by Rab Bruce’s Spider

The reaction to the news that Billy Connolly has admitted that he now sees independence for Scotland as the best route out of Brexit mayhem has been mixed to say the least. Some people have pointed to his former comments about those who support a normal Scotland, while others have suggested that promotion of his new book might lie behind his apparent conversion and that he may not be entirely sincere.

It is true that the Big Yin was scathing towards Yes supporters, and we know that Scots can bear a grudge for a considerable time. After all, none of us likes to be the subject of criticism, especially when it is expressed in harsh terms. But, while a hostile reaction to his comment is understandable, there are a few reasons why I think we need to welcome Billy Connolly’s statement.

First of all is the obvious one that, if and when IndyRef2 takes place, we need as many people to vote Yes as possible, so someone converting to our side should be welcomed, even if that person doesn’t actually live here for much of the year.

It is, of course, Connolly’s celebrity status which makes his comments newsworthy, so his residence is not as important as the possible effect his words might have. If someone who was so implacably opposed to Scotland becoming a normal country can change his mind, then perhaps we should make him all the more welcome because it takes a lot for people to alter their opinions and such a high profile switch of sides just might make others consider their opposition to independence in a fresh light.

The other point which is worth making also relates to Connolly’s celebrity status. He was far from alone among Scotland’s celebrities in speaking out against independence. If we respond to his claim that he has altered his opinion with cynicism and scorn, what message does that send to other high profile Scots who might be seriously considering making a similar statement? Might they not take the view that it is not worth switching to Yes because of the abuse from vile CyberNats? It would be nice to think that strong-minded individuals in the public eye would be accustomed to criticism and might still declare a change of mind because they appreciate the wider issues, but should we take the chance of alienating even one person by ridiculing or sneering at Connolly’s statement? If every vote counts, then we really should make an effort to show that we are better than that. Anger and scorn are the hallmarks of our opponents, and, however much we might remember previous comments by a new convert to Yes, we really ought to try to show that we are bigger than the pettiness of most Unionists.

So, whatever his motivation and however sincere he might be, I welcome the Big Yin to Yes, and hope that his example will encourage others to speak out in support of an independent Scotland.