by Colin Campbell
A DAY-long bellyful of the SNP was on offer from dawn to dusk for anyone who could stomach it.
The liars, chancers, fantasists and hypocrites were all out in force, with Sturgeon at the beginning of the day, followed by Blackford later and other dubious characters towards the end.
How many people tuned in at 9am to watch Nicola Sturgeon launch the day with her appearance before the inquiry committee into the Alex Salmond affair?
I’m not among the growing number of people who detest her so much they find her literally unwatchable. But I am heartily sick of the sight of her. She may be breakfast table company for her devoted husband, Peter Murrell, who as SNP chief executive is co-leader of our one party state, but Nicola at nine was too early in the day for me.
It was a big occasion nevertheless and I recorded it and watched it later. Any faint hopes that she would crack under the pressure of questioning – such as it was – were of course dashed. Any hopes that she would unravel through the frustration of making a public appearance where she was unable to say what she would “allow” and would not “allow” turned to dust.
Nationalists gave her rave reviews for her performance. Unionists branded her evasive, false and untrustworthy. That was always the way it was going to be.
In contrast to the crisp, clear and convincing answers Alex Salmond gave to the inquiry last Friday far too often she waffled, and waffling is waffling, no matter how eloquently it’s dressed up. There were long, convoluted sentences which were hard to follow, hedged in with “I can’t recall” and “I believe” and other phrases of evasion.
Where things had gone wrong she said she “accepted responsibility” without sounding like she meant it. As with a football manager who declares “I take the blame” after his team has been thrashed, the implicit assumption is that everyone knows the blame really lies with the useless haddies tripping over each other on the pitch.
There were feigned little chuckles here and there to show how relaxed she was about the whole business, complemented by thespian displays of emotion to show her sensitive side. But predictably perhaps there was no knockout blow. She is too accomplished a performer for that. She may yet have to resign, but the question remains would she resign no matter her level of wrongdoing or guilt?
This is a woman who has said she is prepared to hold an illegal independence referendum if necessary, possibly later this year, immediately after the virus trauma has begun to fade. It would be boycotted by more than half the population but she is surrounded by people who would insist that makes no difference, and if the vote goes for independence then Scotland becomes independent. In other words, she would be leading a takeover of our country in an illegal coup, or at least trying to. The rights and wrongs of the Salmond affair would be viewed as very small beer compared to that.
The best hope is that she might still somehow be forced to quit, but that looks a fairly remote possibility. However this whole murky business, as a string of polls have shown, has damaged the SNP and their independence cause. We might have to settle for that.
The budget from the UK government that brought the vaccine here before any other country in the world, and which has poured billions north of the border in furlough money and other support, was something less than a sideshow on Sturgeon day.
It gave Ross MP and SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford a chance to bellow as he turned even more puce faced than normal before the TV cameras, and enabled novice finance minister Kate Forbes, who has now almost perfected her own version of the Sturgeon scowl, to declare it wasn’t good enough, and in terms of the money pouring over the border from much-hated Westminster there must be more, more, more.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has now extended the furlough scheme until September. When will it end? This time last year the debate was whether it should go beyond last July. No wonder so many people in Scotland favour “extreme caution” and support Sturgeon’s crawl towards ending the lockdown, when they’re being paid month after month for doing nothing.
The SNP, of course, want furlough continued indefinitely. In an independent Scotland there would have been no furlough scheme and precious little vaccine by now either. Many more elderly people would be dying and thousands of unemployed people would be begging on the streets.
Surprisingly, Inverness MP Drew Hendry didn’t appear on the airwaves to give his verdict on the budget. The ex-councillor, formerly chairman of the parks railings and pathways maintenance committee, or some such, and now a multibillion pound SNP financial expert, has been a TV and radio regular of late. Hendry can now address any economic issue under the sun. Except, of course, what currency an independent Scotland would use. His unrivalled level of financial expertise was much missed.
So it was a pretty full day of the SNP. The hope must be that, as campaigning gets underway for the May elections, more and more people will see them for what they are, and realise their whole independence argument is based on deception.
Boris Johnson this week re-emphasised his determination to reject SNP demands for a legal referendum, no matter the outcome of the Holyrood elections. Their “once in a generation” declaration, he said, still stands, and will continue to.
People will still for whatever reason vote in large numbers for Sturgeon and her ghastly crew of charlatans. She may partly have talked her way out of her difficulties yesterday. But she is still as far away from leading her followers to the promised land as she’s ever been.