Where Scots are concerned, it seems that for every Bannockburn, there’s a Darien Venture; or a Culloden; or Scotland Vs Peru 1978; or Scotland Vs Iran 1978; or Scotland Vs Costa Rica 1990; or the Gender Recognition Bill 2023. Continuous electoral success that was only momentarily derailed by the brief Tory resurgence spearheaded by Ruth Davidson in 2017 suggested Nicola Sturgeon’s lengthy tenure as SNP leader and First Minister of Scotland was destined to climax with her being crowned queen of an independent Scotland come the next ‘once in a generation’ referendum. And now it’s all over. Wee Nicola has announced she will be bringing the curtain down on her stellar political career without having seen through the fanatical obsession of every committed Scottish Nationalist to its ultimate conclusion, one that appears to take precedence over every other issue that elected leaders of countries are supposed to devote their time and energy to.
Nicola Sturgeon may have cited ‘personal reasons’ as the explanation for her sudden resignation, but the suicidal decision to promote a bill that has been received with such vociferous opposition beyond minority Woke circles has seen her poll ratings plummet and the ramifications of her tunnel vision on the Trans issue severely dent her credibility. The case of convicted double rapist Adam Graham underlined how spineless capitulation to the Trans lobby can result in the unsurprising, cynical exploitation of naive, ill-thought-out proposals by opportunistic criminals eager to save their own grubby skins rather than striking a blow for Identity Politics. Restyling himself as ‘Isla Bryson’ and dressing in drag to symbolise his overnight embrace of his feminine side saw this reprehensible individual rewarded with a safe passage to a women’s prison; here be the dark flipside of instant self-identification being legitimised without the need for the kind of surgical procedures that sort out the genuine article from the dilettante.
Such was the outrage that rightly greeted the Adam/Isla fiasco that it rebounded on Sturgeon and her bill, especially when it emerged that the SNP had rejected an amendment that would have prevented accused sex offenders from acquiring a ‘gender recognition certificate’ when waiting for their trial; a violent male rapist being dispatched to a women’s prison simply because he conveniently decides he was born in the wrong body before being sentenced is a situation that would only go forth and multiply were the proposals put forward in Scotland’s gender recognition bill to be enshrined in law; and the farcical outcome of the Adam Graham sentencing was hardly likely to endear one of the chief advocates of the bill to the general public. Nicola Sturgeon’s popularity north of the border undoubtedly suffered as a result of this calamitous misfire, and it’s difficult not to conclude that her unexpected decision to step down has come about via a realisation that taking a nihilistic detour from her long-standing ‘mission’ has cost her dearly.
Not that this has been the first such misfire on Sturgeon’s part, however. Along with the similarly left-leaning administration governing Wales, the SNP revealed its true authoritarian colours during the pandemic, imposing severe restrictions on the public that even exceeded the admittedly draconian measures imposed south of the border. Coupled with the party’s shabby record on a variety of outstanding issues that remain something of a stain on Scotland’s supposedly ‘progressive’ status in comparison to England, the SNP’s pandemic performance highlighted the error in handing power to a party that cloaks its intolerant, illiberal intentions in the guise of tolerance and liberalism. From the party’s abysmal handling of Scotland’s drug problem to its persistent curbs on personal choice – including alcohol, sugary foodstuffs, cigarettes and free speech – the SNP, and Sturgeon in particular, has routinely exposed itself as being one of the most regressive ruling parties in British political history – since Cromwell’s ‘reign’, anyway.
But it is the question of independence that has overridden every other concern since the SNP wrestled power from Labour in Scotland, when under the stewardship of Alex Salmond. Relations between the two SNP leaders appears to have soured considerably since Nicola Sturgeon’s telling silence and apparent lack of support during her predecessor’s courtroom challenge to those who accused him of inappropriate behaviour when in office, and one imagines there will be few tears shed for Sturgeon in the Salmond household now that she has chosen to fall on her sword. Independence is the SNP’s raison d’être, the sole reason it exists; and whilst frantically extolling the virtues of such an obsession on the fringes is a commonplace sight in politics, few – other than perhaps Sinn Féin in Ulster – have been presented with such a prestigious platform from which to broadcast their message; the SNP’s inability to devote adequate time and effort to everyday issues beyond the prime concern – and its absolute incompetence in dealing with them – has only laid bare the lack of flexibility and basic political nous at the heart of nationalist movements. Yes, Sturgeon came across as an impressive orator when lined-up next to a piss-poor parade of production-line careerists like Cameron, Clegg and Miliband during the televised party debates of 2015; but – as a female friend of mine once said – how can you trust someone who always wears the same bloody earrings? It takes a woman to notice these things.
RAQUEL WELCH (1940-2023)
Back in the days when a man could get away with observations of a lady’s physical assets by uttering such statements as ‘You don’t get many of them to the pound’, the name of Raquel Welch routinely cropped-up as an example of a female public figure renowned for being…erm…well-endowed. Yes, Dolly Parton may have eventually superseded Ms Welch as the most prominent example, but for the latter half of the 1960s and the first half of the 1970s, Raquel Welch was celebrated as the prime copyright-holder of the attributes many men value in the opposite sex. I suppose her memorable appearance in Hammer’s ‘One Million Years B.C.’, the historically-inaccurate yet undeniably enjoyable 1966 outing for Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion dinosaurs, sealed her reputation. The fur ‘bikini’ she wore for the duration of the movie as a prehistoric pin-up girl became one of the decade’s most iconic sartorial statements and a pop cultural snapshot that opened doors for the actress whilst simultaneously leading her down some fairly limiting and narrow alleyways.
For a period following ‘One Million Years B.C.’, Welch was a big enough name to have the luxury of choosing roles showing a side of her that transcended the sex symbol stereotype; like Marilyn Monroe before her, she exhibited a flair for comic acting that shone in films such as Peter Cook and Dudley Moore’s ‘Bedazzled’, the 1970 adaptation of Gore Vidal’s sex-change novel ‘Myra Breckinridge’, and Richard Lester’s light-hearted, swashbuckling version of ‘The Three Musketeers’; yes, she played upon her sex appeal even in comedy outings, but it was nice to see she didn’t take herself too seriously. On the other hand, many little boys of a certain age might recall her appearance in one of those serious sci-fi fantasy films that always seemed to be screened on TV in the 1970s, ‘Fantastic Voyage’, the one where a submarine crew are shrunk and injected into the brain of an injured scientist.
The death of Raquel Welch at the age of 82 – ‘following a short illness’ as press releases often say – feels like one more door closing on an innocent era that the over-politicised Hollywood of the here and now seems determined to prevent us from ever revisiting. Still, I’ve no doubt some channel somewhere will be showing ‘One Million Years B.C.’ even as you read this. Go watch it – again.
© The Editor