Nicola Sturgeon’s speech to the SNP’s conference earlier this afternoon was mostly standard fare (Covid, climate, coalition with the Greens, Universal Credit) but towards the end, a section on Brexit and independence stood out. She told the faithful:
“Westminster will use all that damage that they have inflicted as an argument for yet more Westminster control.By making us poorer, they’ll say we can’t afford to be independent. By cutting our trade with the EU, they’ll say we are too dependent on the rest of the UK. By causing our working population to fall, they’ll say the country is ageing too fast.They want us to believe we are powerless in the face of the disastrous decisions they have taken for us and the damage those decisions are doing. They want us to look inwards not outwards.And the reason? They know — and are terrified by the prospect — that when we look outwards we see all around us the evidence right there in front of our eyes. The evidence that independence works.
These weren’t the ravings of a letter writer to the National. This was the First Minister of Scotland and she sounded like a cross between McGlashan and Alex Jones.
Now, Sturgeon is not explicitly charging that the UK government is intentionally making Scotland poorer in order to undermine any economic rationale for independence, but she is serving up incendiary language for an audience — the membership and supporter base of the SNP — that she knows contains more than its fair share of people who do believe these sorts of things. She is flirting with the fringes of her own party, right down to the liberal use of ‘they’, the ubiquitous bogeyman of political paranoids.
Sturgeon isn't paranoid, just pandering. The nationalist leader continues to string along her grassroots, many of whom joined the party in the wake of the no campaign’s victory in the 2014 referendum. Ever since, Sturgeon has been assuring them another plebiscite lies over the next hill if only they’ll be patient a little longer. She has managed to keep up the act for seven years now and, honestly, fair play to her. It’s not easy to fool most of the people all of the time and it would be churlish not to acknowledge feats of misdirection that would stump David Copperfield. Even so, this latest effort was hackneyed and obvious and just a little desperate.
Still, at least now we can finally bid farewell to all those opinion pieces in Scotland’s left-leaning press and among the distance-learning Sturgeonistas of the London commentariat. They can hardly keep up the pretence that Sturgeon is a great progressive and Scottish nationalism different from bad (i.e. English) nationalism when Sturgeon’s argument for independence has been reduced to ‘them over yonder are keeping you down’.