Friday, 18 November 2016

On President Trump and Scotland

For my Daily Record column

Just think, except for a few wind turbines it could have been Alex Salmond, not Nigel Farage, in that golden elevator with his now lost best bromance ever. 

Through these sliding doors and nine days into Trumpland the wretched acceptance of political reality is no easier to bear.

Thole it we must. Yet, could many Scots have woken last Wednesday morning thinking their sense of security in this uncertain world could be improved by another leap into the unknown?

In that sense a Trump victory was never going to be good news for the SNP whose politicians now run up the down escalator explaining how their populist nationalism is so different from the 56 other varieties of a brand which is taking us on a conveyer belt back into a dark history.  

Because we have been living life under the microscope of Scottish nationalism it is through the telescope of the Trump tsunami we refocus and recalibrate.

Breaking the political system in 2011, the referendum rising and then breaking the back of the Labour party in 2015 - from close up we mistook all these for a swelling tide of Scottish patriotism.

Indeed they were, but in the context of 2016, this year of revolution, these results from Scotland were not just a rise in flag-waving Scottishness. That was the symptom, though not the cause.

On the world stage Scotland should have been seen as the canary in the coalmine, the flashing amber lights on the dashboard of social democracy.

Things were going so badly wrong in the wake of the 2008 financial crash and the old, mainstream political parties were not picking up on it. 

Scots were the first voters to be given a chance to embrace an alternative, and not an untested one. The SNP had been in office after a marginal win in the  2007 “hanging chads” election.

The SNP offer was based on the progressive, compassionate old politics it replaced, a liberal force which Trump has flipped into a toxic brew.

Thousands of people, not all of them “left behind” by any means, were so sick fed-up of the status quo that they were willing to accept the overblown rhetoric, the white paper bag promises, and take a punt on something else.

“Post-truth politics” may be the phrase of the year but it is not new in Scotland. “I’m not a nationalist, but...” became a byword for patriotism but also a far deeper political disconnect that the social democrats still have no answer to.

Much the same thing happened in America last week, just on a grander scale. 

Once again, in the context of Whitehall’s Brexit “burach” and Trump’s handbrake turns in the face of political reality, the hollow echo of 18 smooth months to independence can be heard scrunching into the bin.

In the short term Nicola Sturgeon benefits from being anti-Trump, as every liberal politician in the west does.

But given the extensive Scottish links of the most powerful man in the world there can no doubt that Trump will at some stage exploit his homeland connection, sweeping aside any disagreeable political blowback from the First Minister.

This guy went to Mexico after threatening to built the wall, he’s going to have no problem hugging Caledonia.

Downing Street has signalled that Theresa May will be rushing across the Atlantic with a Christmas present but it is interesting to note that she will not beat Enda Kenny, the Irish Taoiseach, to the White House.

The first thing you do on being elected is start campaigning for re-election and so the Irish patronage has nothing to with Ireland and everything to do with Donald Trump’s second term.

On St Patrick’s Day Trump will be signalling to the urban descendants of Irish immigrants, the Democrat voters of Chicago and New York, that he is their guy too. Expect the Polish and Czech leaders to receive the same treatment.

Trump will embrace us whether we like it or not. Airforce One will touch down at Prestwick and probably Stornoway airport too, the runway is long enough.

On Lewis a President Trump would get the cordial welcome afforded to any emigrant’s son. The office, if not the man, would be respected.

There would be protests about the repugnant revolution that Trump has harvested. The First Minister would be perfectly within her rights to cold shoulder him.  

But the SNP shouldn’t complain too much about a populist politics fuelled by patriotism and division. After all, they started it. 

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