There’s been some speculation in the press recently that the SNP is heading for a rupture in its hitherto impressive party unity over the subject of the timing of the next referendum. There the Tories and Labour are tearing themselves apart with all the vicious fervour of starving lions in the Colosseum, or worse but with less botox, fewer tanning beds, and lower IQs, like contestants on Love Island, while Thatessempee sits on munching on the popcorn and biding its time.
It must be very frustrating for your average fleg waver who isn’t nationalist at all because they’re British. It means they’re reduced to finding carping little complaints which can’t compete with the magnitude of the flustercuckery emanating from the main two British parties. It’s a bit like trying to distract onlookers watching in horror as Rome burns down by telling them that they really need to be concerned about the sparkler that you’re waving in their faces.
Actually, it’s far worse than that, because in this case Rome is being burned down by the people who are supposed to be the Roman Fire Brigade, only they’re more interested in accusing their colleagues of bigotry than they are in dealing with the fires and tackling the arsonists in their own ranks. The future for the UK is to be left in the smoking ruins of a wrecked city, covered in ash, accusing people who are supposed to be on the same side as you of hating the Gauls and the Etruscans and debating the acceptability of not wearing a toga in public places while it dreams of past glories. But hey, at least we’ll have blue passports. It’s just a pity that no one will have any money to travel anywhere, we’ll need a visa to cross from Dover to Calais and will have to queue for hours at passport control, while the pound will be trading on a par with the Turkish lira. There’s your global Britain for you.
Compared to all of this, the SNP is a paragon of unity and focus on its purpose. I speak to SNP local branches all over the country, as well as to local Yes groups. There is a growing desire for some concrete development regarding a second independence vote amongst party members and the broader independence movement. There is a sense that matters are coming to a head and a palpable feeling that we are living in the final months of the UK. There is a growing willingness to campaign and to get organised irrespective of what announcements are made at the SNP party conference, and there is a mounting desire for something from the SNP leadership that signals the official start of a campaign. There is some frustration that the party leadership is too cautious and timid, but there remains a willingness to give Nicola Sturgeon the benefit of any doubt that is going.
It’s expected that Nicola will make an announcement in October about her plans for a vote, but the problem is that there is no sign whatsoever that the political uncertainty, confusion, and sheer ineptitude that has characterised the UK since the Brexit vote will have resolved itself by then. The original reason for promising a statement this October was because the UK needs to have reached a broad agreement with the EU by October on the terms of Brexit in order for that deal to be signed off by the EU’s member states in time for Brexit day next March. We ought to have had some clarity on the shape of Brexit, but the only thing that’s clear now is that there is no clarity in the foreseeable future.
Against such a background of UK uncertainty and confusion, it’s going to be very difficult for Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish government to plot a clear path ahead. It’s a bit like trying to plan a journey through a trackless wilderness full of quicksand and those ravenous lions that managed to avoid being captured for the Colosseum. I don’t expect a definite announcement of an imminent referendum. This will doubtless be portrayed in the anti-independence press as Nicola Sturgeon backtracking on indy, but the political reality is that the will of the people of Scotland can be expressed at the ballot box in votes other than referendums.
The unknowns are more than a lack of clarity on the form that Brexit is going to take. It’s also by no means certain whether Theresa May’s government can survive past the autumn. If it falls, she will resign as PM and there will be a new Conservative leader who will go to the polls as a shiny new face enjoying a honeymoon in the British press. Unless Labour comes out strongly for a second Brexit vote, and there’s presently little likelihood of that happening, Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party stands little chance.
If there is to be a Westminster General Election within the next few months, independence needs to be front and foremost in the SNP’s campaign because independence means that it’s the people of Scotland who get to decide on the path this country takes, it’s the people of Scotland who will provide the certainty that the British political parties are so incapable of providing.
The big mistake of 2017 was that the SNP tried to avoid making the vote about independence, while the British nationalist parties and the overwhelmingly anti-independence media banged on about little else. The result was that opponents of independence were motivated to vote, but supporters of independence were not. The SNP can’t make that mistake again. The press and Ruth Davidson won’t let the SNP get away with not talking about independence, in Ruth’s case because it’s all she’s got, so the SNP can’t avoid it or sidestep it. They have to own it. The SNP needs to harness the energy and enthusiasm that is growing in the grassroots indy movement. They need to get the indy vote out, and that means giving it a reason, giving it a vision, giving it hope.
The party needs to fight a Westminster General Election campaign on the basis of achieving a mandate to ensure that irrespective of what happens elsewhere in the UK, the people of Scotland have a right to express their view on Brexit, and a right to reject the chaotic mess that passes for the British government’s negotiating strategy. Winning the General Election in Scotland, and in the context of a Westminster vote that means being the largest party in terms of vote share, and the largest party in terms of seats won, means that the people of Scotland will have chosen to have their say on Brexit and on the future of Scotland, and we can put to rest Ruth Davidson’s nonsense that there’s no demand for another referendum. It will mean that the people of Scotland will be telling whoever is the Conservative party leader at the time that the people of Scotland, and not a Conservative PM, will decide when is the time. And we will be saying to him or her – that time is now. In times of British uncertainty, we need to create some Scottish certainty of our own.
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