THEY say that even a broken clock is right twice a day. However, in the case of the broken clock that is former Labour prime minister Gordon Brown, the hands on his clock face read ninety seven past thirty three. Even so, over the weekend we experienced that vanishingly rare political phenomenon, even rarer than Michael Gove telling the truth, Boris Johnson displaying that he has a working knowledge of empathy, or even Priti Patel displaying compassion and kindness. Gordon Brown was right about something, it was only a fleeting instance and the Gordosaur quickly returned to the self-serving delusional fantasies which we all know and really don't love at all. But still, go you, Gordie, you managed to be right.

Speaking to the Sunday Times newspaper after Johnson had delivered his speech to the Scottish Conservative jellyfish who have decided after all that they still want him as prime minister even though they described him as "politically gangrenous," Brown gave his views on Johnson's insistence that "now is not the moment" for another independence referendum. Brown did not give his opinion on Johnson stealing the language of Theresa May, whom Johnson worked so assiduously to depose. May's line was the almost identical: "Now is not the time." Perhaps he was afraid of drawing comparisons between himself and Tony Blair, just like Johnson, Brown turned out to be a far worse prime Minister than the prime minister he devoted himself to plotting and briefing against.

However Brown was certainly correct in his observation that the Conservatives are afraid of another Scottish independence referendum, and that is why they devote so much political capital to avoiding one. There is no doubt at all that this is the case, because if Boris Johnson was confident that he could lead opponents of independence to victory in another referendum, he would call one tomorrow. That would allow him to pose as the Saviour of the Union, and provide him with invaluable political capital to use the next time he gets caught in some self-inflicted scandal due to his overweening sense of entitlement. 

The real reason Johnson is so afraid of another referendum is because he sees that the writing is on the wall for Theresa May's "precious Union" and he doesn't want to be left being blamed for it when there's an independence referendum in which the people of Scotland have a choice between independence or integration into the unitary state of Johnson's Brexit Britain as a mere "region", and vote for independence and Scottish self-respect. The Tory claim that they don't want another referendum because it would be "divisive" is just so much cant. Divisiveness didn't stop them holding the Brexit referendum, and after very narrowly winning it seemingly going out of their way to alienate both Scotland and that half of the UK electorate which had voted to remain by insisting on leaving the Customs Union and Single Market despite prior to the referendum dismissing claims that they would do so as scaremongering.  The Tories do not care about divisiveness, they only care about winning.

But having briefly being correct, Brown very quickly reverted to type. Brown told the Sunday Times: "But there's no doubt that's what the [British ] government thinks — that they can't afford to have a referendum." He added: "I'm not afraid of fighting a referendum or arguing the case in a referendum. I'm ready any time to put my arguments."

In Brown's case those arguments entail scaring pensioners and making promises that he can't keep, and would have no intention of keeping even if he did have the power. If that's the best that opponents of independence can do, no wonder they are afraid of another referendum.

This piece is an extract from today’s REAL Scottish Politics newsletter, which is emailed out at 7pm every weekday with a round-up of the day's top stories and exclusive analysis from the Wee Ginger Dug.

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