by Colin Campbell
First of all, congratulations to Drew Hendry and Ian Blackford, re-elected to the Inverness and Ross constituencies. The first pat on the back is genuine. Hendry is a decent enough man and a hard-working MP. Genuine congratulations to Blackford? Not so much. If thousands of people in Ross, Skye and Lochaber want to vote for this character, that’s their decision. The rest of us, the vast majority, simply don’t get it. His was the last declaration I waited around for at six on Friday morning, to round off our special coverage on Inverness news and views. True to form, while every other winning candidate screened up and down the country had given a speech which was low-key, humble and modest, he started roaring into the microphone like a little bull who’s been trussed up for six weeks and has just been freed. “We will not be dictated to…” We will not be dragged out…” “We will get our referendum”, blah, blah, blah. He was back in maximum puce-faced blustering form moments after being re-elected.
For the duration of the last parliament, this well-heeled former Edinburgh banker who rakes in £50,000 a year from company directorships adopted the posture of “a simple 10-acres Skye crofter”, and the nationalist voters not only approved but seemed to lap it up. What’ll he be this time around? Why stop at being just a crofter?
Why doesn’t he announce he’s really a transgender Romanian migrant who simply wants to self-identify and settle down here in his own home, but because of the evil Tory cuts he’s being denied a free house and has to live in a cave? That’d tick all the boxes with the nuttier elements of the nationalist movement. They’d be bumping into each other with their faces painted at demos across Scotland, oozing sympathy and suffused with outrage, wielding placards: SUPPORT THE ROMANIAN MIGRANT; A MAN IS A WOMAN AND A WOMAN IS A MAN! and HAVE YOU EVER HAD TO LIVE IN A CAVE, BORIS? The level of hero worship for Blackford would go through the roof.
But he did set the tone for what we can expect from the SNP from now on. Noise, unrelenting bloody noise, at an even higher volume than before.
I was genuinely surprised on election night by the number of texts and emails I received from people I know who were a bit downcast at the outcome, with the SNP winning 48 seats, 13 more than before.
Normally a bit of a pessimist on some matters myself, I didn’t see it like that at all.
First of all, the UK Prime Minister has been elected with a huge majority, and he’s in charge of the country, from Land’s End to John O’ Groats. And secondly, Nicola Sturgeon will soon find out there’s a new sheriff in town.
No longer will she be dealing with a Theresa May-style PM, a relatively feeble and highly vulnerable occupant of the highest office struggling to cope with a wafer-thin majority, with a tendency to try and appease everyone who confronted her.
At root, we know Boris Johnson is still a bit of a chancer, albeit a rather amazing one, after what he’s just achieved. He was, is and always has been. That doesn’t change. But so is Nicola Sturgeon – in fact she’s a total, habitual, and blindingly obvious chancer. It takes one to know one. And to deal with one.
Secondly, Boris is an expert when it comes to wilful exaggeration and distortion of the facts. He built his journalistic career on it.
Ditto Sturgeon, who has never come across a fact she couldn’t exaggerate or distort, with lashings of hypocrisy thrown in.
When it comes to cunning and manipulation, she’s now up against a Prime Minister who’ll know exactly what and who he’s dealing with, and who will act accordingly.
Her claim to “speak for Scotland” is so obviously bogus that Boris can laugh up his sleeve at it, though he won’t do that publicly. When she claims to have a “cast iron mandate” for indyref2, he can have a cynical chuckle to himself.
Boris Johnson will more than have the measure of the SNP’s fantasist-and-hypocrite-in-chief – and he commandingly holds the whip hand.
He has already said from the very outset that he will refuse her demand for a Section 30 order for another independence referendum, on the basis that we had what Sturgeon and the SNP declared would be a “once in generation” poll just five years ago. And you could pile everything you own on the betting certainty that he will not budge.
Of course this will raise the SNP outrage-ometer to a new level of noise. We can take that for granted. But no matter how many ways Sturgeon tries to distort the argument and claim Scotland is being ignored, insulted, and treated with contempt etc etc etc, after she’s exhausted herself with furious denunciations, she’s still faced with the huge and inevitable question: What does she do next?
And she has no answer to that. In the same way as she has no answers on currency, a hard border with England, trade deals, EU membership and all the rest of it in relation to her vision of “a free Scotland”.
Ian Blackford can roar and bluster all he likes at PMQs but he has no answer on what to do in the face of a polite but firm refusal from Boris either.
And all the while the SNP base, the broad swathe of fanatics and zealots who underpin the movement, will be getting ever more restive, impatient and insistent on “action”.
Where will that lead to to? Civil disobedience? Attempts to hold an illegal referendum which would be boycotted by Unionists and which would have no legitimacy with their beloved EU. A declaration of “unilateral independence”?
Who knows, who can tell? No-one. And least of all Nicola Sturgeon. She may have her majority but she risks losing all control over events. And she knows extremist, socially disruptive or threatening behaviour by her wilder supporters will be hugely damaging to the nationalist cause.
As the immediate gloss of “victory” wears off, she is in a dreadfully difficult position.
Is all this fair? Is it just? Is it democratic? The SNP last Thursday gained just 45 per cent of the vote share, with 55 per cent of people voting for pro-Union parties. They have no inyref2 mandate. They gained around 900,000 votes out of a total adult voting population of over 3.5 million – less than one in three Scots of voting age turned out to support them. They have no indyref2 mandate. Poll after poll has shown support for another referendum – far less independence itself – is below 50 per cent. They have no mandate.
All these facts will have been absorbed by the new Prime Minister with his huge countrywide majority. They will be reinforced by a deluge of emails from folk north of the border who expect him to stick rigidly to his “no indyref2 under any circumstances” promise. And, respecting the wishes of the majority of Scots, that he most certainly will do.
Sturgeon has plenty of support from sections of the media north of the border – struggling newspapers principally worried about being boycotted by SNP readers – and the increasingly SNP-friendly BBC, partly buckling under constant SNP intimidation.
But that still doesn’t get her her Section 30 order, and nowhere near it.
So we can expect noise, noise, and more noise over the coming months, with the number of irritating, disruptive marches across Scotland increasing accordingly.
But we have a new Prime Minister in a commanding position who won’t be pushed around by anyone, and least of all Nicola Sturgeon. As I told my friends in reply to their anxious emails and texts: Relax, there will be no independence referendum, probably for the next five years at least. There’s a new sheriff in town.