Once upon a time, before the railways were privatised, if offered a job interview in London I could ask for the interview to take place at 2pm, catch the 7am train from Edinburgh Waverley, be certain that I would reach London King’s Cross before noon, and – with a pause only to make sure I had English banknotes in my wallet – get to the job interview usually with an hour to spare. I’d allow the full afternoon for the interview and catch an evening train home. It may seem strange to youngsters these days, but I could count absolutely on getting there on time with no delays at either end: and the train fare – even at short notice – didn’t require me to remortgage my house.
Those days are gone. Nowadays we pay high fares for bad service. The majority of us want the rail services renationalised, but instead, like a shiny toy to make us happy, Labour and Conservative governments have been dangling HS2 in front of us so that we can bat at that with our paws.
On Wednesday 20th May, Angus Robertson distributed jobs among the new SNP MPs. Drew Hendry became the SNP’s Transport spokesperson, and a few days later the Independent on Sunday contacted him to tell him there’d be no high-speed rail link between London and Edinburgh.
This is not news.
Tonight at 10:35 the BBC will broadcast a very special edition of Question Time, from Edinburgh’s Cornmarket.
It’s special on two counts, one overshadowed by the other. Firstly, because the audience will all be 16 and 17 years old – the age range who will be able to vote for the first time on 18th September 2014. (Properly speaking it should have been an audience of kids with birthdays between September 1998 and September 1996, since anyone 17 today would have been able to vote in September 2014 anyway.) But, this means an audience of interested politically aware youngsters will be able to put questions to politicians directly concerned with the independence debate.
I still don’t know how I’ll vote in autumn 2014. But a few days ago, one thing at least was made definite for me: the Better Together vote is going to win. I’m certain enough of that to lay a bet on it, if I were the gambling sort.
What made me so sure?
It’s not just that the SNP are saying blithely that Independence Day will be March 2016, though that is a highly-unrealistic timescale. (It’s also not a binding decision.)
On 11th May I predicted, correctly, that Barack Obama was going to be a two-term President. My certainty was founded in Obama’s own sense of political security: that’s when Obama opted to come out for repealing DOMA and in support of lifting the ban on same-sex marriage recognition: for gay marriage.
For the most part, there are two sorts of politicians who come out for LGBT equality: the very principled, who will stand up for what’s right regardless of what this does to their future career, and the very confident, who are sure of their future career regardless of what they say. Barack Obama is not the first sort of politician (that sort doesn’t become President of the United States) but he is superb at the job of getting elected. I was sure Obama was going to win.
I’m now sure that the SNP leadership is certain they won’t win the referendum in 2014: they can set a date of March 2016 for independence because that’s not in their plans. They can separate off the “Yes Scotland” campaign as officially not-really SNP, and the morning after the votes are counted and the result is published, the SNP can move on with their plans for contesting Scottish seats in the May 2015 Westminster election.