by Colin Campbell

ANYONE who saw Boris Johnson’s speech to business leaders yesterday would have to concede it wasn’t his finest hour.

He lost the place as he shuffled through his prepared papers, he mumbled “forgive me, forgive me” several times, he went off at a bit of a tangent with references to cartoon character Peppa the Pig, and at the end he was asked by a TV reporter if he was OK.

In one online comment I read afterwards a woman said all the hatred she had ever felt for anyone could be multiplied by ten with regard to her feelings towards Boris Johnson.

A sad, sorry, and rather sick way to feel.

But it at least it had clarity.

Nationalists didn’t know how to react to what may well have been the Prime Minister’s least impressive performance since taking office.

They piled on the mockery, mingled with what sounded from some like genuinely anguished pleas for Nicola Sturgeon to remove Scotland from the leadership of a blundering buffoon etc etc so obviously unfit for the Premier office he holds. Now!

But this makes their world of confusion more confusing than ever.

If Johnson remains as PM for the foreseeable future, by far the most likely option, they will not get their section 30 order for a legal independence referendum.

If it really is all getting too much for him and he resigns, or is persuaded to go by rebellious Tories concerned they will lose their seats at the next general election, they will lose the tousle haired Old Etonian “secret weapon” they believe is boosting support for independence.

And Johnson’s replacement would be no more likely to grant a section 30 order than he is.

In full voice yesterday, but it wasn’t the PM’s finest hour.

The simple truth is that no prime minister will want to risk going down in infamous history as the man, or woman, who presided over the disintegration of the UK.

So do the nationalists want him to go or want him to stay?

And whenever that dilemma confronts them, so do all the others.

Without approval from Westminster for a legal referendum, what do they do?

Nicola Sturgeon insists she will hold a referendum in 2023 with or without Westminster agreement.

That would certainly stir things up, compared with the flat, moribund, almost lifeless appearance of the independence cause right now.

But it would be boycotted by at least half the population as an illegal, wildcat poll, although it’s not difficult to envisage some stormy scenes at polling stations if it ever did take place.

But it won’t take place. Sturgeon, if she’s still around, and I’d bet on Johnson being in office longer than she is, would see the futility of it all and wouldn’t risk it. And the decision would probably be taken out of her hands anyway because councils, like Highland Council, would refuse to count and process the votes.

If any were inclined to get involved they could be targeted by well funded Unionist groups who would warn local councillors that they could be held personally responsible for any costs incurred in sanctioning an illegal poll.

Let’s face it, very many people would lose out financially if they were ever hit by the thunderbolt of independence, so tossing a few quid, or a few hundred quid, into the pot to make sure it doesn’t would be a prudent thing to do. Count me in, and I suspect very many other people as well.

And on a personal note, I’m getting my booster jab on Saturday. I’ll remain grateful to Boris Johnson’s UK Government for ensuring Scots like me were fully vaccinated at the beginning of April, before the citizens of any other country in the world, except Israel.

However, on a distinct off day for the PM, nationalists may gloat or despair over his spectacularly rambling speech yesterday.

Yet the reality is that he could make a pig’s ear of being PM six days a week and twice on Sundays, as they see it, but it’s still them and their ever distant indryref2 hopes that will remain stuck deep in the mire.

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