The unseemly hysteria with which the British establishment responds to pretty much anything Nicola Sturgeon says (Critics accuse Sturgeon of trying to ‘bankrupt Britain’ over £180bn public spending demand) gives us as a powerful reminder of the terror which is gripping the ruling elites of the British state as they face the very real prospect of disruption to the cosy arrangements which serve them so well, and the people of these islands so ill.
Let us be clear, it is not about the economy. The dismal science of economics is not definitive. It is merely a tool by which the powerful manipulate the powerless. For all the portentous talk of “bankruptcy”, the real issue here is not money, but power.
Had Sturgeon suggested spending £180 billion on some shiny new weapons of mass destruction; or to prop up some despotic foreign regime; or on some grandiose infrastructure project entirely for the benefit of London; or to indemnify the obscenely rich against the consequences of their own avaricious folly, then nary an unnaturally perfectly formed eyebrow would have been raised among the clique which considers itself divinely appointed to order our lives.
What concerns these ruling elites is not any threat to the economy – which would hardly touch them anyway – but a challenge to their power.
Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish National Party have come to represent a much wider political force which, as it gains momentum, poses the menace of meaningful, progressive change such as is anathema to conventional power. Every small success for the SNP is seen by the British establishment as bringing us closer to that tipping point at which the old structures of power and privilege are swept away by a tide of democratic demand.
For decades, the aspirations of progressives and reformers have been safely redirected into the “safe pair of hands” that British Labour has become. Or into fringe parties which are safely ineffectual on account of their eccentricities. But the mass political awakening occasioned by the Yes campaign is different.
To the considerable extent that the SNP is the manifestation of this new politics, it represents a force which the British establishment views with increasing trepidation. Not necessarily because the party itself poses a direct threat to the structures of power and privilege which define the British state, but because it offers encouragement to those who had long since retreated into apathy.
The British establishment certainly hates the Scottish National Party. But what they truly fear is that, by challenging the Westminster system from within in ways that can only be portrayed as extreme and irresponsible at the cost of looking foolishly hysterical, the SNP may set an example which rouses progressives in England from their torpor.