IT shouldn’t come as a surprise that history really does repeat itself, that fake news isn’t a new phenomenon and that vested interests manipulate health crises and “plagues” to their advantage.

We’ve seen casual racism on the rise in regards “others” due to the blame game. Trump quite particularly blamed the Chinese for the current pandemic. Travel back to Europe and the Middle Ages. One recorded incident alone notes that 2,000 Jews were burned alive in the ghetto in Strasbourg in February 1349, all due to being “blamed” as originators of the plagues.

By 1892 it was acknowledged that cholera was water borne, but the elected officials of Hamburg preferred their theory that it was spread by “invisible vapours”. This was their excuse for not upgrading the water supply. These “elites” were also the merchant families running the trade, the economics and the town. When cholera struck, firstly they refused to acknowledge the epidemic, and then took action too late.

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Trade before people. Sound familiar? Historians estimate that approx 10,000 people died in around a mere six weeks. It took about a year to bring the situation under control and by then, the citizens were well aware of the failures of their “local government”. They were voted out at the first opportunity, to be replaced by a working-class party, the Social Democrats, whose platform was a mix of health and science before profit.

Is our own situation so dissimilar? Our PM began the fake news, downplaying the seriousness of the situation.

After all, if it was really serious, he’d have attended one of the five Cobra meetings commencing January 24 and not wait till March 1 before deigning to attend. Why not let the Cheltenham races go ahead under his leadership and rush around shaking each and every hand thrust in front of him, I’m alright (Union) Jack-style. But he wasn’t alright and neither was the original theory being considered: herd immunity.

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And what of the Exeter University study warning coronavirus could infect 45 million people in the UK if left unchallenged? It was neither Eton nor Oxbridge flavoured, so that was ignored. By March 2 the PM could tell us “we’re very well prepared”. And what did the Irish know, cancelling St Patrick’s Day parades? Pubs could stay open, the PM told us on March 16, but “don’t go to them.”

The penny hadn’t dropped that #ruk was leaderless and rudderless, tossed about between fake news, mixed messaging and the oncoming thousands of deaths. Their short-term holding plan – I do believe they had one – was to weaponise the whole situation. We’ve seen wordplay jingoism: war, enemy, fighting,winning, losing; capitalising on the likes of Captain Tom, culminating in the VE Day frenzy of flags, tea parties, conga lines and Vera Lynn sound-a-likes. There is a narrow divide between jingoism, nationalism and patriotism. They can and are used and interchanged depending on who uses them, where and when. At the moment, the PM, pro-Union parties and press are using combinations of all these factors to the max.

Our FM wrote in The National on Monday saying she has zero interest in politicking around the virus, but has every interest in protecting our NHS and saving lives. Is it too much to hope that we have every interest, every determination to see a pro-indy movement ready to return to campaigning?

Not a movement splintering, factionalising itself into the political wilderness. But one with the ability to seek the goal of independence without arguing itself back into the cold. Without such a grassroots-led movement, I fear independence is as far if not further away than ever.

Selma Rahman