Don't cry for me Caledonia: Another hammy performance from Bute House

Don't cry for me Caledonia: Another hammy performance from Bute House

by Jonathan Stanley
article from Tuesday 31, January, 2017

IT IS CONSIDERED cheap to make comparisons between the SNP and the Peronists in Argentina. Cheap but tasty and in the end more satisfying than we'd pretend it to be.

Social justice, isolationism, national sovereignty, big tent populism, and portraits of the dear leader are all there. Well, we use saltires and lions rampant instead of caudillos but otherwise the parallels are striking.

And we have our own Evita too in the First Minister. To quote the late Eva Peron,

"In government, one actress is enough."  

Well, quite. What a performance she has put in. It's been like this ever since she became First Minister and she had over a decade of dress rehearsal before that having been in elected office since 1999. It's not hard to see why Sturgeon performs so well. The Evita of Scottish Nationalism has done essentially nothing else, this is her one show and like all performers there's a point where either the feet or the voice give way or the audience does. Until then the show will go on and she will sing for love when not for success, for there will be an audience that will always love her. 

No longer box office though. She may be the Spiritual Leader of the Nation of Scotland but like Evita she will likely be the only leader to enjoy that title. She has handled the Brexit vote disastrously and has shown like so many Nationalists before her to change tack in an instant but be hopelessly slow in developing a new strategy or narrative.

Anti Trump, anti Brexit, anti Trident, it's all treading water. There is now a real separation of Scottish nationalism and the independence movement. Campaigning hard for council seats is thin gruel for a party that could have taken us out of the UK with a clear plan but this is now all that's for the taking. The FM could not have damaged Scotland's standing more if she tried.

She has been a loose cannon, banging off every wall in Europe, reversing Greenland for good measure and playing Euroscrabble with the abbreviations of institutions she clearly does not understand. EEA, EFTA, EU, SM, ECB, EIB, ECJ. The more Brexit becomes tense and tortuous in its reporting through the media the worse this gets for the SNP.  Every stone will be felt in their shoe all the more because the UK is walking that road now, though crucially with the EU agreeing to this and through an ordered timetable of sorts.

The contrast with 2014 could not be starker. Megaphone speeches, isolationist attitudes to the rUK (the rump as it would be), economic sophistry, grand announcements of new currencies and the repudiation of old debts. How very very Argentine. And we know how that country has ended up. In the end a small country in this world needs Washington, London, Paris, Moscow and above all else it needs gold and trust from the markets. Bute House has none of these now. No cards left to hold close.

The railing against Donald Trump over the years was the biggest unforced error by the SNP. And all for a few windmills. Incredible really. Losing the EU was close behind and the more Sturgeon banged on about being dragged out the more the English, who by now had become sick and tired of the SNP's whining, voted Leave. The more she bluffed on the Single Market, the more Westminster realised blowing the bridges on the whole shooting match was the best way of shutting down indyref2 and that's clearly been achieved. There's no hope now of Yes getting over 55% which is the bare minimum it needs given previous results and performances in response.

Her performance has become too polished. Everything she says can be countered simply by doing the opposite. There is no mystery anymore, no more tricks and wiles to tease the audience with. The fourth wall is now the only one she ever seems to bang on and it's becoming tedious. Her party won't disagree with this in private. They are seeing blood drain from the body rapidly, the independence movement can only breathe so long as it moves. It's dynamism is the premium on dynamic change in Scotland's constitution which it can always oppose and critique. There's always meat for them as long as the process continues but they are now slaves to the rhythm of reactionism. There is nothing original, nothing to offer.

What talk of a federal UK, more devo, more.....just stop. Stop singing and listen. There is nothing coming back when there is nothing to echo. The EU's powers will fall to Holyrood and that will be that said, Pooh. Everything else can simply be ignored. Evita has her little kingdom now, let her get on with ruling it as best she can.

Nationalists in the end are working people, on lower than average incomes more dependent on average on public services. Government is not going well, mistakes are being made, the budget is a mess and the excuses are wearing thin. It won't be an easy three years to 2020. The SNP won't cry when Nicola Sturgeon has been retired and by 2020 if she hasn't gone then 2021 will be painful and terminal for the independence movement.

Don't cry for her Caledonia, the truth is we're never leaving now.

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