by Colin Campbell
BLUSTERING Ian Blackford had a go at making a joke at PMQs in the House of Commons yesterday.
Wishing both Scotland and England well in Friday night’s European Championship match at Wembley, and grinning broadly, he said: “I do hope we don’t see Scotland being dragged out of the Euros against our wishes.”
There was an audible ripple of laughter. Maybe it also concealed a few gasps of astonishment.
This was the first attempt at humour by the Ross MP and SNP Westminster leader since he first erupted there in bellicose outrage what now seems an eternity ago.
It was fairly lame stuff, but at least it was something, a recognition that puce faced outrage should not be his demeanour every single time he rises to his feet.
It was a play on the mantra we’ve heard from Blackford at least 1,000 times, namely that “Scotland has been dragged out of the EU against our will”.
The wording in that script has never changed. Blackford has never acknowledged that 44 per cent of voters in the Highlands in 2016 backed leaving the EU, and haven’t been dragged anywhere.
It has always been baffling that neither Blackford nor his SNP cohorts fail to understand that a deft change of tone now and again would be to their advantage.
Every time they open their mouths at Westminster we are treated to a tirade of mainly feigned fury over the latest snub or insult to “the people of Scotland”, on whose behalf they presume to speak.
They seem to try and outdo each other in expressing apoplectic outrage, regardless of the issue they’re addressing.
To the weary observer, Westminster is their grand theatre of tantrums.
Ian Blackford is mocked, laughed at and scorned by members of other parties when he speaks at Westminster. The SNP convert this into “another insult to the people of Scotland” and yet another reason for even more outrage. It’s a never ending circle.
But many people in Scotland and many even within the SNP view Blackford as an embarrassment, as their critical social media comments routinely make clear.
He doesn’t have to become a music hall entertainer but any change from blustering and bellyaching at least makes him seem more human and fractionally more likeable, or a tad less repellent.
Will others among his colleagues who make so much angry, fervid noise finally take note?
The reality is that Blackford and the other SNP MPs at Westminster can now afford to crack jokes, in public and no doubt among themselves.
Blackford, Inverness MP Drew Hendry and the other SNP MPs are back in the Mother of Parliaments with the pressure for another independence referendum having been lifted from their shoulders.
They can continue shaking the money tree there for a long time to come.
It’s only very recently that Blackford was bellowing that there WILL be another referendum in 2021. Now all that has changed, with the May 6 Scottish elections being the turning point.
Having massively ramped up expectations with a mixture of arrogance and folly, the SNP not only failed to win a “a supermajority” at Holyrood, they failed to win any majority at all. They are now wholly dependent on the Greens for being able to pass legislation.
Not even the most rabid nationalist fanatic now pretends there will be another referendum this year, or next year either. The reality is dawning on them that there will be no legal referendum for a long time to come.
With Boris Johnson implacably opposed to granting a section 30 order for a legal referendum, nationalist hopes are pinned on Nicola Sturgeon trying to hold an illegal vote sometime in 2023.
And what might that produce? It would be boycotted by half the population. It would result on the footballing equivalent of one team walking off the pitch and allowing the other to dribble the ball into the net by themselves. It would turn the SNP into a laughing stock and would be an internationally derided farce.
Blackford – who at the last count claimed £256,000 in expenses from Westminster – Inverness MP Drew Hendry and the other SNP freeloaders there are safe and secure in their lucrative positions until the next General Election and probably beyond.
Little wonder they are in such good humour. There are many millions of pounds to be raked into their bank accounts as a result of the referendum fiction in the years ahead. All they have to do is keep making the right noises to keep their legions of gullible supporters onside until the next election, and beyond.
Blackford gave a flash of his wit and wisdom at Westminster on Wednesday. Behind the scenes, and in plush London bars and restaurants, they’re probably all cracking jokes.