In a recent guest post at Better Nation, Craig Gallagher cited Joan McAlpine and myself as two of the rare nationalist subscribers to the "A-ha paradigm". Clearly this wasn't intended as a compliment, but nevertheless I did briefly entertain the idea of embracing my hard-won reputation by changing the name of this blog to Knowing Me, Knowing You - A-HA!, or On That Bombshell, or something else Alan Partridge-related. (Ideally I would have gone for Bigamy At Christmas, but alas, that was Tony Ferrino.)
Leaving aside the question of whether Craig was right or wrong about me, I think he was bang on the money on one point - namely that the unionist camp simply don't 'get' what it is about devo max that many nationalists find attractive. There does seem to be a genuine belief that nationalists are so obsessed with independence that anything short of that can't possibly be of any interest, except as a stepping-stone to independence itself. Unionists are perhaps projecting their own narrow-minded assumptions onto us - after all, it's only a few weeks since Ed Miliband declared that Britishness would lose all meaning outside the context of a political state that has London as its capital. So maybe they instinctively assume we must feel the same, and that without a Scottish state our cause is a total failure. Not so. We're Scots now and always have been, with or without the political structures to match. And if we knew for certain that independence was never going to happen, there can't be many of us who would shrug our shoulders and say that it doesn't matter what degree of autonomy we have within the United Kingdom. Of course devo max is well worth having for its own sake, regardless of whether it would bring independence closer.
And it's not at all clear whether it would or wouldn't. I've always felt that Margaret Ewing was right in the 1990s when she dismissed the "Big Bang Theory" of the SNP fundamentalists. Some kind of Scottish Parliament was probably an essential first step if independence was going to happen. But would a parliament that has virtually all the powers of a sovereign state lead people to think that independence isn't necessary, or would they think "well, there's no harm in taking the final step now"? Without sucking it to see, we can only guess.
So that's what I'm inviting you to do in today's poll. From a purely tactical point of view, do you think devo max would bring independence closer, or not? You'll find the voting form at the top of the sidebar, and the poll will close in a couple of days.
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Some of you might remember an article by Gerry Hassan a couple of years ago, in which he claimed that the idea that English sports commentators still go on about 1966 is a figment of our imagination, and that the only people obsessed with the subject are in fact Scottish football fans.
Ahem. Gerry, allow me to present to you Exhibit Y - Chris Bradnam's commentary on the Andy Murray tennis match just a few hours ago...
"And as we look at Sir Bobby Charlton, it's 66 points apiece in the match."
I'm not making this up. He actually said that. In fact, given the circumstances, it seems all but certain that the production team realised in advance there was a chance that the overall points tally was going to reach 66 each, and lined up the shot of Bobby Charlton for precisely that eventuality.
Future Chris Bradnam commentary -
"Geoff Hurst in the crowd there. Coincidentally, the last rally contained nineteen strokes, and we're now sixty-six minutes into the match."
"Great to see Jack Charlton cheering on Andy today. Funnily enough, my co-commentator Lindsay Davenport was born in 1976, and the mathematicians among you will already have spotted how significant that is if you subtract just one decade."
All he has to do is throw in a "that night in Barcelona" at some point, and the search for Clive Tyldesley's natural successor will be at an end.