As I See It: The Scots don’t trust Boris but he is a sideshow in the independence debate says STEVE SAMPSON
It’s hard to explain to your average Englishman why the Scots seem to be lacking gratitude for the billions flooding north to sort out the corona crisis. The reasoning among the English is “if you don’t like us, give us our money back, and sod off.”
The simple truth is not so much that the Scots don’t like the English. They just don’t trust them.
Still Boris soldiers on, bumping elbows with crab fishermen in Orkney, flattening sombreros and whacking moles. It’s seen as an inappropriate piece of electioneering.
Nicola Sturgeon plays it brilliantly. She is serious, steadfast – and probably just as guilty as the Westminster crew of getting it shatteringly wrong on Corona. The Teflon First Minister, in power for years but still presenting the SNP as the party of protest. But everything bad is all the fault of the English who go on and on making it easy for her.
Maggie treated Scotland like foreign policy. I was an editor when she inflicted the poll tax under ultra-obedient Scottish Secretary Michael Forsyth. Cameron couldn’t give a stuff and he had better credentials. Blair couldn’t get his head around it – especially when a previously compliant Daily Record turned on Labour with daily vicious attacks. I was a director of the Record and Sunday Mail. Didn’t matter that we fired the editor, the damage was done – to Labour and the paper.
As editor of The Sun in Scotland I gave space to Jim Sillars, recognising that the SNP had a growing constituency and policies beyond simply independence. The paper went on to fully embrace the SNP to the surprise of Mr Murdoch.
‘A deep-seated fear of disaster will see off independence. Fear that the future will be as bad as a Highland clearance’
It comes down to trust – trust in someone not to screw it up. Why Major beat Kinnock. Why Cameron beat Miliband. Why Boris beat Corbyn. Precisely why Nicola remains the overwhelming choice as leader in Scotland. Trust in her policies. Doesn’t matter if she’s right or wrong, she is the only person who will fight for the country. That’s the narrative.
I bet you the average man or woman in any Scottish high street wouldn’t have a clue on the merits of the Barnett Formula. The £4.6 billion extra Scotland has had in Corona hand-outs is irrelevant – nobody is saying thanks north of Hadrian’s Wall. In fact the opposite – it’s Scotland’s “by right,” as it delivered all that oil.
Despite that, in my view independence will never come about. The banking crisis. The great saviour of oil revenues – a myth. Corona. You can point all you want towards Eire and Norway. They’re OK, so Scotland will be as well. Really?
A deep-seated fear of disaster will see off independence. Fear that the future will be as bad as a Highland clearance. Banking would go (what’s left of it), as well as headquarters of the multi-nationals and foreign investment. Scots voices doing business would be heard in London, not in Edinburgh or Glasgow. It will be fear. Not anything Boris or the Tories will come up with.
One incident which still makes me laugh. Maggie ventured north one time and astonishingly risked the wrath of an Old Firm game at Ibrox. As the only posh and properly educated person in the welcoming party I was bidden to shepherd Lord Hesketh, the delightful rotund peer in her entourage who famously had an F1 team with James Hunt as his driver.
He was mesmerised by the ocean of red, white and blue. The florid faces of 40,000 loyalists belting their lungs out about a long ago battle and a message for the Bishop of Rome.
I suppose I could have translated. But he was oblivious. Intoxicated. Stuffing himself with two pies in the members’ lounge he said to me breathlessly: “What a sight. Don’t let anyone say that the Union is in peril.”
The English – they don’t get it. They really don’t get it.
Steve Sampson is former Assistant, Northern and Scottish Editor of The Sun newspaper, and a Director of Trinity Mirror publications. He was a launch presenter of Radio5 Live, founder of First Press Publishing and contributes to the BBC. Based in Scotland, he is an investor/owner across a series of digital initiatives, and a media adviser