I was stunned when my shiny new dark blue British passport arrived.
There was no problem about the colour – I actually loved the retro look. I’ve already got an Irish one, too. I wonder if I will get a new Scottish passport one day?
I was delighted because the British passport only took a week to process – almost to the minute, in fact. Impressive, don’t you think? I know what you are going to say – I am the only mug applying because nobody is going anywhere. But there will be a rush sooner or later, mark my words.
I might have shown indecent haste, but we are banking on getting away to the Canaries in mid-September.
You might say SNP leaders are also showing indecent haste in trying to persuade us to buy a passport to Shangri-la – indyref2, in other words. What’s the rush? Are they worried about something?
People talk about stars aligning for the SNP, but it looks more like two worlds colliding. One represents the new way of running Holyrood – not so much an equal partner to keep the government in check, but a branch office to be walked over. The other orbits around public trust in the Scottish Government, which – according to the latest polls – has shown a marked dip in support for independence following the Salmond inquiry.
The SNP’s Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, is an investment banker by profession. But I feel as though I have walked into a car showroom whenever I hear him and other senior figures exhorting us to an indyref2 vote by November this year. They remind me of desperate salesmen trying to secure a fast signature. I would prefer to look under the bonnet for a while longer. In fact, it might take a few years.
Even if the SNP did win most seats in May’s election, it could still reflect a minority public vote overall. An election poll by Sky in recent days predicted the SNP on 46%, but combined pro-union parties on 50%. Other hurdles include Boris Johnson, who says he is committed to re-building the union, and obvious public reluctance in recent polls to fight another referendum.
But a bigger obstacle has presented itself – the messy fallout from a disastrous Alex Salmond investigation, and associated squandering of public money. The Scottish Government faces a huge challenge to rebuild public trust and respect, which many believe has been trashed.
This is hardly a solid platform for an indyref2 vote in a few months. It could take years to repair the damage.
SNP and Tory moves to make it clear on the ballot paper that May’s vote will split or preserve the union shows that it is a referendum dress rehearsal. Therefore, traditional tribal voting behaviour may have to change to mirror that.
It might seem unthinkable for a Scottish Labour or Lib Dem supporter to vote Tory to beat the SNP in a tight seat. But Red Wall Labour seats in England did that to preserve something in which they believed at the last general election.
With this in mind, Holyrood Tory leader Ruth Davidson suggested a united pro-union front to blunt the SNP in the election by calling on people to “give us all your votes”. A more palatable option for some could be to choose whichever pro-union candidate has the best chance of winning against the SNP in each seat.
It is a classic two-horse race after all – for No or Yes – and it was the SNP who made this election all about a referendum.
We are slowly coming to terms with Brexit, recovering from the pandemic and rebuilding our economy. But now another referendum, too?
An independent inquiry report last week showed the size of the task ahead in restoring tarnished government investigatory processes. Two more official reports on the conduct of Nicola Sturgeon and her closest lieutenants towards Mr Salmond are imminent, but a leak revealed the Salmond harassment committee judged Ms Sturgeon misled them.
A former Tory minister described an unhealthy “deficit of power” in Scotland with Holyrood subjugated by the government and its legal weaponry.
The Scottish Government needs a period of rehabilitation. Many fear alleged abuses of power will continue otherwise – especially if the SNP ruled supreme in an independent Scotland. Repeat offenders often end up in solitary confinement – does the SNP need a spell as a minority government to repent at leisure?