The past few weeks have demonstrated that professional satirists (anyone remember Rory Bremner’s “Devo Max with timetable chaser” in The Southern a week before the independence referendum?) are barely worth paying attention to, when actual events are so much more entertaining.
In the last few weeks of the referendum campaign, Better Together’s Alistair Darling was elbowed aside by Jim Murphy, the feisty street orator who ran away when somebody threw an egg at him.
Both were then elbowed aside by Gordon Brown, the “ex-politician” who still picks up his full salary, plus expenses, from Westminster. Gordon, who once insisted to a US reporter that he came from “North Britain”, not Scotland, and that his favourite football moment was Paul Gascoigne’s goal for England against Scotland in Euro 96, reappeared to tell us how passionately he now loved Scotland, so we should all vote No.
He promised us federalism, home rule, big new powers if only we voted No. Guaranteed – with a timetable. Gordon would be the “promise keeper”.
Sadly, Gordon, colossal ego notwithstanding, had no authority to make constitutional promises to anyone about anything. Seeing his “promises” completely ignored at Westminster, he then elbowed aside the creators of a petition backing new powers, pretended the petition was his, and urged people to sign it. Instead of extensive new powers, Gordon brought us ... a petition.
Never mind, we had the “Vow”, printed on the front page of the Daily Record three days before the referendum and signed by our bestest friends ever – David Cameron, Ed Milliband and Nick Clegg – guaranteeing “extensive new powers” if only we vote No. There was a debate on this at Westminster on October 14 – only our bestest friends didn’t bother turning up. Neither did the debate focus on extending powers for Scotland at all, but on limiting the powers of Scottish MPs over the issue of “English Votes for English Laws”.
Cameron had actually declared that the really big issue was “English Votes for English Laws” the day after the referendum. At the same time we also learned that oil in Scottish waters wouldn’t just last a few years more, like we’d been told, but for many decades more.
Having delivered the No vote that our bestest friends wanted, we can also now openly discuss the other massive new oil developments at Clair Ridge, Catcher and Marconi fields. Surprisingly, oil “expert” Sir Ian Wood missed these developments in his headline attacks (just before the referendum) rubbishing both the Scottish Government’s cautious optimism and an earlier report which backed this optimism, written by Sir Ian Wood. Anyway, Sir Ian’s group is moving into fracking in a big way, and will be pleased with Westminster’s removal of citizens’ rights to object to drilling under our homes.
There was a grim irony in pensioners voting to stay with the UK, choosing one of the most precarious and miserly pension systems in the developed world. There were voters worried about leaving the EU who voted No, who must now contemplate the overwhelming likelihood of Britain leaving the EU. There’s Johann Lamont, having campaigned in favour of London control for two years, resigning as Scottish Labour leader because of ... London control.
But perhaps the biggest irony right now concerns prospects for the Union.
When polled, both before and after the referendum, most Scots choose “Devo Max” – control of everything at Holyrood except defence and foreign affairs. When internal and public polling began showing they were losing, Better Together tore up the script and tried to pretend they were offering “Devo Max”. This was completely insincere, but it was what Scots wanted.
It’s the Yes side who are now pushing for this. The Westminster parties, trying to deny they promised anything of substance at all, are hoping to stitch up some mouse of a settlement. If they get their way, we will continue with constitutional wrangling for years to come, with independence constantly on the agenda.
Only the proposals of the Yes side offer the Union a chance of survival through genuine popular support – ironic, or what?