Graeme Archer is a medical statistician, a former winner of the Orwell Prize for blogging, and was recently a speechwriter for a Cabinet Minister.
I hid in the bedroom last Saturday afternoon. The Calcutta Cup is a lose-lose situation for me: should Scotland win (no sniggering at the back) then Mr Keith, my English, rugby-loving other half, becomes gloomy. If (when) England win, well: I am Scottish, and feel piqued, regardless of my disinterest in sport. It feels easier to sit it out.
We know how that act of (rugby) union ended. Nicola Sturgeon could have shown similar enlightened self-interest, and sat out the Brexit negotiations before re-attacking the somewhat more important Act of Union upon which she obsesses. That she failed to do so (she’s very good at failure; see below), demonstrates the “artificial unintelligence” of SNP politics: a broken robot which gives the same answer – “independence referendum” – regardless of the question posed, or the time at which it is asked.
You might have thought that Scotland’s First Minister would have more important matters to deal with anyway, such as the decline in Scottish educational standards (“Scotland’s brightest pupils are falling behind their international counterparts” — The Herald.) When Nicola and I were Ayrshire teenagers (when “Thatcher” was in charge, by the way), Scotland’s state schools were world-class. No more; for shame. The SNP has complete control over Scottish education, remember: for their shame.
But to expect a Scottish Nationalist government actually to, well, govern, in the best interests of the Scottish nation, is to misunderstand the nature of the Nationalist beast, which refracts every move through its obsessive prism: will this help break up the UK? For all the “passion” Sturgeon claims about education, the life-chances of the children she governs can go hang.
You might also have thought that the “once in a generation” (quote, Alex Salmond) referendum in 2014, won decisively by the Unionists, would have settled this matter for, well, a generation. I know that one of the SNP’s many “triumphs” has been to preside over the first stalling in Scottish life expectancy for 160 years, but even Scottish generations last longer than that.
But the temptation for another referendum; a never-endum; for “indyref2”: it’s the itch that Nationalists can’t help but scratch. A novelist, inventing an SNP protagonist, might struggle not to endow them with the objective correlative of chronic psoriasis.
I’m glad the Prime Minister and Ruth Davidson fought back: enough treating the SNP with kid gloves. This miscalculation from Sturgeon reveals her prime interest – keeping her faithful fans aflame – rather than governing for all citizens, regardless of how they voted in 2014. Leave aside those “once in a generation” promises. What possible rationale could there be for another independence vote, until after the UK has exited the EU?
Ah, says Sturgeon, but I wanted to give Scottish voters an option: to stay within the EU (but outside the UK), or to stay in the UK (but outside the EU.) This, to be kind, is disingenuous.
The chance of Scotland being allowed to slip into the EU at the same time that the UK departs, while simultaneously slipping out from the UK — a sort of deus ex europa finale to the Nationalist fifty act tragedy — is, as they say in Spain, aproximadamente cero. Even without Brexit, no government in Madrid would stoke Catalonian passions by nodding through Nicola’s application. Eso no sucederá, Nicola: isnae gonna happen.
There’s no contradiction in defending Anglo-Scottish union while proceeding with Brexit, by the way – something I keep reading – and not only because such a position is the expressed will of the relevant electorates in two recent referenda (although, you know, that’s quite a big fact.) Pro-UK/meh-EU is not an extreme position. It’s the statistical norm.
It will make even less economic sense for Scotland to leave the UK after Brexit than it did in 2014; the best-fitting excuse for the timing of Sturgeon’s “as many times in a generation as I say” move this week. Sturgeon posited a new vote on the basis of a “hard” Brexit; why would she expect her constitutional vandalism to have any softer consequences? All one can say about life-after-Brexit is that it increases the probability that separatism for Scotland will make even less economic sense than it did in 2014, at least for anyone who cares about Scottish well-being.
As I said, I don’t think that Scottish well-being is ever central to the SNP leader’s concerns. But nor should the anti-separatist case be built on mere economic considerations: the SNP invented this irrational demand in order to have a grievance, remember: we must make them spell out the consequences of their separatist pathology.
A third-rate leader like Sturgeon – who can’t even run her schools properly – wants to make me a foreigner to my other half, and turn my home into “abroad”. Nationalists hate this truth being pointed out: let’s keep repeating it. The (f)act of Scottish-English union about whom I most care broke the authorial wall as I wrote this piece. Keith inserted himself into the text, asking me to finish like this: Tell her to get lost. (He put it a little more earthily: those Anglo-Saxons, eh?)
I’m glad the Prime Minister obliged. A period of governing, rather than grievance-mongering, would be most welcome, First Minister.