Events have a way of making fools of those who presume to read the political runes. Get over-familiar with Lady Fate and she will very promptly slap you down. What I’m saying is that, when you find yourself writing about politics using the future tense, it pays to hedge your bets. The viciousness of the slaps delivered by Lady Fate tends to be in direct proportion to the confidence of those least mindful of her capriciousness.
You think you’ve got a handle on things, only to find that the handle is all you have – things themselves have departed the scene in random fashion. Is it just me? Could it be that my faculties are diminishing with age? Or is observing politics getting more and more like watching pond-life through a microscope and trying to discern pattern in the chaos of squirming, twitching and jerking?
Speaking of pond-life, I note that Boris Johnson is to be the new British Prime Minister.
Boris Johnson is to be the new British Prime Minister.
Boris Johnson is to be the….
Nope! Doesn’t matter how many times I write that sentence, it just makes no sense. The sentence is made of real words arranged in the order prescribed by the rules of the English language; but the whole thing makes no sense. We understand what is being said. But what is being said defies our comprehension. Boris Johnson is to be the new British Prime Minister. I know karma can be cruel; but how many babies did you have to barbecue in a previous life to deserve this!?
Ever the one to seek the silver lining even in a cloud as darkly miasmic as British politics, the elevation of this malignant clown-child seems to have invigorated our First Minister. There is an edge to her tone that one might suppose betokens a sense of urgency were it not for the fact that we’ve supposed as much before – and been sorely disappointed. I may be grasping at straws here – isn’t that precisely what you’re supposed to do when desperate? – but I listen to what Nicola Sturgeon is now saying, and I am tempted to believe that one of those straws might actually be attached to something substantial.
We will consider whether the timetable we’ve set out to have it on the statute book by the end of this year is still the right one or whether we should accelerate that. Then, of course, we will move forwards on that basis.
Like I said, we’ve been here before. Reading the above I was reminded of a piece I wrote at the end of May – at the time when details of the Referendums Bill became known and Nicola Sturgeon made that comment hinting at a new referendum in the “latter half” of 2020. I ended that article with these words,
There has been a deal of frustration with Nicola Sturgeon of late. Many in the Yes movement – myself included – have found cause to criticise her. But nobody, I’m sure, seriously doubted our First Minister’s ability. My sense is that the days of frustration are over. The Referendum Bill marks, not a change of direction, but a change of gear. The fight is on. And Nicola needs every bit of support the Yes movement can provide.
Last night I spoke at an event organised by @YesPentlands. There were maybe forty or fifty people at this meeting and, almost two months after I wrote these words, there was still in evidence a “deal of frustration with Nicola Sturgeon”. Many of the people in the hall last night “found cause to criticise her”. I had a few things to say myself.
Comes the next morning and I hear what Nicola Sturgeon is now saying – as well as the way she says it – and I feel the sting of Lady Fate’s hand on my cheek. The frustration expressed the previous evening had seemed fully justified in view of circumstances as we understood them then. The criticism of the First Minister, her Government and her party was warranted by what we saw them doing – or not doing – over the weeks since Nicola Sturgeon outlined something that might easily be taken for a timetable for progressing Scotland’s cause. We presumed to understand the situation; but events subsequently conspired to make our presumption look just a little foolish as the First Minister now speaks with unmistakable determination, and just a hint of contained anger, about accelerating the timetable for action on the constitutional issue in a way that increasing numbers of people in the Yes movement appear to be demanding.
To be fair to myself, I did see this coming. In the article quoted from earlier, I also wrote,
The way this time-frame has been presented, the First Minister could set a date beyond the latter half of 2020. But that was always unlikely anyway as this would risk a clash with campaigning for the Holyrood elections in 2021. What is vastly more significant is the fact that the time-frame as stated leaves total flexibility to schedule the referendum earlier – at any point between the passing of the [Referendums Bill] legislation and autumn 2020. This crucial option has been kept open.
There now seems a distinct possibility that Nicola Sturgeon is going for that earlier option. It may be that the rising clamour urging her to extricate Scotland from this accursed Union finally got through to her- drowning out the voices insisting on caution regardless of consequences. It may simply be that Boris Johnson becoming British Prime Minister was the last straw for her; as I suspect it will be for many of those whose minds aren’t completely closed to questioning the Union. Whatever the reason for what seems to be a new sense of urgency on the part of our First Minister, she has managed to tap some reserve of hope that I was not entirely sure I possessed.
For all the impatience, frustration and – dare I say it – anger in evidence at last night’s gathering in Tanner’s Bar, there was never the slightest hint that support for Scotland’s cause was flagging. Quite the contrary, in fact. Nor was there any lessening of the calculated conviction that the SNP administration in Edinburgh is essential to the independence cause. Indeed, it is recognition of how crucial the SNP is that is the main cause of frustration at what’s perceived to be unnecessary hesitancy and prevarication. The Yes movement is all grown up and ready to join with the SNP in order to prise Scotland out of the Union. Nicola Sturgeon needs to realise this. Whatever it is that she’s been waiting for, it certainly shouldn’t be the Yes movement.
I listen to what the First Minister says. I hear the anger in her voice. I sense a steely resolve such as has been sadly lacking of late. And I feel like I can take a chance on another smack from Lady Fate by repeating what I wrote back in May.
The fight is on. And Nicola needs every bit of support the Yes movement can provide.
Perhaps now we can focus on how we conduct that fight.
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