Given all that is happening, the relevant question must surely be why support for independence isn’t soaring. Or, to put it another way, why support for the Union remains so strong. We are quibbling over single-digit shifts that barely get out of margin-of-error territory when, by all accounts, we should be seeing changes dramatic enough to reflect the unprecedented political circumstances into which Scotland has been dragged because of the Union.
Day in and day out we have Nicola Sturgeon taking to Twitter to ‘slam’ some fresh iniquity perpetrated against Scotland by the British political elite. Ian Blackford endlessly reminds us of how awful everything is. Even the Unionist media can’t entirely conceal the preposterous fumble-fest that is British politics. So, why is this reality not reflected in polling?
Why is the claimed disintegration of the UK not translating into a massive surge in support for independence?
Why are people not angry about what is being done to Scotland?
In part, I suspect, the apparent unresponsiveness of public opinion may be explained by farce fatigue. People have grown weary of the whole Brexit bungle-circus. The have become inured to catastrophe as a constant. Even the most rambunctious parliamentary slapstick can’t long hold the attention of minds accustomed to the fresh gratifications at forty-second intervals offered by mass media entertainment. Rolling news on a twenty-minute loop of carefully orchestrated sensation, salacity and silliness has anaesthetised us to all but the most outrageous incidents.
Ian Blackford’s belligerent bombast has blended into the background noise of a political sideshow which many (most?) people are barely aware of. The condemnatory tirades which litter Nicola Sturgeon’s Twitter timeline have become as monotonous as the sponsored announcements – and as likely to capture attention. The interminable third-rate sitcom of Brexit is into its seventh season, and sharks are being jumped in every episode. People are switching off in droves.
Much of this tedium is strategically contrived, of course. Politicians know that, if you want the public to stop paying attention to something, the best was is to shove it in their faces 24/7. Even if the seeming decades-long dragging out of Brexit isn’t deliberately engineered, it nonetheless suits the purposes of a British political elite for whom apathy, alienation and anomie are favoured instruments of social control. Where diversion and distraction are not options, inundation may serve to let many a mistake and misdeed go unnoticed.
So it will be until someone throws a metaphorical grenade into the room. Something rude enough to bestir Scotland’s populace from the slumber of indifference. Something dramatic enough to seize both flitting attention and dulled imagination. Something extraordinary even in a time of unexampled political upheaval.
Scotland’s independence movement needs to be energised. Scotland’s cause requires an injection of anger. It’s no use simply informing people that something bad is happening. It has to be made personal and intolerable. It’s no use just telling people about this or that injustice. We need political leaders ready to inveigh against the source of that injustice. We need them to rail against the Union. We need them to fulminate. We need, not the quiet voice of reason and diplomacy, but the ear-splitting roar of outrage and indignation.
Mahatma Ghandi said,
I have learnt through bitter experience the one supreme lesson to conserve my anger, and as heat conserved is transmuted into energy, even so our anger controlled can be transmuted into a power which can move the world.
We don’t seek to move the world. We seek only to end the undemocratic and unjust anomaly of the Union and restore constitutional normality to Scotland. Whatever some may claim, this is not happening. The independence campaign is not where it should be at this time and in prevailing circumstances. It isn’t where it should be because nobody in a position of power is acting so as to take it there.
The mindset of the independence campaign must change – and with it, the mood.
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