by Colin Campbell
A YEAR ago the nationalists were in full lockstep on the march in the most arrogant display of triumphalism seen in these shores for decades.
The more extreme face painters – who not only paint their faces, but probably their torsos and their backsides too – were slavering over the absolute inevitability of Scottish independence, with all opposition being contemptuously swept aside.
Separatism had become “the settled will of the Scottish people” and any “yoon” who denied it was a traitorous quisling not fit for the land of his or her birthright.
Without the need to make more sinister connections, it was not only ugly, to very many it was repugnant.
Their impending takeover of the country was not, at least, based on militarism. It emerged from blinkered militancy which took no account of what was going around them in the lives of ordinary people.
While rising concern over the virus which was on the brink of making a fearsome winter comeback occupied the minds of most people, nationalists were brandishing a series of opinion polls supposedly showing a clear majority for independence, in one case topping out at 58 per cent.
There were more than 20 in all. And although many had been commissioned by independence supporting organisations and were skewed accordingly, the supine mainstream media reported them as fact without any hint of a warning signal attached to them.
But with what they proclaimed to be a “historic” Scottish Parliamentary upcoming, and driven into a frenzy of excitement, they made the fatal error of overplaying their hand.
Smashing up the norm for any party in the run-up to an election, they did not damp down their triumphalism in case their cravings remained unsatisfied and their expectations fell short. They ramped it all up to the outer extremes of what was possible.
“The settled will of the Scottish people” would lead to the SNP sweeping the boards at the election. They would win not only a majority, but a “supermajority”. Virtually every seat in Scotland would be seized by the SNP.
Westminster opposition to another referendum would be “untenable” and “unsustainable”. Boris Johnson would crumble under the SNP/nationalist onslaught.
All this was a foregone conclusion.
I still have copies of the vile National newspaper, the mouthpiece of nationalist extremists, where this naked aggression resonated through every page.
A year on we can look back on this display of nationalist frenzy and say, in a guid auld Scots phrase we are all familiar with: “Whaur’s yer independence noo?”
Nicola Sturgeon, at the height of the pandemic in February, went on television to say that she would hold an independence referendum come what may.
This brazen intervention provoked outright disgust among many people who believed that all of Sturgeon’s efforts should be focused on containing the virus and nothing else. It was by far the worst mistake among many she’s made since she became SNP leader.
But it had the effect of further stoking up nationalist expectations, if that was indeed possible, to fever pitch.
And then it all came crashing down.
When the “historic” election arrived in May the SNP not only failed to win a “supermajority”, they failed to win any majority at all. They gained the votes of just over 30 per cent of the total electorate.
No attempts to twist the fact that they gained most MSPs at Holyrood could disguise the fact this was a defeat, and a resounding defeat at that.
Wind departed from sails overnight.
To the relief and delight of many, the independence campaign not only stalled, it went into headlong reverse.
The rampant triumphalism of the cult vanished, to be replaced by perplexity, frustration and anger. “Bojo the Eton toff” was still a hate figure among them but for many Nicola Sturgeon was not far behind.
Supposed “mandate after mandate” had been squandered by her and accusations flew thick and fast that her heart just wasn’t in it.
The same level of vitriol was directed at the snouts in the trough SNP brigade at Westminster, like their bellowing, pathetic, money-grubbing leader, the “simple 10 acres crofter” Ian Blackford, who raked in a quarter of a million pounds in expenses.
Inverness MP Drew Hendry, who in his 2019 election campaign material did not mention the word “independence” even once, seemed to be spared at least some of the wrath. The glorified ex-councillor was, risibly, promoted to the SNP’s business spokesman. His qualifications for that role were best summed up in one of the rambling, amateurish “podcasts” he now so proudly presents, in which he blurted out: “I’m no economist.”
Fergus Ewing was duly re-elected to Holyrood as the Inverness MSP. He kept his head down and still does. His enthusiasm for breaking up the United Kingdom can best be assessed by the fact that he he’s been there in quiet contentment for the past 22 years, and between elections barely if ever mentions the subject.
Tired, jaded, strained Sturgeon then had to contend with headlines declaring Scotland had become “the covid hotspot of Europe”. Even her adoring followers who’d never missed an episode of her daily BBC TV show during the pandemic might have felt a smidgin of doubt that she was so well in command of the situation as she’d claimed.
And where are we now, a year on from the time of frenzy? Many nationalists are utterly frustrated and dispirited. Some have defected to Alex Salmond’s more extreme Alba Party in disgust over Sturgeon’s performance and her obsession with transphobia and gender recognition, which has now permeated down to five-year-old infants in primary schools.
Salmond, a thoroughly discredited figure despite him being cleared in his High Court sex trial, has announced that the first Alba conference this weekend will proclaim “independence is an immediate priority”, whatever that means.
In the May election he ran his campaign on a pledge for his followers to “take to the streets” in the fight for independence. Alba secured 1.8 per cent of the vote so we can conclude that “taking to the streets” is not an option which appeals to many and would be limited to numbers which could comfortably be handled by a couple of cops and a spare traffic warden.
So much for the threat of “mass civil disobedience” for independence.
Poor old Sturgeon was reduced this week to trotting out the line that civil servants will now start working on a “prospectus for independence”. So after seven years of sound and fury the prospecting begins again, to try and dig up answers on what currency an independent Scotland would use, the effects on mortgages and pensions, how an army, navy and airforce would be paid for, how a “free” Scotland would compensate for the loss of the £2,000 per head extra it receives in public spending compared with folk in England, how, if or when an independent Scotland could rejoin the EU to become the humble mini-servants of the Germans, French and Italians, the inevitability of a hard, passport controlled border with England and the rest of the UK, and so much else besides.
The reasons we don’t have these answers is because the SNP hasn’t a clue as to what they are. And don’t look for inspiration to novice MSP and “finance secretary” Kate Forbes, who once held a job as a trainee accountant and who only got her current job because her predecessor was caught out sending dubious texts to a young teenage boy. Even now, her sole task is to demand extra money from Westminster to pay for all the freebies it provides, constantly mewling “more, more, more”.
There has been a dearth of opinion polls in recent months – no doubt because nationalist organisations which a year ago were so eager to provide them don’t want to know the figures they’d produce – but one did appear yesterday, from an entirely neutral polling organisation.
It found 57 per cent support for remaining in the United Kingdom, and only 43 per cent backing leaving it. And only 38 per cent of those surveyed want another referendum within the next two years, that is within Sturgeon’s tattered old timetable.
If Sturgeon with the support of the lickspittle Greens – and little Patrick Harvie and his shrill Canadian co-leader will persuade absolutely no-one to follow them to the new promised land – did try and hold a referendum without the necessary legal permission from Westminster it would be boycotted and ignored by more than half the population. It would be illegitimate, meaningless, and would make them a laughing stock.
Far from reigning supreme, the nationalists are left waiting for Sturgeon, who does not look up to the challenge, the outcome whenever that appears of of her latest “prospectus”, falling support for independence, and the likes of Ian Blackford and Patrick Harvie as the kind of characters supposed to bring undecided voters on board.
We’re a year on from the high point of nationalist arrogance, triumphalism and near frenzy. Compared with where we are now, it could be a lifetime ago.