WHEN asked what was the biggest difficulty he faced in office, Tory prime minister Harold Macmillan famously answered: “Events, dear boy, events.” The quip may be apocryphal but it is certainly true in essence. Time after time, governments and political careers are shipwrecked by chance constellations of events. The point being that politicians are only tested by the crises they face.

And the worst crisis of all to deal with – as in the case of Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson – is the one created by a politician’s own hubris, arrogance or incompetence. In Boris, all three failings are present in abundance. For Johnson – the true political lightweight in the Cabinet – is the author of his own downfall. It is just a pity so many of thousands of Covid-19 victims died as a result and so much of the trust of the electorate has been squandered in the process.

Yet the supreme folly at this moment of Tory crisis is for the national movement in Scotland to be seduced by the notion that Boris Johnson himself if the issue. Yes, he is a fool who should never have been given the keys to Downing Street. Yes, he is an Eton-educated elitist and serial fibber – masked only by his inveterate showmanship. A man who habitually – in both his public and private lives – rejects personal responsibility.

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But getting rid of Boris and installing a more competent figure in Number 10 is hardly the central political demand for the national movement in Scotland. I suppose the argument is that pushing for Boris to resign or be dumped is useful because it exposes Tory incompetence and puts Westminster on the back foot. Yet our enemy’s confusion is only useful if the standard bearers for Scottish self-determination are able to seize this moment to advance the nation’s cause.

My worry is that by focusing primarily on getting rid of Boris, leading SNP politicians are in danger of playing into the hands of the British establishment. For Boris now stands as a threat to that establishment and they are as anxious to be rid of him as we are.

Johnson was promoted originally and bankrolled by the big City hedge funds (financial gamblers) because he was a political disrupter and a populist capable of smashing Labour. But the Brexiteer hedge funds wanted to subvert the traditional, sleepy British establishment of Oxbridge, the big (and commercially lazy) banking and insurance houses, the liberal BBC, and a Tory Party dominated by elderly petty bourgeois types anxious to rerun the Second World War forever.

But the hedgies backed the wrong man. Boris Johnson is showman, not a social revolutionary. In office, he has preferred presiding over a Bourbon court of lackies and arse-lickers, making up policy announcements to fend off the real work of governing.

As with the Northern Ireland Protocol, Johnson’s administration preferred to do short-term deals to muddle through, assuming they could simply repudiate such deals when the going got tough. When the Covid crisis first hit, the default of the Johnson swamp at Number 10 was to print money and use it to stuff their hedge-fund and business cronies with lucrative contracts. And party the night away.

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In Johnson’s Britain today there is a whiff of the Weimar Republic, that decadent era in Germany before the rise of the Nazis. If there is a metaphor for the Boris Johnson’s English Weimar administration, it is the new movie Munich – The Edge of War (from the Robert Harris novel) turning the antisemite Neville Chamberlain into a national hero. But as history shows, after Weimar comes something much worse. Whether Boris and Carrie survive for a time or are dumped by frightened Tory backbenchers, the establishment is going to close ranks and impose order. They have no choice.

AT the same time, the hedge funds and their uber-libertarian backers at Westminster (the Steve Bakers of this world) have suffered a political defeat in Johnson’s political implosion. The revenge of the Thatcherite Tory establishment will be a return to fiscal conservatism. The bill will be paid (as always) by ordinary folk. Taxes will rise and public spending will be cut, to “balance the books”. Only in this iteration of Thatcherism, the impact on working families will be catastrophic.

The one escape for Scotland is immediate independence. The issue is no longer academic. If independence is not secured in the very short term, the living standards of ordinary Scots will plummet. Additionally, Westminster’s new era of austerity will fall heavily on Holyrood budgets. If the SNP government follows its usual default, Treasury cuts will be passed on to Scotland’s local councils, impacting even more savagely on our cities and towns.

In these altered circumstances, the SNP-Green coalition at Holyrood cannot do business as usual. It must use existing powers – even defying Treasury spending rules – to protect Scotland, its towns and people. Waiting endlessly for permission to hold a referendum is – in these conditions – tantamount to betraying the nation. If we are in essence a sovereign nation, then let us exercise that sovereignty now in defiance of the fools who run the UK. For if we stick to conventional political remedies, we are likely to see independence postponed for a generation.

Ordinary people can only suffer so much and remain optimistic. In the post-Boris era, crushing energy bills, rampant price inflation and killer taxes are going to lower living standards precipitately.

The likelihood is that folk will retreat into protecting their families from the storm. Support for independence could decline as voters become demoralised and apathetic.

In Ireland, support for independence waned for a generation after the defeats of the 1880s. In like manner, in Scotland the tide towards independence could abate. Unless, of course, we use England’s political crisis as Scotland’s golden political opportunity to advance.

My point is a simple one. The issue today is not dumping Boris but defending Scotland from the coming economic onslaught. In fact, replacing Johnson at Number 10 with the millionaire banker Rishi Sunak would be a step backwards for Scotland, and ordinary working folk across the UK.

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Instead, the SNP government must rally to Scotland’s economic defence. That means openly defying Westminster on issues the Scottish electorate can understand and agree with. This would be a strategy of tension. At the least, such a strategy could win economic concessions. At best, it would force the hand of Westminster, rally the Scottish nation, and – above all – let Scotland seize the political initiative.

As a start, Holyrood must set an emergency budget defined by Scotland’s economic and social needs, not by Westminster austerity rules. This should include a massive increase in local authority funding and public sector wages set above inflation.

The SNP-Green coalition should then defy the Treasury and the Scottish Secretary to strike down this budget. Meanwhile, the FM should demand Scottish Labour support this “social” budget.

If the budget is vetoed by Johnson or Sunak, what then? The SNP-Green coalition should resign and precipitate an emergency Holyrood election. A majority victory in that election would be a de facto mandate for independence negotiations. Any alternative strategy – in particular, simply calling for Boris to go – hands the initiative to our enemies.