'Now is not the time.'
When Theresa May used that phrase as a diplomatic way of telling Nicola Sturgeon to ‘forget it’, most of us were philosophical about it all and attributed it to typical Tory arrogance.
Now? It feels like she was handing SNP their slogan for the next decade and that Sturgeon accepted it as a panacea for her constant problem i.e. how to placate restless natives. It now appears to have become policy and is uttered by unblushing SNP reps as a matter of course.
Who actually wants to push for independence right now? How many people can we think of who are also elected representatives? How many SNP MPs and MSPs are there?
The party holds 63 of the 129 seats in the Scottish parliament and 43 out of the 59 Scottish seats in Westminster. (It also has 453 local councillors of a possible 1,227 - no disrespect to them but they have no power to legislate and so we will set them to one side for now.)
So that’s 106 MPs and MSPs out of a possible 188. That means that 57.4% of all the representatives elected by the people of Scotland stood on an independence platform.
The latest poll says 54% of eligible Scots would vote for independence if the ballot was held tomorrow but let’s go with the long-term trend since 2014 i.e. 45% Yes.
What is 45% of that 188 senior politicians representing us in Holyrood/Wetsminster? 84.6. That’s how many politicians, if the electorate was being represented, would, right now, be taking whatever action they could to achieve independence. (And remember, that’s based on the lower end of the prospective ‘Yes’ vote as reported consistently in polls since 2014.)
But how many of them are doing anything at all? It’s easy to make the mistake of naming individuals as examples while forgetting that they have left the SNP: Kenny MacAskill, Neale Hanvey. Angus Brendan MacNeil and now, in Holyrood, Ash Regan. (Alex Salmond and Tasmina Ahmed-Sheik have high profile but don’t count because they’re not elected at the moment.)
So let’s turn attention to that hypothetical 84.6 people, those elected SNP MPs and MSPs who should be pushing for independence. Who are they? What are their names? What constituencies do they represent?
Can we name any?
Short answer - no.
Of course it’s possible that the 84.6 are champing at the bit to get another referendum campaign going, or perhaps they realise that that’s never going to be ‘allowed’ by the WM government and are busy formulating a cunning plan for some kind of UDI to blindside the dastardly Tories and secure Scotland’s freedom. If so, they’re doing a splendid job of keeping it quiet. Have any SNP MPs or MSPs been quietly assuring 45% of their frustrated constituents that all will be well as soon as the Sturgeonistas have been cleared out, just don’t crack a light and give them warning? If such assurances were being issued and/or if any form of coup was in the offing we would surely have heard whispers by now. But whispers? there are none.
The collapse of the Scottish government’s appeal against its own Information Commissioner has sparked renewed interest in the seemingly dormant Branchform investigation and related matters. News that Nicola Sturgeon preferred not to use officially-issued government phones during her tenure as First Minister has been greeted with weary shrugs - is anyone really surprised? For some diehards, this latest revelation will be stacked along with all the other ‘evidence’ of a diabolical British establishment ploy to undermine Nicola and the SNP. But those claims crumble as more information drips into public consciousness, no thanks to the mainstream media for whom yesterday’s business in the Court of Session was, apparently, of little interest.
Will the information ‘held’ by the Scottish government now be released? Mibbes aye, mibbes naw: perhaps it will be released but in heavily redacted form; perhaps it will be released unredacted and the mainstream media will ignore it; perhaps - and here we are testing the limits of credible outcomes - someone involved in the attempt to have Alex Salmond prosecuted for crimes he did not commit will break cover, tell-all and spark a series of resignations, arrests and damages claims from those affected by years of bullying, unwarranted secrecy, corruption and plain old lying.
How long will it all take? We don’t know.
In the meantime, perhaps the most effective action that Scots can take - citizens of all parties and none - is to highlight, by all available means, the undeniable fact that the current situation is about as undemocratic as one can imagine. At least 45% of the electorate are being treated with utter contempt by a governing party which achieved power on the basis of a promise which many (if not most) assumed to be a ‘given’ i.e. that the SNP wants independence. It does not. That the 45% are being so roundly ignored should concern everyone, not just potential ‘Yes’ voters because if a governing party continues to get away with showing such disdain for the people who invested them with whatever power they enjoy then ballot-box support becomes meaningless.
Most independence supporters came to this sorry realisation years ago as they watched Sturgeon’s pathetic response to the arrival of Brexit. Those who still cling to fear mongering about deep-state/Tory malevolence want us to ignore the real corruption and ineptitude staring us all in the face and they continue to hold up a curtain concealing ‘the man behind the curtain’. The fact that they still do so raises disturbing questions about their motivation (and their funding) let alone critical faculties.
The character behind the curtain, desperately spinning wheels and slapping knobs, is not a Sunak, Rees-Mogg or Francis Urquhart type - those people are no friends of Scotland to be sure, but they have bigger fish to fry so long as they are content that the Scottish government remains toothless and docile. No - the character behind the curtain is indeed a ‘representation’ of us Scots just as some psychopaths, serial killers, sex offenders and criminals generally are Scots. We cannot and should not deny their existence or their true nature, hard as it may be to acknowledge them as members of a shared community. But we also know that they are not fit and proper people to make important decisions affecting how the rest of us live. We certainly did not put them in place knowingly.