This is the last blog of 2021 and my last chance to give my opinion on whether the SNP can still be considered a party of independence.
2021 was a year, like many others, that started with so much hope and enthusiasm. We had the Scottish Parliament election to look forward to, with the promise of progress on independence. There was the promise of an update of the independence prospectus. There was the promise of an independence bill being brought to parliament. There were so many, many promises. “Vote for me”, said Nicola and no one will be able to stop us: no one will presume to interfere with Scotland’s right to become independent. Of course, no one heard her mutter under her breath, “except me”.
So 2021 is coming to a close and we are no further forward in our struggle for independence. “Blame Covid”, said Nicola. “We can’t do any work on independence when we are in the midst of a pandemic. We can have an election to give us five more years leaching of the public purse; we can work on defining Hate Crimes; we can threaten to charge people for what they say in their own homes; we can turn men into women in the blink of an eye; but what we can’t do, what we can never do, we can’t do any work on independence in the midst of a pandemic.
The New Year is just around the corner. Will 2022 start with hope and enthusiasm? Will there be an independence bill? Will the independence prospectus be updated in preparation for the latest promise, a referendum in 2023. If it arrives, will the referendum be a simple yes/no to independence, or will Devo Max, or Home Rule be included on the ballot paper, virtually assuring that it will win.
If it is included, no one, least of all Nicola Sturgeon, will tell you that, like the infamous vow in 2014, the implementation will depend on the Westminster government agreeing to it and the chances of that happening, like 2014, are nil. In fact, the best we could hope for is the status quo, but the more likely outcome would be a continuation of the current Westminster plan to further reduce the powers of the Holyrood government, a plan that the current Scottish government seem to be reasonably happy to accept.
So does that mean 2022 will be another black year for independence supporters? Is there no way out? Can nothing be done to improve the prospects for independence?
Given that we have established that the biggest blockage on the road to independence is Nicola Sturgeon, then her removal would clear the road, but only if she was not replaced by one of her close associates, such as the odious and ineffectual Angus Robertson. No sense in getting rid of Satan, only to replace her with Beelzebub.
How do we do that? Is there a best way to convince Nicola Sturgeon that her time is up?
Can it be done from inside the party? What the last several years have shown us is that the SNP leadership have given up paying attention to the membership. If you’re an ordinary member, you play a disappearingly small part in the party’s plans or political strategy. Your part in this charade is to provide money, deliver leaflets and sing the praises of Nicola to anyone who’ll listen, to yourself, but mainly, on every opportunity you get, to Nicola herself. And remember, she’s always right.
So does it have to be done from outside the party? Fortunately, the SNP themselves have made plans to increase the numbers outside the party. They’ve made the Hate Crimes plan: they’ve made the Self-Id plan: they’ve made the Let’s jail everyone who doesn’t agree with us plan: they’ve made lots of plans, none of which involve independence, and as a result of their plans, thousands of previously active independence supporting members left the party.
There are just about four months left before the next test of people’s belief in the SNP’s capabilities and particularly their independence plans, the Local Elections. Of course, voting for Local Government has not the same impact on independence as voting for National Government. However, parties tend to campaign using party labels and voters tend to base their voting on their opinion of the parties, so it will still be a valid test.
So what can we do? In the four months we have to persuade the SNP that their election chances are under threat if they do not change their priorities and start making moves to bring independence closer. But it has to be actions. Talk of independence and promises of future action is no longer enough. Failing the success of that, and unfortunately I think it will fail, we need to encourage Alba and ISP and other truly independence supporting parties to stand candidates to allow as many of us from outside the SNP to show their displeasure by voting against them. If the SNP won’t listen to advice, perhaps they’ll pay attention to the electoral impact.
As a brief aside, I see that some remaining SNP supporters are starting to use the old Scottish Labour argument, which was if you don’t vote Labour, you’ll let the Tories in. That used to work in Scotland until Labour fell from 41 Westminster seats in 2010 to 1 (yes one) in 2015. Now we’re hearing if you don’t vote SNP, you’ll let the unionists in. Is this the SNP’s final conversion into a Scottish Labour lookalike? Of course, in the Holyrood election, votes for SNP meant the Unionists got in. Funny that!
I hope everyone has as good and as safe a time as possible over the New Year and comes back refreshed and ready to restart the battle for independence.