WHILE out dropping political leaflets through those ubiquitous letterboxes, one sometimes bumps into the politically “aware”. And if one is really lucky, they will stop for a chat and offer up an opinion or two.

I honestly do welcome that – it makes for a pleasant change from walking up and down those homogeneous pathways and stairs around the streets of Inverclyde.

Quite often, and due to my very obvious political slant, these townsfolk will tell me that they voted No to Scottish independence because they felt it was “just too risky – Scotland is better off in the UK”. Fair enough. It’s an opinion. Not the most erudite opinion, but an opinion nonetheless.

These very same individuals have recently began to tell me that they “proudly” voted to leave the EU and (with very little particulars, facts or figures) they opine: “It’ll be fine, everything will sort itself out. Britain will survive”. Again, fair enough. It’s another, but even less erudite, opinion.

However, the one thing that these folk can’t tell me is why their world view and inextricably linked voting pattern has somehow become shrouded in the diaphanous veil of British exceptionalism – the perception that the UK is unusual or extraordinary in some inexplicable way.

Whether this stems from a subconscious islander mind-set, an education immersed in the British imperial history of an empire on which the sun never sets, a peculiar intergenerational attachment to “The War” or something even more abstract is open to debate.

Lately, I am left wondering how far this faith in British exceptionalism will stretch. Will it stretch as far as witnessing the policies of a government in London having a hugely disproportionate impact on the cost of goods and services in Scotland compared to the rest of the “United” Kingdom?

A report published by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) reveals that post-Brexit price rises will squeeze incomes more in Scotland and Northern Ireland than anywhere else in the UK. The report, An Equal Exit? The Distributional Consequences of Leaving the EU, is available on the IPPR website.

Will their faith be like the controlling influence of many organised religions? No matter how much of a storm is blowing, will they be told: “you must keep the British faith”; “the world of politics works in mysterious ways”; “your faith will only be strengthened by being thrown into a fiery furnace of isolationism”?

I had a crisis of faith many years ago. I’ve seen and felt the effects of Westminster government policy on Scotland – as a young man and also as a man with a touch more grey.

British exceptionalism? Look around you.

Scotland, one of the world’s richest countries, a supposed equal partner in the UK, misgoverned by Westminster for three centuries, has endured exceptionally high poverty levels. The only thing that prevents Scotland, as part of the UK, from becoming top of the pops in that particular unenviable hit parade is a welfare system and the provision of universal healthcare.

The devolved Scottish Parliament has tried to maintain both of those pillars of our society even though each have been subject to a sustained attack by Westminster policy gurus for as long as I can remember,

Anyway, I’ll get back to delivering those leaflets. I suppose the world will always need its lonely fools on the hill. I’m just glad to be one of them.

Mark Saunders
Port Glasgow