It was not a hen’s tooth or a four-leaf clover. It was not even Scotland qualifying for the Euros. No, it was much rarer than that.
It was a politician looking as if they were actually enjoying themselves during a Holyrood election campaign that seems to have buckled the space-time continuum by being both brief and interminable.
Anas Sarwar, Scottish Labour leader, crashing a dance class outside the Tony Macaroni Arena in Livingston before doing his thing to Uptown Funk last Saturday afternoon, is not the first politician to look like an actual human while happily interacting with ordinary people, or voters as they like to call us, but in this, the oddest of campaigns, he is on a very short list.
Sarwar, along with Lorna Slater, co-leader of the Scottish Greens, has been a fresh breeze in a torpid campaign. He has been better than anyone was expecting, not least Labour voters, too scarred by their party’s wilderness years to hope a new leader might actually seem both capable and committed, like a leader, in fact.
When you’re on a campaign visit with @AnasSarwar and there’s a dance class going on.
He couldn’t resist…. pic.twitter.com/WQmZmQdoag
— Gordon McKee (@GordonMcKee_) April 24, 2021
Whether his rising popularity – still well behind Nicola Sturgeon in the popularity stakes but the only other party leader whom more Scots like than not – will translate into votes, never mind seats, should be clear by next Sunday.
However, his voice has been a welcome interruption as, left to their own devices, the SNP and the Scottish Tories would talk about independence until the Highland cows come home. Or their horns fall off with boredom. Whichever comes first.
While Sarwar might not win a dance-off with Bruno Mars, he at least looked alive. The most passionate opponents and most ardent supporters of independence have been staggering around the same dancefloor since 2014, like the marathon dancers in They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?, lurching around in a zombie-clinch to a tune only they can hear as the dancehall empties around them.
After claiming independence could help not hinder our recovery when Alex Salmond seemed a more potent lure for impatient Yessers, Sturgeon has, in recent days, as polls suggest her hopes of an overall majority may be dashed, insisted recovery not a referendum will be her priority if, or rather when, she is re-elected. Cynics might wonder if the SNP’s internal polling shows most Scots, at this moment in time, could see another referendum far enough?
The only thing the first minister liked talking about more than independence in the early weeks of the campaign was Boris Johnson. It seemed, for a while at least, given her determination to portray this election as pitching the SNP against the Prime Minister, that Johnson was actually standing, not admiring his new wallpaper in Number 10.
Of course, the crescendo of sleaze allegations – from the £200,000 refurb of the PM’s flat to PPE contracts for Tory cronies – could not have been better-timed for a First Minister rarely slow to suggest Scots deserve better.
We probably do but Scots also deserve politicians willing to take on the issues of gravest importance and none of those issues, as we report today, deserves more attention than climate change.
Instead of discussing how Scotland can play our part in the global battle to save the planet, voters have been asked to endure furious rows about Scotland’s tomorrows while our perilous todays mostly merit pie-in-the-sky, uncosted promises. This is no surprise, although still a disappointment. It is what Scotland does now.
However the votes are cast on Thursday; whatever way they stack up on Friday; whatever seats are won or lost by Sunday; whether Sturgeon can row her own canoe or is forced to work with other parties, are not the biggest questions for our country.
Scots will choose on Thursday but our most important choice will come in the months ahead when we can choose to keep spinning our wheels, doing donuts in the Holyrood car park, or at least try to move forward.
Can we really spend another five years, like we have spent the last seven, obsessing about a second referendum, to-ing and fro-ing about this and that, while our planet burns, our public services stall, our children’s chances diminish, our businesses wait and wonder and our poorest postcodes suffer most of all?
If, as expected, most Scots vote for parties that want a referendum, we should have one and, if most Scots really want one now, we should have one now. With a country so divided, this debate is not nearly over but if not now, if most Scots would rather wait until the storm of Covid passes, as polls suggest most do, the SNP (and the Tories) must leave it, park it, and strain every muscle to help Scotland get back on our feet.
One way or another, with a referendum or without, our country needs a new tune to dance to. We need to change the record.
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