INDYREF is as dead as the parrot in Monty Python’s sketch, says columnist, law professor and former Tory MSP Adam Tomkins, so why can’t Yessers move on?

You know, on a hot summer’s day when one’s batteries are a bit flat, provocations like this are definitely a livener.

Now, to be fair to Prof Tomkins, he doesn’t say independence is impossible. Just that it won’t happen via a referendum thanks to realpolitik (no Westminster government will transfer Section 30 powers) and the Supreme Court’s pronouncement that without such powers, the “world’s most powerfully devolved parliament” cannot lawfully consult its own people in a public vote.

Ha ha. Gotcha.

Now, maybe this will come as news to Prof T and his conservative chums, but rigging democracy rarely guarantees acceptance. Sounding awfy pleased with yourself by asserting your guys will keep breaking all the rules of fair play – that doesn’t encourage compliance.

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Indeed, expecting Scots to be telt by politicians we didn’t elect to knuckle down, abandon the democratic process and give up on independence – that sticks so badly in the collective craw you’d think half of us must still be planning to vote Yes again.

Oops. We do.

Yip, Number 10 has made a vote hard to achieve. But how very dare any Tories decide our strategy for gaining popular backing, once a route to independence has emerged.

Mind you, Prof Tomkins wishes a plague on all political leaders who’ve failed to “understand the implications of the seismic [Supreme Court] ruling”.

Not Humza Yousaf, Douglas Ross or Anas Sarwar.

The Prof insists the implication of the court ruling is simple; the “indyref politics in which Scotland has been stuck since before 2014 is dead, but political parties, and their complacent, pedestrian leaders are so sclerotic, so unaware, so bone-headed and so asleep at the wheel, they have yet to notice”.


Prof Tomkins is clearly not nailed to the perch like the unfortunate Norwegian Blue, but alive and kicking. But maybe not thinking clearly about the last 10 years – or the current predicament facing EVERY party over the London Tories’ stubborn refusal to parlay with the Scottish Government.

If Douglas Ross announces that he and Rishi have valiantly seen off the next indyref, the Scottish Tories will be as dead as political dodos (forgive the mixed avian metaphors).

All they have going for them is opposition to independence. Without that “threat” lurking round the corner, the referee will have to reveal his party’s policy agenda and defend Westminster’s track record. And no-one wants to be going there.

Yesterday, for example, Cabinet Office ministers were scrambling to supply paperwork demanded by the English Covid-19 inquiry chair Heather Hallett. She wanted Boris Johnson’s unredacted Covid-era WhatsApp messages, diaries and notebooks – material the Cabinet Office first described as “unambiguously irrelevant” and then maintained it didn’t actually possess.

Finally, Boris himself handed over the unredacted WhatsApp messages, said the Cabinet Office had had access to them for several months and called on the UK Government to “urgently disclose” its material to the Covid inquiry – leaving Number 10 denying accusations of a cover-up.

An anonymous Tory MP told Politico; “The Cabinet Office is in flames and is committing political errors so large they can be seen from the international space station. A series of disastrous decisions to take on Boris and then the Covid inquiry are backfiring with massive effect.”

Apart from the reassuring knowledge that cynical cover-ups and Whitehall bungling have survived several changes of prime minister, why does this matter? After all, ex-PM Boris Johnson is the actual personification of an ex-parrot.

It matters because every minister, including former chancellor Rishi Sunak, wants to keep their pandemic messages private. So, Boris is only revealing his to try and shame Rishi.

Petty, petty, petty.

This is what British governance has come to – and there isn’t a scandal in Scotland that matches it.

Indeed, it seems Crown Office delays mean British ministers will avoid answering inquiry questions about the deaths of care home residents until after the expected election next May.


With such tawdry realities awaiting any change of political focus, why on earth would Douglas Ross drop the Scottish Conservatives’ long-standing obsession with the “danger” of another indyref?

And it’s the same for the Scottish Labour leader.

Yesterday saw another awkward Middle-England-facing policy announcement from the Boss. Indeed, for Anas Sarwar, superstar Bruce Springsteen might be an easier act to follow than Sir Keir “wrecking-ball” Starmer.

If he’s not ending Labour’s chance of winning seats in Aberdeenshire with a moratorium on new oil and gas licences, Keir is waving goodbye to the Remain-backing voters Sarwar must coax back from the SNP after assuring Express readers that “the UK’s future is outside the EU” – not in the single market, not in the customs union and not with a return to freedom of movement.

But – he insists – if elected, he’ll act immediately to make Brexit work for Britain.

Is any laughter hollow enough to do justice to this reality-evading pish, to quote Mhairi Black?

Let’s be clear – no European cavalry is now coming for Scotland. Not for the hard-pressed tourism industry, the care sector, shellfish producers or Scottish agriculture. Not under a Labour or Tory government. And there’ll be no remedy for the permanently lost markets and exclusion from the continent-wide green transition.

Thanks to Westminster interference in everything from the bottle return scheme to the incorporation of children’s rights into our legal system, Scotland also faces a struggle to keep pace with

EU trading and legislative standards so we have a real prospect of an easy re-entry.

Actually, we should be thanking Starmer. He’s making the case for independence for us because whatever empty words Sarwar utters about Europe, we know the truth.

His London boss doesn’t care enough about winning seats in pro-Remain Scotland to fudge his position even slightly on EU membership. Either that or Sir Keir believes the 23 Scottish Labour seats predicted last week by YouGov are already in the bag.

Naughty, naughty.

Does he not remember what happened to Neil Kinnock in 1992? Premature victory celebrations fizzled out after a humiliating win for the man with the mega-phone, John Major.

Now, of course, Prof Tomkins is correct to say that the Supreme Court verdict and Number 10 intransigence will force a change of strategy on the SNP.

It’s also true that independence won’t easily happen now without a steady Yes lead in the polls. But then, we always needed that to guarantee success.

So let’s set aside for one minute that Number 10’s denial of successive Holyrood mandates is a democratic outrage that no self-respecting citizen would take seriously or accept. It also destabilises the WHOLE of Scottish politics, forces the WHOLE of Scotland to tread water and inflicts policy stalemate onto the WHOLE Scottish Parliament as if governance on these islands was just a jolly jape.

So sure, it may look as if Westminster has the perfect hand, but in playing too hard, too recklessly and without any conscience or care, Unionism stands revealed as the real dead parrot in this sketch.

Not “just resting”, but thoroughly discredited, on a daily basis by the London leaders who would have us believe they care.