I still haven't got around to doing my Top of the Pops list of the stupidest things said by unionist politicians and commentators in the two or three days immediately after the referendum. There are some absolute corkers in there, which all seemed pretty stupid even at the time, but needless to say they look utterly risible now that a bit of water has flowed under the bridge. Each and every one of them, though, has just been effortlessly surpassed by something said by a unionist commentator a whole three months after the referendum. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Mr Dan Hodges.
"I’m not sure what’s going on in Scotland at the moment, and I’m not sure I want to know. But I know this. Diana has gone. And someone up there has to start to get a grip."
From the incredulous tone of that remark, you'd be forgiven for thinking that something truly unspeakable must be going on here in Scotland - you know, a horror akin to the Reavers in Firefly and Serenity who have been driven mad by a disastrous scientific experiment, and who roam the galaxy looking for men to eat alive for sheer pleasure, before plastering the bloody remains all over their spaceships. However, what Dan is actually referring to is the fact that some of us would quite like to have another peaceful democratic vote on our constitutional future at some point in the years ahead, and don't accept that the vote in September settled the matter for the remainder of time. But, hey, that's kind of similar to eating people alive, isn't it?
Specifically, Dan can't get his head around the idea that 59-year-old Alex Salmond, who can quite reasonably expect to still be around in twenty years from now, thinks that a second referendum will happen (gasp) within his lifetime. What an ABOMINATION.
Dan's spectacular loss of the plot hasn't come completely out of the blue, though. A few weeks before the referendum, he penned an article about Scotland that seemed uncharacteristically reasonable - he basically said that the London establishment should just chill out and let Scotland get on with it, he didn't think we would vote to govern ourselves, but if we did that would be fine. However, there was still a distinct trace of menace in there, because he made a gratuitous aside about how the referendum would settle the matter forever (or words to that effect). When I read that, I thought to myself - where's he getting that from? I assumed that it was probably just the normal unionist arrogance of thinking that they can make up the rules of the game as they go on, and that the rest of us just have to go along with it. But no - it's become clear that he really did have it in his head that some kind of definitive promise of "finality" had been collectively made by Scotland as a nation.
Hence, his current grievance is based on a complicated and largely fictitious account of how the referendum came about and what its intended parameters were. The only question really is whether he knows that he's invented most of the story.
"Scotland wanted to resolve – once and for all we were told – the issue of whether it remained part of the United Kingdom, via a referendum."
You were told the "once and for all" bit by who exactly? By Scotland's popular national spokesperson David Cameron, perhaps?
"And that referendum was duly granted."
No, it was not "granted". It was legislated for by Scotland's own parliament, and by no-one else. All the Edinburgh Agreement did was remove any ambiguity over the parliament's legal power to take that step, but the Scottish Government always held the belief that they could have gone ahead anyway. Whether a challenge in the courts would have occurred or not, and whether it would have succeeded or not, will now remain unknowable. That being the case, you are in no position to claim that London generously "granted" a referendum, even in the most indirect of senses.
"It was free. It was fair."
Well, it was free. But as for "fair", you're having a laugh aren't you, Dan? Did you sleep through the "shock and awe" campaign of terror waged upon the people of Scotland by the entire London establishment, including by some institutions that are legally or constitutionally obliged to remain neutral, or indeed to stay out of politics altogether?
"It cost £13 million."
Er, so what? All elections cost money, and that's the price we pay for being a democratic country. Or is the subtle implication here that the long-suffering English taxpayer "indulged" a crazy whim of the Jocks? If so, that's utter tripe. As already stated, the referendum was brought about by Scottish Parliament legislation - Westminster didn't take care of the bill.
"And having voted in their free, fair, multi-million pound election, what did the people of Scotland, and their elected representatives, do next? They said “That’s no good! We’ve been cheated! We demand another go!”."
Is that code for "we might legislate to have another go"? As it happens, we don't need to feel cheated to think it's perfectly OK to do that - we just need to think we live in some kind of democracy. The basic rule of democracy is that people get periodic chances to determine how they're governed - as far as I can gather, next year's general election won't be the last one ever, and consequently won't decide which government is in power in the year 2150. (Or perhaps it will on Planet Hodges.)
Oh, and by the way - we were cheated, actually. The London government broke every constitutional rule in the book by secretly colluding with Buckingham Palace to bring about an "intervention" on behalf of the No campaign by the Queen. And that's before we even get to the shameless bias of the London-based broadcast media. Not that this makes any difference to the democratic principle I've just set out, but it's well worth bearing in mind anyway.
"Alex Salmond, who had said the referendum represented the “last chance” for independence, is now telling anyone who will listen he believes he will witness independence in his lifetime."
Does anyone actually recall Mr Salmond saying that it was the "last chance"? It would have been a very odd thing for him to say, given that it was actually our first ever chance to vote for independence. The inverted commas suggest it's a direct quote, but if it is (and I have my doubts) it must be taken way out of context, because it flatly contradicts what he repeatedly said throughout the campaign - namely that he thought constitutional referenda were a once-in-a-generation thing, but that even this was only a "personal view", ie. it wasn't binding SNP policy. And note that even Salmond's personal view did not imply, let alone clearly state, that a second referendum could not happen in his lifetime. Quite the reverse - a generation can be as little as fifteen years. It sure as hell isn't "forever", Dan.
"The man [Jim Murphy] who had claimed we would all be better off together, told his audience “I need no one’s permission. I consult no one on the issues that are devolved in Scotland other than the people of Scotland and the Scottish Labour Party. That's the way it's going to be in future”...We are part of a political union. It is a union that was reaffirmed, by the Scottish people, a couple of months ago. And we all have a stake in that union. Even us knuckle-draggers south of the border...When Jim Murphy boasts “what happens in Scotland will be decided in Scotland” does he not wonder what conclusion his English colleagues and the people they represent will draw?"
Oh, I do love you, Dan - only in your world could Jim Murphy be a Cybernat. Doubtless Michael Forsyth will have become an evil separatist by next week's column.
"Do the people and politicians of Scotland honestly think the rest of the United Kingdom is going to simply sit back while they carry on the way they’ve been carrying on before, during and after September’s referendum? Do they genuinely believe they can continue demanding a series of referendums on independence in perpetuity, until they get the result right, or get bored of asking the question?"
Dan, let me put this to you. If as an English political class you want the result to be decisive and lasting, what you do (as you once suggested yourself) is step back and let Scotland make the decision for itself. What you don't do is beg - literally beg - Scotland to "stay" in return for Home Rule, near federalism and Devo SUPER Max, and then break that "Vow" within hours of the polls closing. You really have no-one but yourselves to blame, I'm afraid. The temptation of holding onto our natural resources and our usefulness as a nuclear weapons base was, I suspect, just too great.
Ah well, never mind. You're in danger of cracking up over this, Dan, but at least it makes a nice change from the 748th minor variation on your traditional "Ed Miliband is a bit like Frank Spencer" article.