Bring it on, is a more reasoned response.
Any move to hold a referendum without the legal approval necessary from Westminster would expose Riddoch and those who think like her for the extremists they are. And, regardless of the inevitable Unionist backlash, a clear majority of Scots would ask themselves: Do we really want these kind of people in power?
The nationalists are having a field day with “Boris” and Brexit. And for now, this is distracting attention from their own multiple failings.
But no number of attempts to whip-up anti-Boris, anti-Brexit feeling and anti-“British state” hatred will be enough to convert a majority of people to supporting independence.
The SNP/nationalists – after four years of trying – are still unable to provide an answer on what currency an independent Scotland would use, which is about as basic and fundamental as it gets. Don’t look to more rational and sensible SNP politicians like Drew Hendry or Fergus Ewing for answers on that most simple and straightforward of questions. They haven’t a clue.
Many Scots don’t like having Johnson as PM, the resignation of Ruth Davidson is a blow, and there are major concerns over the outcome and potential impact of Brexit. These are realities.
But independence is nowhere close to being “completely inevitable”. Turn the spotlight instead on the very basics of how an independent Scotland would function and there are a host of unanswered questions which so far have yielded only dithering, uncertain and unconvincing answers, and often no answers at all.
The Shetland result did take the wind out of the nationalists’ sales. But the toxic, self-harming mindset of semi-deranged fanaticism among some of the cult is, encouragingly, a long way from blowing over.
So many upgrades to so little effect
A £1.5million “upgrade” of the Inverness Market arcade is being proposed, although some traders there seem to have their doubts.
The headline-grabbing figure looks impressive and indicates a real desire to “get it right” this time.
But the Market has over the years been a costly graveyard for good intentions.
Money spent on successive “upgrades” has far exceeded £1.5million. And so far they have failed to have the desired effect which, presumably, is to convert it into a bustling shopping and restaurants area to rival the Eastgate Centre.
Those of us with longer memories will be aware that the Market used to be a dank hole of a place. The grubby black stone floor was littered with pools of water which accumulated through leaks in the roof. Bright, sparklingly clean and with an array of attractive small stores, it has already been “upgraded” beyond all recognition.
It is now in every conceivable way an appealing shopping centre. But the number of people who shop there – the “footfall” to use the tiresome modern jargon – still refuses to rise to a level which is considered acceptable.
So the council and other agencies will chuck yet more money at it. Their plans might work this time, which would be a first. But the track record of such investment suggests they very possibly won’t. When I go into the town centre I seldom if ever enter the Inverness Market Arcade. I don’t know why that is. I just don’t. And it seems there are very many people like me. A £1.5million – or £15million – upgrade somehow seems unlikely to make it a “must visit” location. Maybe it is worth trying. But, unfortunately and regrettably, it could be a case of throwing yet more good money after bad.
No time for riverside ‘winners’ to get cocky
A NUMBER of letters have appeared in the Inverness papers now that the decision to go ahead and build the riverside Gathering Place has been taken. The overwhelming majority have been critical.
As I pointed out last week, the decision has been taken but the saga is far from over.
Inverness arts group chairwoman Isabelle MacKenzie has described the outcome as “a resounding success”. Her little outbreak of triumphalism is excusable. After months of being berated from all sides it must have come as an enormous relief to her when the final vote went 15-7 in her favour. She chose, perhaps understandably, to overlook the real reason a majority of councillors backed the Gathering Place. They screwed up by letting the project go as far as it has done – already absorbing £106,000 without a turf being cut – and without subjecting it to the scrutiny it properly deserved, which should have begun a year ago. In other words, they took their eye off the ball, only glancing at a series of updates which appeared before them, and in the end were too embarrassed by their ongoing negligence to quash the Gathering Place plan. My confidence in making that assertion is backed up by the fact that I KNOW with absolute certainty – through conversations and emails – that more than seven councillors were opposed to the Gathering Place being built at its natural, unspoilt location. But in the end they accepted they’d screwed up, and let it go ahead.
And we already know the next inevitable advance in the saga. A cherished beauty spot being for months turned into a fenced-off, churned up building site which will generate a new wave of – probably more widespread and intense – public criticism and anger directed against those responsible.
Good advice to the arts group chairwoman would be to keep her head down and definitely to avoid sounding cocky anytime in the future over her supposed victory.
One councillor suggested to me months ago – as I reported at the time – that the Gathering Place if built should be known as “MacKenzie’s Folly”. I won’t labour the point and seek to burden her with that landmark status. But it’s a prospect she should, by showing due humility and respect for opponents of the thing, be at pains to avoid.