Last year, Michelle O’Neill was telling us that Brexit would “inevitably lead to the breakup of the current constitutional arrangements in Britain and in Ireland”.

Published: 21 February 2023

No more than Nicola Sturgeon, whom she described last week as a friend and colleague, did she appear to grasp the reality that a side effect of Brexit has been to turn many of the politically undecided against both Irish unity and Scottish separatism.

But then trapped by ideology and blinded by their hatred of England they have no understanding of the middle ground. They want to break up the United Kingdom. Most people just want competent government.

The Scots are beginning to picture the horrors that would be their fate as an independent country in negotiations to join the EU, including the requirement to install a hard Anglo-Scottish border.

And the Irish have clocked that extracting Northern Ireland from a Union more than three centuries old would involve at the very least major disruption to their country and their way of life.

The Sinn Féin and SNP cults, who have relied on flag-waving, grievance mongering and Brit-blaming to rally voters, and have benefited from a largely supine press, are now increasingly being wounded by journalists searching for substance beneath the style.

And St Nicola’s halo is fading by the day as her failures are subjected to scrutiny.

Even though UK government spending on public services in Scotland per capita is much higher than in England (in 2021/22 £13,881 to £11,549), transport has been a disaster, with two crucial ferries being appallingly delayed and ruinously expensive, and promises to upgrade vital roads unfulfilled.

On her watch, Scotland’s ranking in maths and science in international league tables fell to a record low and she failed in her aim to reduce the attainment gap between rich and poor children.

Scotland is the drugs capital of Europe, with drug-related deaths three times those of England. Crime is rising inexorably.

Health is in even more crisis than in England and though with her daily report on Covid, she hoodwinked viewers into believing that Scotland was doing much better than England, despite its lockdowns being longer and more expensive, results are very similar.

There is much more to be brought to public attention, including unanswered questions over the conduct of the SNP’s finances by its chief executive, Ms Sturgeon’s husband Peter Murrell.

That dispassionate commentator Professor John Curtice says “she leaves office looking more like a mortal politician rather than one who walked on water”.

I don’t buy Ms Sturgeon’s claim that she was retiring because she had run out of energy. She had finally realised the game was up.

There were no more Scots in favour of independence at the end of her eight years in office than at the beginning, and her strategy for achieving it was in tatters.

And her stubborn insistence on ramming the Gender Recognition Reform Bill through the Scottish parliament in the teeth of public opinion had made her, for the first time in her political career, a laughing stock.

When asked on television if the double rapist Adam Graham — who now called himself Isla Bryson and had been assigned to a female prison until Ms Sturgeon panicked at the outcry and had him rerouted — was a man or a woman, the renowned communicator floundered, dithered and then came up with: “She regards herself as a woman, I regard the individual as a rapist.”

“Scotland now had three genders, commented the journalist Alex Massie, “male, female and rapist”.

A comic footnote is that Mr Graham/Ms Bryon’s wife Shonna Graham, described the trans policy as “nuts, and Adam only changed sex to get an easier time in prison”. She had had voted SNP in the past “but now I think I’ll change my mind”.

Ms Sturgeon completed her predecessor Alex Salmond’s tribalisation of Scotland and gave Sinn Féin a run for its money in terms of encouraging hatred of England.

She has also introduced hate-crime legislation that threatens free speech even in homes. She has been a disaster for Scotland.

But we unionists should be fair to her. As the IRA ensured that Ireland would never unite, the divisive Ms Sturgeon has ensured that the Scottish independence is off the table.

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