The nawbaggery has started early this year. It’s never really gone away of course, but in 2020 we can expect a deluge of miserabilism from the UK media as it realises that the drive for Scottish independence is gaining momentum. Earlier this week we had a perfect example on Sky News, when two political talking heads were interviewed about the likely political agenda for the year ahead. Both spoke about how Scotland would be a big topic. The metrocommentariat’s ignorance of what’s really going on here was fully on display.
One of the interviewees was Jonathan Haslam, a former advisor to Conservative MP John Major and a Cambridge University professor of the history of international relations who specialises in the former Soviet Union. Perhaps he should have confined himself to speaking about collective farms, because all he managed to do in relation to Scotland was to show that his source of information is the Ruth Davidson fan club, and even then he’s clearly not been listening to British nationalist cheerleaders in Scotland very closely. Which to be fair is a perfectly reasonable response to the Scottish Conservatives. No one in Scotland listens to them either.
After all the Conservatives in Scotland campaigned on the basis of stopping indyref2 and telling people to tell Nicola Sturgeon again about another referendum. Only when the voters of Scotland did just that, and told Nicola Sturgeon that yes, please, we’d quite like another referendum, and by the way that Boris Johnson can take a running jump off that bridge of his that’s never going to get built, the Scottish Tories acted like they’d won the election in Scotland. You don’t listen to people who are so detatched from reality that they think that they won an election when they just lost over half their MPs and they ended up far far behind the party that swept the board. You certainly don’t listen to people who think that they have a right to block the democratic will of the people of Scotland by selectively applying a different set of rules to suit themselves.
Anyway, according to Jonathan, one of the key issues which is likely to derail the independence cause is the Scottish Government’s failure to deliver the Queensferry Crossing and the soaring costs associated with it. Okaaaay. You know, that bridge that opened over two years ago, on time and under budget? The one that quite a few of you will have driven over recently? Well it’s not really there. You’re actually being borne aloft over the waters of the Firth of Forth on the back of a misapprehension. Bloody nats eh, building fantasy bridges that look and feel solid and which are capable of carrying traffic. There you were, in yer da’s car, thinking that you were driving over the bridge to Fife, when all this time you were suspended in mid air like Wile E Coyote going over a cliff in an ACME rocket sled.
Jonathan had very obviously not done his homework. This seems to be a thing with Conservatives who bang on about bridges, as we’ve discovered with Boris Johnson. It appears that Tories don’t really understand the difference between bridges and political distraction techniques. Or more likely they do understand, but choose not to care. When a supposed expert comes on a TV news show and pontificates about something which is so evidently incorrect, all it means is that nothing else he or she says can be trusted. All it has proven is that they haven’t done the most basic research. Yet this counts as expertise about Scotland in the UK media.
However what was really striking was that no one else on the programme, neither the Sky News interviewer nor the other guest who was being interviewed based upon her presumed expertise on how the politics of Scotland will affect the UK, pointed out Jonathan’s basic and glaring error of fact. Viewers in the rest of the UK will have been left with the impression that the Queensferry Crossing remains a major political scandal in Scotland.
Jonathan Haslam’s ignorance of the Queensferry Crossing and his belief that it’s a major scandal is by itself just one minor incidence, and as an isolated incidence it would be trivial and relatively unimportant. Yet the real scandal here is that this kind of discussion is typical in the British media. Time and time again we get people trotted out who know little about Scotland and who confidently assert something untrue which gets repeated so often that it becomes lodged in the political discourse. Despite all that has passed, we still get the Spanish veto myth being trotted out. We hear repeatedly and continually that a referendum without a Section 30 order would be illegal and that Boris Johnson’s permission is required for an independence vote.
This constant barrage of negativity, lies, misunderstandings, falsehoods, and confusion has a psychological effect. It takes its toll upon independence campaigners who feel that they are stuck in a nightmare groundhog day of always having to rebutt the same old garbage day after day after day. It wears people down. It tires and exhausts them. And that’s precisely the effect that it’s intended to have.
As we enter 2020, the cause of independence has never been stronger, yet at the same time there’s a growing feeling that independence campaigners are weary, tired, and dispirited. You can’t remain on red alert, at a pitch of activity, for a long extended period. And when there’s a lack of clear target in the shape of a date for an independence vote, people fall prey to infighting, divisions, and distractions.
Today it’s been reported that some SNP MPs believe that it’s unlikely that there will be an independence referendum in 2020, and that this is no bad thing. This is not an attitude which is going to do anything to salve the growing disquiet amongst the wider independence movement, it risks telling independence campaigners and the wider movement that it’s being taken for granted. There is a growing feeling that the wider movement is doing the heavy lifting, while the leadership sits aloof. A leader who doesn’t inspire hope and confidence is not a leader but a laird.
So as we begin 2020, the New Year’s Resolution for the SNP leadership must be to engage more closely with the wider movement, to inspire hope and confidence, to demonstrate that there is a clear and coherent plan for achieving independence. There must be a more serious and coherent rebuttal of the lies and misinformation of the British nationalists and their pals in the media. And there comes a time when plans must be spelled out. That time is coming. A leader can only lead when he or she engages with those who are led and gives them a reason to keep doing the heavy lifting. The prize is almost within reach, let’s not stumble at the last stretch.
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