The relief on Murdo Fraser’s face was palpable when he stood up in the chamber of Holyrood to give his response to Nicola Sturgeon’s speech about the Scottish Government’s plans for the coming year. The SNP were actually talking about independence, which meant that Murdo could safely accuse them of being obsessed with independence without it being the Scottish Tories who had to bring the subject up, again. And besides, it gave him an excuse to draw a very thick veil over the goings on in that other Parliament that governs Scotland, the one where Murdo’s party leader just threw away his majority in a fit of pique.
Things have got so bad for Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson that even his own brother can’t support him. That would be the brother who actually uses his own name. Jo Johnson was the Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research, and Innovation until this morning, when he resigned citing the impossibility of reconciling his loyalty to his family with the national interest. Which is quite a public slap in the face for his brother. However it was clear that Jo’s position was untenable and he would be unable to continue to support his brother’s claims about Brexit, as being the Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research, and Innovation he came into frequent contact with experts. Some of those university professors are professors of clinical psychology, and they know all about narcissistic compulsive liars. Perhaps one of them sent Jo some papers about lyin’ basterts.
But back to Murdo and the Dead Persons Walking who are the Scottish Conservatives. There you are, slogging away in Holyrood, going on about how Scotland doesn’t want another referendum and how we’re far better off with the UK, when a Conservative Prime Minister and a group of 13 Scottish Tory MPs without a single vertebra, never mind a whole backbone, between them only go and screw up everything you’ve been saying. It’s very difficult to argue that Scotland needs the security and stability of the UK when no one in the UK knows what the British Parliament is going to do in half an hour’s time, never mind next week. These days the closest you get to a long term view in British politics is the advert break on Sky News.
Murdo and his pals have some very serious political problems to face. There’s the looming UK General Election – apparently there’s to be another vote on Monday about whether to hold a General Election. That election is going to be dire for the Conservatives in Scotland, especially if Lyin’ Bastert Johnson decides to seek a mandate for a no deal Brexit. The polls all suggest that as many as 10 Conservative MPs, and possibly more, will lose their seats to the SNP. Labour is also forecast to lose heavily to the SNP in Scotland. The two major anti-independence parties in Scotland will be reduced to an embarrassing rump, which is quite a good description of Jackson Carlaw, come to think of it. Those defeats are going to make the “Scotland doesn’t want another independence referendum” line as untenable as Jo Johnson’s family loyalty.
Meanwhile the Scottish Conservatives have some very serious issues to deal with. Their colleagues south of the border have enthusiastically embraced right wing populist English nationalism. There’s very little traction in Scotland for a right wing English nationalist party. The Scottish Conservatives are facing an existential crisis. What are they for? Who are they? Do they even exist? Is Murdo a figment of our collective imagination? Please let that last one be true. Influential voices within the Scottish Conservatives are yet again airing the notion that perhaps the Scottish colony needs to declare independence from the Colonial Office in Conservative Central and become a fully fledged Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party.
But that merely adds to one of their short term political difficulties. They already have to deal with the embarrassing issue that their recent leader Ruth Davidson couldn’t thole LBJ, so why should the Scottish Conservatives expect the rest of us to put up with him. If they become an independent party they will be faced with the question of why they think that independence is good enough for themselves but not for Scotland. They will have to adopt a position on Brexit which is at odds with the position adopted by the rUK Conservatives, and that means that they won’t – as some Scottish Tories have been claiming – be able to take the Conservative whip at Westminster. Besides, if they do take the Conservative whip, then they’re not a distinct party with policies of their own, so what’s the point in saying that you’re a different party? That’s a lie that even the Scottish media might have trouble believing.
The sole hope that the Scottish Tories have is with their greatest fear – the renewed push for another referendum by the Scottish Government. That’s the only thing that could possibly animate the diehard opponents of independence to keep their faith in the Scottish Tories. Unfortunately for the Scottish Tories, the actions of their Westminster colleagues have only succeeded in giving a boost to support for independence which means that the Tories in Holyrood are constantly on the back foot as they have to defend the actions of the Westminster Government.
This week a YouGov poll showed support for independence at 49%, and YouGov typically shows support for independence on the lower end of the range. That same poll also showed that most Scots do in fact want another independence referendum within two years. What this means for the Scottish Tories is that their support base has a ceiling of around 30% – at best – of the Scottish population which would reject independence under all circumstances. And a goodly proportion of that 30% is made up of Labour supporters who would never vote Tory. 30% might be enough to secure a majority in the First Past the Post system of Westminster elections, but it won’t work in Scotland. The Scottish Conservatives are consigned to opposition status for the foreseeable future with no way out of it.
The Scottish Conservatives and their allies in Westminster are going to be unable to forestall a Scottish independence referendum forever. The coming Westminster General Election will change the Scottish political weather. If the SNP put independence front and foremost in their manifesto, and as predicted succeed in making substantial gains, there will be an unanswerable case for another referendum. The objections that the anti-independence parties have to recognising the mandate that is currently possessed by the Scottish Government will be seen to be valueless by the soft no voters and undecideds that we need to get on board with independence.
And if LBJ is returned with a majority enabling him to achieve his no-deal Brexit, the case for independence will be nailed on. Scottish independence is inevitable because of those Conservatives who claim to oppose it most, because those same Conservatives have destroyed the union with their short-termism and their insistence on putting party first and foremost. They are the witless midwives of independence.
My new book has just been published by Vagabond Voices. Containing the best articles from The National from 2016 to date. Weighing in at over 350 pages, this is the biggest and best anthology of Wee Gingerisms yet. This collection of pieces covers the increasingly demented Brexit years, and the continuing presence and strength of Scotland’s independence movement.
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