The endless SNP cycle
Jonathon Shafi posted an interesting thread on Twitter today.
It’s based on a Scotsman article by Euan McColm (who is no friend of Scottish independence, but he is normally well-connected). Jonathon provides a few interesting quotes in his thread:
“The new fundamentalists who demand a referendum will, says one Sturgeon ally, have to show exactly how they are going to organise a referendum that’s recognised as legal and would allow for Scotland’s return to the EU.” “If they cannot do this then, in the words of this particular campaigner, “they can shut up or f*** off”.”
“There’s something problematic about the idea of going to the courts to try to force the UK gov to give us the power that goes beyond the pointlessness of the exercise.”
The thread concludes that SNP sources are basically briefing that an indyref in the next five years is not happening, and it’s hard to disagree.
It seems that Scotland is stuck in an endless cycle, keeping the SNP in power without getting independence. Basically we’re seeing the following:
- The SNP wins the election.
- The SNP don’t do anything about independence and instead spend their time on other projects, many of which might not be to the liking of a lot of their voters.
- Many of the members and voters get fed up and start talking about setting up a new party because they’re so fed up with the SNP.
- The SNP spends a lot of time saying that voting for this new party (or for the Greens) could lead to wasted votes, and that the only way to get independence is to vote SNP. Just this last time, and after independence has been won, of course people are free to vote for other parties.
- People hold their noses and vote SNP in spite of everything.
- Go back to (1) and repeat.
Can this cycle be broken? In a democracy, no party can rule forever, so of course the SNP will lose power one day. There’s a huge risk, however, that when this happens, it won’t be a pro-independence party taking its place – especially if the vast majority of independence supporters have refrained from challenging the SNP to keep the hope of independence alive.
So what can be done? I can think of two approaches: Either a large number of independence supporters should pledge not to vote SNP unless the manifesto contains a commitment to independence that is so firm that they cannot wiggle out of it, or people from the independence-now wing of the party will have to take control over the party, getting rid of all the lukewarm independence-mañana apparatchiks in the process.
I fear neither will happen and that we’ll get another five years of demoralising independence postponements as a result. So long as the SNP leadership feel they can rule forever, it’ll always feel safer and more sensible for them to kick independence into the long grass, especially if doing so is practically guaranteeing that all their internal critics will keep voting for them.
One thought on “The endless SNP cycle”
I agree that the current SNP hierarchy decide what to do, or not do, and are largely indifferent to what their members want, let alone those that vote SNP but aren’t members. Given the timescale to drive for independence, changing that belief within the SNP is crucial and making the SNP aware that if they continue to dither on independence, they are likely to lose support and therefore their comfortable position within Scotland sooner than they may think.
However if the SNP do make the next election about independence, then winning it becomes the crucial factor, which at the moment is still uncertain. If there is roughly a 40/40 split for solid Yes/No voters, that leaves being clear about why the remaining 20% are uncertain. Some of the big factors from 2014 have been very seriously weakened (EU membership, the Pound). Others may still be concerns, albeit via misleading MSM messages (NHS, pensions). Is there still a clear age split, male/female split? Do people born in England still favour No by 75/25? The drivers of those voters decisions need to be clearly understood and addressed. The 40/40 will never change their votes nor will they determine the outcome on another election/referendum. It’s the 20% that will.
It surprises me that the Yes vote has only moved from 45/55 to 50/50 since 2014 and I suspect that this has largely been due to the incompetence of the UK government during this period rather than any positive arguments from Scotland. A competent SNP led government has and is still clearly evident, especially when compared with Westminster and that is important, but that alone is unlikely to swing the outcome of a vote strongly to Yes. Sadly it may be that creating a Yes vote for independence may rely more on further UK mismanagement/incompetance and/or more awareness of it, most likely through the real consequences of Brexit from Jan 2021, than from any argument of the benefits of an independent Scotland. Bear in mind this relates specifically to the 20% that are not hard Yes or No voters.
My own view is that the economic track record of the UK is it’s biggest weakness and that highlighting these as a central part of a push for independence, would have enough of an impact to get a solid Yes vote. The available evidence of UK decline for at least 50 years is huge and in a similar way to the general awareness that has happened regarding slavery in the UK, far too much of the economic & social failures of the UK have remained hidden to most people.
I think the 2021 election will be a last chance for Scotland to become independent for a very long time. It has formidable barriers – D’Hondt voting system, MSM, UK Establishment, but if the SNP don’t use this election to push for independence, I believe that their support will reduce enough in May 2021 for them to just become a minor player in the Scottish Parliament, with a combined UK biased Tory/Libdem & maybe even Labour parties holding the strings in Holyrood.
I hope the SNP wake up to what they need to do over the next year and the debate about Scotland becoming independent moves from largely trying to defend against UK accusations of Scotland’s weaknesses (deficit, currency etc) to one of Scotland vs UK, with the highlighting of the UK’s proven economic and social weakness’s being strongly made.