It’s nearly always nice to get a surprise, and a couple certainly came our way from the mainstream press and blogosphere today when two of the most diehard Unionists in the field had sudden rushes of blood to the head, threw off the reins and revealed what they really thought. First up was Kevin McKenna in the Observer, who in his frustration at his FUD comrades presenting Alex Salmond with an endless series of open goals let slip this, in contravention of the constantly-expounded party line:
“There is a growing sense in this country that we must be allowed to become the masters of our own destiny, for good or for ill, and free from any Westminster interference. This has been reflected by significant increases in support for independence, two-and-a-half years before the event, in every opinion poll since the die was cast last month.”
Kevin will be getting his wrists slapped by Unionist Central on Monday, we’re certain – the official policy is that support for independence is stalled at either a quarter or a third of the electorate, depending how hardline you are. Admitting that it’s on the rise at all – far less significantly so – will doubtless have Mr McKenna in hot water, but it pales beside the weekend’s other great “Whoops, did I say that out loud?” moment.
That appeared on the blog of Labour activist and media commentator Ian Smart, talking about his appearance on today’s Sunday Politics, and the cat he let out of the bag was one concerned with this blog’s favourite urban myth, the positive case for the Union. Because what Ian did was give away the poorly-kept secret that Johann Lamont, Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg, Willie Rennie, Michael Moore, Ruth Davidson and David Cameron and all the others are lying through their teeth when they constantly promise to make said case. Quoth Ian:
“There is no need to make a “positive case for the Union”. We know, for good or ill, what the Union entails. There is simply the need to make a case against “Independence”.”
We can’t exactly affect surprise at this revelation. After all, we’ve been tracking promises of the “positive case” ranging back 32 years, without a single actual sighting of it. But Smart’s unguarded moment is no less depressing for its confirmation, because it tells us that Labour plan a scorched-earth strategy for the independence debate. They will happily destroy Scotland to keep it in the Union, by running a campaign based on fear, distortion and outright lies with no thought for the state that will leave the country in after the referendum, whether the vote is Yes or No.
Two and a half years of unrelenting, poisonous negativity can only have a hideously toxic effect on the entire body politic of Scotland, because for a negative campaign to win it must catastrophically undermine the confidence of the Scottish people in their ability to run their own country successfully. (Because if you DO believe you can do that, why on Earth would you ever let the voters of another nation impose on you governments and ideologies you consistently reject?)
Bewilderingly, and infinitely depressingly, Smart believes that independence supporters want Unionists to campaign positively only as some sort of trick, that it’s a trap we’re luring our unwary opponents towards. But in fact it’s because whichever way Scotland votes in autumn 2014, we’d like to move forward as a nation that hasn’t been torn in two by years of vicious infighting, bitterness and dirty trickery.
We’re not at all sure we’d like to live in Ian Smart’s future Scotland even if it did vote for independence. Such a divided country – set implacably against itself like an Old Firm derby writ large, and crushed by an inferiority complex – would be a dark, benighted place. But maybe that grotesque vision is exactly what Smart and his Unionist allies want – to tell the Yes camp that even victory would be Pyrrhic, the winners inheriting nothing but ashes and ruins. For such a despicable worldview and strategy we hold nothing but contempt. But we’re glad to see that at least it’s finally out in the open.