Sketches

Nicola Sturgeon’s appearance on US TV station Comedy Central reminded me of something I occasionally find odd – why Holyrood hasn’t given birth to great satire – yet.

Rab McNeil’s sketches for the Scotsman in the early years of our reconvened national parliament were a must – but these aside we’ve undoubtedly been lacking in the department.

Spitting Image stands head and shoulders above any contenders for the ability to ridicule and supplant real politicians in people’s minds with their caricature equivalents. No-one will forget John Major’s grey man, Maggie Thatcher’s vegetables, Roy Hattersley’s spittle and David Steel’s stature problems.

The thing with great satire is this – it relays politics to an audience who may otherwise not care.  Being made a fool of can be the sincerest form of flattery.  Most of our traditional local and national festivals were borne from the desire to mock those in charge.

Remember Nicola Sturgeon’s appearance in the general election TV debate south of the border ?  Whilst a familiar face to us in Scotland who would bet on many voters elsewhere in the UK being able to stick a name to her face beforehand.

This was of course the revelation which swung the tide our way in the May election. Nicola won hands down in the UK TV debate and as a result was the talk of the steamie not just in Scotland, but everywhere in the UK.

Work takes me down to London every few weeks and the change was marked.  “Why can’t we have a Nicola?!” I heard again and again.  Of course it’s not just a ‘Nicola’ they want – but the kind of politics which is spoken by ordinary folk and on behalf of ordinary folk.  The big UK party leaders spin-freakish sentences were overwhelmed by sheer normality.

For years the SNP and the cause of Scottish independence was ridiculed, scorned, insulted, but worse – totally ignored.

How frustrating for those of us who since we were weans saw the SNP and the independence question as perfectly normal, for our cause to be routinely left out of TV politics.

Winnie Ewing made the first real inroads.  That phrase – “stop the world – Scotland wants to get on” rang on for years and years.

Alex Salmond shouting down Nigel Lawson’s budget and being thrown out of the Commons chamber cemented his reputation in the – dare I say it – British mainstream consciousness.

Nicola’s tour of the US and her appearance on Jon Stewart’s Daily Show is the next step in that journey for the SNP, have no doubt.

The best part of course is that it comes on the back of our incredible election result at Westminster this year.  Without it there would have been no visit to the White House for Nicola. First Minister of Scotland is an incidental as far as the British Embassy abroad are concerned.

Our new status as the third party of the UK not only brings with it ‘short money’ to allow us finally to compete fairly amongst the Westminster clamour, but also means we get the administrative support of our multi-national state’s institutions behind us.  How ironic given our ultimate desire is to see our national parliament in Edinburgh take the reins completely, relieving Westminster of its duties in Scotland.

It brings to mind US President Lyndon B. Johnson’s quote on J. Edgar Hoover and whether he’d be best inside or out of his tent.

In our new reality the SNP are very much on the inside.

Sometimes in order to achieve your ultimate goal the time comes when you must adopt a little pragmatism, burrow your head in the rulebook, and take a longer term approach.

I believe, always have, that Scotland will be an independent state.  An innovative, forward-thinking, practical and progressive one to boot.

Right now, however, is the time to work as hard as we can to be taken seriously not just by our closest neighbours on these islands we share and always will, but also with friends much further afield.

But be warned – there is one inevitable down side.  Once you are taken seriously the likelihood of becoming the victims of great satire increases exponentially.