Sunday 28 January 2024

A con-man is a con-man. Even if they are a woman

 THE PROLOGUE

I start this blog with an extended anecdote. But I suspect some who read it might think it can't be true. For couldn't this all have been sorted out with a few emails? Except it comes from an age before emails. Where the only means of instant communication, and even then only when your correspondent could reciprocate, was the new fangled fax machine. 

I am currently in possession of my 44th and last practicing certificate from the Law Society of Scotland. The profession I entered is almost unrecognisable today. Where the day to day conduct of business was dependent on the mail. Where when you went to court you were uncontactable until you returned and when you went home in the evening you were uncontactable by anybody except the Polis, who had your only line (your landline) but chose to employ that even then if it was convenient for them to do so.

Anyway, it was a different age and everything I say in what follows has to be seen against that background. Although its conclusions today  remain equally valid.

Con-men

In the late 1980s I had just arrived at what was then the Cumbernauld office of Ross Harper & Murphy. Which was then, in turn, by some way, only rivalled by Beltrami Dunn & Co as the main criminal defence firm in Scotland. And that reputation brought in a good deal of interesting "off the street" business. 

So, one day, I am asked to see urgently, a man who has walked in off the street needing advice. And that is how I first met George Beattie (needless to say not his real name).  

Anyway, Mr Beattie, then found his way in to my office. A man in his late twenties, very good looking impeccably turned out. He explained their was a warrant out for his arrest. About which he was visibly upset. He then told me his story. 

Mr Beattie was originally from Cumbernauld, By his own admission he had not enjoyed school so had left at the earliest opportunity to become a joiner. He had served his time but at 19 or so had decided to see a bit of the world. So he had decided to move to Hong Kong, then still a British Dependency. Where he continued his trade and developed a reputation for an expertise for fitting out bars and restaurants. That in turn had decided him to set up his own business and to ultimately end up in partnership with a local man of Chinese extraction. George would do the designing and occasional specialist work and his partner would recruit the local tradesmen and bridging finance to enable it to be carried out. To the significant mutual benefit of them both. 

But they both knew their was uncertainty about the future in Hong Kong given the imminent handover to China so they had decided to hedge their bets by setting up a Scottish arm of their business. In furtherance of which George had returned to Scotland with a partnership cheque to finance this enterprise. He had opened a bank account with a major bank here and, in anticipation of a future business arrangement, had asked to speak to the bank manager to introduce himself. A week or so later he had returned to inquire of the manager if the cheque had cleared to be told it yet hadn't. A week after, the same story. Whereupon he explained to the manager that this was all a bit awkward but he had secured a major contract from which he would need to walk away if he could not show some evidence of immediately available capital. Whereupon. according to George at least, the bank had volunteered to provide some interim funding. Not to nearly the amount of the as yet not honoured cheque. which was for a very large sum indeed,  but nonetheless for a very large sum. 

Now, you know what is coming here, but I can only say that as an admittedly young lawyer but still possessed of the cynicism that most of your clients are guilty. I believed this. But, never mind that, so. as I'll come on to narrate, did others. 

The cheque had, needless to say, bounced. But, far from George being the perpetrator of fraud, he had been the victim of it! He had tried to phone his office in Hong Kong to work out what was going on, only to find the number disconnected. He had tried to phone his bank but understandably they wouldn't speak to someone who could be anyone on the phone. His best assumption was that his partner had cleared out the firm's account and disappeared. 

But, I asked, not being a complete idiot, why had he not explained this to the Police before it had reached the stage of their being a warrant for his arrest? Well, George explained, when he had returned to Cumbernauld, he had stayed with his mother, but she had been unable to accept that he was now a grown man and things had proved difficult there. In the meantime he had met a young lady and had asked if he could move in with her. To which she had readily agreed. He forgetting that his mother's address was the only one by which he could be contacted. And since this was before mobile phones, it was only when he had phoned his mother weeks later that she advised him that first of all the bank and then the Police had been looking for him? But why had he himself not been in touch with the bank after learning the cheque had bounced? He was trying to work things out and had I, myself, never been distracted by love?

I'm telling this tale , even as I do so, exposing myself as an idiot, but as I again go on to narrate, so proved others. He was so charming and so apparently distressed as to his circumstance that I at least thought he might be telling the truth. 

But let's move on to when he voluntarily answers the warrant and appears in court. Even non lawyers will be familiar press report that someone has appeared in court and made "no plea or declaration". Nobody ever makes a declaration. But this time we did, For establishing that George had himself been a victim required investigation on in Hong Kong that was beyond my resources but if we raised it as possibility we could require the Crown to look in to it. So I told George that was his best option. It was prosected by someone who subsequently became a very, very senior figure at the Crown Office but was nobody's mug, even in her then more junior role and proceeded before a Sheriff who normally objected to his time being wasted by "obvious criminals". 

But he utterly charmed them both. At the end of his declaration as above, the Crown indicated that they wished his passport forfeited as a condition of bail, As I stood up to object, George intervened to say he had no objection as he would not be leaving Scotland until his name was cleared. Whereupon the Sheriff observed that while the passport would be taken, if George needed to go abroad, the Court would be likely to be favourable if Mr Smart made an application for its reasoned return. 

And then the fiscal, the hard but fair Fiscal, tells me, after the hearing that she will arrange for this to be looked into in Hong Kong as a matter of urgency! We were all utterly bewitched. 

So anyway, about six weeks later, the Fiscal gets back to me. She has gone through the Foreign Office to get co-operation from Hong Kong. George had indeed lived there but had left after fleeing various people he had defrauded there. He had indeed had a business but it had failed long before his departure and certainly had never remotely had funds to cover the cheque he had presented to a Cumbernauld Bank. 

And when I present this to George? His response is that it was worth a try, gives me a smile and goes to jail. 

Now, before I make my, shorter (I promise) political conclusion, I just wanr to add an epilogue. 

About five years later, out of the blue, I am phoned at work by a woman who has both a posh name and is very well spoken. "Thank you for taking my call, Mr Smart, I am phoning about a mutual friend, George Beattie. Have you heard from him lately?"

Ethically. I'm in a bit of an ethical dilemma here. So I ask if I can call her back. But in the end I conclude my obligation of professional confidence to George ended after I saw him in Barlinnie to agree there would be no appeal against sentence, So I phone the woman back only to discover the number she has left is not a direct line but is that of a well known firm of Chartered Accountants. And on asking to speak to her I don't initially get transferred to her directly but to her personal assistant. From whom I extract the information that my initial caller is a partner there before I am put through. 

What follows is awkward. 

"Why did you think to phone me?"

" George always said you were a friend of his. I haven't heard from him for ten days or so and wondered if you had?"

The rest of the conversation involved a tale of a brief romance during which George "a former airline pilot" had persuaded her to fund his project to set up a flying school(!) and then disappeared. In the end I had to tell her why I knew him and we parted company on civil terms.

Now why do I tell you this? Because there are those on my side maintaining that what went wrong over Covid and its aftermath was due to Civil Servants and other public servants being partisans of Scottish Independence. They were not. They were simply conned. Being unwilling to even contemplate that the  priority of the First Minister,, the charming First Minister, of any Party,  during a pandemic would be something other than saving lives. And yet it is increasingly obvious it was. 


 


Sunday 21 January 2024

Useless to the end.

So, today, we had Humza on the Sunday morning political telly. In my opinion, in his own terms, he did alright. His offer to Keir Starmer was a bit strange. How Parties work together after the next election is a matter for after the next election and if Humza had intended this as anything other than a stunt he wouldn't have qualified what he said by insisting that Starmer needed to come to Scotland for this meeting. Anyway, Starmer will have better things to do in Scotland between now and the election than meet with Useless. 

But of course after the election the UK Prime Minister will have to have meetings on some basis with the First Minister of Scotland. And that got me thinking. Will that be Useless? 

Now, I'm not writing a mystery story here, so I will start with the conclusion. Yes, it will. The SNP are stuck with Useless until May 2026. Because nobody else will want the job.

Let's just start with the current political consensus drawn from the current polling. Come the next UK election, the SNP are going to lose a lot of seats, probably more than half their current  roster. For what it's worth, I think they'll do a lot worse than that for there is no upside for them about the year ahead. Branchform will eventually report. I strongly suspect there will be charges and amongst those charged will be the former first minister. The significance of her being arrested has I think. if anything, been underappreciated. Section 1(1) of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act provides:-

A constable may arrest a person without a warrant if the constable has reasonable grounds for suspecting that the person has committed or is committing an offence.

That's it. For the avoidance of doubt, a "constable" includes a Police officer of any rank and the word "only" is implied because without "reasonable grounds for suspecting that person has committed an offence" the Police do not have any power of arrest. Given the prominence of the arrestee you can be satisfied that these suspicions were believed to exist by officers of the highest rank . And I think further, given the reputational damage to the arrestee, if the Police had no further interest in her as a suspect that would long since have been made public.

But in any event, the one consolation for Useless might be that unless charges resulting in appearance in Court follow pretty soon then there will be no trial before the UK General Election and contempt of court consequences will prohibit any comment until the trial. Nonetheless, this will now hang around the SNP like a bad smell until any criminal proceedings are concluded, 

But that is only the beginning of the troubles that lie ahead of Useless in the nine months or so until the General Election. For starters there is the Covid Inquiry. It has only just started its work in Scotland but already with devastating impact. And it has weeks here to run. And then, in case the First Minister, might at least think "thank goodness that is behind us", we have still to have the distinctly Scottish Inquiry, a wholly unnecessary exercise brought about by the hubris of Sturgeon, determined to get ahead of the UK but which is now, in typically Scottish Nationalist manner of promising more than they can deliver, is now trailing months behind. Months that, assuming Lord Brailsford's early return to health, will nonetheless trail on throughout and beyond the election.

And then, currently, we have the Michael Matheson inquiry which has already run for nearly two months without anybody being clear who exactly is doing the inquiring, or what inquiries they have made to date or even having the remotest clue as to what is to happen when these inquiries are over. Suffice to say this will run and run but if the ultimate conclusion is, on a Parliamentary vote divided along Party lines,  that Matheson should face no sanction? Suffice to say that is likely to have electoral consequence with, unfortunately for the SNP, an election imminent.

And that's without even considering the already suppurating sores: The ferries; the health service; the schools; local government finance; the wholly inadequate ministerial team. To which bonfire of doom, Humza seems determined to throw on another rotting corpse in the form of revisiting the issue of Trans demands, albeit from a different direction.

So, suffice to say, the omens are not good for a SNP recovery at the polls. Yet Humza will survive the UK General Election, even if the SNP lose far more than half their seats.

 He will survive for two reasons. Firstly, there is simply no alternative from within the Sturgeon continuity faction who still dominate the higher ranks of the SNP. We've so far had four previous Deputy First Ministers: Jim Wallace; Nicol Stephen; Nicola Sturgeon and John Swinney. Even their worst enemies would not have doubted their ability to step up to the top job as Wallace did (temporarily) twice and Sturgeon more permanently. The best Useless has been able to recruit is Shona Robison who, to be fair, given the limited pool he was prepared to fish in, was as good as it was going to get. But, suffice to say, when Useless eventually does go she will hardly be the first name on every, or indeed any, lip to succeed him.

But the second reason he will survive is that the obvious alternative candidate, Kate Forbes, would be mad to take the job on with perhaps less than 15 months until the next Holyrood election. The aftermath of a decisive reverse to the Nationalists will be a complete bloodbath. Dozens of Nationalists will be out of work. Not just MPs but their staff and other advisers. Fury will be in the air but not just fury, desperation to find other elected office. not least to pay the bills but also to continue to have a role in what was famously described as "showbusiness for ugly people".

And that will coincide with the commencement of the SNP's selection process for the Holyrood contest to come. There will be a battle royal for places on the list as sitting MSPs work out that their constituency seat is very much at risk. A battle joined by dismissed MPs and possibly some of their redundant advisers. This might even spill over into direct challenge to some of the more anonymous existing back benchers. And every Party knows such internal contests can....no inevitably are.....brutal. Who would want to be part of that. Particularly if they knew their very own elevation to the leadership might cause a collective nervous breakdown in certain quarters? Never mind among the inevitable departure of their coalition partners among a combination of denunciation and outrage. 

Oh, and then there will finally be the Branchform trial. 

And at the end of all this? Without much time to turn things round in terms of either policy or achievement (just one budget) and at the end of it all, every prospect of loss of government office and even a consequential leadership challenge. It is hardly an attractive vista.

So Useless will survive. Which is an additional reward for Anas and Jackie in the week the latter received her well deserved early reward. We'll hardly have to worry about having a competent Deputy First Minister when the time arrives.

Saturday 30 December 2023

2026

 I left my office for the holiday at about 1.30pm on 21st December. I hadn't finished working but I was going to Court and not planning to return. It was only as I drove there that it occurred to me that every year since 1978 I had departed work on the last working day before Christmas. as I had just done, for the last time. For  next year I will be retired and, just to discourage any back sliding on that, no longer in procession of a practising certificate. 

However, for the moment, I am back to work on the 3rd and indeed have a quite important trial the next day. My only business emails during the holiday have indeed been emails from that client advising as to lines of cross examination in that matter, most of which are irrelevant, at least one incompetent and even avoiding these pitfalls, others positively lunatic in the cause of securing his acquittal. I'll reply on the 3rd but that is one aspect of the job I will not be missing come Christmas 2024.

Anyway, when I left the office on the 21st I took with me a box of work to be done "over the holiday". I even took it in to the house when I arrived home on that day putting it down on the floor ever since. I'll do it eventually, probably on the evening of 2nd January. It'll still have been done over the holiday, if only just. 

I can't honestly explain the reason for that being anything other than lethargy but that is hardly the worst of the seven deadly sins. Indeed it isn't even one at all. Although sloth is, but who uses the word sloth nowadays? 

The other thing I had resolved to do over the break was to write a blog but, until now, I haven't done that either. And for reasons more complex than my unattended box of work. I had no real idea what to write about.

There are accepted forms for Christmas writing about politics. You can simply reprise the previous twelve months. Or you can draw on that period's unresolved issues to predict how they might play out over the year ahead. Or you can just ignore the past year and predict ahead anyway. And in doing to assert your own politics. But that's been done in spades by professional writers ranging in views from "We will finally see the benefits of Brexit" to "The treatment of Jeremy Corbyn will yet cost Labour a landslide." Neither of things will come to pass but people have to make a living, so, particularly at Christmas, they should be left to get on with it.

In Scotland there have been a few of these similar pieces, mostly themed around "Alright, the SNP are going to get gubbed at the General Election but the cause of Independence is not dead," This kind of ignores the fact than in democracies elections are quite important events but.....it's Christmas. The other side, my side, have been quieter, appreciating that patience is a virtue, although if you were so inclined you might have been tempted to inquire that if the SNP might yet retain 20+ seats then where exactly are these seats?  But it  is, I remind myself, Christmas.

So what would I write about. At all?

It won't be 2024, for that's been done, But it won't be 2025 either. For I suspect that will be quite a boring year. No. my interest is 2026, May in particular, The date of the next Scottish Parliament election. 

The SNP. in office for nearly thirteen years now have completely run out of ideas about the Government of Scotland. They never were that much possessed but, under Salmond, they did at least have some. Not least demonstrating that they could govern Scotland as competently as the Labour Party. Which, between 2007 and 2011 they did, and earned their electoral reward. But more recently they have failed in that task. And Labour is reaping the fruits of that. But despite the manifest talents of Jackie and Anas, not yet sufficiently well in Holyrood polling at least. 

You see public services in Scotland are a shambles but Labour's alternative, beyond the rather abstract idea of making them "more efficient" is non existent. We are, for example, also in favour of a National Care Service, just not the one promised, but now pretty much abandoned, by the SNP. We want to "improve" Education provision but not to the extent of abandoning the "Curriculum for Excellence" which seems to me to be a large part of the problem but which, whisper it, was developed under our own Party's stewardship before 2007.  I could go on,

I am no Blairite but the 1997 landslide was on the back of two different things coming together: the Tories having run out of ideas and we, on the other hand, having new ideas, The new ideas were not an afterthought, But currently, in the world of Scottish Labour, it is assumed they can be. 

However they can't be if we want to win not just in 2024 but in 2026.

Happy New Year when it comes.



Saturday 28 October 2023

It takes two to ceasefire

What is happening in Gaza is horrific. Even accepting that Israel is attempting to minimise civilian casualties, the Israelis themselves concede that there have been and will be significant civilian casualties. 

So it is understandable people want this to stop. And think the best way for that to come about is for there to be a ceasefire. Keir Starmer is coming under internal pressure to make that the declared position of the Labour Party. Prominent Party members, including our leader in Scotland have already made personal calls to that effect.

Except, in truth, they are only making that demand on one side, the Israelis. IF Labour was in power and IF we had any influence on matters, the best we could do is call on the Israelis to cease firing. That might just have some effect, particularly if similar calls came from other major western governments. But it would have no effect on Hamas. And that's why this whole ceasefire call is a complete blind alley. If Hamas was prepared to release the hostages and undertook to stop lobbing random missiles in to Israel then there might actually  be the basis for a ceasefire. Except they are unwilling to do either of these things.  Hamas not only started the current war, they wish it to continue. 

And so long as they wish to continue fighting Israel then inevitably Israel has to continue fighting them.

That's the problem. The UN Secretary General was right when he said the 7th October events cannot be seen in a vacuum. But Hamas cannot be seen in a vacuum either. They do not want peace on any terms other than the complete destruction of Israel. Yet that is clearly something that could never happen. Nine million people live in Israel, they are not going to go away voluntarily and it is, on any objective view, never mind the "merits" of such a development,  impossible for Hamas to achieve their removal any other way. Yet Hamas by it's very nature has to insist that this outcome will be achieved some how, some day. And to, literally, keep fighting for it. 

So a ceasefire will never be acceptable to them. A humanitarian pause in hostilities perhaps but never a ceasefire. I repeat, those calling for just that ignore this reality.

The Israelis have clearly decided that not just 7th October but the potential of future 7th Octobers requires to be dealt with militarily now. And they are dealing with a foe whose most basic demand could never be conceded by Israel as the basis for any kind of negotiated peace. Yes, there could and should be a two state solution to the Palestine issue but that is no more wanted by Hamas than it is by the most fanatical of West Bank settlers. That's the reality. Hamas are a major obstacle to peace. They need dealt with at some point. A ceasefire doesn't change that. It only postpones that reckoning.

Starmer sees that. So should others


Monday 17 July 2023

May 2026

I've kind of stopped blogging. You might have noticed that. Principally this is because I mainly blogged in the past to outline arguments against Scottish Independence and that ship has sailed without any other lunatic idea appearing over the horizon. So why bother? 

But I retain an active interest in politics. So would like to have some continued readership for my blog. And that's why I write tonight about the Scottish General Election in 2026.

They say the best chess players can think five moves ahead. I'm not much of a chess player but, with due modesty, like to think of myself as someone who can think a few political moves ahead.

Now, in truth, even the best chess players don't really need to think these five full moves ahead. For their opponents next move is probably THIS, in which case they will have already decided to do THAT. And for two or three other moves whatever. Unless their opponent decides to do something unexpected, which might be a masterstroke or simply a mistake. But, either or any way, these are the rules.

And the rules of the political game are ultimately as iron. 

There is not going to be a UK General Election until Autumn 2024. The Tories are going to hold on as long as possible in the hope something will turn up but Autumn 2024 is as long as is possible. Beyond that point their worry about differential turnout is cubed by differential turnout in the depths of Winter. 

And the Tories will lose. That's a conclusion not just reached by current polling. They themselves have essentially given up, barring "events". As, with benefit of the memoirs from a much better group of Tories, they had done so at least a year before the 1997 Election.

And at that 2024 election, the SNP will suffer a considerable reverse. In my view being likely to being reduced to the second Party in terms of Scottish seats, even possibly the third. But let's give them their best conceivable result. Still the largest Party but 20 seats down. That will be a complete game changer. 

Partly this is because people forget (or choose to forget) the 2017 General Election. The loss of 21 seats then severely dented the momentum of Scottish Nationalism. They had long since decided they wanted another go at a referendum but even they then went quiet on the matter for a time. Not just because everything said they would lose again but also because such a demand lacked all credibility. How much more so in the aftermath of a significant 2024 defeat? What happens then within the SNP might be usefully the subject of a different blog but it would surely involve Useless departing the scene in favour of Kate Forbes and the Greens returning to the political wilderness. And that's even without anybody ending up in the jail in the meantime.

But that's just me thinking three or four moves ahead. Let's go to five. 

Labour will win in the UK in 2024 on the basis of no increase in current levels of income tax. That seems pretty certain. But in Scotland we already pay higher rates than the rest of the UK. This is currently, politically, justified on the premis that the Tories are not taxing enough. Forget for the moment whether that is true. It remains a defensible argument between a Tory Government at Westminster and a Nationalist one at Holyrood. But it is not conceivably a defensible argument between a Labour Westminster Government and a potential Labour Holyrood one.

So here is my fifth move ahead. Labour will fight the May 2026 Election in Scotland based on cutting Income Tax in line with the rest of the UK. "Close the Foreign Embassies, stop subsiding STV, shut down the quangos" Never mind whether the economics of this add up. Let the Nats defend them. Unless of course Kate Forbes, a formidable opponent, has already been one move ahead of us.  

Saturday 10 June 2023

A suggested letter

I have a friend, Andrew Nicol who is, or at least was, a Scottish novelist. I however knew him in another capacity, as a political journalist. Away back, I was so determined to get him to write a sequel to his novel, "If you are reading this then I'm already dead" that I wrote the first chapter for him myself. 

It did not persuade him and since then I have abandoned literary pastiche. 

But tonight I am writing again in the name of a Scottish novelist who, no disrespect to Andy, is of somewhat greater literary renown, J.K. Rowling.

It is not an attempt at the eighth Harry Potter novel or even an attempt to finally, and surely, get Strike and Robin together.

It is an simple suggested letter. Written by J.K., who I have never met, to two people I do know. One by reputation only but the other since I "knew his faither".  Copied in to one of my best and surest comrades. Enough introduction

Hogwarts Tower 

Edinburgh          

11th June 2023   

Dear Anas and Keir,

I trust this finds you both well.

As a long since supporter of the Labour Party and opponent of Scottish Independence, I was delighted to learn of the forthcoming by-election in Rutherglen and Hamilton West. offering a significant opportunity to strike a blow against the SNP, and have been thinking of what I might do to assist.

With due modesty, I would clearly be in a position to offer you a substantial financial contribution, as I have done in the past,  but I understand that money is unlikely to be an issue here. So I thought I might offer something more. 

While I never sought this, I appreciate myself that I have become something of an "international celebrity", My appearances on public platforms attract disproportionate, in my opinion, attention. But they nonetheless do. So my suggestion therefor is that I should make such an appearance at a public meeting to support of your, indeed our, candidate in Rutherglen. I would propose to say no more than encouraging Scotland to play its part in removing the Tories and securing a Labour Government

The event would need to be managed but, with due modesty, would be likely to appeal not only to many members of the local electorate, the important people here, but indeed to a much wider national, indeed international audience. But in some ways ignore the latter. The former are the key players in what I appreciate is likely to be a significant contest. If I can add but a few votes to our tally, I would be privileged to do so. Again, with due modesty, I think that is a role I might play. 

So, subject to my own commitments, I am at your disposal to speak at a place and time of your choosing.

I appreciate that this offer is in itself likely to be of assistance to our cause so I have taken the liberty of copying this letter to the Press Association. 

With every best wish,

See you in Rutherglen,

Jo.

To: Anas Sarwar MSP

The Right Honourable Sir Keir Starmer MP

cc. Jackie Baillie MSP. 


 

Sunday 4 June 2023

Is it over?

The polls remain stubbornly good for the SNP. Yes, you read that correctly. Their vote has taken a dent but it has not collapsed. Were there to be a Holyrood election tomorrow they would almost certainly remain the largest single Party, albeit, even with the assistance of their gerrymandering colleagues in the Greens, somewhere short of an Independence majority at Holyrood. Not that this matters anyway for the road to Independence does no run through Holyrood alone. 

Nicola Sturgeon's "brave" decision to ask the Supreme Court to deliver their conclusion to that effect expressly was her parting gift to the SNP. That and a campervan.

It has to be conceded that the prospect of Independence has been a leitmotif through Scottish Politics since 2011. Cameron thought to kill it by conceding a referendum but the Nats came closer in that event than anybody ever considered likely and, in its aftermath, rolled up the large but significant losing minority behind their banner in a formidable wrecking ball. Wrecking the old Scottish Labour Party, ludicrously complacent in its sense of entitlement, in the process.

But in truth 2014 took place in just about the most favourable circumstance possible for the SNP. They could choose a single year in the recent past (not the one immediately before the referendum right enough) to make a just about plausible case that independence would not inevitably lead to the slashing of public expenditure. They could insist they'd keep the Pound Sterling against all evidence to the contrary and portray UK denials of this as "just one more piece of evidence" of English perfidy. They succesfully created the ludicrous illusion that Independence could be grafted on to Devolution with little more than the expenditure of, in Government terms, small change. And as to the border, well if there was effectively no border between the UK and France, since both were in the EU. why would there possibly be a border between Scotland and England? 

But the real genius was not in carrying that off that in 2014, it was in getting people to ignore the fact that within two years this was all proved to be nonsense. That to borrow the phrase of Theresa May "Nothing had changed,"

But never mind that, it also ignored the not unimportant fact that there had been a referendum! And they had lost. Not narrowly, as they insisted, but quite decisively in a binary choice. And that they themselves quietly conceded that the reason they had needed the "Edinburgh Agreement" to have a referendum at all was in the second word there. And that prospect no longer existed. 

But all credit to the smoke and mirrors that has kept this on the road. Even, to some extent, still is. 

But I think this is all coming to an end. That's not just based on the polling or that Useless has nothing like the political skills of Salmond or Sturgeon, although patently he doesn't. It is simply that they have nowhere to go. 

When Alex Salmond set up his vanity project of the ALBA Party, its main selling point was that the SNP, through their elected representatives should be doing "more" to advance independence. There has however been a deathly silence as to what that more might be. The only substantive proposal of any sort seems to have been the suggestion that The Stone of Destiny shouldn't have been sent to London for the Coronation. I'm not entirely sure what this, even if carried off, would have achieved?  In truth, neither are they. "You can't have our Stone unless we have another referendum?" You are reminded of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. "Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government."

There is nothing more that can be done.  The strange period of Scottish politics since 19th September 2014 is over. Scottish Parliament elections cannot and will not constantly be run as gigantic opinion polls on whether the Scottish Government should write a letter demanding to have another independence referendum. Westminster elections in Scotland likewise. Devolved Scottish Parliament elections are about who should govern devolved Scotland. In health, education, transport etc. etc. does anybody think that is currently being done well? And Westminster elections are about who should govern the UK. That will, at 18 month intervals, over the next three years, become apparent in spades. 

So it is over. The rest is just process.