The nationalists so called ‘independence election’ has utterly failed to set the heather on fire

by Colin Campbell

A COUPLE of election posters, one Tory, one SNP, have been torn down and I suppose “vandalised” in Inverness.

That made the news.

Feelings must be running high over the May 6 poll.

Or, apart from a couple of lamppost fixated oddballs, probably not.

There are now just two weeks of the interminable build-up to the Holyrood poll to go. It seems to have been dragging on for ever.

I swear US presidential campaigns have been shorter in duration.

That’s the problem with what is now a mortifyingly boring descent towards May 6, for those of us who’ve been paying at least some attention. This campaign and the various bust-ups accompanying it have gone on for far too long.

Nationalists have been trying to stoke it up as “the independence election” since last autumn, and have pounced very noisily on poll after poll after poll to extract what comfort they can from their invariably unreliable findings.

Unionists responded with vigour on all available outlets and the argy bargy began to seem repetitive and vaguely pointless not long after the turn of the year.

Then in January the election really did burst into life for a week or two after Nicola Sturgeon said she would hold an illegal referendum if there was a majority for independence and Boris Johnson still refused permission for a legitimate one.

That generated a wave of approval from many nationalists and anger and disgust from many opposed to the break up of the UK, who were furious that she should have much such an announcement at the height of the pandemic.

Sturgeon’s declaration caused interest in this election to peak too early. And since then it has been downhill all the way.

I was one of the small minority of people who watched the first televised debate between the party leaders, which was a wearily dull affair, with the supposed highlight for some being Anas Sarwar’s pre-scripted, cheap and childish remonstration to Douglas Ross to “grow up”. If that really was the best that was on offer, that really summed it up.

I didn’t bother with a TV re-run a couple of weeks ago. And I think that’s them over now. Just as well. Any more and the viewing figures would sink below the average for BBC Alba, or even worse, the new BBC Scotland channel, watched by almost no-one at all.

The SNP presented a manifesto listing a ridiculous number of freebies, bikes, ipads, extended bus travel and whatever else. And the other parties have gone part of the way in trying to copy them. The only reason I know no-one’s offering free drink for all is because I read about pub owners’ anger over continuing restrictions on their ability to sell it.

All those most centrally involved, politicians, party workers and the more energetic supporters will be making a final push over the next fortnight. But, as they ramp up their efforts, will it change anything that’ll happen on polling day?

The country is now so acutely divided that virtually everyone who intends to vote will know who they’re voting for. And nothing could possibly change that. And those “undecideds”? It really is hard to believe that if they are still undecided as of now, that they’ll bother to vote at all.

What the nationalists have spectacularly failed to do is to whip of public fervour so as to turn this into the “independence election”. If they’d succeeded there would surely be at least some of the atmosphere of 2014 in the air just now.

Is there even a trace of that around? Those nerve-wracking days six-and-a-half years ago when flags were draped across so many windows and speculation about the outcome was the subject of intense discussion in every workplace, household and street?

Fevered speculation? Tepid apathy more like now, with most people still far more focused on the emergence from lockdown, which makes a big advance on Monday, than ongoing blather over an election.

The outcome will, of course, be interesting.

But it’s the aftermath that will capture public attention if, as expected, independence supporting parties gain a majority.

It’s another foregone conclusion that the more ardent nationalists who are obsessed by all this will become very, very noisy indeed in their demands for another referendum.

But now many of them are there? How many will be prepared, as Alex Salmond has called for, to engage in “angry street protests” when Boris Johnson routinely refuses to agree to indyref2? The online warriors make it sound like countrywide turmoil and civil unrest will be inevitable. Their patience is at an end. It is now time for “action”.

Or so the hardcore element say.

But try as I might to envisage the most unwelcome future scenario, I just can’t envisage a mass of angry people angrily swamping the angry streets of Inverness.

It’s been a difficult past year and there are now distinctly brighter times ahead. If some want to descend into a dark, obsessive post-election rage about the constitution and independence that’s up to them. Maybe they should start grabbing Tory posters off lampposts so it’ll give them something to tear apart at home.

But after what everyone’s been through, I imagine the priority for most normal people will be to make the most of the new freedoms of the summer. And despite the endless nationalist noise, there may not be all that many abnormal people around.

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