Spare us the tired old script, Nicola. Scotland said No – and we meant it…

By Graham Grant

AMID the Royal Wedding coverage, you may have missed the moment when the BBC asked a newspaper journalist if he was a member of the ‘intelligence services’.

In an extraordinary item on a Sunday political TV programme, the ‘mainstream media’ (MSM), of which the Corporation is part, was put under the spotlight over its perceived bias against Scottish independence.

The suggestion that the journalist was a spy originally came from assorted activists (or blowhards) online, and to any remotely objective observer was somewhere beyond certifiable.

BBC and newspaper reporting of a recent pro-independence march, which allegedly understated attendance, was held up as an example of yet more prejudice against the separatist cause.

One of the bloggers seen almost as a spiritual leader of the conspiracy theorists and professional bores was given airtime to rehearse his vindictive loathing of the despicable ‘MSM’.

Another day, another bizarre journey into the parallel universe that is Scottish politics, where the national broadcaster kow-tows to an unhinged minority, and engages in an act of needless self-flagellation…

What better backdrop for Nicola Sturgeon, ignoring the mood of celebration across the UK, to raise yet again the spectre of a second independence referendum?

It reminded me of the climax of the film adaptation of Stephen King’s horror novel Carrie – a dream sequence in which the eponymous character’s bloody hand shoots up from her grave.

The ‘indyref 2’ franchise is becoming pretty stale, but Miss Sturgeon trots out the same tired old script – and by now she is word-perfect, her delivery impeccable.

While there can be no doubting her ideological commitment to independence, Miss Sturgeon also knows she is taking an enormous gamble by advocating a course of action that proved electorally toxic last year.

Yet she remains the prisoner of a movement that will not for a nanosecond allow her to set aside its eternal mission; indeed her continued political survival is built on her ability to placate this increasingly restive powerbase.

That’s why she dutifully tweeted a thumbs-up sign for that controversial march through the streets of Glasgow – when a banner with the charmingly inclusive slogan ‘Tory Scum Out’ was given pride of place.

The latest ‘indyref 2’ threat came days before the publication later this week of the long-awaited report by the ‘growth commission’ – a panel of experts convened by the SNP to dream up ideas for the economy of an independent Scotland.

No matter that in real-life Scotland economic growth is lagging behind Colombia, taxes are rising and businesses are going to the wall as rates rocket: this expert group, set up by former SNP MSP Andrew Wilson, has had other priorities.

Among them has been the creation of a separate Scottish currency in the event of independence – a solution to a problem that doesn’t currently exist, and a kamikaze manoeuvre that would be enormously risky, and stratospherically expensive.

It’s a bit like Tolkien drawing detailed maps of Middle Earth – it may be impressively executed, and perhaps even entertaining, but ultimately it bears limited relation to reality.

We have been reassured that the growth commission is also formulating plans for the present day, but on Sunday Miss Sturgeon rather gave the lie to that assertion, by pointing out that it will provide the context for the ‘indyref 2’ debate.

Earlier this year, Dan Macdonald, founder and chief executive of Macdonald Estates, a member of the commission, told me he wasn’t interested in developing plans for independence while the economy was in the doldrums.

Mr Macdonald said: ‘We need plans for the economy over the next five to ten years, that is more important than any one issue, including the constitutional question – we need to build the economy first.’

Instead it has taken two years to produce a report which one member of the commission told me they wouldn’t bother to read in full, such was its length and complexity.

One of the other plans the experts have analysed is a move for Scotland to unilaterally keep the pound, in the way Panama uses the US dollar with no shared central bank, prior to having our own currency – so-called ‘dollarisation’.

This is catnip for pub bores, but it’s also deeply worrying for anyone who might have hoped their children and grandchildren would be able to live in a country that isn’t an economic basket-case.

Undeterred, Miss Sturgeon is poised to reconsider the case for indyref2 in the autumn, when the shape of the Brexit deal is known – even though she has no jurisdiction to do so, as permission from the UK Government for a fresh referendum will not be forthcoming.

Part of the political calculus on which the new case for independence is built is that the electorate will be so outraged by the way in which Westminster is allegedly depriving us of powers that should come to Holyrood post-Brexit, that they will rush headlong towards separatism.

But the SNP is never keen to acknowledge that its ambition of remaining within the EU would see all of those powers repatriated to Brussels.

The broader notion that smashing apart one of the most successful internal markets in the world would be preferable to Brexit is absurd.

I have seen more than one independence supporter argue that if separatism was a failure, at least it would be a Scottish failure, and not one foisted on us by the UK Government – Armageddon is more palatable if it’s home-grown.

But before she plunges the nation back into the psychodrama of constitutional warfare yet again (did it really ever stop?), Miss Sturgeon has some questions to answer: what part of ‘No’, back in 2014, does she still not understand?

Fifty-two per cent of Scots back the Union, according to an ICM poll at the weekend, so where is the evidence that a majority wants the Scottish Government to devote any more of its time to plotting the end of the UK?

The strategy of the Nationalists from the beginning has been to convince voters of its sure-footed governance, and in its earliest years in office, before it won its 2011 majority, many gave them the benefit of the doubt.

But the obsession with independence grew, and it was only in the aftermath of the first indyref that Miss Sturgeon – who had been Deputy First Minister for seven years before taking over from Alex Salmond – decided to prioritise closing the ‘attainment gap’ in Scottish schools.

Government by procrastination extended into every portfolio, including health and justice, so that reform was either delayed or implemented in a chaotic and haphazard manner – witness the Named Person debacle and the now-rescinded legislation banning sectarian chanting.

It was an administration that only had one big idea – and never came to terms with its decisive rejection by the voters it purportedly serves.

But it cannot be allowed to perpetuate the deep divisions that for more than a decade have blighted Scottish politics and wider society.


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Graham Grant.

Graham Grant.

Home Affairs Editor, columnist, leader writer, Scottish Daily Mail. Twitter: @GrahamGGrant Facebook: @sdmnewspaper