Lib Dems serve up a reminder that an election lies ahead, and for nationalists, it’s the Big One

by Colin Campbell

A LEAFLET crammed into my letterbox yesterday from the Liberal Democrats fired the starting gun on campaigning for next year’s Scottish parliamentary elections.

Campaigning mode…Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie.

Well, describing it as the starting gun may be an overstatement. More like the faint plop from a piece of rubber exiting a pop gun.

With everything else that’s going on, how many people just now would be able to say when this election is taking place? Not very many, I suspect. How many would even know there is an election being held next May at all?

It’s on my radar only because I spend too much time surveying nationalist websites to see what these people are up to. Next May looms very large for them. It is The Big One.

They are intent on framing this as the “independence election”, a historic tipping point after which there will simply be no stopping the momentum to achieve their dream.

If half or more than half of Scotland either dislikes, mistrusts or is sick of the sight of Nicola Sturgeon, the nationalist hardcore is no great fan club for her either. Some are still devoted to her. Others still have faith in her. And for many others, after years of her “failure to deliver”, next May and its aftermath really is her last chance.

If she does not force through another referendum after a successful outcome for the SNP in May, she will be as much reviled as Boris Johnson. The feeling is very strong among those who believe she has made too many broken promises and spurned too many “golden chances” to strike for independence. These folk have had enough of her annual conference declarations, year after year, that independence is coming. They are sick to the back teeth of demanding – when. But what are the chances of their lust being sated next year?

When Boris Johnson inevitably rejects a demand for a section 30 order sanctioning another referendum soon after the May election, all hell will break loose – among not all that many people. Because although there are plenty independence supporters, the outright fanatics, the half-crazy or completely unhinged branch of the movement, are not that plentiful in number.

But amid the nationalist zealots’ sound and fury, calmer heads, like Sturgeon, will still have to work out, what do we do about it.

And all the evidence about that continues to point in only one direction. They still haven’t got a clue.

Hold an illegal referendum which would be boycotted by more than half of Scotland? Appeal to the EU, the UN or Old Joe Biden for international support? Withdraw SNP MPs from Westminster as a symbolic gesture? They’d have a hard job prising the likes of Ian Blackford and Drew Hendry away from the perks, privileges, salary and expenses and limelight they currently enjoy down there.

Or, as a last resort, engage in “civil disorder”? Some of the real hotheads think that may be their best option. They think it credible there could be a national, ie nationalist, uprising against continued Westminster rule.

A few may “uprise” and make a nuisance of themselves. But hundreds of thousands taking to the streets? Hundreds, maybe.

For evidence of that you only need to look at what’s happened in the United States. If I read one scary article anticipating warring factions and blood on the streets if it was a disputed election, I must have read 20. It was all colourful, very readable stuff. And what has happened? No rioting, no warring factions, no civil disorder, just a few hundred protesters here and there making a noise.

It’s a lot easier to predict “civil disorder” than it is to foment it. The huge majority of people of all political persuasions in this country have no inclination to be physically at each other’s throats, or disrupting society, closing businesses, sitting down on roadways, or knocking over wastepaper bins.

So the fabled, frenzied “uprising”, we can be very confident, isn’t going to happen, no matter how ardently the fanatics would wish it upon us.

There are only six months or less between now and May and for all but the absolute political diehards the coronavirus curse will remain the dominant concern of our times.

The Lib Dems under leader Willie Rennie are getting things moving for the upcoming election and other parties can be expected to follow. I read all of the material that appeared with me yesterday. How many other people will bother to do the same is very much open to question.

One passage said: “The recovery (from the virus scourge) should not wait in the long queue behind another independence campaign. People are exhausted with all the arguments over Brexit and independence too.”

That sentiment at least, I believe, will chime with very many people.


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