Should a man be bitten by the Brazilian Wandering Spider, he will experience multiple erections over several days. After that, too much damage means the proud days are over.
This seems a good metaphor for the independence case a period of extreme excitement, and perhaps the delusion that one had become god’s gift followed by flaccid redundancy.
It also notes the peculiar maleness of the argument to date a bullying and argumentative tone, a fixation with competing “facts”, a tendency to overexaggerate assets.
Three dates mark the moment when the high times turned down forever. Let’s start with February 9.
On this day, at Holyrood’s finance committee, Scottish National Party members voted down the proposal for a Scottish Fiscal Commission.
This incredible decision actively resisting discovering more about Scotland was barely noticed at the time, but is very important.
For 20 years the SNP included in its manifestos the need for an independent economic unit.
When the chance to have one came, the party blocked it.
The reason is simply because such a unit would have produced economic data that contradicted the macho armoury of outdated information on which the movement’s bully boys still thrive.
Instead of nation-building, the independence party was using its majority to keep Scots in the dark.
The next important date is February 25 when the “fiscal framework” was agreed.
The Scottish Government had cleverly run negotiations for this into the period when the UK Government was more concerned about the EU referendum. Downing Street did a quick settlement massively in Scotland’s favour to clear the desks for its European battle.
In effect, the UK Treasury is underwriting Scotland’s foray into tax collecting. If Holyrood gets it wrong, then London will cover the losses.
It’s very good for Scots not only responsibility, but an insurance policy in the back pocket if it all goes belly up.
Yet the SNP seem unable to celebrate this coup, perhaps wary they might alert the indie faithful that the bigger game is up.
The last date is March 9, when the government announced their annual balance sheet what is earned within Scotland’s borders and what is spent on services.
There is a £15 billion gap into the red.
Were Scotland about to become independent, Edinburgh would have to find a way of filling that gap, plus the costs of the independence process.
If Scotland were in a currency union with either Sterling or the Euro, there would be borrowing limits which would prevent the newly independent state simply borrowing £15bn.
For sake of argument let’s say borrowing (which will bring its own costs) cuts the deficit in half to £7.5bn.
That is still a very big hole in Scottish spending, well beyond what reasonable tax increases could raise.
Combine these three dates and you have the period when the SNP’s economic case for independence collapsed.
The blood ran from the posturing and boasting.
The SNP’s mistake was not to advocate independence that is still possible, if you want to accept some hard times as the price to pay for sovereignty.
The mistake was they had promised wealth too.
The independence part remains, but the wealth has shrunk.
Unfortunately the macho wing can’t let go of the imaginary money swathes of the membership were seduced into arguing an economic case which never stood up to scrutiny.
A mindset prevails that anything but independence is failure, and that sovereignty will come with cash to spare.
Arguably Scotland’s greatest problem is that the SNP leadership don’t know how, or don’t have the courage to correct this view.
The members, as if infected by a spider bite, have been rampant for some time. This male parade has not been to the party’s good.
It has undone 20 years of modernising efforts, which went to great lengths to eliminate the aggressive overtones of nationalism and position the party in the social democratic camp.
All the work on policy and economics has been reduced to tribal war cries, the bully boys deaf to criticism and blind to self-image.
Remember these dates they mark the moment when reality triumphed over fiction.
Scotland has got a fantastic deal for its future, against a background of very negative data and a culture which no longer even wants to hear the truth.
Here is Nicola’s greatest opportunity. Having won a great prize now is the moment for courage.
She should take this set of circumstances and make it a platform for the future.
Her party should be told they have already won. That Scotland has powers and potential it didn’t dream of 20 years ago.
Not only that, the UK will help us along if things turn bad. This is a victory.
On this we can build a better future, by removing the element of uncertainty and slowly going about the business of good government.
We need humility to see what we have won and to make the most of it.
As for the bully boys, well when the spider’s venom wears off, everything goes soft forever.