SO, after the lockdown bacchanals; the silent PPE auctions; the bejewelled wallpaper and Westminster blackmail plots … after the suitcase; the wine fridge and Wilf’s broken swing you might have considered this a fine time for the cause of Scottish independence.

Before this there was Brexit, but not just any old, common-or-garden Brexit, but a Jacob Rees-Mogg Brexit, whistling Rule Britannia and proclaiming Agincourt, Waterloo and Trafalgar.

And behind it all, never faltering, the burning crosses and a steady drumbeat signifying hostility to refugees, asylum seekers and migrants. This, it seems, is what we feared England might become after a generation of fill-your-boots, grab-what-you-can, hard-right Toryism. This was the very highest price we might pay for failing to take the opportunity to build something better.

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And yet, seven years after the last independence referendum the dial has barely shifted. An opinion poll conducted by Savanta ComRes for The Scotsman put support for independence at 50%, barely two points more than those conducted before the Johnson administration began drowning in sleaze and corruption.

Scottish nationalists are entitled to ask just what it will take for a clear majority of voters to become so repelled by the political climate south of the Border that they finally say ‘enough’.

Perhaps though, they’re asking the wrong question and directing it at the wrong people. Perhaps they ought to be asking the SNP why it’s signally failed – after 14 years of unbroken government – to make a compelling case for self-rule, despite the delinquencies of the ruling pirate state next door.

As we approach the beginning of a third year of our Covid existence few of us doubt that Nicola Sturgeon has looked and sounded more stately and authoritative than Downing Street’s resident Pennywise. Once, perhaps about a year ago, this might have counted for something. At that point – pre-vaccine – Scotland’s First Minister seemed to tower over Boris Johnson: morally, politically and in terms of sheer competence and clarity of purpose. Now, well … there are people serving long prison sentences who would currently rate higher than the slippery and dishevelled mess who lives at Number Ten.

You can only travel so far by not being Boris Johnson. Eventually, you have to start paying your own way. We know what Boris Johnson is and we know Ms Sturgeon is more presentable and efficient. But we’ve known this for a few years now. What else have you got? It’s at this point that the Scottish Government begins to encounter turbulence. Judged purely on its own record in government, the answer is: not a helluva lot.

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After Sue Gray delivers her findings on the Downing Street lockdown party scene the Scottish Government will face the music about its own catastrophic failures at the start of the pandemic. This was when our care homes became mortuaries, when hundreds of frail and elderly people were herded into them despite not having been tested for Covid-19.

For much of the last two years the pandemic has deflected scrutiny of Ms Sturgeon’s most heartfelt pledge to the Scottish people: that the inequality in educational attainment which has stalked Scotland in the devolution era will begin to reduce. More than seven years after she became First Minister the attainment gap between poor and affluent pupils remains as wide as ever.

These children will also become 18 times more likely to die premature deaths from drug and alcohol abuse. This is mainly because when you’re stripped of all hope and dignity and you realise that help isn’t coming you become prey to artificial sources of pleasure. They live in places ranked among the lowest on the multiple deprivation index. They’ve been marooned there since these records began.

Scotland’s biggest city is run by an administration that has presided over its slow descent into a state of decrepitude. And whose first instinct was to disparage council workers who sought to shine a light into the rat-infested back alleyways.

And, just as you can’t dine out forever on not being Boris Johnson, nor can you keep pushing the sustainable, clean energy grift. Alex Salmond tried that 20 years ago when he said Scotland was set fair to become the Saudi Arabia of renewables with tens of thousands of shiny new jobs coming to a town near you. Fewer than 1000 such jobs have been created as overseas suppliers have turned up at the auctions; moved the supply chains halfway round the world and waltzed merrily through threadbare and flimsy contracts.

Four years after the SNP promised a state-owned energy company they quietly dropped the plan. Instead, they’ve sold a discounted job-lot of lucrative seabed plots for offshore wind developments along the Scottish coastline. Thus, several of the world’s biggest energy firms, including several with questionable investment portfolios and employment practices, have annexed a massive slice of prime Scottish coastline for a combined total of £700m. One of the successful bidders was BP, whose profit for 2019 alone was more than £7bn.

You’ll forgive me for not getting carried away about the usual promises of jobs and supporting local industry. We’ve had 21 years to produce a plan that would take full public ownership of those natural resources with which Scotland is blessed in abundance. This would have given us control over guaranteeing secure, well-paid jobs and a highly-developed skills and qualifications infrastructure transferable across the world.

It’s called ‘controlling our own destiny”. You might have heard of the phrase. The SNP tends to use it quite a lot. Now it’s at the whim of some of the biggest corporate raiders on the planet. Welcome to Scotland, the world’s discount warehouse.

The Lord alone knows what the two Scottish Greens, currently stealing a government minister’s enhanced pay and pension package, were doing about this. Probably the same as when rail services were being cut; passivhaus green energy initiatives were being ditched and kicking the government’s flagship bottle deposit scheme another few years down the road.

The SNP are not like the UK Tories and Nicola Sturgeon is better than Boris Johnson. But that’s not enough. It’s not nearly enough. And that’s why a lot more people still need to be persuaded about independence.

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