top of page

Scots Wha Hae?

To the bitter end it was on a knife-edge. Yes, the Tories had largely swept the board in England, possibly propelling Boris Johnson into another term in office. But what if he lost Scotland? As our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, that’d put him on a par with King George the Third, who somehow mislaid the American colonies.

Robert Burns’ 1793 song served for centuries as the national anthem north of the border. But the Real McKenzies’ punk version neatly updates it.

Clash of the Tartans.

It’s not even about an overall majority. The ScotNats’ renewed mandate might yet get them unsheathing their dirks, for a stab at a new independence referendum.

Bojo can bellyache as much as he likes, but the force could be unstoppable.

The argument that Indyref One in 2014 settled the matter for a generation has, arguably, already been trumped by the Brexit result.

While England voted to leave, the Scots disagreed, quite strongly.

So much, many of them argue, for partial home rule. They deserve the chance to fight for the real thing.

All the more exasperating from the Tories’ perspective, given how well they unquestionably did, south of the border.

They easily took Hartlepool, which had been Labour-held since it became a constituency nearly half a century ago.

This shrinks the opposition to fewer than two hundred MP’s. They haven’t been that thin on the ground for nearly eighty years.

And the picture’s just as bleak for them in a great mass of town halls up and down the country.

The so-called red wall of traditional Labour support is looking more like the walls of Harfleur, after King Henry the Fifth ripped them apart on his way to Agincourt.

Broadly, what’s happened is the Conservatives have hoovered up all those voters who’d plumped back in the day for Ukip and the Brexit Party.

Leaves Sir Keir Starmer feeling nearly as miserable as Boris Johnson would be if he actually did lose Scotland.

Unfair to say it’s the end of the Keir show, but he’ll need to pull some pretty big rabbits out of the hat, and pretty soon.

Not that a new war for his party’s soul will do it any favours.

But, to translate a million miles of newsprint into English, loads of traditional Labour supporters now think the party’s up itself. And Keir’s boring.

And the brute fact is he hasn’t been gifted with the essential prerequisite of all successful politicians. Luck.

Remember, prior to the Brexit vote he was Labour’s Mr Remain. When that tiny majority of voters told him to shove it he’d no choice but to say whatevs.

Must feel like a barrister who’d tried and failed to get a murderer banged up having to say he wasn’t such a bad bloke really.

And his silk’s skills haven’t been much use in the Covid crisis.

It’s standard parliamentary procedure when something really bad happens to suspend party hostilities and all pull together.

Incredibly frustrating for a Labour leader who really is very good at forensically pulling arguments apart.

Comparable with a submarine armed with all the best state-of-the-art gizmos trying to teach a landlocked country its manners. A waste of torpedoes.

More recently, Sir Keir has managed to bring them to bear on the Tories’ seemingly sleazy underbelly.

But the the punters aren’t much interested.

A YouGov poll for The Times last week revealed seven in ten voters haven’t really been following the fuss about the Downing Street décor.

Dispiriting, perhaps, for all those Westminster hacks (including this one) to find their/our obsession is perhaps a tad onanistic.

Everyone’s determined to keep Tony Blair on the naughty step forever after he went a war too far in Iraq. But one thing he said is indisputable.

‘People aren’t that interested in politics.’

Any more than he was, on his own admission, in his younger years.

But scroll forward to today and what’s going to matter more to any sane person? Protection from a killer disease or who paid for the PM’s bloody wallpaper?

After a succession of initial reverses the government’s been having a very good pandemic war. Thanks to the scientists and the NHS.

Unlike poor Keir, Bojo did get lucky.

While Covid’s causing untold misery in India and elsewhere, here in UK more people are now dying from flu and pneumonia than from the virus. That’s official.

And, having largely licked the critter for the moment, the government’s working on keeping it that way.

They’re shelling out nearly thirty million pounds on state-of-the-art laboratories at Porton Down, to test Covid vaccines against new and nasty variants.

Nice to know the one-time chemical weapons installation is doing something useful for humankind.

And, without question, the jab is key.

Psephologists looking at last week’s voting are stroking their beards and talking ever so wisely about a ‘vaccine bounce’.

Doesn’t take any thinking about at all, when you think about it.

The furlough scheme, for all its grievous faults, has also shielded most people who’d otherwise have been in real trouble.

And hugely costly though it’s all been, the Bank of England says it’ll all be all right in the end. Actually, come the end of this year.

Apparently we’re on course for our strongest twelve months of economic growth since the Second World War.

After shrinking nearly ten per cent last year in the worst recession for over three hundred years, we should be back to normal by December.

Except in this respect. A survey last week showed almost fifty of the UK's biggest bosses plan to encourage staff to work from home two to three days a week.

And with the lifting of pretty much all restrictions now only weeks away, there are plenty of reasons for everyone to be cheerful.

We’ll even be able to jet to the sun. Not everywhere, obvs, but the list of ok destinations does include a fair few of the hot (sic) faves.

Quarantine on return, in many cases, but at home at least, not in some horribly expensive hotel.

Means France is doable, now that we aren’t after all at war with our traditional enemy, over fishing rights.

All got a bit heated last week, with the French threatening to turn the lights off in Jersey.

Arguably they’ve got a legitimate grievance, as Brexit’s doing them no favours. But it didn’t after all turn into 1066 and all that.

And probably won’t. But you can never tell. Some things are just instinctive.

Take what happened to a group of orphaned ducklings cowering in a bush by a busy road in West Yorkshire, one day last week.

Two animal-loving ladies rushed to the rescue of the two-week old birds in response to a social media alert.

But Caroline Appleby and Keeley Parsons couldn’t catch them as they kept scuttling around every time they tried to coax them out.

‘We just couldn't have left them,’ said Ms Appleby. ‘They'd have died if we hadn't rescued them.’

But they did, and here’s how.

They played a YouTube recording of a mother's call. And the dear little creatures came straight up to them, one by one, in a neat little line.


.Peter Spencer has 40 years experience as a Political Correspondent in Westminster, working with London Broadcasting and Sky News. For more of his fascinating musings on the turbulent political landscape, follow him on Facebook & Twitter.


bottom of page