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Scotland is being pushed into a referendum by Westminster

Scotland is being pushed into a referendum by Westminster

Harold Wilson famously said that “a week is a long time in politics” If so then a year is an eternity. And so it has proven to be in the momentous events since the independence referendum, or #indyref1 as we should learn to call it now.

Three things have become clear in the big year since the referendum. Firstly, the promises made to Scotland by a panicked Prime Minister in the last desperate days of the referendum campaign have not been kept.

Secondly, the process of the campaign changed Scottish politics forever and for good. Thirdly, it is Westminster decisions which are pushing Scots towards a second poll on a much sharper timescale than certainly I previously believed possible.

The first is now beyond argument. Downing Street has been hiding since the election from the reality that the current Scotland Bill does not come anywhere near to matching the rhetoric of the “Vow”, which was a promise of “home rule”, “devo to the max” or “near to federalism”.

Instead, the new Bill diluted the Smith Commission, which itself had watered down the “Vow”.

The Tory response to their complete drubbing at the election on this issue has been to hide under the bedclothes and pretend it is not happening. However, after this week this issue is no longer in serious dispute.

Let us remember the sequence of events. Last year David Cameron was unpopular, Ed Miliband even less popular than the Tory Prime Minister and Nick Clegg was absolute zero.

Thus, the chosen “Moses of the Vow” wasn’t any of these three political leaders but ex-Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Now Brown himself has blown a decisive hole in the Tory defences, declaring this week to a Westminster Parliamentary Committee no less that the Government is ”falling short” of delivering even Smith. Therefore, the first argument is now settled. We have it on veritable tablets of stone that the “Vow” is undone.

Secondly, the referendum process changed the nation politically. Never before has there been such an outpouring of popular involvement and activism in Scotland. The results have been seismic.

The political map of Scotland has been transformed from red to yellow, with 56 out of 59 seats now entrusted to the SNP. No party in history has achieved such a landslide from the Scottish people. No party in Scottish democratic political history has gained such a breadth of support.

The referendum changed the nation politically and changed it for good.

Thirdly, political choices being made at Westminster are dramatically shortening the likely timescale of a second referendum.

For many years I had assumed that a constitutional referendum in Scotland was a once-in-a-political-generation event, citing the 18-year period between the two devolution polls of 1979 and 1997 and expressed that opinion often enough.

However, that view is being overtaken by events. The non-delivery of the “Vow”, the Osborne agenda of “austerity to the max” instead of “devo to the max”, Cameron’s gambling with our European future, the bleak prospect of another half-century of nuclear weapons dumped on the Clyde, turning our back on helpless refugees, further ham-fisted international military interventions and now the almost certain unelectability of Labour across the UK.

These are all choices being made by Westminster and mostly things that in theory could be reversed. However, I wouldn’t be holding my breath.

Some are deeply ingrained into the Tory DNA and others are foolish decisions already made which are now beyond political recall.

All of these influences are bringing another referendum much closer and much faster. That much is now known.

The real issue for this now energised and politicised nation is how we handle that debate and mould our future.

Corbyn’s worst enemies could be in his own party

Congratulations to Jeremy Corbyn and his resounding win of the Labour leadership. I have known him for the best part of 30 years and liked him for all of that period.

On international affairs he has often been correct, notably in his consistent opposition to the UK’s disastrous military interventions such as the illegal war in Iraq.

I don’t agree with all of the stances he has taken but at least he has always taken a stance.

Back in July when he was still being ridiculed by the media, I told the BBC This Week programme that he was a serious candidate who should not be written off.

This was particularly the case given the banalities which were passing for policy among the other three candidates.

However, even I did not envisage the landslide that was to come. Jeremy is no orator, as his victory speech on Saturday amply demonstrated.

However, he comes across better and more authentic than your average Labour bear.

This reasonable and quietly spoken image will be a protection against the inevitable outpourings of bile from the deadwood press.

Much more serious for Corbyn is the enemy within. I have watched the Labour Party, as a relatively impartial observer of their internal debates, for donkey’s years. The most unscrupulous, disloyal and scheming individuals are on the Blairite/Brownite right, not on the Corbyn left.

Six have already declared they will not survive under Corbyn before they were even asked, such is their enormous estimation of their own abilities! The real problem for Corbyn is not the Tories and their press allies to the front but what lies behind and beneath in his own parliamentary group.

Fighting front and back is the ultimate dilemma for any political leader and virtually insoluble. And one truth of politics is absolute divided parties are unelectable.

A theft from the nation

The creation of the Great Tapestry of Scotland is one of the most dramatic demonstrations of people power in recent years.

Woven by more than a thousand volunteers, it depicts Scotland’s story in 160 woven panels and has been shown to hundreds of thousands of people.

On Thursday morning one of the panels was stolen while the tapestry was on display at Kirkcaldy Galleries. That panel alone represented the work of artist Andrew Crummy and seven women in Midlothian, who spent a total of 450 hours to stitch the famous features of Rosslyn Chapel.

As the tapestry’s project manager Ian Rutherford has said, the person responsible has stolen it from the nation.

If they have a conscience, then it is time to exercise it and return our tapestry now.