Alex Massie on the SNP's retreat to a fantasy world

Alex Massie has written a very powerful response to the separatist fantasies in which the SNP indulged at their virtual conference. Here are a few extracts.

“Even by the elevated standards of nationalist chutzpah, Nicola Sturgeon’s speech to the virtual SNP conference was a remarkable exercise in sophistry. In this, if little else, the first minister truly is the world-beating leader that her followers imagine her to be. 

Her government’s failures, you see, are not really its fault. Rather, she is hamstrung by the inadequacies of the opposition at Holyrood.

Just as Celtic and Rangers have historically blamed their failures in European football on the inadequate opposition provided by the likes of Motherwell or Kilmarnock, so the SNP’s shortcomings are apparently the responsibility of the Tories and Labour and even, heavens, the Liberal Democrats.”

Effective opposition matters in a democracy”, the first minister said, “but that is not what we have in Scotland”. 

Perhaps so and perhaps not, but effective government also matters and we don’t have that either.

Speaking of the immediate challenges posed by the pandemic, Sturgeon reiterated that her “overriding priority every day is to keep Scotland as safe as possible”. Doubtless this is so but if safety is understood more broadly — if it is considered as a financial proposition — the first minister remains determined to pursue a course of reckless national impoverishment.

“The SNP asks Scots to place their faith in a vision of independence in which Scotland, most unusually, would try to operate without a central bank. In such circumstances the 2008 financial crisis would have shipwrecked Scotland and so would the pandemic.

As John Swinney has finally acknowledged, quantitative easing — the mechanism by which the Bank of England has, like other central banks, bought massive quantities of debt — would not be available to Scotland. The alternative would be to sell debt on the open market, a risky proposition for a fledgling state with no financial history and one guaranteed to be alarmingly, ruinously, expensive.

“As reality is an unpleasantly tough business, it is better to retreat to the comfort of wishful thinking. It is considered unseemly, even vulgar, to note the practical difficulties imposed by independence. Far better to pretend everything will be all right on the night. Or, as Sturgeon pretends, the “challenges” of independence are no greater or different to the challenges any country faces. This too is not the truth.

Increasingly I find myself with greater time and respect for those rare nationalists who acknowledge the difficulties of independence but think it worthwhile despite the cost, than for the greater number who insist all shall be for the best in this, the best of all imaginary worlds.”

“It bears repeating that all previous editions of the case for independence have been built on doses of wishful thinking so heroic they amount to a kind of fraud. The 2014 White Paper on independence was a fantasy now quietly disowned by those who authored it.” 

“This much is clear” Sturgeon said in her speech, “Democracy must, and will, prevail”. The first minister insists those who oppose a referendum are the enemies of democracy.”

“The people disrespecting democracy are the nationalists who insist 2014 produced a result that has no meaning or standing whatsoever. Sturgeon insists her election victory gives her a mandate but her opponents’ mandate, which stems from the 2014 result, still has relevance too. Hence the impasse in which we find ourselves and no amount of whining from either side can change this reality.”

You can read the full article - it is behind a paywall but they offer a certain number of "taster" free articles at 

Alex Massie: Nationalists retreat into the comfort of wishful thinking | Scotland | The Times


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