NEVER has voting for Scottish self-determination seemed so dispiriting.

Once, not so long ago, the anticipation of casting your ballot for independence came with a thrill; of feeling that Scotland was on the cusp of something momentous. You felt blessed that, of all the generations who had given their lives to the cause of independence, yours was the one chosen to have the ring-side seats as it was actually happening. Not now; not under these political gold-diggers who have come to realise that forging a career in the independence sector is the key to a gilded life in civic Scotland.

Those multitudes who have maintained the momentum of the first referendum campaign by signing up for the SNP believed that an independent Scotland was within touching distance. After all; they had seen support for independence jump by around 18 points in a year in the face of a sustained onslaught the British state; the media and the three main political parties.

They’re entitled to think that, after seven years characterised by the hardest of Brexits; the hegemony of a mafia enterprise at Westminster and a feckless Labour opposition that the hard part had already been done. The year-long pandemic rather than render all thoughts of independence obsolete has actually reminded us why it might be needed. Boris Johnson’s administration has used the public finances as a get-rich-quick scheme during the pandemic, yet its support in the country has hardly wavered. If it knows it can get away with this then the task of visiting a programme of austerity on those who took the brunt of the first one will be a straightforward one.

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The first referendum was organised from the grass-roots up. Volunteers booked village halls and engaged with those whose opinions had never previously counted among the political classes. They discussed their aspirations for a future Scotland.

For this, they were dismissed as uncouth by Unionist politicians and their media placemen who fell to calling them zoomers. How dare they even presume to enter this realm that had been the exclusive preserve of the elites? They don’t know the language and the dress code. Go back to your housing schemes and leave the complicated stuff to us. We know what’s best.

Now the foot-soldiers are discovering that the SNP’s officer class shares this view of them too. You first began to notice the upwards curl of the lip when the big marches began to start. Soon it became known within elite party circles that to get too close to the unwashed and unsophisticated would be to incur the wrath of the husband-and-wife team who exert monarchical control over the movement.

We, the idiot punters, naively believed that the advisors who have swollen to the size of an army were busy finessing issues destined to dominate a second referendum campaign. Yet, after seven years which have boosted the career prospects of a cast of genuinely hopeless characters (take a look at some of the chancers who have been jemmied into top positions on the SNP lists) we find that the party is less prepared for a second referendum than it was for the first.

They’ve seen what has transpired in Northern Ireland over the post-Brexit border issue, yet not even this seems to have focused SNP minds on how they will manage Scotland’s border with England. The party has no position on this because they don’t appear to have given it a moment’s thought. Nor have they condescended to think about what currency will operate in an independent Scotland. Andrew Wilson’s Growth Commission advised a 10-year period of sterlingisation without suggesting how such a policy would be compatible with the SNP’s pet obsession with gliding serenely back into the European Union.

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Mr Wilson awoke one morning last month to find that his weighty prospectus had been summarily dismissed as “out of date” by Nicola Sturgeon because of “the Covid”. He and the rest of us had better get accustomed to “the Covid” being conscripted in this way. This will become the favoured catch-all for all manner of artifices and sharp practices by the business and political class over the next few years in the same way that 9/11 and the 2008 banking crisis did.

Those who donated to a referendum fighting fund have also begun to ask where their £600k has gone. Whenever this has been raised it’s been met with obfuscation and unverifiable accounting legerdemain: everything but a full and frank explanation.

Yet, while the party has neglected to fashion viable positions on The Border and the currency, or account for the missing donations, it’s been busy with the task of gas-lighting those whose loyalty and largesse contributed to some very fat salaries and significantly enhanced career prospects. The SNP have expended a lot of energy on their iniquitous Hate Crime legislation and creating a hostile environment inside the party for feminists appalled at how misogyny has been permitted (and often encouraged) to flow like a sewer at every level. Those who have turned to Alba in disgust at the duplicity and deception of the SNP leadership now find themselves branded as political delinquents. At least Mr Johnson and his cabinet are cheerfully open about their frauds and caprices.

And so, on Thursday those who cling to the belief that Scotland – for good or for ill – must be allowed to make its own decisions in shaping its future are faced with a dilemma when they come to cast their ballots. Is it possible to maintain your self-respect and still vote for this party of performative control freaks, whose manifesto dealt in gestures and pyrotechnics but was devoid of actual policy? Or do they risk (for the rest of their lives) the corruption, xenophobia, deference and class war which comes with attachment to the British state?

Nicola Sturgeon already knows the answer and so, wretchedly, do we. The SNP have sucked all the joy from the Yes movement by turning on those who pay for their luxury lifestyles. At least Boris Johnson appears to have had the decency to spend his supporters’ cash on decent wallpaper.

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