Neil McNicholas: Queen Nicola’s tartan-tinted take on reality

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IS it the SNP (Scottish National Party) or the NSP (Nicola Sturgeon Party)?

I keep getting confused. Does La Sturgeon think that by being called “First Minister” (of Scotland) it’s the same thing as “Prime Minister” (of the United Kingdom) – the words first and prime being very similar in meaning? Is she also hankering to become Queen Nicola I of Scotland? Get the Stone of Scone ready for Stur’n – she’s on her way.

You know when kids drive their parents crazy wanting to sleep in a tent in the back garden and then keep coming back into the house for food, or to use the toilet, and eventually to sleep in their own beds because it was dark and scary outside? Or a young couple marry and move into the house next door to the bride’s parents and it’s just like she’s never been away – popping in all the time for a cuppa, or for her mother to do little jobs for her?

So with Ms Sturgeon’s devolved Scotland – wanting to be independent, but always happy to take any money or hand-outs that may be on offer, a convenient bolthole when the going gets tough. And in a post-Brexit UK, and (if she gets her way) with Scotland remaining part of the EU, how do we decide who is a Scottish citizen and who isn’t? Do all those who are have to go back to Scotland, and if they do, where will all the houses and schools and hospitals come from that will be suddenly needed? Will all those who are Scottish citizens, and who are allowed to live south of the border, pay their tax to the UK Treasury to finance the services they use?

The reality is that the people of Scotland are either in the United Kingdom or are out of it; they can’t have it both ways. If they want out, then the open border is closed off and so is the stream of UK taxpayers’ money that is currently keeping Scotland afloat. Is Nicola Sturgeon absolutely sure that’s what she wants?

Can Scotland raise its own budgetary needs? Remember that oil revenue won’t feature very strongly – firstly because Scotland doesn’t control the wells and, secondly, because the price of oil is falling and so are the reserves. When it all goes pear-shaped, where will she turn cap-in-hand? Brussels or London again?

Much to her dismay, when she led the charge towards Scottish independence and looked behind her, she found not as many people as she thought were following her. In fact, the majority of people voted to remain part of the United Kingdom and recent polls suggest the same is still the case now, yet Ms Sturgeon’s tartan-tinted spectacles seem to give her a completely different view of reality.

So sure is she of the backing she thinks the NSP – sorry SNP – has that she has been issuing warnings left, right, and centre to anyone she suspects might stand in the way she has mapped out for Scotland – whether the people of Scotland want it or not. And they must worry about being led by someone who has such a poor grasp on the basics of arithmetic. Back in 2014, when the majority of the people of Scotland voted to remain in the UK, that vote was said to be a once-in-a-generation decision.

A generation is generally taken to be around 25 years and so 2014 – plus 25 – is 2039, not 2017, and yet the First Minister is already threatening to hold a second referendum if the Brexit process doesn’t go the way she wants. And will there be a third or a fourth vote until she gets the decision she wants? The EU did that to the people of Ireland, wearing them down through dogged persistence, and no doubt Ms Sturgeon thinks that, if necessary, she can do the same in Scotland.

Ahead of the two-day Scottish Parliament debate that begins today, I keep coming back to the same point of wondering how long someone can continue to challenge not just the democratically-elected Government of the United Kingdom, but also the union of our monarchy under the rule of the Queen (Elizabeth II that is, not Nicola I) before it becomes treason. There are any number of pre-Sturgeonites who could answer that question for her except that, unfortunately, they were hung, drawn and quartered for their troubles.

Europe might have been happy to have Scotland when it was part of the United Kingdom, but has Nicola Sturgeon asked the EU if it would still want an independent Scotland? What guarantee can she offer that it won’t become another Greece or Spain or Ireland? And if it does, I hope she realises that she can’t come running home to mother.

Neil McNicholas is a parish priest in Yarm.