Falling between two stools

two stools photo
Photo by Rennett Stowe
The Herald has a story today about Scotland getting many more powers post-Brexit (but see also James Kelly’s reasons for doubting it here).

However, I really don’t care, and I think the SNP really have to decide whether they are serious about stopping Brexit or not. It feels like they’re trying to be all things to all men – aiming to become an independent EU member state while talking up EFTA membership and trying to get as many powers as possible after Brexit – and the result is they’re falling between two stools. (Well, more than two stools actually.)

For instance, if they’re serious about stopping Brexit from happening in Scotland (whether by declaring independence or by working together with Unionist parties to reversing it altogether), it’s completely irrelevant whether Westminster were planning to hand over all powers or none post-Brexit.

Alternatively, if they don’t think there’s any chance of stopping Brexit, they should tell the grassroots – many of whom are waiting impatiently at the starting line because they believe ScotRef is imminent. And they should perhaps also tell the EU citizens in Scotland that they should prepare for a Brexit that will give the UK Home Office enormous powers to throw them out of Scotland.

As far as I can tell, the SNP are sending out mixed messages because they’re trying to please all the camps inside the party – the pro-EU mob, the EFTA gang, and the Leavers who don’t really want to discuss independence till Brexit is done and dusted. The result is confusing, and it makes the threats they regularly make about holding a new independence referendum if Westminster don’t behave sound rather hollow.

(My point here is about the messaging: It’s obviously good governance to tell the civil servants to prepare for all scenarios, but if you talk too much about this, the government looks confused and insincere.)

I’ve been saying for a long time that you simply cannot win over the No–Remainers while holding on to the Yes–Leavers. Because the former group is so much bigger than the latter one, my recommendation was always to focus on winning over the Remainers, but it seems that the SNP leadership have instead decided to focus on keeping the Leavers relatively happy by toning down the pro-EU messages.

Perhaps it’s better for the party in the long run (although I have my doubts), but stories celebrating how wonderful the new powers coming to Scotland after Brexit will be are not making me happy – they’re making me doubt that the SNP are sincere about stopping Brexit – and that comes just a few days after the leak of the UK Government’s analysis confirmed the Scottish Government’s figures showing that a hard Brexit will be absolutely disastrous for the Scottish economy. (And we must be talking about a hard Brexit here – if it’s a soft one, hardly any powers will return to Westminster or to Scotland.)

So what is the plan?

4 thoughts on “Falling between two stools”

  1. “It feels like they’re trying to be all things to all men – aiming to become an independent EU member state while talking up EFTA membership and trying to get as many powers as possible after Brexit – and the result is they’re falling between two stools.”

    I think that’s a slightly unfair description of the situation. Party policy is that we back membership of the EU, and that can’t be changed without passing a resolution saying otherwise at National Conference/Council. Granted, Government policy and Party policy are not necessarily the same thing, and there are certainly voices expressing alternative routes to maintaining membership of the Single Market that stop short of EU membership. But I’ve never heard any minister – cabinet or otherwise – stray from the agreed position of backing Scotland being an independent member of the EU.

    Meanwhile, the Scottish Government has a duty to do all it can to minimise the damage to Scotland. It would be negligent not to plan for whatever outcome we end up with – that’s what UK Governments do. The stuff about the powers being devolved to Holyrood instead of Westminster does two things: it ensures that whatever happens, the “New Zealand model” of independence remains possible, ie gaining more and more powers until we find we’ve become independent by default; and it helps prevent the No Deal Brexiteers from pushing Brexit through without resistance. It’s entirely possible Brexit may end up being stopped simply because it’s become impossible to implement it in a way that encapsulates all the various requirements about the devolved parliaments, the Irish border and so on.

  2. Have you seen the opinion polls on independence at all? They haven’t shifted. This might help explain things.

    1. The headline figures haven’t shifted, but a rather large number of voters have moved from No to Yes and from Yes to No, cancelling each other out. Given that nobody has been out there campaigning for independence, that’s actually very impressive.

  3. You also have to consider what happened in Catalonia.

    Scotgov is walking a very fine line here since Westminster would love any excuse to strip Scotland of the devolved parliament and snuff out SNP.

    By the book. It is hard holding to the line of doing it strictly by the book but it is the only way.

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