by Colin Campbell
MHAIRI Black admitted at the weekend that any move to hold an illegal referendum on independence would be just that – illegal.
An obvious statement to make, but quite a U-turn from an SNP MP who said back in January that a “wildcat referendum” was a perfectly viable proposition.
In an article she has now conceded that any referendum held without a Section 30 order being granted by Westminster would not be legally valid.
This has not endeared her to the sizeable element within the nationalist movement who are writhing with frustration over Nicola Sturgeon’s “failure to deliver” on her numerous referendum pledges.
They viewed Black as being one of them, the kind of representative they could rely on to offer hope that, by fair means or foul, they could smash through any barriers blocking the route to “indyref2”.
Now Mhairi Black has burdened them with the last thing they want, a healthy dose of disenchantment.
On social media she is the darling of the militant nationalists no more, as she was excoriated over her attitude to the rather awkward issue of illegality.
Maybe Mhairi Black still ardently wants independence, or maybe she is beginning to feel more and more comfortable at Westminster – the place she professes to hate.
There’s the salary, the expenses, the perks, the privileges, and the sense of being at the centre of power in the Mother of Parliaments. Over time, it must begin to grow on you.
My own view is that many if not most of the SNP MPs at Westminster are playing out some kind of charade.
They have to make continual noises about wanting to break free from England – but one part of England, that distinguished cluster of ancient buildings in SWI, is not somewhere they are in any hurry to be parted from.
Inverness MP Drew Hendry used to be a local councillor circling Glenurquhart Road looking for a space in the car park before trudging into council HQ to discuss local issues like the West Link or which school to try and patch up next. It was worthy work but it scarcely had much glamour attached to it.
But Mr Hendry has moved on. Routinely berating Boris Johnson and the Tories is his principal topic now.
Occasionally, he will offer opinions on specific local issues which gain him a picture in the papers, like “rip-off parking charges” or the cost of parcel delivery to the Highlands. But he certainly doesn’t make a habit of it.
His focus is on bigger things. And I’ve no doubt that’s where he wants them to stay.
He was so fervently in favour of independence that in the election last December he didn’t mention it in his campaign literature – not a sentence, not a word, not once. But his reticence vanished a few days later when, safely back at Westminster, he popped up in a Sky TV studio arguing vehemently for – independence.
And does anyone seriously believe Ian Blackford is desperate to forfeit his prime position on the national stage as the much-televised leader of the SNP at Westminster – not to mention the £256,000 in expenses he last claimed to go with it – and to see it all go up in smoke amid the flames and the fury of another referendum?
After which he would emerge as – what? Depending on the outcome, who knows. But he will never become leader of the SNP, even if he wanted that poisoned chalice presiding over so many warring factions. In his heart of hearts he probably knows that he either keeps what he’s got down south – which is plenty – or it really will be a return to the obscurity of life on his Skye croft. And no matter how amusing he currently finds it to describe himself as a “simple 10-acres crofter” – that prospect will give him no amusement at all.
Mhairi Black will still rant against Eton toffs and the hated Tories in her grating, gravelly voice, and soak up the applause when she does so.
But does she really want another referendum and the prospect of independence, with the potential loss of the elite status she enjoys at Westminster? Or, like Hendry, Blackford, and the rest of them, has she started enjoying life down there too much?