Shut up or speak up – the SNP doesn’t get it right

The SNP doesn’t shut up when we don’t need to hear from them (“SNP warns disastrous ‘no deal’ on Brexit must be ruled out” screams today’s Herald headline: REALLY? the rest of us yawn) but we don’t hear anything from them when they have something to explain. Taken to task last week to explain how the official GERS figures for the Scottish economy shape up, Nicola Sturgeon had to say that the collapse of the oil price following the 2014 IndyRef was an unforeseeable change of circumstance. It blew a hole in the SNP prospectus for departing from the UK. It also blew a hole in her claim that the Brexit vote was a change of circumstance which justifies a second IndyRef.

I wrote a letter to the Edinburgh Evening News:

Nicola Sturgeon has blown a hole below the waterline in her case for holding a referendum. Defending her party against charges that the White Paper ahead of the 2014 IndyRef was phoney, she is forced to say that the collapse of the price of oil was an unpredictable “change of circumstance”.

That’s the thing about life: there are always unpredictable changes of circumstances. She has recently gone quiet about demanding IndyRef 2 on the grounds that the Brexit vote creates a change of circumstance. Now she should say that if we had said YES in 2014 the SNP would have held a second IndyRef because of the change in the price of oil.

The real answer to this is that we don’t govern by referendum. Brexit has demonstrated that it is lunacy to make a dangerously over-simplified YES/NO decision ahead of the outcome of hugely complicated negotiations, the outcome of which is unknowable at the time of making the decision.

It is open to the SNP to pursue its sole objective by making a unilateral declaration of independence from Holyrood, provided it is elected on a clear statement of its intention in its manifesto. That would produce a clash between constitutional law and the will of the people; a crisis of the first order – no harm there – which would have to be sorted out somehow.

I wish I could say I am looking forward to the day the SNP will give up its reckless and dishonest gambling instincts and show some political maturity and responsibility.

Apart from this one, muttered statement on the GERS figures, total silence, on both the figures and the use of a referendum. I sent it to my SNP MSP, adding that I would be interested to have from him or his party the positive case for use of referendums.

I deny the legitimacy and the finality of a referendum as a means of deciding momentous and complex matters such as breaking away from either the EU or the UK. I would expect anyone who respects the system of representative democracy that we operate to do the same. Obviously, we can’t expect the SNP to agree with that, as it would open the door to having two referendums: the first to authorise negotiations towards separation, and a second to approve or otherwise the outcome of the negotiations before they can come into effect.

I don’t normally like drawing broad generalities to characterise people or parties, but in this case it is pretty straightforward: the SNP is a single-issue party, with very limited politics within their range, and they are at heart irresponsible gamblers.

Leith Theatre and the cult of Trainspotting

A jolly good time was had by all as Irvine Welsh and Ewen Bremner came to Leith Theatre to supplement a showing of Trainspotting last week. Read all about it in the Edinburgh Evening News. £20 a pop, no shy they c***s, till you realise it was a fundraiser for the theatre itself, well worthy of restoration after three decades in mothballs. And it wasn’t only the stars, there were a couple of contemporary punk bands and a cellular tribute to the late Paul Reekie, of fond memory. No seating and a bar at the back, it was an unusual format. Strictly for younger guys than me. But like I say, fun. And important in its own way.

So there were the old die-hards, Welsh’s contemporaries and co-creators from the arts scene, along with a surprising number of younger folk, some of whom were nowt but bairns twenty-one years ago when the film was premiered. It’s ample demonstration that Welsh and Boyle have created and are perpetuating a whole industry. Welsh is updating his characters and Boyle is extending his story-line. Think of Leith as HQ of a world-wide cult.

The biggest cheer of the night came after Tommy says, trying to persuade his pals to join him on a healthy walk in the hills: “It’s the great out-doors… It’s fresh air.” Renton: “I hate being Scottish… some people hate the English, but I don’t… they’re just wankers… it’s a shite state of affairs, in and all the fresh air in the world won’t make any f…ing difference.” That line never dies.