“If you can imagine a debate raging in a bubble, well there are a few of those fragile things floating around back and forth over the border. List parties, George Galloway, English Nationalism, raving mad back-benchers with a penchant for Covid scepticism, the Withdrawal Act and other hideously cataclysmic Brexit related futures to name but few.”
For those of us who had never encountered Zoom before March 2020 it came as quite a surprise that our vibrant social life, interactive hobbies and dysfunctional families could just be neatly stacked up on a flat screen like an old episode of university challenge, but with even worse hair than in the 70s.
Sadly, many met the virus head on in a variety of ways, as even a commute to work became hazardous. But for some of us, life in general started to look a bit like an upgraded version of Zoom. We looked on as toilet roll shortages gave way to ritual NHS clapping, rainbows and Build Back Better. Remember that? We watched very elderly people try to fund the NHS with sponsorship (What happened to that money?) We saw signs of NHS appreciation everywhere and recoiled in horror as the deaths stacked up, and we realised that even our postman was in a risk of death occupation.
We barely mentioned politics. Let alone independence. The planet and all its struggles in the name of democracy seemed to be somehow paused, as the virus became the number one enemy. Our senses were heightened to every bud that opened in spring, and some of us washed our shopping, and still do. We said “dystopian” a lot. That hasn’t changed either. We were desperate for our one exercise a day, and competed for breathing space on busy streets and parks, while cursing the runners/walkers/cyclists (delete as appropriate) in our way.
But we saw community develop too. We rushed to join local support groups and stood in pharmacy queues to help out strangers. Some became friends. Johnson got ill. We said “I don’t wish him any harm, but..” Yes but we got very resentful when we realised what we knew all along that it could never make him a better man. He just doesn’t have it in him.
Then the steady lifting of restrictions. Bit by bit we stepped gingerly into the cracks that opened in the real world. The pavements became beer gardens, as if in a bizarre dream. Next minute you’re queuing up for a slot in one. We always knew that we were not all in this together in the broader sense, but it started to get personal as the city parks filled themselves to the brim with outsized gatherings and rubbish.
Reality slashed its way through our screens as George Floyd became a household name. We were out. That genie never got back in the bottle, and hopefully never will. The far right awoke from their slumbers (or stopped terrorising their neighbourhood?) to guard statues and threaten refugees. We got very confused about Plod in the aftermath of their “Policing by Consent” gig.
Then politics. Breathe out. We’re still alive. Schools. Care homes. Diversions, when we finally started to walk in a different direction and told ourselves that we were doing massively better than England. As if we had any real control of the virus or the array of powers needed to resist the voracious determination of lobbyists, such as the assertively proactive hospitality and travel industries. The musicians and artistes of all persuasions, quietly continued entertaining us via Facebook, zoom and Youtube. For tips essentially. Their lobbying cry has never been loud enough.
The First Minister had to head off and disown a gaggle of hazmat suited, saltire waving Blood and Soil vigilantes at the border. With it, she had to head off suggestions of her own xenophobia every time she breathed in the direction of the border. We were still blissfully unaware of QAnon, and paused only to laugh our increasingly straggly heads off at fringe Icke followers and 5g fearing conspiracy freaks.
Then the rise of Sturgeon. The rise and rise of the pro-independence polls. The disappearing of Carlaw and the return of the Colonel as Baroness-in-waiting. The blended learning fiasco and the U turn. The exams fiasco. The U turn. The travel industry again. The hospitality industry again. The rise and rise of Covid infections from single figures in July. The rise of Covid deniers. Of Keir Starmer? Arguably. Of media mischief as they try to encourage dissent amongst a generally compliant population.
Wait. The point is that it’s all running across our screens like a series of episodes of the most far-fetched daytime soap ever shown on Channel Zoom. Expect a Bobby Ewing-in-the-shower moment anytime soon. A reality check. It’s for those of us who thought that we’d wake up one morning, check our phones and find we’re independent. Thing is this. If you’re relaxed about getting down to the last toilet roll before you replace it nowadays, despite recent reports of nostalgia panic buying, ask yourself how those floating voters feel now that Nicola apparently can’t do right for offending. Not only Call-kaye Curmudgeons, but actual committed supporters.
We humans can be fickle. The general standard of journalism in the UK is beyond a very sick joke. The BBC is a cornered animal awaiting its annihilation, fangs bared. Floating voters can be risk averse. Brexit is coming. Cue the likes of Ross Macwhirter’s gloating ya boo reference to Nicola Sturgeon as a Has Been. Or the steady drip of voices, such as a recent herald article from Neil MacKay, warning that we need more than good leadership during the pandemic, and Brexit aversion to get those trickling Yes numbers to translate as crosses on a ballot paper. Well yes.
The heady days of the Yellow foam finger waving SNP conferences seem long gone. We are unreliably advised by media and opposition that the SNP is about to tear itself apart, way before that much desired and tantalisingly predicted majority assures us an open gateway for Independence, after the May elections – if they go ahead in May.
Yes there is uncertainty everywhere. There are schisms, maybe even chasms within the SNP. Again, breathe out. Welcome to the world. Look around you. As a non-participant in the party, I’m happy to see the preparation for a new generation of MSPs, with a strong will to bring an airing and resolution to the issues hanging around far too long in the wake of Covid management.
Whether any one of those issues will reach up from below and drag the party down with it, is anybody’s guess at this time. History has some strange tales to tell in that regard. A multitude of other issues may come from leftfield, as much to threaten the real prospect of independence, as to break up the union.
If you can imagine a debate raging in a bubble, well there are a few of those fragile things floating around back and forth over the border. List parties, George Galloway, English Nationalism, raving mad back-benchers with a penchant for Covid scepticism, the Withdrawal Act and other hideously cataclysmic Brexit related futures to name but few.
And complacency. There doesn’t appear to be a cluster of independence polls to date, since the return of The Baroness and the rise in Covid. However Kaye Adams asks “Have we let our advantage slip?” Because it’s all a big competition, and arch Unionists are not the only ones counting Covid victims as a reflection of our ability to thrive, or fail, as an independent country. If care home deaths, exam and university fiascos are UK wide issues, it’s no excuse for relaxing into the certainty that there’s no threat to independence here. We must do so much better.
While the popularity of a First Minister is a fluid thing in these rapidly changing times, and it’s true to state that she’s damned either way with every decision that she takes, it’s still important to a nation buckling under increasing numbers of coronavirus that we have a leader who holds her nerve. As the next frame shoots into focus, the FM is quick to condemn the potentially deadly actions of MSP Margaret Ferrier, while Kaye’s Man Friday Steven Jardine is calling in evidence that the Cummings effect could happen here. The country is not grasped in an epidemic of conspiracy rioters and non-compliance, and as adults, and with an adult in charge, we shouldn’t expect that to change anytime soon.
We need to know that our devolved powers are being used to their max though, and learn that we’ll never please anyone north or south of the border by adhering to the Four Nations Approach. That ship has sailed. We need to forget the current buzzword; Confusion. The media sews confusion, then tells us that we’re confused, so we need to have a look at the map, see where we live and press ahead with the restrictions and get on with it.
And we need to hear constant demands for financial powers. Grievance? Yes we have that. We are not independent. Tuesday’s posh Tory (or was it Wednesday’s?) on Good Morning Scotland reminded us that we voted against it in 2014, so we deserve everything that’s coming to us. But what about the 53, 54 or 55 percent who now want to be independent? Is that still a thing, and if so how can we nail it, and increase it, as a series of blustery storms scuff the soil from under our feet?
Let’s not rush this thing; is a phrase liable to get me beaten to a pulp by the UDI section of the movement. But to get back to those floating voters, they, and all of us do need a solid plan beyond Covid management and Brexit. Build it and they will come. Slip off Growth Commission currency restraints? Commit to a serious programme of Land reform? This would include long awaited reform of council tax, which, replaced by a Land Value Tax, which could make serious inroads into inequality, rather than tinkering around the edges. Hint. Don’t forget the Greens.
Looking through my half full crystal gin glass I see an increasing number of people coming to realise that we are likely to manage, well just about everything, without the constraints of a vile UK government, intent on a Brexit that we did not vote for. I see a majority for independence before we even embark on a campaign. More cautiously, I see a new Fresh hell emerge every few days, whether it’s the trashing of devolution, the breach of international law, and now discussions over, in essence, asylum seeker prison ships. Those percentages could and should be so much higher under the circumstances. Let’s all keep working on that.