by Colin Campbell
MICHAEL Gove said in an interview at the weekend that if it became clear that independence was “the settled will of the Scottish people” then another referendum would be held.
But far from appeasing impatient and frustrated nationalists, this thoroughly gracious concession from the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster only seemed to add to their frustration and impatience.
What else do these discontented people want? Billions more in public spending in Scotland than is allocated per head of population in England so that Queen Nicola can continue taking personal credit for handing out so many free gifts to her humble and grateful subjects, with free bus travel for those under 22 being her latest act of generosity? Oh I forgot, we already have that.
It’s true that Mr Gove did not provide any indication as to how Westminster would decide when or how the will of the Scottish people had been settled.
But in the spirit of compromise, it was surely better than Theresa May’s sweeping dismissal of Sturgeon’s plea for permission for another referendum when she starkly declared “now is not the time”.
Or maybe not, as the case may be.
It’s around a year ago this time that the SNP embarked on an attempt to convince people that something becomes factual and true when it’s repeated often enough.
As polls began to show support for independence edging above 50 per cent their deputy leader Keith Brown took personal ownership of the campaign to spread and deepen an acceptance that support for independence had become “the settled will of the Scottish people”.
The fact that the assertion was based on the flimsiest evidence didn’t prevent him from repeating that assertion ad nauseam.
At the same time the nationalists started stoking up tension and expectation over the still distant Scottish Parliamentary elections with claims that it would be a “historic” event, an election like no other, with an outcome that would be decisive.
Westminster opposition to another referendum thereafter would be “untenable and unsustainable”. Remember that catchphrase, repeated a zillion times?
There must be some grammatical graveyard where nationalist slogans and buzzwords are taken and quietly buried after they have fallen out of use.
Those words “untenable and unsustainable” rest peacefully somewhere within it. When was the last time they were heard being uttered by a nationalist politician?
The same sad fate has befallen Keith Brown’s “settled will of the Scottish people”, which is now six feet under in the grammar graveyard also.
Until, that is, it was resurrected at the weekend by a chipper Michael Gove.
The problem for the SNP/nationalists is that the May election they were so eagerly, ardently, frenziedly looking forward to did not turn out quite as planned.
In the weeks before it they were brazenly predicting not only an SNP majority, but a “supermajority”, with the SNP likely to win virtually every seat in Scotland.
In the event, they not only failed to win a “supermajority”, they failed to gain any majority at all.
Around the same time, the polls began showing a slump in support for independence to below 50 per cent. The world leading success of the UK Government’s vaccination programme, a real life and indeed lifesaving triumph, carried rather more weight than the SNP’s bogus and foolish pre-election triumphalism.
In the months before the May election, opinion polls were tumbling out in the media three or four times a week.
In the months since the election, I’m not aware of a single poll that has been carried out. The independence issue has gone deathly quiet. As of now, it almost seems to be somewhere vaguely out there on the fringe.
Meanwhile a freedom of information request revealed that the SNP Government has done no preparatory work on another referendum for over a year.
So on currency, mortgages, pensions, the deficit, what would replace the extra £14 billion in public spending we receive, the EU, a hard border with England and much else besides, there are no ready answers, or any answers at all.
Sturgeon’s halo vanished when it was revealed that Scotland had some of the worst coronavirus “hotspots” in Europe. And our sad and sorry position as the drugs deaths capital of Europe certainly hasn’t restored it.
At some point every year since 2014 Unionists have been able to utter their own favourite declaration, still very much alive and kicking. It is: “Another referendum, far less independence, has never looked further away.” Around now seems as good a time as any to repeat it.
No wonder Michael Gove’s weekend announcement that a referendum would be held when it becomes “the settled will of the Scottish people” didn’t send many shivers down many spines.