Led up and down more hills than riders in the Tour de France

THE COLIN CAMPBELL COLUMN

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March numbers get ever thinner as ‘Independence Now’ hopes fade into hilly distance.

A WEEK ago we were arguing about the number of people who took part in a pro-independence march in Inverness. How quickly the circus moves on. Now that doesn’t seem to matter a jot. What does matter is the direction of travel. Nicola Sturgeon keeps marching ‘em up to the top o’ the hill and then marching ‘em down again. How many times has she done this? The more enthusiastic nats must have been up and down more hills now than the riders in the Tour de France.

 On the subject of marches, what would be interesting is the number who’d turn out for one if it was organised for next weekend. Would the same folk rally to the cause yet again? Would the organisers still be able to claim “thousands and thousands took part”. Or would it at cause no disruption whatever to traffic, as those taking part only just about filled the width of the pavement?

 It’s impossible to say. All we do know is that Sturgeon’s “much anticipated” – yet again – announcement of her next moves towards securing indyref2 sickened some nats so much they’ve decided to pack it in altogether.

 Now the focus seems not so much on flag-waving and marching but on “engaging with people” and “quietly trying to persuade them” of the merits of independence.

 How many times have we been there before also? How many “persuasion campaigns” have Sturgeon and co launched in the last five years? They’re like some of the more grandiose Inverness development plans. They’re announced with a fanfare – although Sturgeon was utterly devoid of any trumpets last Friday – and then you never hear any more about them.

 In addition to the latest persuasion campaign she also announced plans to set up a “Constitutional Convention” and invite members of “civic society” to take part. She also said she would invite members of rival political parties so they can discuss ways on how to reach a general agreement that the Scottish Parliament rather than Westminster should have the final say on whether a second independence referendum should be held, that is they should reach a general agreement to do what the SNP wants.

 This so absurd that it’s beyond satire. More pertinently, how long will nationalists keep on swallowing this rubbish? The reaction from a significant number after Sturgeon’s perfectly timed Brexit day speech suggests that they’ve almost had enough, of her.

 The Brexit day eruption of discontent exploded the myths with which the nationalists have comforted themselves in recent times.

 The myth that Westminster’s refusal of a Section 30 order giving permission for another referendum is “unsustainable”, when it’s sustainable for as long as Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants it to be, which is certain to be his full five-year term in office.

 The myth that after next year’s Scottish Parliamentary elections he might change his mind, when there’s not a cat in hell’s chance of that happening. Why should he be any more likely to cave in on indryref2 – regardless of the outcome of the election – then than he is now. Is “civic society” – whoever they are – backed up a trade union or two going to turn the head of a Tory Prime Minister? Is he liable to give in to the SNP/nationalists and invite a massive backlash from the majority north of the border who don’t want another referendum and will condemn him for going back on his word? There’s really no point in debating the issue with anyone who seriously believes this. They’re not in a different country being ground down by the malignant English oppressors, they’re on an entirely different planet.

 Then there’s the myth that every time he says “No” support for independence grows and the pressure on him to cave in increases, when in reality the majority of people in Scotland who don’t want another appallingly divisive “once in a generation” referendum will be cheering every veto to the rafters. And as for those “undecideds”, well why should they remain anything other than undecided?

 These are the main fictions purveyed by the SNP – there are of course others – and they haven’t even begun to explain to people what currency an independent Scotland would use, how and when we would regain entry to the EU, whether or not there would be a “hard border” between Scotland and England, how they’d deal with the massive amount of extra public spending we’d lose after separation, and much else besides.

  Where do they go from here?

 There’s talk of holding a “consultative referendum” which would be boycotted by Unionists and would get them nowhere. Many councils – like Highland Council – would be under huge pressure to simply refuse to take part, as they could legitimately do, and it couldn’t be held without their involvement at polling stations and in counting votes.

 They could challenge the Westminster veto in the courts, an appeal they would lose.

 Or they could try, on the outer fringes of lunacy, and make a “Unilateral Declaration of Independence” – effectively mount a coup, which would take us into uncharted levels of conflict, potentially far beyond relatively polite exchanges of differing views. And their beloved EU would condemn such action utterly.

 Pursuit of any of these options would be disastrous for the SNP/nationalists, exposing them as reckless extremists that the vast majority of Scots would want nothing to do with.

 The most likely outcome is that Sturgeon, branded “The Betrayer” by some on her how side, will be ousted as leader before any future referendum takes place, if one ever does. Time to give someone else a go.

 He or she would have plenty time to settle into the job. There will not be another independence referendum for at least five years, and maybe a lot longer. And the up-and-down hill brigade would do best to start adjusting towards that reality.

Clumsy survey brands huge area ‘deprived’

“THE Merkinch” has been identified in an annual survey as the eighth most deprived area in Scotland, which is not a ranking any location wants to have.

 This recurs year after year and is a big and obvious problem for Inverness.

 But the way this survey is carried out and presented is not exactly helpful either. It’s clumsy, ill-defined and leaves doubts even about the area it’s referring to.

 In the minds of most Invernessians – and certainly older ones – there is a clear distinction between the Merkinch, whch runs all the way up to Telford Street, and South Kessock, “The Ferry”, which has long been regarded as a separate area entirely. Now this huge swathe of the Highland capital is simply lumped together and is being called “the Merkinch”.

 My guess is that the vast majority of negative statistics which make up this survey relate to South Kessock. To bracket homes bordering Telford Street is being in an area of  “multiple deprivation” is patently absurd.

 Highland Council maintains the distinction – classifying the Merkinch and South Kessock as separate areas.

 The problem of deprivation exists and it is not avoiding the main issue to seek clarification on exactly what area the statistics refer to.

 As things stand we have a huge swathe of the Highland capital being branded an area of “multiple deprivation”. Wouldn’t it make more sense to break that down with much clearer definition? If these problems are still centred mainly on South Kessock, as they long have been, that should be made clear. This clumsy survey and the reporting of it classifies many people living in £150,000-£200,000 houses as being in “one of the most deprived areas of Scotland”.

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