MORTALITY, or at any rate its proximity, has a way of shrinking time. Once the novelty of being locked down at home wears off, we will all start to retreat into ourselves. The external universe will vanish, and we will inhabit an eternal “now”. Any sense of the future or of things returning to normal will disappear – or at least seem remotely unreal.

But one thing is certain: this weird Plague Year will pass, as all the other Plague Years have passed into folk memory – 1347, 1665, 1919. And when the virus has gone, or at least dissipated, life will begin again. Except, of course, the post-corona era will be very different from the world we left behind in 2019 – economically, politically and socially.

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We will depart our lockdowns and step blinking into a new world. There will be a gigantic financial reckoning to consider. There will be economic ruins to repair on a global scale. There will be recriminations. There will be mourning and there will be blame. But there will also be hope and rebirth, in this new, post-pandemic civilisation.

Here in Scotland especially, the independence movement will have to ponder its relationship with this new world. Of course, the traditional, bedrock arguments for self-government will remain: the deep desire to run our own affairs; the urge to express our own, distinct culture in our own way; the aspiration to converse with the rest of the globe without London’s mediation or permission.

The National: Rishi Sunak has proposed huge spends to keep the economy from collapseRishi Sunak has proposed huge spends to keep the economy from collapse

Indeed, some arguments for Scottish independence will find themselves reinforced. Scotland did not vote for the past decade of Tory (and episodic LibDem) rule, with all its austerity, xenophobia, Europhobia, jingoism, hatred of public services, toleration of private greed, and raging Home Office and DWP incompetence. But who could have predicted that this catalogue of failure would leave us all at the mercy of plague and mass fatality?

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The Conservative austerity agenda will, in retrospect, be seen as the fatal cause behind the shortage of intensive care units, dearth of protection equipment for medical personnel, lack of medical staff, and desperate inability to test for the virus before it was too late. The oily Tory MPs and well-paid media commentators who parroted for years that austerity was a necessary requirement to “balance the books” will be exposed not just as incompetent fools but as mass murderers.

But here’s the political problem for the Yes movement: the virus has killed austerity as an argument for independence as dead as the dodo. The British establishment has spent centuries protecting its wealth and privileges. It will always do “what it takes” to defend its ultimate control over the system. And that includes, in the present emergency, dumping austerity policies.

The virus has changed our world in two distinct aspects, to which the independence movement must respond

Already, Chancellor Sunak has added circa £120 billion to projected borrowing – a figure that is bound to rise. True, that borrowing will have to be paid for in the future, though with interest rates effectively at zero the bill will fall on a future generation. But in the meantime expect the Tory toffs and hedge fund managers (such as Sunak himself) to lie, and tell you that an independent Scotland could never have afforded this cash bonanza.

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Brazenly, they will urge us to stick with the Union, even if it was the self-same Tory politicians who imposed the austerity that made us so ill-prepared to deal with the virus. And whose Universal Credit bureaucracy is leaving millions to starve as I write.

Frankly, you might wonder why we need any more reasons to dump the Union. Yet for the moment – and for very understandable reasons – most folk in Scotland are more concerned with not catching Covid-19 than with politics. This mood could last a while. If the pandemic does not abate quickly, the 2021 Holyrood elections might be postponed till the following year. A renewed Yes campaign could find itself rebooting after a long hiatus and in the middle of a post-virus, global economic recession. We need to prepare for that agenda now.

THIS means repositioning the Yes proposition in a fundamental way. The virus has changed our world in two distinct aspects, to which the independence movement must respond. First, the post-corona economic landscape will be one of massive global dislocation and intensified trade wars between the big blocs, with resulting gyrations in currency values and investment flows. The public relations fantasy of the SNP Growth Report – of an indy Scotland quickly and smoothly becoming another free-market industrial economy, trebling its growth rate, while happily using sterling – is now defunct. Economic survival is the name of the game.

The National: Tony Blair followed Thatcher in a lot of her ideas about state interventionTony Blair followed Thatcher in a lot of her ideas about state intervention

Secondly, the virus experience is reinforcing a deep sense of community and solidarity in Scotland, allied to greater use of public intervention in the national interest. In a twinkling of an eye, the Thatcherite-Blairite mantra that state intervention is always bad, bureaucratic and expensive has been buried forever. The insidious cult of private interest – always a brutal lie designed to camouflage corporate greed while turning individuals into consumer units – has evaporated before our eyes.

What does this mean in practical terms? The true raison d’etre for Scottish independence no longer resides in promoting bogus growth for the wealthy few – if it ever did. Instead, post-corona, it lies in safeguarding economic and personal security for every Scot – in building Scottish self-sufficiency in an increasingly dangerous and deranged world. The only way of ensuring we have enough to eat while not destroying our natural environment is for Scotland alone to manage its own land and seas.

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The only certain way to shield our health service from foreign takeover, and keep it fit for purpose, is to deny London the right to interfere in our affairs. The only way to nurture our young, succour our poor, and protect our elderly is to turn Scotland into one giant family.

Scotland has the talent, culture, brains and national spirit not just to survive in these uncertain times, but to make a better life for all our citizens

Scots have always been internationalists, and this is no appeal for isolation or autarky. But it is a call for the independence cause to embrace the idea that we need to build a new Scotland based on domestic economic resilience rather than profit; on preserving and actually visiting our own natural heritage rather than subsidising yet more foreign tourism; on building homes from Scots-grown timber rather than imported materials; and on creating a banking system that is locally owned, keeps Scottish savings invested in Scotland, and works for local people not speculators.

And we must do all this by devolving as much of the decision making as possible into the hands of communities, neighbourhoods, islands and villages.

The lesson of the coronavirus is stark. Despite our modern consumer idyll, throwaway fashions and social media, we live in a world where death is only a sneeze away. That should not make us more afraid than we need to be.

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But it should tell us that we need each other to endure and prosper – and that should be our message to our fellow Scots. Scotland has the talent, culture, brains and national spirit not just to survive in these uncertain times, but to make a better life for all our citizens. We wish no ill to anyone; we desire friendship with all. But we are determined to rely on our own capacities.