The myth of “terrified” Tories may be one of the most dangerous fallacies swimming around in a political sea fairly swarming with the things. It is a lie. A lie told with the very best of intentions. But a lie nonetheless. It is a story told to comfort and hearten the Yes infantry. A tale which seeks to put a burnished glow on the turd of the SNP’s handling of the constitutional issue over the past six years by portraying success measured in the imagined sound of British Nationalist knees knocking.
The Tories – by which we must suppose is meant the British establishment as a whole – are most assuredly not terrified. Of what might they be terrified? Why should they be at all troubled by any number of pro-independence statements from high-profile government figures, including ministers Paul Wheelhouse, Fiona Hyslop, Fergus Ewing and Keith Brown, who described the forthcoming Scottish Parliament contest as an “independence election”? Unless Nicola Sturgeon has undergone an epiphanous change of heart – for which there is less than no evidence – the position of the Scottish Government remains as it has been since the days when the SNP was first and foremost the party of independence and the political arm of the Yes movement. Namely, that there will only be a referendum when the British Prime Minister says we’re allowed; and under whatever conditions the British Prime Minister chooses to impose.
Given that the current British Prime Minister and every potential successor is bound by solemn duty to preserve the Union and is equipped by the Union with the power to do so, no British Nationalist below the rank of British Prime Minister has any cause for so much as mild concern far less knee-trembling terror.
What would give British Nationalists – whether Tory or otherwise – cause for concern and possibly even terror would be a statement from Nicola Sturgeon as both First Minister and leader of the SNP intimating that her party would go into the 2021 Scottish Parliament election once again in the vanguard of the fight to restore Scotland’s independence.
What would really put the frighteners on the Tories and their Unionist allies in the other British parties is an undertaking from Nicola Sturgeon that on being returned to power with an unchallengeable mandate her government would immediately renounce the Section 30 process and reject the British state’s claim to have authority to veto the exercise by the sovereign people of Scotland of our inalienable right of self-determination.
What would actually terrify the British political elite is the knowledge that the supremacy bestowed on them by the Union was about to be challenged as never before. At present, they know only that Nicola Sturgeon is not minded to mount such a challenge. That challenge cannot come from any other source. So they have no need to worry. The tales of terrified Tories are tall as mountains and as lacking in substance as the mist that shrouds mountain peaks. Or, to put it less poetically but more forcefully, they are a pile of pish.
These stories are dangerous because they encourage complacency. Complacency kills campaigns as surely as factionalism kills causes. Quite apart from the quaint old-fashioned notion that politicians and political activists should be honest with people and that the media should seek to inform intellects rather than inflame passions, the timeless adage about knowing thine enemy is apt. Misapprehending the nature of what we are up against is likely to have us fighting the wrong fight. Or fighting the right fight but with the wrong weapons and tactics. It has been said (mainly by myself) that in the campaign for the 2014 referendum the Yes side took a pillow to a sword-fight. We can’t afford to do that again.
It is vital that we properly understand the British establishment in order that we may choose our weapons and formulate our campaign strategy accordingly. At present, the Scottish Government’s approach to the constitutional issue assumes that a new referendum will be in all significant ways a repeat of the first one. This is a fatally mistaken idea. Especially when combined with the folly of believing tales of terrified Tories.
Apologists for the SNP leadership are probably the most likely to take on faith assurances that the British establishment is filled with fear of a referendum that they are sure to lose. And thereby lose Scotland – the most important of England-as-Britain’s annexed territories. (With apologies to Wales and Northern Ireland.) The SNP loyalists who peddle puerile fantasies of secret plans that Nicola will unveil at the last moment like Miss Marple unmasking the perpetrator of some foul deed in the last moments of some low-budget TV dramatisation are most inclined to see Tories cowering before the awesome force of their leader’s political adroitness. They are therefore the ones least qualified to advise on how the fight to restore Scotland’s independence should proceed.
However desperate you may be for something to feel good about, don’t be tempted to cheer along with the ludicrously premature triumphalism of newspapers crowing about the forces of British Nationalism being beset by dread. It’s a pile of pish.