WHEN the head of one of our most respected addiction recovery organisations walks out of a meeting with the government in exasperation you know Scotland’s drugs deaths crisis won’t be improving any time soon. Annemarie Ward, CEO of Favor UK, tweeted: “I walked out of a work meeting today with Scottish Government officials. First time ever in my whole career that I have walked out, saying I can no longer tolerate this level of bullshit. I don’t have the emotional capacity any more to play the long game.”

Ms Ward, who has long advocated for 'lived experience' organisations to be in the vanguard of Scotland’s fight against lethal addiction, has long been accustomed to being patronised by those who have made rewarding careers in Scotland’s lucrative addiction sector.

Scotland’s Drugs Deaths Task Force has chomped its way through more than £20m in the last three years alone. As Ms Ward later pointed out: “The social distance between what’s happening on the ground in real life and in the politically and linguistically correct bureaucratic, naive, middle-class corridors of power couldn't be further apart.”

The raw numbers of the Scottish Government’s failure to address this issue are devastating. Glasgow, with Scotland’s largest number of drugs deaths and problem drugs and alcohol users, has only 18 rehabilitation beds. There are fewer than 50 funded rehab beds for the whole of Scotland.

It’s estimated that in Glasgow alone there are more than 18,000 problem drug users. If you are living in poverty you are 18 times more likely to die a drugs-related death.

Annemarie Ward believes that radical and legally-enforceable change is required. And that all the action plans, road maps, recommendations, reports and PowerPoints simply don’t cut it.

Ms Ward’s encounters with Scotland’s affluent addiction aristocracy might have served as a fitting case study for Scotland After Britain, the new book by the authors and academics James Foley and Ben Wray. The book also includes significant input by Neil Davidson, the intellectual driving force of Scotland’s radical left, who died two years ago.

Scotland After Britain is a forensic examination of the independence movement as it approaches its day of reckoning once more. It will come to be regarded as important and influential as Andy Wightman’s The Poor Had No Lawyers, which remains the defining Scottish political work of the 21st century.

The authors reveal the manner in which the Yes movement, fuelled eight years ago by working-class hopes of societal change, now exists merely as a free resource, good for little more than commandeering whenever another election looms.

Along the way, the SNP have become the willing play-mates of conservative forces, many of which have come to realise that, independent or not, they can shape Scotland’s social, economic and cultural landscape to suit their agendas and preserve their hegemony.

Foley and Wray argue that there are two souls of Scottish independence, one of which has grown fat and lazy with the near certainty of electoral success. This pursues the path of least resistance to the neo-liberal model of free trade dictated by a remorseless cartel of capitalist superstructures that reduce every workplace transaction to an entry on an accounting ledger.

The other envisages a more radical path, driven from below and rooted in the dynamism and optimism which took the independence movement from 28% in 2012 to 45% two years later. Though this was largely driven by working-class activism – leafleting, door-knocking, public debate in village halls – the health and income inequalities which menaced them prior to 2014 remain ingrained in the fabric of their communities.

There are several outstanding passages in Scotland After Britain and the authors are to be commended for refusing to play the SNP’s favourite board game where the UK Government are the snakes eager to snatch away the ladders that rise towards the promised land.

A pivotal paragraph occurs as Foley and Wray seek to jettison the new fatalism of independence, the notion of wheesht for independence. That we’re obliged never to criticise the party and that it’ll all be alright on the night when independence is achieved. The biggest flaw in this approach, of course, is that the forces of acquisitive conservatism are already arranging their tanks on Scotland’s front lawn, ready to ensure that nothing will change when independence day dawns.

“The outsourcing of economic policy to Scotland’s corporate elite,” they point out, “was, in fact, accelerated by the coronavirus. For all the hullabaloo about ‘essential workers’ the Scottish Government handed the task of devising Scotland’s economic recovery to former Tesco Bank CEO Benny Higgins, who now chairs Buccleuch Estates, one of the biggest landowners in Europe.”

They detail an economic advisory dripping with wealth and privilege who act as the sentinels of the class status quo: Anton Muscatelli, the £350k-a-year principal of Glasgow University; Lord Kelvin the landowner whose personal portfolio includes a private island; Dame Sue Bruce, board member of SSE which proceeds as part of the UK’s energy cartel.

“As the world was breaking all the rules of neo-liberalism, Sturgeon had announced that the old elites were back in charge. Clientelism, revolving-door government and all the rest was here to stay.”

Underpinning all of this was the Sustainable Growth Commission, a document which effectively rendered an independent Scotland as an austerity-driven, fatted calf primped up for the gratification of global predators.

The independence strategy, such as it is, now rests on the deliberations of the UK Supreme Court, 12 men and women spiritually and culturally invested in the traditions and stability of the British state or a plebiscite election of uncertain legal authority.

The authors suggest a different approach, faithful to the spirit of the Yes movement in 2014 and working-class agency. In an article for last week’s Sunday National, Ben Wray discussed “the radical flank effect” identified by Herbert H Haines, the American civil rights historian. “Haines found that the radical flank was pivotal to its [the civil rights movement] success: firstly, because it kept the mainstream leaders honest; secondly, because it frightened the state into negotiations with the mainstream leaders.”

As it stands, the Yes movement in the hands of the SNP’s is about as frightening to the UK Government as a bouncy castle.