It’s Christmas time, as the song goes. I was out with one of my Indy friends and over lunch we discussed the state of the nation and the way we thought things were heading. Later on, we moved onto more mundane subjects; I was laughing about a gig that I was doing in a bar one time, when suddenly we felt the mood change. The band looked at each other and as one, we stopped playing, packed our instruments and left as quickly as possible. People who go to pubs or football matches know what I’m talking about. It’s when the atmosphere changes from the usual noise and shouting to something more menacing and usually precedes a fight. Smart folk hit the road at that point.
That’s what I feel has happened last week. In many ways the political noise is the same. Stephen Flynn made his debut as leader for the SNP at Westminster. He held a vote on having a referendum, only to have the rug pulled from under him the next day by Nicola Sturgeon giving away the earmarked £20million to help with fuel poverty. Nobody had sent him the memo.
And yet – it wasn’t meaningless. Labour abstained in the vote. It was immediately pounced on by those on the right, who said that Labour could not be trusted with the Union. And they were right. Labour abstained in that vote because they were afraid to vote against the motion. So many of their supporters in Scotland also support independence, but this is the first time since devolution that this has filtered to the top. Labour is scared of its voters in Scotland and it’s showing.
Again, this week we had the fifth poll in a row showing Yes ahead. Getting over that 50% hurdle may not seem that much of a deal – we have been hanging about the 48% mark for a while, and it’s only a couple more percentage points, but it’s a massive psychological leap. It’s the difference between a team playing in your half and you playing in theirs. It’s also been consistent. Something has shifted, something has changed, and the political noise has changed to something more solid and definite.
It doesn’t mean that things are going to be easy. I won’t be the only one that has noticed the change in the political air and we have a long way to go. But I did come away from lunch with a spring in my step. Independence doesn’t feel like a dream anymore, like a distant mirage. Rather, it feels now like something tangible, within reach. Ultimately, it will be the people who decide when they are ready for independence and will push for it. Right now, it feels like they are.
Roll on 2023. I think it’s going to be interesting.