HISTORY is full of barmy conspiracy theories, some wilder than others, from who shot JFK to those secret oilfields we heard so much about back in 2014.
Nicola Sturgeon might seem far too sensible to subscribe to hypotheses about grassy knolls, but yesterday she outlined a bizarre belief of her own.
In her virtual keynote speech to the SNP conference (at one point 97 people were watching live on Twitter), she pointed out Scotland was under threat.
The aggressor? The UK Government, you might not be shocked to hear, is planning to make Scotland ‘poorer’ to keep us under Westminster’s yoke for ever.
Indeed, ‘Westminster will use all that damage that they have inflicted as an argument for yet more Westminster control’ — as if Scotland were being held hostage.
This will lead to mass impoverishment so ‘we can’t afford to be independent’ — and by cutting our ties with the EU our dependence on the rest of the UK will increase.
The only problem with this crazed talk (she also thinks the Tories are trying to reduce our working-age population by limiting immigration) is that it’s demonstrably false.
It’s a strange kind of oppression that manifests itself in a stratospherically expensive furlough scheme — and a life-saving Covid vaccination programme.
And bear in mind those recent GERS figures showing every man, woman and child in Scotland benefited from an extra £3,100 of public spending last year as a result of our membership of the UK.
You might recall that back in May, research by These Islands, a think-tank, showed nearly 60 per cent of independence supporters agreed with the statement that these figures are ‘made up by Westminster’.
So Miss Sturgeon is taking her cue from her support base — and feeding them more of the absurdities that many of them already buy into.
If you missed Miss Sturgeon’s address, it won’t come as a surprise that her intended solution is fairly straightforward: a second independence referendum.
But she knows that in order to secure one, the backing of the UK Government will be necessary — and of course for now it shows no sign of budging an inch on the issue.
The First Minister therefore called for a new spirit of cross-Border ‘co-operation not confrontation’ — she wants Boris Johnson to drop his objections and let us get on with another Scexit vote.
All of the conspiracy talk which portrays Scotland as a captive of the Tory bogeymen might seem an odd way of fostering the harmony Miss Sturgeon says she wants.
But she’s in a perpetual no man’s land where she has to bang on about independence despite knowing another poll isn’t anywhere on the horizon — throwing red meat to the Nationalist hard core, and reinforcing the myths that are central to its eternal crusade.
As for the rest of us, trying to make ends meet and hold onto our jobs, and hoping our kids get some sort of education, or at least that the schools stay open, well, we’re used to this circular and all too familiar constitutional ‘debate’, such as it is.
Miss Sturgeon tried harder than normal to moderate some of the revolutionary rhetoric by emphasising that another poll could only take place when Covid has died down.
Really it’s a monstrous insult to all of us — but perhaps mostly to families who have lost relatives to coronavirus — to be casting the UK Government as the enemy, when without it we’d be in a gravely worse situation.
Part of the slight shift in tactics in the run-up to the SNP conference has been an apparent willingness on the part of the separatist top brass, or some of them, to admit the transition to independence wouldn’t be entirely pain-free.
John Swinney, the minister nominally in charge of ‘Covid recovery’ (though case numbers are still sky-high), was on the Today programme yesterday, conceding that quantitative easing (QE), or printing money, wouldn’t be possible after independence, at least on an ‘interim’ basis.
That’s bad news because it’s how we’ve paid for the various lifelines that have allowed us to weather the pandemic so far, notably furlough.
Those GERS figures showed an independent Scotland would face an eye-watering £36.3billion deficit.
How much would we be able to borrow with those credentials — and what would it do to our chances of getting into the EU?
Former SNP MSP Andrew Wilson is the separatist movement’s economic mastermind, but consider his latest musings on the EU question.
He said Scots may have to wait seven years after a vote for independence before being able to re-join the club the UK has just quit.
Mr Wilson said the experience of Brexit underlined how difficult it would be to unpick a Union dating back to 1707.
But the timeframe could be shorter, he claimed — East Germany joined the EU within weeks.
He failed to take into account, however, that the former East Germany never applied to be an EU member state — as it was incorporated into the West German system of federal governance, and ceased to exist.
Nonetheless the plan is that — Covid permitting — another referendum will take place by the end of 2023, though quite how — given the constitutional stalemate — remains a mystery.
Finance Secretary Kate Forbes has been tasked with setting out a grand economic vision for an independent Scotland ahead of that event, should it happen — clearly the business of re-building our Covid-battered economy takes second place.
Asked about her own leadership ambitions, Miss Forbes was candid (where is all this SNP candour coming from?), saying: ‘Right now, it’s not a particularly attractive proposition in a country and in perhaps a political sphere which feels more toxic than ever.’
Most politicians who long for high office play down their desire for the top job, but it’s worth reflecting on Miss Forbes’s comments.
‘Not particularly attractive’ — leading Scotland into the brave new dawn of a socialist independent nation? Surely that should be at least a little bit attractive?
Unless you think that it’s not particularly likely, and then you might decide, as Miss Forbes might have done, that it’s not worth the stress and pressure.
As for the toxicity, she’s right, there’s plenty of it around, and most of it, frankly, has been generated by the SNP and its acolytes, many of whom have taken up long-term residence on Twitter, where they terrorise the unwary.
Democracy isn’t what Miss Sturgeon or her lieutenants are all about — their real objective is self-preservation and stringing along the grassroots for as long as it takes to achieve it.
The ‘Westminster’ crew she despises isn’t undermining Scotland, or threatening to make us poorer.
That’s the sole province of the SNP, still spreading the dangerous fictions necessary for its survival, and still fighting the lost battles of seven years ago while the country cries out for real leadership — and a government free from the poisonous politics of grievance and grudge.
- This column was published in the Scottish Daily Mail on September 14, 2021.
- Follow me on Twitter: @GrahamGGrant