IN Webster’s neo-Gothic church on Great Western Road the other week a small audience had gathered to hear Jeremy Corbyn and his guests dismantle neo-liberalism. The former Labour leader had installed himself in this monument to Glasgow’s old tectonic splendour for the duration of Cop26. He was hosting a series of events offering a grounded alternative to the flighty conceits of the climate summit.

At this event, organised by the Peace and Justice Project, there was compelling, first-hand testimony about how global corporations had deployed old artifices to maintain their hegemony throughout the pandemic. From the practices of virtual serfdom in the hospitality industry to the regimented defamation of striking refuse-collectors, a picture emerged of the grand subterfuge that forms the engineering of modern Scotland. How it self-defines as socially democrat but permits class-based, reactionary forces to proceed unimpeded through every sector of employment.

Then came questions from the audience and immediately we caught a glimpse of the group-think mentality that conceals the progress of neo-liberalism in what passes for Scotland’s industrial strategy. Put simply, the first quester suggested that independence was the solution to ending the insidious writ of big capital. Did the speakers agree, he asked. Most of those occupying the stage admitted to having voted Yes in 2014, yet only with some difficulty were they hanging on to what remained of their enthusiasm for independence.

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By degrees, each had witnessed close-up the attitude and approach to industrial relations of the Scottish Government and its clients in assorted local authorities. The audience member was politely but firmly told that Scotland’s existing devolved powers offered plenty of scope for the Scottish Government to mitigate the iniquities of Westminster Tories.

This was the type of intervention that fuels Unionist disdain for what they regard as the constitutional cul-de-sac disfiguring Scottish politics: that by rendering the daily administration of Scotland subservient to the constitution real issues affecting real people are being neglected.

A hint of this was evident in Baron McConnell’s interview last week in Holyrood magazine, but there’s nothing new here. It has formed the entire strategy of Holyrood’s opposition parties for the last seven years. Their inability during this time to formulate anything coherent beyond nationalism being “nasty and divisive” renders all that they say about getting on with the day job redundant. Their inertia and lack of imagination means they’re part of the problem. And besides; the Scottish electorate still insist on voting in ever increasing numbers for the main party of independence in all of the UK’s electoral jurisdictions.

No matter which of these tribes you favour – independence or the status quo – it’s become clear that something must give to clear the blockage distorting Scotland’s political landscape.

Unionists instinctively and unthinking reach for the barren narrative of getting on with the day job; that the SNP must ditch all talk of a second referendum to move the country forward. This though, is fanciful. Do they seriously believe that the Yes movement will suddenly, at some indefinite juncture in the near future, simply dismantle itself? That ship sailed seven years ago, immediately following the first referendum in 2014.

Unionist predictions that the 45% would wither and die on the vine proved to be delusional. And as the UK Government has implacably pursued a hard right agenda characterised by avarice and self-enriching corruption on the grand scale the number of Scots thirsting to de-couple from what they consider to be a pirate republic will remain high.

The results of the last Holyrood election starkly illustrate the distorted reality of Scottish politics. In a normal election (by which I mean one that proceeds without the question of independence) would the SNP have captured almost half the votes? This is a party which has failed to deliver its leader’s key pledge on levelling up educational outcomes for poor children. It now routinely disposes of any previously sacred red lines which it deems to be problematic in maintain the fiction of progressiveness.

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Its supine surrender to the siren clamour to ditch development of the Cambo oil field is a wretched example of this. There was no consideration for what this portends to the primary sustaining industry of North East Scotland and the thousands of jobs it supports. Nor was there consideration about how it’s entirely possible to cut greenhouse gas emissions in this sector without dismantling it completely.

Indeed, during the Scottish election it was pointed out to Nicola Sturgeon that leaning more heavily on the much more loosely regulated Middle East for your oil hardly amounts to a cleaner energy strategy. Rather, this was about constructing a legacy for Nicola Sturgeon when she demits office. Handing effective control of your government’s equality agenda to Stonewall, an unelected and increasingly discredited pressure group actively hostile to some of the feminist principles which Ms Sturgeon once held dear is another example of this.

That Labour could win only two first-past-the-post seats at May’s Holyrood elections is further proof of Scotland’s distorted politics. That two members of the Scottish Greens who haven’t won a single seat in any political jurisdiction since devolution now sit as ministers in the Scottish cabinet is in the realm of toy-town politics. Like Ms Sturgeon, they too have been casting off those policies which formed its unique character at a bewildering rate. They justify this with the “wider policy framework” grift. Yet, no one has a clue what this “wider policy framework” looks like.

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Scottish politics is now in a state of paralysis. The main party simply holds out the prospect of independence without having done any of the workings: currency; central bank, English border or a policy on future EU membership which doesn’t insult our intelligence. The opposition is utterly incapable of moving beyond a “No Surrender” position, which similarly insults grown-up voters.

This political congestion only be cured by a second, winner-takes-all referendum. This time around it won’t just be about Scotland’s constitutional future. It will be a golden opportunity to dismiss from public service all the con artists and performance specialists who have feasted on the impasse for long enough.

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