Only in the SNP’s warped world could there ever be a positive side to deaths of elderly Scots

BACK in December, an impossibly long time ago, Pete Wishart suggested a clever new tactic for the independence movement.

The Perth MP, reflecting on that month’s election result, said SNP activists must build on their success with ‘gentle persuasion’.

That may sound like a sinister euphemism (the kind of thing that might be followed by ‘fetch the thumb-screws’), but being nice to Unionists for once was – for the SNP – a novel idea.

Much has happened since then, including a pandemic, but fast-forward to this weekend and a leading Nationalist was engaged in a little reflection of his own.

Angus Robertson, a close ally of Nicola Sturgeon, said the deaths of 55,000 ‘predominantly No supporting older voters’ every year had positive consequences for independence.

His article, in a slavishly pro-SNP newspaper, said ‘predominantly Yes-supporting’ 16-year-olds joining the electorate had produced a gain of over 100,000 for the Scexiteers.

The demise of No voters meant a ‘likely net gain of over 100,000 for independence’.

Well, politics is a cynical business, but whatever happened to Mr Wishart’s plea for inclusiveness and a more conciliatory, bridge-building approach?

It lasted all of five minutes, but with the SNP riding high in the polls – for now, anyway – its hierarchs can’t help themselves publicly indulging in a little amateur psephology, of a decidedly brutal variety.

At a time when the SNP Government is accused of presiding over a Covid disaster in our care homes, the proposition that the deaths of elderly people is any way a ‘gain’ is abhorrent.

The Mr Nice Guy routine was always a charade, and no-one really bought it, probably including Mr Wishart, who was criticised by some SNP supporters at the time for implying that they weren’t all terribly nice people.

Anyone who logged onto social media six years ago – notwithstanding the rose-tinted nostalgia of top SNP figures over the anniversary of the referendum on Friday. – might well recall that it wasn’t much fun for those of us branded traitors, or Quislings.

Among those with fond memories of the big day was Mike Russell, the SNP’s pompous ‘Brexit Minister’, who tweeted that if Scotland had chosen independence in 2014 ‘we would now be a normal, small, self-determining, EU member’.

Instead, we ‘face unprecedented chaos, inflicted against our will’, but – he insisted – ‘ we will get a second chance’.

Remember that this is a government laser-focused on fighting coronavirus, and indeed one which fairly recently had intended to ‘eliminate’ it, though that idea may be on the backburner.

And how ‘normal’ would it be if, say, Mr Robertson was in the ruling administration of an independent Scotland – a man who can see the bright side of the deaths of very large numbers of elderly Scots?

In the toxic swill-tub of Twitter, populated largely by axe-grinding egotists, downright bigots (and entirely rational newspaper commentators), there was a lot of lamentation along these lines from separatists in contemplative mood.

Mr Russell even got himself into a scrap with broadcaster Andrew Neil, who took issue with a claim from expat Scots actor Alan Cumming that Scottish people face ‘insidious and subliminal racism’ in London.

Stepping in to the fray, Mr Russell said Mr Cumming, a vocal Scexit backer, was entitled to his opinion, telling Mr Neil that the presenter’s reaction ‘alleges organised conspiracy’.

Mr Neil was right to dismiss this comment as ‘dissembling nonsense’, and most who remember frenzied talk in independence circles of secret oilfields might wonder if it’s a bit rich of Mr Russell to condemn other people’s conspiracy theories.

Senior Nationalists weren’t much in evidence on social media, or anywhere else, condemning those daft and dangerous racists who gathered on motorway bridges over the summer, waving black Saltires to ward off English tourists.

Perhaps there’s a hierarchy of racism; but if there is, in Mr Russell’s world, Scots are often at the receiving end, and he fearlessly spoke up in defence of a rich celebrity who lives in, er, New York.

It may serve the SNP’s agenda to insinuate there’s rampant prejudice in Britain, and that Scots are downtrodden and hated in the nation’s capital.

(Angus Robertson: deaths of older Scots represented a ‘net gain’ for independence)

There are at least 800,000 people born in Scotland living in England: how many of them, like Mr Cumming, are the target of anti-Scottishness?

Trevor Philips, former head of the Commission for Racial Equality, kicked over a hornets’ nest yesterday when he wondered aloud whether Scots based in England should be able to vote in another referendum on Scottish independence, if one were to happen.

Before the 2014 vote, Mr Philips published an analysis for the think-tank Demos of a sample of 7,884 voters who were identified as being of Scottish origins: 3,489 living in Scotland, 4,395 in England and Wales.

Mr Philips said: ‘We predicted… that the 40 per cent entitled to vote [ie those living in Scotland] would divide 58:42 in favour of No…

‘What was more significant, however, was that the other 60 per cent divided very differently.

‘No had a 41 percentage point lead among Scots living elsewhere in the UK – more or less a 70:30 split.’

It’s easy to see why Nationalists are opposed to the notion of giving Scots living outside Scotland the vote, though as Mr Philips pointed out, citizenship of the bright new post-indyref2 Scotland would be open to them.

Isn’t it more than a little unjust to deny them a say in whether Scotland should go it alone – while also conferring on them the status of ‘citizens’?

So Mr Russell might agree Scots are living in hostile territory in London, that their opinions matter, that they would be Scottish citizens after independence – but they still wouldn’t get a vote in another poll.

There are plenty of anomalies in this debate, but this is one that won’t go away – even if the SNP is desperate for it to disappear.

Nor will the matter of what should be asked if there was a re-run of the 2014 vote – Nationalists are deeply opposed to a Brexit-style Leave or Remain question.

They don’t want gerrymandering – unless they’re the ones doing it, in which case it’s fine.

Similarly, they’d like a fair debate, with each side respecting the other, but occasionally –quite often, in fact – the mask slips, and we get another startling glimpse of the ugly heart of nationalism.

Mr Robertson’s candid assessment of the electoral situation is a new low from a party that appeared to have hit rock-bottom.

But don’t be fooled by the tosh about civility: they’re out to win and after decades of ridicule and marginalisation, prior to securing power at Holyrood, the stakes couldn’t be higher.

And, unforgivably, they don’t much care, it seems, who’s hurt in the process – when even the old and frail are seen not as human beings, but as impediments to the realisation of the SNP’s long-standing dream of destroying the UK.

*This column appeared in the Scottish Daily Mail on September 22, 2020.

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Graham Grant.

Home Affairs Editor, columnist, leader writer, Scottish Daily Mail. Twitter: @GrahamGGrant Columns on MailPlus https://www.mailplus.co.uk/authors/graham-grant