Brexit, nationalism, a rise of extremes on the left and right has politically jiggered this once happy land, writes Jim Duffy.
London is probably one of the most unfriendly cities that you will ever walk about in. A trip on the Tube or any overground rail network will make you feel cold, miserable and unwanted inside.
Whatever you do on the Tube, never try to engage anyone in conversation. The chances are they will ignore you, pity you or move away from you. You worry that, depending on their mental state, they might even attack you.
Then, walk up any London street and try to be convivial and chipper. Forget it. No-one wants to be bothered and is living in their own wee world. Of course, that would never happen in Scotland would it?
Look again. We are miserable.
This week, as I travelled around Scotland from Glasgow to Dundee to Edinburgh, what I saw was a glum lot. As I walked around Glasgow city centre, people just stared ahead. For sure, there were people glued to their mobiles, living in the world of the Matrix.
And, even from others, there was just no eye contact or the slightest effort to say hello anywhere. The descriptors that sprung to mind were sullen, aloof, weighed down, beaten, lifeless and withdrawn. What a gaunt nation we have become.
Edinburgh and Dundee were not any better. Our Capital city was always known for being that bit more circumspect and reserved in its approach. And it has certainly maintained that crown. The only people to engage were the tourists!
Council workers everywhere were stony-faced. What I would call pretty young ladies promenading to and from work could not raise a smile or look left or right from their chosen direction on the grey pavements. Shop workers were staring out shop-front windows, looking forlorn on the minimum wage. What has happened to Scotland? Have we lost our mojo?
Is it Brexit that has us all a bit down I wondered? Even with Boris now entrenched in 10 Downing Street with his “can do” attitude and call to arms, I don’t think it will cheer up the people of Scotland somehow.
What’s the worst that can happen? Johnson could take the UK out of the EU crashing, kicking and screaming. Stock markets will dip and we hit recession. He will borrow one hell of a lot of money to try and make us feel good, killing off all the austerity thrust upon us by George Osborne and Phil Hammond. This will, in turn, lead us further into a debt mire.
There you go, that wasn’t all that bad. So, why the glum faces Scotland?
Then I considered maybe that will indeed accelerate the movement for Scottish independence. Is that not we want or what the political classes here tell us all that we want? Yes, we can split from the rest of the UK and go our own way. Life will not be that bad either. After all, the SNP have been planning this for years. We will live with a no-deal bludgeoning from England and immediately try to borrow as much as we can to keep us all happy and our faces straight. This will again in turn lead to recession and in-fighting as we look inward for someone to blame. And we cannot blame BoJo for this one. Again, not much of a happy picture, but hey we can hoist saltires and other Scottish romantic flags up poles to make the place look brighter.
Then I thought it was the weather. A couple of days of “taps aff” heat, park bins full of empty beer cans and people moaning about the heat before the rain reappears and reaffirms our glumness. Thank your god for the rain eh? It puts it all back into perspective for us as a nation. Why should we be happy when it rains all summer? It was all starting to make sense for me now.
The current political climate domestically and internationally has blighted the people of Scotland. It has blunted our enthusiasm and we have lost our way. The Trumps of this world, the Boris Johnsons of this world and the extreme right and left, coupled with nationalism, have left us politically jiggered. We appear to have run out of steam.
London doesn’t care a jot for us. And this indifference has spread northwards beyond the M25 and across the Scottish border. It has enveloped us and left us like zombies instead of the cheeky nation that we once were. That is why no one is saying hello these days or smiling at strangers in the street anymore.
And even if we rid ourselves of London-itis, we have no real vision for what an independent Scotland could look like. I could not name you one Scottish MSP with verve, charisma or charm who I believe would give us a pep talk that we would would listen to.
They are all just as dull and grey as the weather and the pavements. I do hope Jo Swinson injects some new life into the Lib Dems. Otherwise she will join Theresa May in the ex-leader graveyard of has-beens.
Take my challenge today and observe others looking glum in our streets. Perhaps check yourself and ask what message you are sending out to others on the pavements. Look around at the lack of community as you traverse these big cities.
Something is lost but, I hope, not forever gone. We need cheering up – bigstyle. Unfortunately, we do not have world-beating cricket, football or rugby teams to help here. So, perhaps it is time for Scotland’s version of Nigel Farage to pop his or her head up and help us get our mojo back.
Scotland needs a motivator. Before it is too late ...