The sun is shining, the weather forecast is encouraging, the target of vaccinating the 15 million most vulnerable people in the United Kingdom by February 15 was met ahead of time, and despite the mean-spirited way in which Brussels is persecuting Northern Ireland, I am cheerful.
Published: 16 February 2021
So I was delighted to see in this newspaper on Saturday that Sandra Chapman, in an article called ‘Progress is forging away in the background’, see link below, showed she was equally inclined to count blessings.
She was talking about the tremendous possibilities in, for instance, the recent expansion in start-up companies and the help on offer to entrepreneurs with good ideas.
Other journalists and research organisations in the United Kingdom have been reporting that Belfast is rediscovering its proud engineering tradition and becoming potentially one of the UK’s most exciting new technology hubs.
We optimists see a future in which young people forget about politics and accept that this is not only a wonderful place to live but somewhere for the ambitious and forward-looking to prosper.
Already I hear the usual chorus of “Nonsense, the UK is doomed, Scotland will be voting for independence any day now, a united Ireland is inevitable and Brexit is a disaster that will end with the Brits begging to go back into the EU.”
So here, for unionists, are a few encouraging things to think about.
Under Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish National Party became a nasty party, resembling Sinn Fein in its Anglophobia, negativity and aggression.
As one hears unionists in Northern Ireland saying, “There will be no place for me in their new Ireland,” I’ve been told the equivalent by Scottish unionists and know some apolitical English people who lived in Scotland for years that they’re leaving because they’re sick of the aggression.
The English are a tolerant crew, but these days, now that Jeremy Corbyn and Gerry Adams are yesterday’s men, top of their list of Ghastly Politicians is Sturgeon, who abuses the state that heavily subsidises Scotland and whose cantankerousness extends to suggesting that the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Prince William, a future king, are unwelcome.
People with no interest in Scottish politics associate her with thin-lipped, angry, snarling. Not for nothing is she widely known as Mrs Krankie.
One of the annoying things for people who follow Scottish politics, is that Sturgeon’s gift is not for running a government — education and health particularly are in a bad way — but for lucid, fluent spinning and brilliant concealment of bad news.
Remind you of any other party that is run like a cult?
However, these days, the SNP cult is endangered as its two giants are engaged in Mutually Assured Destruction in what I disrespectfully christened “The War of the Fish”.
The veteran Scottish journalist, Alan Cochrane, summed it up recently: “The SNP administration is a truly appalling government, a ragbag of competing egos enmeshed in a bitter internal war played out on a daily basis between its past and present leaders, Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon, and with a record in domestic policy that’s second to none for ineptitude. Only the Covid pandemic and a flair for public relations, aided and abetted by a tame television channel, have prevented Sturgeon’s government from sinking into a morass of its own making.”
This complicated story has Sturgeon accused of breaching the ministerial code, misleading parliament, cover ups, persistent obstruction in providing information and plenty more, and her husband, Peter Murrell, the chief executive of the SNP, is alleged to have lied to a Holyrood committee.
Additionally, recent research shows that an independent Scotland would be so poor it’s hard to imagine the impoverished EU letting it in.
As for Ireland, the more that Sinn Fein shout about a border poll, the more nervous sensible Irish people become when they think seriously about the implications of a united Ireland — constitutionally, financially and socially.
There are few realists who think it would be easy to absorb a resentful million or so unionists.
Listen to Micheál Martin and other southern political leaders on the importance of postponing a border poll until the time is right.
And in Northern Ireland, the growing numbers refusing to be classified as either nationalist or unionist are unlikely to vote for massive instability.
My guess is that the only part of the United Kingdom which would be likely to vote for going it alone, is England, whose people are sick of footing the bills and being insulted. But any nationalists who cheer at that prospect should be careful what they wish for.
As for the shocking mess over the Withdrawal Agreement, I recommend reading the Centre for Brexit’s Correcting the Damage Caused by the Northern Ireland Protocol: how mutual enforcement can solve the Northern Ireland border programme, and its trenchant introduction by Lord Trimble.
Ursula von der Leyen has made such a hash of it that it is disillusioned Remainers, not Leavers, who are changing their minds.
Many EU heads of state — beleaguered by innumerable pandemic challenges – are desperate for a resolution.
Unionists have good reason to be angry, but the priority is for them now is to work constructively with Michael Gove to present an offer to Brussels it cannot refuse.
• Sandra Chapman: Progress is forging away in the background