Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Straight in at No.1, it's Devo-max

Two more days and we’ll know if the UK is about to self-destruct. Or whether a bout of collective madness is merely set to fizzle out. So here, before it all passes into history, are a few final reflections on one of the oddest episodes in our national story.

1: Whatever happens, Alex Salmond’s SNP will get the result they want on Thursday. Up to a point.
The only way they can lose is if they get the result they say they want – a Yes vote to Scottish independence.
In that case their very purpose in existing will cease to be. The natural party of power in an independent Scotland will not be the nationalists. It will be Labour.
What Salmond really wants is more local power, still under the protective, over-arching UK brand. In other words, the so-called “Devo-max”, which isn’t a dodgy 1980s pop group but the third option David Cameron refused to allow on the referendum ballot paper.
And that – thanks to panic in Westminster – has already been granted.
So while the vote looks excitingly close, the leaders on both sides now actually want the same result – the No vote they all assumed until recently was a foregone conclusion.
2: If they don’t get it, Cameron’s head will be on the block. Or so they say.
He will be seen to have shot himself in the foot, carelessly losing a whole country. He could pay by losing the Tory leadership too.
I don’t think, though, that that outcome is quite as certain as some have suggested.
After all, the prospects for Tory rule in England would be greatly enhanced by the loss of all those Scottish Labour votes and MPs.
It could actually help Cameron to stay in power.
Or, heaven help us, to put Boris Johnson into No.10 in his place.
3: My biggest laugh lately came from a remark made on the radio by Scots novelist Val McDermid.
“The only reason Cameron’s ever set foot in Scotland before was to shoot stags on his father-in-law’s estate on Jura.” Touché.
4: Too much of the whole discussion has been about bankers and stock-market economics.
“The markets,” I keep hearing, “hate uncertainty.”
So what? Who elected “the markets” to power?
It may be – or seem to be – a fact of life in the world’s so-called democracies that bankers call all the big shots, but it’s the exact opposite of democratic.
A well-run independent Scotland – one in which the financiers work for the country, not the other way round – could emerge from the uncertainty as one of the richest little nations in the world.
5: One of the biggest losers in the whole farce is Ed Miliband.
The Labour leader’s show of unity last week with Cameron and Nick Clegg was a massive error of judgement.
It merely confirmed, at least to a casual glance, what disaffected voters have been saying for a long time. That “They” are all the same.
United or split, what the kingdom desperately needs is a radical change of direction. A Labour party – a Labour government – worthy of the name. Not Tory-lite.
Unfortunately, nothing of the kind is on offer. Except, potentially, in Scotland.


My piece last week about the wonderful crops of blackberries and fungi this splendid autumn has brought us didn’t quite tell the whole story.
I neglected to mention how full the hedgerows are of wild plums.
Or what a bumper season this is proving to be on our raspberry canes.
Anyone intent on making sloe gin or elderberry wine will have no difficulty in harvesting all the natural ingredients they could possibly desire.
And if you know what to do with hips and haws, there’s no shortage of those colourful traditional companions out there either.
Season of mellow fruitfulness, indeed.

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