Thursday / Friday. 96 days of campaigning to go.
Where were you when you heard Hillary Clinton had come out in favour of the Union? Personally, I’d just stubbed my toe on the bed-post, so my answer would be “the floor”. I mention this merely so that the neighbours I disturbed with my cursing won’t assume I’m some sort of abusive Cybernat.
By contrast, I’m sure Jim Naughtie was on Cloud Nine. Jim is the only radio broadcaster I know whom you can actually hear punching the air with glee, as he does whenever some “authority” with “clout” pronounces doom and gloom upon Scotland. For two days a week he graces Good Morning Scotland with his presence, bringing a steady hand to the tiller and correcting its worrying drift towards balance. This is much appreciated by local staff, who have lapped up his master-classes in how to do broadcasting properly, and by Gary Robertson, who now has the chance to pursue other career opportunities.
What Hillary had said to Jeremy Paxman on Thursday’s Newsnight was, “I would hate to have you lose Scotland”. Perhaps she considered Jeremy the embodiment of the Westminster establishment, or perhaps she’d heard that government ministers had offered Scotland to him as a retirement present if he just stayed schtum about their rampant corruption. Either way, she wanted us displayed in full view on his mantelpiece and not shoved away in a drawer with all the other crap, at least not without having a clearly marked label attached.
Self-interest may have played a part in Hillary’s stance, since when she’s President she doesn’t want to press the Trident launch button only to find that all the missiles have been chucked in a skip. Nevertheless, a reverential Douglas Alexander, whom Jim took for walkies on Friday morning’s GMS, considered it a highly significant intervention by, gosh, just the USA’s most knowledgeable person on international affairs ever. Wee Dougie also squeaked his scorn that Yes Scotland hadn’t put up a representative to be talked over by Jim while trying to debate the matter. To be fair, they had issued a statement that said, “We’ve got better things to do than discuss this sort of pish.”
Like a satanic baggage carousel GMS rolled on, bringing us repeated plays of Hillary’s chinwag with Paxo interspersed with Brian Taylor’s casual dismissal of the Scottish Government’s economic regeneration plans. Finally Jim introduced us to Dr Pippa Malmgren, an honorary fellow of the Institute of Keeping Everything As It Is, who seemed remarkably unembarrassed about also being a former economic adviser to George W Bush.
Pippa’s breezy, snorting contempt for “separatism” was so potent she could bottle it and sell it for big bucks at Bilderberg conferences. The US, she declared, was lumbered with county-level separatist movements in California and elsewhere, so no current or wannabe President was going to offer general support to separatism, and Scots oughtta think about that. Even Jim, perhaps worrying about his Union Jack underpants catching fire, felt constrained to point out that Scotland was a tad more significant than a county. Still, he neglected to raise the possibility that on this particular subject Mrs Clinton might simply have opted to shut her cakehole.
Anyway, Pippa asserted, Scotland going it alone would be a “defence issue” for the US, a piece of botheration it didn’t need when Iraq was turning out to be nothing like the slam-dunk envisaged by Donald Rumsfeld back in 2003. As for our NATO membership, it would be a “transition process full of question marks”, although whether the famous Rumsfeld dictum would categorise these as known unknowns, unknown unknowns, or no-nos (known or unknown), she didn’t know.
As Pippa triumphantly rounded off her diatribe, Jim relaxed into a throaty “Ha ha!” God was back in his heaven, an “expert” had once again demonstrated independence to be too troublesome to contemplate, and his own memory of Annabelle Ewing running rings round him the previous day had been completely exorcised. He could look forward to enjoying Land of Hope and Glory blasting away on his iPad in the first-class carriage back to civilisation without being nagged by a feeling of hollowness.
And so, by supplying a trumpet fanfare for another endorsement of the Union from a high-profile figure whose business it isn’t, the No campaign continued with its strategy of doing the same thing over and over again even though it didn’t work the first time. As if we didn’t get enough of that at First Minister’s Questions.
Where was I when I heard the Pope had come out in favour of the Union? When that happens, I’ll let you know.