I FOUND myself wondering last week, as I reflected on the Prime Minister’s seemingly innumerable inadequacies, whether I had felt the same way about Mrs Thatcher. Sir Tom Devine’s line that “there’s a degree of contempt for Johnson in a way that there wasn’t for Thatcher” captures a difference that I feel.

It seemed easy all those years ago to dislike Mrs Thatcher – to be appalled by her seeming disregard for the upheaval which her policies caused. I suspect that even some of her colleagues were uneasy about her ideological certainties.

Maybe it was the naive respect of youth for age and authority, but it never occurred to me that Mrs Thatcher was an incompetent buffoon, who would lie fluently if that seemed to serve her interests, and who could do

little more than mouth focus group approved slogans, while having minimal interest in the hard work of developing and implementing policy.

As Scotland seems tantalisingly close to achieving independence, we should perhaps recollect Mrs Thatcher’s contribution to this happy state. I can’t quite remember how the Scottish Conservatives came to urge her to adopt a poll tax as a way of addressing some of the inequities of domestic rates – but the ultimate cause was probably too much exposure to the theorising of the Adam Smith Institute.

That was around the time that she came to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, and preached her Sermon on the Mound, whose message was captured in a soundbite in a subsequent interview that “there is no such thing as society.”

Society demurred, and steadfastly opposed the Poll Tax. Civic Scotland formulated the Claim of Right.

The Iron Lady had undone herself. And finally agreeing that there needed to be change, Scottish voters, in 1997, worked out which party to vote for to ensure that there was not a single Conservative MP returned.

The people of Scotland, through quiet persistence, won the campaign to have a devolved Parliament. That Parliament was ultimately in the gift of the UK Government, and that it was easy for a Conservative government to stop up its ears and ignore the demands for change.

I find it hard to imagine Mr Johnson surviving as Prime Minister for 10 years. The costs of Brexit and the pandemic will hem in his Government.

He can, though, obstinately delay and obstruct a second independence referendum. And in this at least, he will resemble Mrs Thatcher. His opposition to change will ensure its inevitability.

The path to independence will not simply be through political institutions. Broad social engagement was essential to achieving devolution. Political parties, and elected representatives will have a role in this. But they represent specific interests, and need support and leadership from other organisations, so that independence seems inevitable and natural.

Robbie Mochrie


BEFORE the next independence referendum, the Scottish Government must initiate an irredentist claim at Westminster for the 6000 square miles of North Sea waters transferred from Scotland to England, on the eve of the opening of the Scottish Parliament, by nothing more than a Westminster order in council.

Yes, not even a debate in the House of Commons. Everything organised by Henry McLeish to the satisfaction of Tony Blair.

This matter should not be left until after independence is achieved. Apparent acceptance of the revised boundary may compromise Scotland’s otherwise cast-iron case in international law.

Andrew Orr