Scottish independence: Tory leadership contender Penny Mordaunt's tough talk about smashing 'yellow wall' will not silence calls for a referendum – Laura Waddell

Penny Mordaunt, a frontrunner on Tory leadership candidate parade, is making noises about seeking power “everywhere” in the United Kingdom and has promised to smash the SNP’s “yellow wall”.

Mordaunt’s blunt metaphor may be untethered from electoral reality but it is vividly evocative of the mascot for the American drink mix Kool-Aid, a giant, sloshing, anthropomorphic jug which insistently and troublingly brandishes a smaller jug of its rainbow-hued sugary self, bursting through walls into kitchens and classrooms while uttering the detached but nonetheless optimistic catchphrase “Oh yeah”. A glass? I’ll pass.

Writing for the Scottish Daily Mail earlier this week, Mordaunt said: “I can be a Prime Minister that wins votes across Scotland, the Yellow Wall, the Red Wall, Blue Wall and the entire United Kingdom.”

That Scotland bit is doubtful, to say the least. In this politician’s topography, the United Kingdom looks like the scarred underside of a tapestry, a tangle of primary colours refusing to sit in neat, uniform rows. But do those who envision themselves unpicking these threads, using sharp little tools, realise voters themselves placed the stitches?

In scenarios where Westminster politicians describe smashing their way to power and ruling over all the land – Scotland of course lumped in – Scots are rarely described as autonomous, educated voters who know what they want, and who have decidedly and repeatedly chosen the SNP in the slew of elections since 2015.

No, we Scottish voters are depicted, all too often, as mindless pawns waiting around to be captured. The party selected by Scottish voters as their political representatives is caricatured as some Scottish-inflected entity to be spited in the Commons carnival; and interest in independence is desperately disdained as some floating notion that should be simply quashed, rather than the clearly demonstrated and determined political will it truly is.

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That ‘yellow wall’ Mordaunt seeks to destroy has plenty of voters behind it. Stripping Scottish votes of their intention and deliberation minimises their legitimacy and shushes an increasingly loud Scottish democratic voice.

Conservative leadership candidate Penny Mordaunt, with supporter Andrea Leadsom, left, at a press conference to launch her bid to become the next Prime Minister (Picture: Leon Neal/Getty Images)

We can expect the other Tory leadership candidates to shuffle through their own ‘Scotland Problem’ scripts.

By now we know the drill, from every general election that has come before in which Scotland rejected the Tories but still got them, and from Labour, endlessly disappointing, reheating the same old rhetoric about denying us a referendum.

This routine never differs much. Scotland will be talked about, but not truly talked to. Prospective Tory leaders, of course, know members voting in internal contests are thin on the ground up here.

But candidates are also presenting themselves and their proposed prime ministerial priorities to the general British public, riding the flurry of publicity to set out their stall for general elections ahead. How they talk about Scotland matters – for now.

As Scotland watches a Tory leadership contest that could determine who next rules the UK, whether we want them or not, politicians across the spectrum continue to have their heads stuck in the sand about Scotland. I have no doubt they will continue to do so until Scotland actually breaks away.

Perhaps only then will the will of the Scottish people be impossible for them to deny.

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