There’s been an outbreak of childish petulance in Downing Street. You may not have noticed, since childish petulance is what passes for statesmanship in the UK these days. However this time it’s a particularly self-defeating act of toddlerish foot stomping over a symbolic gesture which would have cost the performance artiste known as Boris Johnson absolutely no political or financial cost at all, just the tiniest fraction of his ego. But protecting Johnson’s ego is our part time Prime Minister’s prime concern.
It has been reported that Michael Gove suggested that Nicola Sturgeon be invited to attend some UK government cabinet meetings, presumably in an observer status as she could not be bound by the doctrine of collective responsibility which full members of the cabinet must adhere to. As the Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has her own mandate from the electorate, one independent of that of the British Government, and moreover she is most decidedly not a member of the Conservative party. She would never see herself as being obliged to support decisions made by a Conservative cabinet and party that she’s spent her political life opposing.
However Gove certainly suggested the move because he realised that it would make it far more difficult for the Scottish Government to claim that it only finds out about British Government policy changes when it reads about them in the papers along with everyone else. It would cost nothing, and it would make it a more difficult for the SNP to argue that Westminster treats Scotland with contempt. Naturally Gove had no intention of allowing Nicola Sturgeon any significant input, and he and his colleagues would have ensured that she wasn’t in the room whenever they wished to discuss anything important, Scotland would receive the same amount of consideration from this Conservative government as it has always done. Which is to say the square root of hee haw. However the invitation would have allowed the Tories to make a big song and dance about how they’d elevated the Scottish First Minister to cabinet status. In the British state, it’s always the appearance of things and not the substance that counts.
Despite this, the performance artiste known as Boris Johnson refused. There’s no way he was going to share his stage with anyone, least of all a woman who’s a considerably more effective political performer than he could ever be. Reports are that he refused because he didn’t want people to think that Nicola Sturgeon was his equal. But that’s something he never needed to worry about. No one was ever going to think that Boris Johnson is Nicola Sturgeon’s equal, in the exact same way that no one thinks that an overweight late middle aged man who dresses in sporting gear to go down to the pub is the equal of an Olympic athlete.
Johnson is incapable of even making a gesture to Scotland, because he values his own ego far more than the unity of his so called precioussss union, that awesome foursome that tellingly only rhymes in a posh English accent. For the same reason he has refused to visit the First Minister at Bute House when he’s on an official visit to Scotland. This is politics as practised by the fragile ego of a narcissist who knows that he’s outclassed. He’d rather allow Scotland to continue to see the contempt that his government has for this country than suffer the indignity of allowing us to see that he recognises that in Scotland there is an alternative source of political power and authority to his own.
The panicked need from the Tories for gesture politics is far too little far too late. It comes after a series of opinion polls published in the press, and doubtless the Conservatives’ own private internal polling, has shown a consistent lead for independence and a massive lead for the SNP in voting intention for next year’s Holyrood elections. Today (Wednesday), a new poll was published from YouGov showing support for independence at 53%. This is the highest showing for independence there has ever been in a YouGov poll, which has typically returned a lower level of support for independence in recent years than other polling companies. Cue a slew of British nationalists on social media pointing out how poor, helpless, and incompetent Scotland is, but they still desperately want to hold on to us.
The poll also shows that support for the SNP in next year’s Holyrood elections stands at a whopping 57%. Translated into seats this would give the SNP 74 seats in the next Scottish Parliament, an absolute majority. Meanwhile Nicola Sturgeon’s approval rating is at +50, up 45 compared to the last YouGov poll, while Boris Johnson’s is at -54, down 16. Ruth Davidson struggles in at +15.
Fieldwork for the poll was carried out last week, while the media was full of SNPbad reports about the SQA results and Scottish social media was full of complaints about the SNP and in particular its leadership, and the need for new list parties. This poll, like the Panelbase polls before it, would appear to suggest that neither the attacks of the British nationalists nor the complaints of sections of the independence movement are cutting through to the wider public.
You might have thought that if the precioussss union really was that precious then the Conservatives would have looked after it better. The Tories can have their hard Brexit, their centralised Westminster power with its fetish of absolute sovereignty, they can have their unelected “rules and elections are for little people” unaccountable arrogant placepeople like Cummings and Davidson, and they can have the repellent infantile narcissist Johnson in Downing Street. Or they can have a United Kingdom. They can’t have both. They can never have both.
They’ve already picked which one they want. And so has Scotland picked what it wants too. For ages now the frothing right wing Brexity Daily Express and the Mail have been telling everyone that the breakup of the union is imminent. They thought the union they were talking about was the EU, but it was really the UK all along.
You may have heard that there’s a crowdfunded initiative to test the lawfulness of an independence referendum without a Section 30 order. Taking on a legal case of this sort is eye wateringly expensive but it’s a worthwhile cause as it could establish once and for all whether the Scottish Parliament can go ahead with a referendum without the need for a Section 30 order. Or if the case fails and it’s ruled that a Section 30 order is required, it tells us that this so-called union is not a union at all, because Scotland would not be a free member of it which can decide to remain or to leave according to the will of the people of Scotland. That would deprive British nationalists of their claim that Scotland is a voluntary member of a union of nations. Either way, the independence movement ends up with either a legal argument in its favour, or a political argument in its favour, and we would have more clarity than we do just now.
The crowdfunder for the case is halfway to its goal of £155,000. You can help out with a contribution here:
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