First Minister Nicola Sturgeon placated her SNP faithful by promising a second referendum on independence by the end of 2023 – “Covid permitting”.
In a conference closer lacking in news-lines, Ms Sturgeon got back to doing what she does best, ignoring the micro and shouting very loudly on the macro.
Everything which is wrong in Scotland, “a wealthy country” according to the first minister, can be laid to blame with the Tory prime minister.
In her speech, the first minister announced the Scottish Government would fund a youth conference ahead of COP 26, which the host country usually pays for.
Ms Sturgeon pointed out she “did not care” why the UK Government had opted not to finance it, but only enough to make sure Downing Street’s hideous omission appeared front and centre in her speech.
The eyes of the world will gaze on Glasgow this November and you can be assured they will not care about a spat between Bute House and Number 10. If Scotland really is to assert itself on the national stage, perhaps we should start by playing down the tit-for-tat sparring.
It could be one of the climate-change agreements, a settlement on the cessation of hot-air production for the sake of it between Holyrood and Westminster, for at least as long as COP 26 takes place.
Again, the distraction tactic is on full show — Scotland will lead the world on the global transition to “net zero” despite Westminster ignoring the young ‘uns, yet no mention on whether we should be squeezing out every last drop of North Sea Oil before then.
Why not now?
There were some salient points made: experts either side of the border have pointed out the removal of the £20 uplift will hammer those already struggling, independent analysis showing the poorest areas in Dundee, Fife and Aberdeen disproportionately so.
And yet, Ms Sturgeon promises to raise the child payment “as quickly as we can”. This could mean anytime between now and the end of this parliament, considering how long it has taken to set-up other government programmes.
Save The Children just last week criticised the Scottish Government for not making the increase immediately.
If ‘tackling child poverty is a national mission’ the @scotgov @scotgovFM must do all it can with the powers it has and double the Scottish Child Payment NOW.
Too many children in Scotland are growing up in poverty #DoubleScotChildPayment pic.twitter.com/uEm3NWTPkj
— Save the Children Scotland (@SaveChildrenSCO) September 6, 2021
With one hand the first minister bashes the “hated” Boris Johnson and with the other distracts from whatever reason it is now why her government is not making the changes it already can.
Meanwhile, the Scottish Conservatives accused the first minister of creating a new “Project Fear”, a jaunty phrase which first became popular during the independence referendum.
Having been used in almost every campaign and election north and south of the border since 2014, it is probably fair to refer to it now as Project Fear III (or Project Fear VI in Scotland)
The SNP of course accused unionists of creating Project Fear first, that Scotland was too poor, too wee and too stupid to go it alone (or something).
It was in turn picked-up by Nigel Farage and his Brexiteer chums Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, who accused “remainiacs” of stoking panic that fruit would rot on the vine and heavy goods and foods would be undelivered — not to mention the issues with the Irish border — should the UK leave the EU.
So it is unlikely to prove a vote winner for the Tories, unless they are taking on a risky approach of admitting everything the previous Project Fear projected has in fact turned out to be true.
All bar one mention of independence in Ms Sturgeon’s speech was followed by the word “works”, as in “independence works”.
The first minister needed to satiate the appetites of the nationalist faithful, whose belief could wane in favour of Alex Salmond’s Alba Party.
Alba and Mr Salmond are unlikely to cause Ms Sturgeon electoral problems in the near future, but the splitting of the so-far superglue-bound Indy movement could cause further difficulty down the line — not least because the SNP relies so heavily on party membership for its funding.
By offering yet more promises of another referendum by 2023, Ms Sturgeon can tell the growing dissident grumblings in her own party she is giving them what they want – caveated by the 2020s get out of jail free card – “Covid permitting”.
Far be it from Ms Sturgeon – a politician who essentially won re-election on the back of her perceived handling of the world’s most pressing crisis – to be seen as reckless in the face of pandemic recovery.
Another referendum would be seen by those who have yet to tattoo “Yes” on to their polling cards as exactly that, and Ms Sturgeon knows it is those voters she needs to win over to even bring another vote on separation before 2024, let alone start the push in getting them to vote her way.