WHO prepares Labour leaders for trips to Scotland?

There must be a family whose control of the briefing function spans generations, because a stumbling Keir Starmer hit the brick wall of Scottish political reality with a bang on TV on Sunday – just like every recent Labour leader before him.

Starmer’s performance on BBC Scotland’s Sunday Show with Martin Geissler was appalling, revealing stuck policy positions and childish, slogan-dominated arguments designed for another century and an audience and electorate that simply isn’t this one.

It featured No Surrender on Brexit and no democratic way for Scotland to quit “our union of equals” even if the Supreme Court decides a Holyrood-run independence referendum is lawful. This puts Starmer on a democracy-denying par with Liz Truss, but the casual disregard of legal process - coming from Britain’s most high-profile lawyer - is actually far more serious and guarantees that the next election will be a proxy vote on independence since half the population will have no way to express its democratic will under a Labour government.

What planet is Starmer on? Obviously, he’s trying to show staunch unionists he can be just as hard-line as the Tories.

Good luck with that as the sole strategy. How hard was it for his minders to anticipate he might be challenged on that stance – a lot? Maybe they haven’t noticed BBC Scotland interviewers are now less worshipful and a lot more frisky with Westminster political leaders? Maybe they think we’ve forgotten Scotland’s 62% support for EU membership – 72% in the latest polls? We haven’t.

Who else but advisers marooned in deepest North London could think “now is not (ever) the time” topped with a special dollop of “strong and stable” might impress watching Scots? Does Sir Keir intend to keep channelling Theresa May when dealing with the Scots, even if he resembles a man patiently restraining a daft, over-excited dug?

Above all, how will Labour fix Britain without reversing Brexit, a key driver of support for independence because it’s a constant reminder of Westminster’s warped priorities and self-harming tendencies?

After Yes meetings across Scotland recently, people have told me about their adult children leaving for Canada and Australia. One woman said her daughter is amongst 30 junior doctors at one hospital who are due to graduate next spring – and one of only two who will stay in Scotland or Britain. There’s always been a drift towards countries with better climates but now there’s a push away from a country in perma-stagnation as well.

Older generations are preoccupied with the allocation of blame.

Younger generations have already decided the fault lies mostly with Westminster – see Social Attitudes Surveys – or at least believe the remedy lies in more autonomy. But they need hope. And there is no hope within the UK, except the hope of leaving it.

In fact, for that independence-supporting junior doctor, the prospect of another referendum is all that’s keeping her here. Without the chance of creating a new country based on fairness, without the dead hand of Conservative dogma and without Brexit, she too will go.

Older generations who typically write and edit papers may be resigned to the current slow car crash that is Britain. Younger generations are not. Baby boomers and even Generation X, living for decades with a veneer of certainty, may believe Britain’s current turmoil is a temporary aberration.

But Younger generations have had dislocation, change and uncertainty all their young lives. A 15-year-old told me about her reaction to parents who wanted her to watch the coronation – an “unrepeatable moment in our history”. Not for me, she replied. And of course, she was right. King Charles’s reign cannot conceivably match his mother’s, so even monarchs are constantly changing for Generations Y and Z, who've also witnessed the appearance of new Prime Ministers every few years – now every few months.

Maybe 50 and 60-somethings expect stability after “one more push” for Labour – even though Britain’s in-built elitism has created an inherently unstable country, cemented by Thatcher “reforms” 40 long years ago. But younger generations see past such blah, blah, blah – on every front.

What attachment should they feel to a chaotic status quo that doesn’t work for them – doesn’t offer the chance of leaving the parental home or getting a full-time, pensionable job? None. But that also leaves less crippling fear of change because impermanence already dogs every aspect of young lives. And that means our children have a greater readiness to leave this reality-denying, insular country.

Ironically Brexit may have created more of a permanent exodus since youngsters must head beyond Europe to the 'New World' following patterns of forced migration in Clearance-related centuries past – and shamefully, exclusion from the land is still a push factor.

One friend’s son is about to follow five friends to Canada. They all went to agricultural college together and as part of an independence-supporting family, he’s the last to go. But he will leave, for a can-do country where owning the land you farm is a reasonable expectation not a hopeless dream.

Will a land tax ever arrive until Scotland controls all taxation?

So, independence for youngsters is no abstract issue. It’s urgent. Without the promise of a new country that jettisons the draining, backward-looking judgmentalism that underpins Westminster (something a Brexit and first-past-the-post embracing Labour leader will not change) – we are done for.

Scotland is losing its future because older generations won’t look at the world through their eyes. Sure – young, talented, enthusiastic, trained Scots are less likely to vote than 60-somethings. But faced with a future of constitutional deadlock and economic stagnation, they are more likely to vote with their feet.

Who can blame them? Even if that makes Scotland’s situation even worse, because immigration is currently capped by a Parliament of buck-passing hysterics. Is there a serious Starmer answer to all of this? If not, he should just give the next interview a bye.

Read more by Lesley Riddoch:

Must we choose between trees and local communities?

What this crisis tells us about the Tory party