Public discontentment with everyday life has been building in many countries since the 2008 financial crash and an apparent lacklustre response from centrist politicians has seen establishment parties, like the Socialists and Republicans in France, pay a heavy price.
Politics in Scotland and the UK is, thankfully, very different, but we have experienced a similar malaise that has persuaded some to buy into the hope provided by optimistic visions of Brexit and Scottish independence.
The Scottish Government’s own Growth Commission report provided a pre-pandemic dose of reality about the economic effects of the latter, while Brexiteers’ rhetoric is sounding increasingly empty as the hard facts stack up about the damage caused by leaving the EU.
The Office for Budget Responsibility has warned that the ongoing effects of Brexit will eventually add up to a four per cent cut in UK GDP, equivalent to about £100 billion a year, which will reduce tax revenues by roughly £40 billion, according to a recent article in the Financial Times.
For many people, Brexit was an answer to their problems, but it was a false one that is only adding to our woes amid the cost-of-living crisis.
It has left us with a UK Government, elected on a fiction padded out with downright lies, that is struggling to come up with a coherent plan to help the country through this most difficult time. Political chancers confronted by cold, hard reality. Whether they are actually found out by it is down to the electorate.
The Scottish Government’s focus on independence has also been a persistent distraction from the need to get the basics right: to foster a thriving economy, fix the NHS, raise standards of education, and improve working conditions. This is difficult, often dull work, but it is ultimately the only route to a brighter future.
Centrist politicians need to realise this and, guided by the expert advice so disparaged by opportunistic politicians selling dreams, find answers that make a real difference, along with a compelling way to rally public support.
If not, the siren call of political extremism will only grow.