Yesterday we had a bit of fun on twitter over the number who had attended the Independence March and Rally in Edinburgh.
I have no idea why this has become such a shibboleth for some Nationalists. It was the same last year when the limitations of those in attendance were easily demonstrated by the published capacity of the Ross Bandstand, where last year's rally was held, and it was yesterday when despite a police estimate of 8300 marchers, Nicola Sturgeon insisted there were 30,000 there.
What did it matter? Even I accept that more than 30,000 people support Scottish Independence and that even the most diehard of bravehearts might have something better to do on a Saturday afternoon. I myself was at the Saint Mirren end at Easter Road where Irvine Welsh did the half time draw (and was subject to some literary criticism from our fans in the process). I didn’t think however that this meant he had abandoned his support for Scottish Independence or “snubbed” the March and Rally. He would just rather have been at the football.
Indeed, you could take the hypothetical 30,000, add a zero and double it and find even the most optimistic Better Togetherer prepared to accept that this still underestimates the number who will likely vote Yes next year.
So why did it become so important for various cybernats, and a few others who should have known better, to insist the 30,000 figure was accurate even when an aerial photograph taken at the height of the rally (2.20 pm to be precise) showed this to be patently absurd.
Because Nicola had said it. And, for some, whatever Nicola, or Eck, say must be true, even in the face of objective, indeed in this case photographic, evidence to the contrary.
Cybernat opinion was split on how to explain the photograph. Some insisted in defiance of their own eyes, that there were indeed 30,000 people in it. Others, that it must have been taken at a different time of day. The maddest suggested it had been taken by a MI5 Drone and then doctored by the British Security Services before being passed to their trusty contacts at Scotland on Sunday!
Now none of this would be of anything other than amusement if it were not for this cavalier attitude to much more important figures being an increasing feature of the Nationalist movement.
Last week on the television on Wednesday evening, John Swinney, understandably evaded when asked if an Independent Scottish Government would renationalise the Royal Mail as he clearly had no idea what this would cost or indeed whether it could be afforded. The next day, in the Parliament, so did Eck. Until at the third time of asking he obviously thought and essentially said “To Hell with it! Never mind the cost! (of which I have no idea) Yes we will!”
And then in this morning’s papers we learn that, in an independent Scotland, we will all apparently be able to retire earlier! Again, never mind what that might cost or that we know from an earlier leaked paper that in private Swinney has doubts about the affordability of even the existing pension provision after independence.
Well, just like the 30.000 on Calton Hill yesterday, these things don’t become true just because the SNP leadership say them. And I suspect that increasingly these outlandish claims are only persuading the remaining undecided that the Nationalists have no idea what they are talking about. Indeed, yesterday morning’s Good Morning Scotland revealed that, Ken Cairnduff, formerly a leading figure in the pro-independence Business for Scotland group was now undecided as to how he would vote. I suspect he’s far from alone.
The Pension “pledge” did not lead Scotland on Sunday today because that newspaper saw it as a positive for Yes Scotland, of which that newspaper is hardly an enthusiastic supporter, but rather because it gave an opportunity to hold the Nationalists up to ridicule, which has proved to be the overwhelming reaction.
Eck suddenly announced mid week that “Even opponents of independence accept Scotland would be a prosperous independent country.” No we don’t. We accept Scotland would, at a significant cost in terms of living standards, be a viable independent country. That is far from being the same thing. And that is the conclusion of all independent economic analysts, most recently this week past, the independent Institute of Fiscal Studies but most importantly of all the Scottish Government’s own hand picked Council of Economic Advisers, who concluded in their last report that an independent Scotland, albeit not as immediately suggested by the IfS, would face either significant tax rises or cuts in public expenditure. And certainly not the opportunity for uncosted capital acquisitions or revenue giveaways.
Now the conventional conclusion of others who have pointed out this inconsistency has been to suggest that the Nationalists will promise anything to secure a Yes vote. But there is of course another conclusion. That if the Nationalists have concluded that they are not going to win, it doesn’t really matter what they promise.