Indeed, it was such a damp squib that even the usual cheerleaders were unable to muster enthusiasm. “Her heart’s not in it,” they muse. “Maybe it’s not the right time, after all,” reflect those with ears to hear.
The national conversation people are engaged in is about getting through hard times, which are likely to get worse. Even for those with a predisposition to independence, there is a massive disconnect between these priorities and the vague hypotheses to which Ms Sturgeon sought to divert our attention.
Far from addressing serious questions, this was a cobbling together of “comparators”, which took the relative awfulness of the UK as its starting point and blithely ignored all inconvenient evidence to the contrary – not least the fiscal support that saw us through the pandemic.
In the promised land, we would have Scandinavian-style services without a word about taxation. Ireland is proffered as a wonderful model to aspire to, even if it hasn’t got round to having an NHS free at the point of use after a century.
Or how about “the Danish Disruption Council” which “provides a positive recent example of the consensus-driven approach to economic development”. Do we really need a separate state to have a Disruption Council?
By definition, the paper excludes mention of anything that could be done much, much better using the powers and resources already controlled by the Scottish Government. All societal ills must be due to lack of powers – a falsehood which no rational person can believe.
The pretence also has to be maintained that the only legitimate comparators are small independent states. Then cherry-pick the bits you like but don’t actually do anything to emulate them without waiting for independence.
Unlike narrow Nationalists, I am deeply interested in learning from other countries regardless of their constitutional status. Take one example. Norway has been devolving jobs to its periphery for decades to support the survival of fragile coastal communities. Scotland does not need to be independent to do that but has shown not the slightest interest in any such philosophy. Why not?
The basic lie is that Scotland is an exception as a small nation within a larger state. In fact, most of Europe developed that way, Germany and Italy not until the late 19th century, long after the UK had been formed.
In most of modern Europe, people carry two or more identities with ease, without trying to break up the state they live in and turn back the centuries to dark ages of conflict. Scotland, in contrast, has to be force-fed a constant diet of grievance and resentment in order to divide us between multi-identities that most of us are perfectly able to accommodate.
A more honest paper on comparators would include a few nations within states – Bavaria or Catalonia or Britanny might be interesting. What have they done right that Scotland could learn from without the constant emphasis on creating a border as the answer to everything?
The problem is that there is no interest in learning, only in lecturing according to a pre-ordained script. If there can be only one true gospel to make us “happier, wealthier, fairer”, then why bother working with the material in our possession to achieve the same ends?
Did I mention the word “border”? Well, Ms Sturgeon’s document certainly doesn’t. We do two-thirds of our trade with the rest of the UK yet she wants to create a physical border within our small island. At that point, enthusiasm for comparisons with Ireland wanes to the point of non-existence. Creating borders, for myriad reasons, is a seriously bad idea.
I have a mildly optimistic feeling that this prolonged, publicly-funded stunt is going to backfire on Ms Sturgeon and her one-dimensional politics. By going through the motions for her core support, she is also showing a remarkable degree of insensitivity towards the urgent concerns of the great majority.