by Colin Campbell
SO yesterday on Brexit day, “doomsday”, not only did we not see a plague of locusts descending on us, but Nicola Sturgeon was branded “The Betrayer” by her own supporters. The absence of locusts wasn’t unexpected. But the branding of Queen Nicola was a surprise. But then again, why should it have been a surprise? If I was a nationalist I’d be furious about the limp and feeble content of her “much anticipated announcement” (and how many of those have there been?) about her next moves.
Nothing much, really. She wants another referendum this year but hinted it might have to wait till next year, with yet another “Convention” being set up.
It was the same old stuff. It doesn’t matter if there were 2,000, or 20,000 or 200,000 marchers in Inverness last Saturday. Nicola always marches ‘em up to the top of the hill and then marches ‘em down again.
Who first branded her “The Betrayer” on Brexit day is unclear. But it may well have been the influential Wings over Scotland nationalist website which yesterday headlined an article as just that.
In a lengthy, fascinating piece Wings over Scotland directed an outpouring of criticism at Sturgeon and the SNP. And one central question was – “Do they really want another referendum?” The hierarchy and their MPs are so cosily ensconced in enjoyable, well-heeled positions that the last thing they want is to be dislodged from them.
Down somewhere from Sturgeon in the SNP food chain, look at Inverness MP Drew Hendry. He’s a classic case of an ex-councillor made good. I’m sure somewhere in his psyche he wants independence, but if it doesn’t happen anytime soon, oh well…
Hendry didn’t mention the words “independence” or “referendum” in his December election pamphlet, not once. There wasn’t a hint of it. My guess is he was playing safe. He knew he was assured of a large number of automatic votes from SNP supporters but didn’t want to stir up any controversy that might have lost him a few other votes.
But as soon as he was back at Westminster his timidity disappeared. He declared he felt “imprisoned” by the Union. Well, as I said at the time, he was helluva keen to get back to his Westminster jail. And no wonder. His privileged, high-flying, hugely well-paid lifestyle is an awful lot better than his previous existence of circling around looking for a space in the council car park.
He’s a local celebrity, a well-known face in the local papers, again in massive contrast to life as a councillor, where few knew he even existed. And then there’s the chance of appearing on television. He may have had nothing to say about indyref2 in his election material but he had plenty to say about it in a brief appearance on Sky television. So eager was he to ensure that no-one missed it he even posted the short little clip on his Twitter website. “Look at me, I’m on the telly!”
His enthusiasm for self-promotion is actually somewhat embarrassing in an era when 24-hour news channels are so keen to fill airtime they’d interview a yokel leaning on a gate.
I’m told by people he’s entertained at Westminster that he revels in it. These world-famous, luxury surroundings are his “home”. The often wide-eyed local citizenry are just dropping in.
Does our ex-councillor elevated to MP really want to lose all that, the perks, the privilege, the prestige? He’s only human. It’s not a sacrifice many would be eager to make.
The same could be said of Ross MP Ian Blackford, another desperado when it comes to clawing his way back to Westminster. At PMQs Drew Hendry always sits either right behind or almost alongside Blackford, well within TV camera shot. Blackford looks like he loves every minute of the limelight in the weekly broadcast. How truly awful it would be for him if he had to give up his blustering, puce-faced PMQs prominence and become, as the affluent former banker described himself, “a simple, 10-acres crofter”.
Because if they ever did win an independence referendum, who knows what the fallout would be for the ex-councillor or the ex-banker, and in what circumstances they’d end up. One thing’s for certain, they wouldn’t enjoy the gilded lifestyle and glamorous surroundings afforded by being based in London W1.
So they and others like them can go on echoing Sturgeon’s endless repetition of the claim that Westminster opposition to another referendum is “unsustainable” or “untenable” when I suspect they know that is unrealistic. It’s sustainable for as long as Prime Minister Boris Johnson decides it’s sustainable. He has already declared that he will not agree to another referendum “under any circumstances”. And with an 80-seat majority he’ll be in a position to refuse permission for at least five years. Does anyone seriously believe that he’ll cave in and grant approval either this year, or next year, whatever the outcome of the Scottish Parliamentary elections, and invite a massive backlash from the majority north of the border for going back on his word? It’s not going to happen. But if Sturgeon, Hendry, Blackford and the rest of them keep repeating it it’ll keep at least some of their supporters happy.
And they – and papers fearful of losing nationalist readers to worsen already crumbling circulations – can go on repeating the fiction that every time the Prime Minister says “no” it boosts support for independence. The fact is many in Scotland will cheer him to the rafters every time he says no. And as for the “undecideds” – they’ll just go on being undecided.
Backers of Sturgeon will go on claiming she’s been a winner all the way, triumphing in election after election. But when everyone who supports independence votes for only one party – the SNP – and those who are against it split their votes between three it’s obvious who should win. In fact it’s baffling that the SNP don’t win every seat, every time. But, crucially, Sturgeon has failed time and again to win an overall majority of voters. Last time – when the scenario couldn’t conceivably have been better for them, they gained only 45 per cent of the vote.
The creator of Wings over Scotland looks like he’s had enough. He finished off his article by saying after years of unswerving devotion to the nationalist cause he’s taking a long break and may not return. He’ll be missed and, oddly enough not just by nationalists. Whatever the future, he certainly made his mark on Brexit day with his attack on “The Betrayer”. And messrs Hendry and Blackford look like they’ll be able to go on “making their mark” in the wonderful world of Westminster for a long time yet.