New Verse for Ane Auld Sang

Many Indy supporters are whooping for joy and loudly quoting a Survation poll in the Sunday Herald (October 11th) that documents eroding unionist conviction. One third of those voted NO six years ago have changed their minds.

“…the No vote has effectively collapsed. The Survation poll of 2,093 respondents found that almost one third of 2014 NO voters would now vote YES. Nearly twice as many NO voters have moved to YES than have in the opposite direction…” —Bella Caldona blog

 However, before those joyful independistas break out the bubbly and speculate who is best suited to become the first ambassador to Bermuda, first consider four bucketfuls of rain dampening your parade:

  1. While winning two NO voters over to YES for each one going the other way, that shows a softness in support for either side. Not only does this raise an alarm because  voters have a record of turning feart in the polling booth. Even if the stats were true, this still does not provide a support at the “well over 60%” that pundits regard as necessary for a decisive win.
  2. Even if the SNP win big in May on an Indy manifesto, Boris will say ‘NO’. This may be called unjust, undemocratic, etc., but examine quasi-dictatorial moves Trump has got away with for four years—against a written constitution. Boris will enjoy support in this from Labour & Lib-Dems, as well as his own normally stroppy backwoodsmen Tories.
  3. An earlier blog, revealing despair among arch-unionists from Scotland at The Spectator, is encouraging, but not conclusive. The thrust of that blog was that informed commentators like that have never despaired to that extent before. Douglas Ross may be out of a similar mould to Jackson Carlaw, one of Young Farmers & County Balls, rather than douce suburbs & golf clubs, but Ruth is their best street fighter. If they have any sense, they’ll put her in charge.
  4. Much of this new support comes from people appalled by inept Westminster handling of the pandemic.  Nicola, on the other hand, has shown more effective leadership. She’s front and centre daily and even admits to mistakes. Why this should have more than compensated for repeated dithering by her Cabinet and the absence of palpable progress in Education, Health, Social Care, Economy, etc., mystifies most observers—including this one.

In other words, Indy has an appreciable way to go. This journey does not just involve overcoming Westminster intransigence, much less baffled incomprehension across the Establishment how anyone could be so foolish as to abandon the heaven that is England. This last is important, because it does not occur to the pukka people of Tunbridge Wells, Chiping Norton et al that ‘England’ and ‘Britain’ are not synonymous, except when humouring the Celtic fringe.

In fact, this conflation is the Achilles heel of the Union. No matter the strength of  economic argument that Scotland is “too poor; too weak; too wee” to go it alone; No matter emotional, historic ties that “we faced down Fascism together”; No matter the North of England suffers even more than the Scots from neglect—the imperial capital, the source of all power, all wealth, all culture suffers cultural myopia. And this is the petard by which Unionism will be hoist. Centralised self-belief by which Westminster lives will be the downfall of Unionism. Even the Scottish Tory leader realises this:

“The case for separation is now being made more effectively in London than it ever could in Edinburgh.” Douglas Ross MP, speech to Conservative conference, October 3rd 2020

For an example of why this is so, roll time back 140 years and settle into the politics of 1880. Britain was at its peak of influence and prosperity, yet the hubris shown by Disraeli and his Tories resulted in Gladstone’s Liberals sweeping to power, helped by a massive batch of 80 Irish MPs under Parnell. Anglo-Irish landlords, endemic poverty and decimating potato famine made Ireland a sullen embarrassment to imperial pride. But, try as he might, Gladstone made no progress to assuage Irish feelings in the teeth of unionism, English jingoism and a House of Lords stuffed with land-owning Tory peers, intolerant of upstart nonsense like Irish Home Rule. Even George V’s acceptance that it would be better to let Ireland go peaceably could not move them.

This festered inconclusively on until it exploded into the Easter Rising of 1916, merciless executions, making martyrs of its leaders, three years of post-war repression by the Black and Tans, followed by Lloyd-George’s sleight of hand in retaining the Six Counties while grudgingly granting Eire its independence.

Did the English National Party (a.k.a. the Conservative & Unionist Party) learn nothing from its history of colonial arrogance? Even post-WW2, Mau-Mau in Kenya; Eoka in Cyprus; Communists in Malaya, all dared question London’s right to rule—and paid with many lives.

It is a matter of proud record that no-one has been killed, or even seriously hurt, in the cause of Scottish independence. There is no sense of a Scots rising occupying the old Post Office building at Waverley—not least because it’s now HQ for Lothian NHS. But there is no need for such rough-housing, not least because the Scots have a much more positive attitude to the English now than the Irish had a century ago. what goes around comes around; a century after, polls in another ‘home’ country of the Union point to this history repeating itself, if more peaceably.

It is this uber-English assurance, posing as unionism, that will do for the likes of Johnson, Gove, Rees-Mogg et al. While yeoman backwoodsmen of the Tory party recognise them as standard bearers of joint ambition, Scots will be equally convinced they could do better. Why be ruled for another 300 years by attitudes gleaned from public school and grouse moor when Ireland or Norway show how much better your future can become if you let go of nurse and find the courage to believe in yourself

About davidsberry

Local ex-councillor, tour guide and database designer. Keen on wildlife, history, boats and music. Retired in 2017.
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