by Colin Campbell
THE Prime Minister’s golden moment when he ruled out another independence referendum before Nicola Sturgeon had even finished addressing her SNP party conference about why we “must and will” have one was an exquisite piece of timing.
Presumably his rejection was not conveyed to her through an earpiece as she rambled on, although it was difficult to tell.
Her glowering face has been hardened by years of grievance-mongering to the extent that her expression never much changes.
It she’d learned as she spoke about Boris Johnson’s instant rejection of indyref2 – delivered through a spokesman – it might have darkened slightly, but only by an imperceptible shade or two.
Sturgeon was trying for once to sound constructive and conciliatory, suggesting that the PM’s approval for indyref2 would be achieved through a spirit of mutual co-operation.
That sounded extremely implausible even as she was speaking, not to mention utterly nonsensical.
The fact that Boris Johnson had signalled “not a chance” before she’d finished her delivery was timing at its best.
When Sturgeon requested a Section 30 order for another referendum from Theresa May, the then PM politely delayed replying for a day or two, as if she was giving the request serious consideration, before responding that “this is not the time”.
When she made a similar request to Johnson two years ago he signed his swift reply of refusal with an illegible scrawl which suggested he hadn’t given it much thought at all, but had picked up Sturgeon’s missive and waved a pen over it before tossing it aside.
Football fans crowding around one of their heroes get more legible autographs on bits of paper.
And now the rejection line has hardened even further.
As usual, various pundits suggested Johnson’s reaction would “offend the people of Scotland” and would in fact increase support for Sturgeon and for independence.
This is the lazy line which is always trotted out.
In reality more than half “the people of Scotland” wouldn’t be offended if he met Sturgeon in person and blew a raspberry straight in her face.
I suppose he’s never likely to do that. More’s the pity. But the more emphatically he tells Sturgeon in any and every way possible where to shove her referendum, the louder the cheers ring out across much of Scotland.
This was not a display of contempt for “the people of Scotland”, as Sturgeon, Blackford and their cronies would have us believe. It was a display of contempt for Sturgeon, Blackford and the neverendum SNP. And if some of their more ardent followers felt personally insulted by it, well, that’s their problem.
The Prime Minister’s latest manner of refusal of course received top billing in the independence supporting National.
I don’t buy the vile rag, or only very occasionally, but I do look every day at its website. And I’m beginning to fear for the health of the publication.
The usual plethora of grievance-mongering articles appear daily but, significantly, the number of comments linked to them by nationalist readers has plunged to an all-time low.
This SNP mouthpiece used to engender fierce and extensive online debate among those who read it. Some articles would attract scores or even hundreds of comments.
That has changed completely. Now in most cases the number has fallen to single figures, or a maximum of 20 or maybe at most 30.
That strikes me as significant because either many nationalists can’t anymore be bothered getting involved in the endless “indyref” debate, or they can’t be bothered getting involved with the National.
It remains an ardent supporter of Sturgeon, but many nats now feel antipathy towards her. Despite all her manufactured sound and fury over the years nothing has changed, nothing new is happening. They believe her heart is now no longer truly in the sacred cause of securing independence.
And I suspect they are utterly fed up with the National regularly producing yet more fanciful front page headlines declaring another referendum is “imminent”, as it has regularly done over the past five years.
For them, Sturgeon’s ridiculous claim this week that she will be able to “co-operate” Johnson into agreeing to another referendum may well have reached a new low.
Not even the most gullible of the gullible – and who knows what depths of perception or intelligence we are sinking to there – would have been convinced by it. And the National treating Sturgeon’s nonsense yet again as if it was holy writ would be extremely irritating rather than remotely inspiring to many in the SNP.
In fairness, the paper’s editor has the most difficult job in journalism. How do you maintain interest and stir up “indyref2” prospects when it’s all been said and written before, and nothing has happened? Declaring that a referendum was imminent may have worked in 2017 or 2018 but how many nats believe that kind of rubbish three or four years on?
The National may stumble on or it may expire. Its demise would be very welcome.
But Nicola Sturgeon isn’t helping its prospects of survival one little bit.
Not unless, that is, she can convert Boris Johnson’s mid-speech show of contempt for her referendum plans into him agreeing to “co-operate” with her and agree to one.
Pigs and blustering Blackford will fly before that happens.
It’s rather more likely that the PM’s golden moment on Monday will stay like that, golden, and his attitude to Sturgeon and her referendum whining will remain as hard as flint.