Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.Saint Augustine
No mention from St Augustine of Hope’s bastard sons, Despair and Despondency. It would have given his aphorism a somewhat different resonance, to be sure. But it would also have made it more honest. But then, honesty and denial aren’t related at all. And what is hope but denial dressed for church.
Dreams are fine. Dreams are good. Every gruelling step of progress made by humankind began with a dream. As, it must be admitted, did every backward stumble. Perhaps we should better say that big things flow from dreams. What these things are depends on the nature of the dream. What is done is a function of what is dreamt.
If anything is done at all. Dreams don’t necessarily lead to anything at all. Dreams never have any effect if they are connected to realisation only by hope. The dreams which have effect are the dreams which are connected to their realisation by a process. We should not dismiss dreamers lightly. But if they substitute hope for process then we can dismiss them without harm.
A man, whilst he is dreaming, believes in his dream; he is undeceived only when he is awakened from his slumber.Mahatma Gandhi
I am undeceived. I dream of restoring Scotland to her rightful status as an independent nation. But I am awake. And, being wakeful and aware, I see the process that connects that dream to its realisation fading and crumbling. Soon, all that will be left is hollow hope.
Hope’s daughters, are grown old. Anger that once was a fiery furnace now barely makes a flickering flame. Courage fails; weighed and weakened by the wounds of failures and betrayals.
It seems that with every word she utters Nicola Sturgeon widens the gulf between the dream that will never die and the realisation that will never happen. When Andrew Marr (Sunday 12 July) suggested there might be “no more talk about the next referendum, maybe for the rest of this year at least” Sturgeon replied,
Look, as long as I need to be focusing on the Coronavirus crisis and the economic legacy of that crisis, that is going to have my 100% focus.Nicola Sturgeon
Perhaps realising in the moment how this sounded she went on to insist that she hasn’t changed her view on independence and that she thinks Scotland would be better off as an independent country and that she wants Scotland to be an independent country – sounding every bit the lady who doth protest too much. An impression reinforced when she dropped the big, clunking “but” that everybody was surely anticipating by this point. She wants Scotland to be an independent country, but…! She thinks Scotland would be better off as an independent country, but…! She hasn’t changed her view on independence, but…!
The particular qualification she cited was, of course, the Coronavirus crisis. Which may seem reasonable. However, she then tags onto this “the economic legacy of that crisis”. Thereby creating a totally open-ended get-out clause from a commitment to independence that was already looking woefully weak. Stood next to her impassioned commitment to the British state’s anti-democratic Section 30 process, Nicola Sturgeon’s dedication to Scotland’s cause looks a pale and fragile thing and highly susceptible to the buffetings of political expediency and self-interest.
This affects me. It affects me because my dream of restoring Scotland’s independence is connected to its realisation by a process which crucially requires a First Minister and a Scottish Government that is absolutely committed to the restoration of Scotland’s independence. Not just as something on the to-do list that they might get around to when they have a moment but as a desperately urgent necessity. Something that has long been a desperately urgent necessity. Something that remained a desperately urgent necessity even in the face of an unprecedented public health crisis. Something that has been made even more of a desperate necessity by the things that the British government has been doing while Nicola Sturgeon has been 100% focused on something else and the ensuing something else.
Why 100%? Every other political leader in the world, it seems, has managed to afford a percentage of their focus to other matters. Boris Johnson, for example, has managed to keep the Brexit bus hurtling towards the cliff-edge while making the same arse of handling the Coronavirus crisis as he would surely have done had he devoted the entirety of his meagre and flitting attention to it. But many leaders have coped with Covid-19 rather well while still fulfilling their other duties and responsibilities. There will doubtless be others who use the pandemic as an excuse for this or that. But I challenge anyone to name any political leader who, in the face of a real and impending and explicit threat to their nation’s democracy has said sorry but I’m too busy doing this other thing.
I believe Nicola Sturgeon. I believe her when she says she has a list of things that she regards as more important than getting Scotland out of the Union. I believe her when she intimates that she is prepared to expand that list. I believe her when she says she has on that list things that are not subject to any constraints of time – such as the “economic legacy” of the pandemic.
I have to believe she is sincere when she disowns political and constitutional interests. I have to at least accept that she is following some private logic when she assumes complete responsibility for dealing with the public health emergency and its economic aftermath while having no interest in the political authority and constitutional powers which are essential to this and every other matter that our First Minister and her government were elected to deal with.
I therefore have to accept that there is no process and that in its place I am being offered only scant and paltry hope. I have to accept that, while Nicola Sturgeon is First Minister – and by her own account – there is no process by which my dream of a Scotland free of the Union may be realised.
Nicola Sturgeon has, apparently knowingly and willingly, opened up the yawing space between herself and Scotland’s cause. We may amuse ourselves with speculation about her motives. But the distance between her and the cause of independence doesn’t get any less. The space between the dream and its realisation expands in direct proportion to the distance between the First Minister and the cause of ending the Union. It grows until it cannot be bridged by the process. Hope does not fill the gap. Hope has no substance. Hope merely denies the gap. Or denies that the gap is such as cannot be filled by some novel device. There are always opportunists ready to take advantage of the hopeful by selling them useless novel devices painted to look like genuine process.
According to Napoleon Bonaparte a leader is a dealer in hope. Nicola Sturgeon has nothing I want to buy.
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