We know it’s the summer silly season for politics, but there’s a difference between “silly” and “stark slavering buggo”, and we suspect some in the “No” camp might have just jumped the shark. (We’d say they’d been out in the sun too long, but, y’know.)
We have some sympathy, because it can’t be easy being a British nationalist in Scotland at the moment. Despite massive blanket coverage of the Jubilee and the Olympics, and despite the Scottish Government having to wrestle with some difficult and controversial legislation on top of a sustained and co-ordinated smear campaign about Rupert Murdoch, the Unionists have made barely a dent in the popularity of either the SNP or the First Minister (who still remains the most trusted party leader anywhere in the UK), and scarcely any progress in terms of referendum polling either.
As we’ve previously noted, 2012 is likely to prove the high-water mark of “Britishness” for a generation, and if the FUDs can’t build a significant lead now, when every last star in the sky is aligned in their favour, then they’re going to be fighting an extremely difficult uphill battle over the next two-and-a-bit years, and particularly in 2014 when Scottishness will be very much to the fore thanks to the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, the 700th anniversary of Bannockburn, the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles and of course Scotland’s inevitable qualification for, and victory in, the World Cup in Brazil.
All the same, we’re unsure that a bit of depression at not having gained more ground in 2012 fully explains the apparent complete loss of marbles by some of the Unionists’ more senior online outlets. We’ve watched in bug-eyed amazement as ToryHoose, for example, has completely lost the plot in the last couple of weeks, since the addition of a new editor in failed Coatbridge candidate Jason Lingiah.
First, Mr Lingiah asserted that the Scottish Conservatives needed to “reach out” to the fine, upstanding citizens of the Orange Order, a piece quickly supplemented by a startling one from Andrew Yule – published on July 12th, naturally – insisting that the Battle Of The Boyne in 1690 was in fact not a sectarian occasion at all, but:
“part of a wider British achievement on the long path of human advancement. It is also one of the historical events which led to the creation of the unique principles and values which underlie British conservatism without which our party could not exist”.
You might think, then, that the Scottish Tories had merely embarked on an ill-judged and unseemly official affirmation of what most of us thought about them anyway, namely that they were the logical and default party of extreme British-nationalist Protestant bigotry in Scotland. But ToryHoose had a curveball waiting for us.
Just two days later, a piece by Andrew Hardie made the remarkable claim that as well as being the spiritual political home for members of the Orange Order, the Scottish Conservatives were also “the natural choice for Scottish Catholics”, which paints a captivating picture of some lively branch meetings debating the party’s response to, say, the anti-sectarianism bill. (Though we’re sure they’d at least find some common ground on gay marriage.)
Barely had we finished reeling from this heroically flexible feat of political positioning than, in a moment of befuddled weakness, we decided to see what Labour TV pundit Ian Smart was up to. We’d sadly given up on Mr Smart’s once-thoughtful blog some time ago in dismay at his increasingly wild-eyed insistence that the independence referendum won’t happen at all (we’ve repeatedly offered him a bet on it, sadly always declined), but more in hope than expectation we decided to give it another chance and see if the fold sane Ian had made some sort of return.
What we found was something altogether more eye-opening. Seemingly rendered delirious by the small ebb against independence in the most recent poll, Mr Smart is nailing his colours even more firmly to the mast of there being no referendum, reporting that in Labour circles there is great certainty that the Yes vote will not exceed 25% if the poll ever does happen. More remarkable, though, was the prediction of what would happen should such a defeat for the SNP come to pass:
“So, at this point I need to make an important argument in support of the Tories own self-interest. Sure, in the aftermath of such a result, we’d likely be back as the Party of Government in Scotland. But with a bit more confidence they could be the opposition. And with the SNP restored to what they ought to be, an eccentric fringe Party: somewhat less serious than the Greens but still a bit more coherent than the Liberal Democrats, then, in the longer term the Tories would become the only possible alternative Scottish government.”
We’re intrigued, naturally, as to why a Labour activist should be seeking to give the Tories constructive advice at all, as the official party line is – amazingly – that we’re still expected to accept the great fiction that they’re the Tories’ mortal enemies. But let’s take a moment to examine what Mr Smart apparently believes.
Despite a near-uniform consensus of opinion that the SNP’s crushing victory in 2011 was NOT a result of people voting for independence but for competent government (and indeed that as many as a third of those same SNP voters actually oppose independence), Mr Smart seems to be saying that defeat in the referendum would see the Scottish electorate instantly lose its faith in that competent government and reduce it to a third-place “eccentric fringe” above only the Liberal Democrats.
Despite the people of Scotland having overwhelmingly rejected the Tories for the last 30 years, the mere retention of the Union will, we’re told, see a gigantic surge in their fortunes. (And it’d need to be a gigantic one, because even a doubling of the Tory vote wouldn’t have been nearly enough to secure them second place last time out.)
And all this would be taking place – one assumes on Mr Smart’s behalf – against the backdrop of a Labour government at Westminster under Ed Miliband having been elected in 2015, and with Johann Lamont still in place as Scottish Labour “leader”. (At this point we’d normally link to Mr Smart’s coruscating published opinion of Ms Lamont, but amusingly the Herald has decided we’d rather read about Madonna, although the page address and comments still refer to the original story. Perhaps the paper’s plunging sales have forced it to economise by recycling web space.)
Of course, if the Tories do manage to attract both the Orange Order and the Catholic vote to their camp, this prediction could easily come true, and perhaps that’s the premise on which Mr Smart is basing his vision of Holyrood 2016. As we’ve said, these are challenging times for British nationalists, and if we’re to maintain standards of mature debate then supporters of independence mustn’t be too cruel when the strain occasionally gets the better of them.