There have been a number of credible reports recently about panic and despair amongst senior figures in the campaign to oppose Scottish independence. While it is of course distasteful to take pleasure from the misfortunes of others, the sole response of any independence supporter to these developments ought to be ha ha. Instead what we’re seeing from certain quarters is the deeply Scottish ‘Woe woe and thrice woe, it’s aw gaun wrang.’ So it’s perhaps useful to take a step back from what independence supporters consider our chances of wresting a referendum from a reluctant Westminster to be and instead to look at what is going on in the British Government.
We learned yesterday from the Sunday Times, a publication close to the highest levels of the Conservative party, that Michael Gove is in ‘panic mode’ about the consistent majorities for independence which opinion polls have been showing for some months. The same paper told us that his boss, part time Prime Minister and full time dilettante Boris Johnson is deeply irritated by the same question. Meanwhile we discovered from another publication close to the Conservative party, the Spectator, that someone who was prominent in the Better Together campaign in 2014 now believes that it’s already too late and the independence horse has already bolted. And just a short while ago in a podcast on this very blog, the legal commentator Andrew Tickell mentioned that a confirmed opponent of independence of his acquaintance who had likewise been prominent in the 2014 Better Together campaign had summarised the current position of British nationalism in Scotland as, “We’re fucked.”
These are not the reactions of people who are supremely confident in the ability of Downing Street to keep saying no to Scottish independence forever. They are the reactions of people who see that they have lost the argument and who have no real idea how they can regain the initiative. They are the reactions of people who know that they cannot prevent the inevitable, they cannot resist forever the demand of the people of Scotland for another referendum and who know that when that referendum takes place the people of Scotland will vote for independence.
If you truly believed that you could simply refuse to play ball, keep denying a Section 30 order, and that this situation could continue forever and a day then you wouldn’t be panicking like Michael Gove is. And he is, after all, a man who is best known for his oleaginous smugness. If Gove was convinced that there was no issue because Downing Street held all the cards and Scotland was entirely powerless he’d be smugly and calmly ignoring the rise in support for independence in the polls because it would be meaningless. But he’s not. He is, according to the Sunday Times, in a panic. If you are one of those independence supporters who believes that the Conservatives can continue to deny Scotland a referendum forever, ask yourself why that is. Michael Gove would clearly love to benefit from some of your confidence.
It’s because of Gove’s panic and Johnson’s anger that the Prime Minister is coming to Scotland, although he apparently won’t be crossing any border. His wee tour of fridges in Conservative owned businesses is aimed at telling us rebellious Caledonians that we need the UK in order to be able to keep ourselves in toilet paper and pasta when the British Government’s incompetence leads to a second wave of coronavirus. Oh, sorry, not incompetence, its [checks notes] world beating response. That’ll be the world beating response that has given the UK the highest death toll in Europe. We need the UK in order to deliver the economic stimulus that we need in order to ensure that the Scottish economy recovers. That’ll be the extra £21 million from Rishi Sunak then and not the extra £6 billion that the Scottish Government’s own economic recovery plan was calling for.
Johnson’s wee tour will of course achieve hee, and when it’s not doing that it will deliver haw. He’ll keep out of the way of real live Scottish voters in carefully stage managed events and will only take a couple of questions from the press. Then he’ll wheech back to London in a flying fridge painted in the colours of the union flag and declare the job done.
However the point is that he’s only embarking upon this entirely cosmetic exercise because the Conservatives are deeply concerned that Scotland will not remain one of their playthings for much longer. They don’t have a clear idea how to stop us leaving. They have no case for the UK, other than insisting that Scotland is an economic basketcase which is dependent upon handouts from the Treasury. However they also know that this response is damaging support for the UK in England. People in England hear the constant refrain that Scotland is too poor and needs bailouts from the British Government and ask themselves why they should keep paying for those ungrateful Scots who keep complaining about Brexit and generally insist on doing things differently. That’s why there is now majority support for getting rid of Scotland, along with Wales and Northern Ireland, amongst Conservative voters in England.
The Conservatives know that they will be unable to resist a concerted push from a Scottish Government which was reelected with a majority and a mandate to seek another independence referendum. They have successfully resisted until now, but the Scottish Government has not pressed insistently so it’s been easy for the Tories to resist. The reason that the Scottish Government has not pressed for another referendum with the insistence that many in the independence movement would like is because it’s only this year that we’ve started to see consistent majorities for yes in opinion polling. That will change after the next Holyrood elections if the SNP are reelected with a majority and there is still a consistent majority for yes in polls.
It’s not enough for the SNP to have a mandate for another independence referendum, it also needs a strong enough mandate to be certain that the people of Scotland will continue to back it if it needs to seek an alternative route to a recognised vote on independence. It needs to be certain that a majority of people in Scotland will vote yes to independence. It needs to be certain that it has a solid enough mandate that the people of Scotland will continue to support it during the constitutional and political crisis that will ensue if Johnson defies the clear result of a Scottish election. It needs a mandate that is strong enough to resist any attempt from the Conservatives to defy Scottish democracy.
The Tories know that the people of Scotland are now, and only now, in a place where they are prepared to give the Scottish Government that strengthened mandate. The Tories can resist the SNP, but they cannot resist the determination of the people of Scotland.
This is not now and has never been about the determination of the SNP to achieve independence, it’s about the determination of the people of Scotland. That is what has been lacking until very recently. You can’t achieve independence based solely on the minority who happen to have supported it for years. You need majority support. You need majority resolution. You need majority determination. It’s only now that the people of Scotland are coming to the determination that Scotland needs to forge its own path. That’s why the Tories are panicking. They know that the people of Scotland are now in a place where they are no longer willing to be passive observers of their own history.
You can help to support this blog with a Paypal donation. Please log into Paypal.com and send a payment to the email address firstname.lastname@example.org. Or alternatively click the donate button. If you don’t have a Paypal account, just select “donate with card” after clicking the button.
If you have trouble using the button, or you prefer not to use Paypal, you can donate or purchase a t-shirt or map by making a payment directly into my bank account, or by sending a cheque or postal order. If you’d like to donate by one of these methods, please email me at email@example.com and I will send the necessary information.
Please also use this email address if you would like the dug and me to come along to your local group for a talk.
Gaelic maps of Scotland are available for £15 each, plus £7 P&P within the UK for up to three maps. T-shirts are £12 each, and are available in small, medium, large, XL and XXL sizes. P&P is £5 for up to three t-shirts. My books, the Collected Yaps Vols 1 to 4 are available for £11 each. P&P is £4 for up to two books. Payment can be made via Paypal.
My new book has just been published by Vagabond Voices. Containing the best articles from The National from 2016 to date. Weighing in at over 350 pages, this is the biggest and best anthology of Wee Gingerisms yet. This collection of pieces covers the increasingly demented Brexit years, and the continuing presence and strength of Scotland’s independence movement.
You can order the book directly from the publisher. Ordering directly means that postage is free. You can order here –
You can also order a book directly from me. The book costs £11.95 and P&P is an additional £3.50, making a total of £15.45. To order just make a Paypal payment to firstname.lastname@example.org, or alternatively use the DONATE button below. Please make sure to give me your postal address when ordering. Orders to be sent outwith the UK will incur extra postage costs, please email me for details. If you can’t use Paypal, or prefer an alternative payment method, please email email@example.com