Yes, the SNP’s dithering is making me angry!

I’ve seen quite a few angry reactions to Magnus Linklater’s article in The Times today, “SNP’s dithering is making immigrants angry”. Here are two typical reponses:

However, I am an immigrant and an SNP member, and I agree with most of this article. The way I read it, it isn’t blaming the SNP for the UK Government’s immigration policy or for the whole Brexit shambles. It is blaming the SNP for promising to keep Scotland in Europe, and then not doing very much at all, pointing out that EU citizens are voting with their feet:

Not surprising, then, that workers from Romania or Poland are increasingly reluctant to come to Scotland to pick raspberries; 18 per cent of EU doctors in the NHS have made plans to leave; Scottish universities are beginning to lose the European academics on whom they depend if their international status is to be maintained.

The article is also blaming the SNP for getting more and more lukewarm about the EU and drifting towards EFTA:

Nicola Sturgeon herself made it clear in parliament last March that she was against the common fisheries policy, despite knowing that opting out would be incompatible with joining the EU. […]

The SNP seems almost as conflicted about Europe as the rest of Britain. Its paper Scotland’s Place in Europe is all about the single market and the customs union rather than the benefits of being a European nation. It knows that at least a third of its members voted to leave the EU and that among farmers and fishermen there is strong hostility towards Brussels, so it draws back from full commitment, preferring the Norway option of joining the European Economic Area, otherwise known as the “nearly but not quite” model of EU membership. […]

Rereading the SNP’s document, I came across this ringing endorsement of Europe […]: “Europe is about more than economics,” it ran. “The European ideal is one of peaceful coexistence, mutual solidarity and support, and prosperity built on co-operation. There is much still to achieve, but a Europe which encourages openness and civic dialogue, and which welcomes difference, is one from which Scotland has gained much and to which it still wants to contribute.” Its author? Nicola Sturgeon. It would be nice to know if she means it.

I don’t think those criticisms are unreasonable. (Although, to be fair, “Scotland’s Place in Europe” contains the Scottish Government’s proposals for mitigating the impact on Scotland of the UK’s exit from the EU, through continued European Single Market membership for Scotland, demonstrating that this is also the best outcome for the UK as a whole. It’s not really about what an independent Scotland would do.)

The problem with the SNP’s stance is that Nicola Sturgeon’s strong defence of EU citizens the day after the EU referendum (which I thanked her for on Bella Caledonia) made a lot of us decide to remain in Scotland rather than head back to the continent with our families. My gut feeling is that many more of us opted for this in Scotland than in England and Wales, where it seemed much more obvious that there was no realistic alternative to Brexit.

If the SNP wasn’t going to do anything, it would have been much kinder to say so two years ago. We would then have had plenty of time to launch our own lifeboats. Telling people in a burning house not to panic because you’re going to save them and then not doing anything because it was harder than you had thought is not helpful.

As Nick Durie put it on Facebook:

[The SNP] can state whether it is the [their] intention that Scotland becomes an EU member state, and state how they intend to do this. At the moment there is zero evidence that we will even fight to ensure Scotland stays in the single market, if no Section 30 Order is forthcoming. […] People can judge for themselves whether they consider such a plan realistic, but at the moment we’re just engaged in vague promises, hopes, and playing with people’s emotions without any real evidence of a plan or a backbone. We’d be more humanist just stating that there is nothing that can be done.

I do understand why the SNP aren’t doing anything, though. They made three fundamental errors early in the process:

  1. They thought the UK government would consent to a new independence referendum when the Scottish Parliament asked for it. (Or they assumed 90% of Scots would explode in anger if they refused it.)
  2. They thought the UK government would act rationally, devising a realistic plan for Brexit that took in the concerns of the devolved nations, and that they’d look favourably at Scottish requests for special treatment.
  3. They believed those SNP members who are against the EU would accept Nicola Sturgeon’s pro-EU line if they could see it was the best way to get independence soon.

These assumptions seemed OK for a while, but when Theresa May declared that “now is not the time” in early 2017 and the support for independence hardly budged, followed by a lot of SNP voters staying at home in the subsequent Westminster election, it seemed like the SNP leadership had lost their mojo. They then thought they could wait until the Tories’ plan for Brexit was clear, not understanding that their never was any plan, and that it was always just about keeping the Tory party together.

eu flag photoI’m still hoping the SNP will do something soon, but I’ve learned not to get my hopes up. It’s quite possible that we won’t know whether there’ll be a no-deal Brexit till shortly before it actually happens, and there’s nothing Scotland can do at that point. It’s possible it’ll lead to independence, but the Scottish economy will have been decimated before that happens, and it’s just as possible that the voters will punish the SNP for being in charge when the Scottish NHS and the education system get destroyed as a result of Brexit.

At the moment, I think the best hope for us EU citizens and for everybody else is to stop Brexit. The SNP’s lukewarm support for a new Brexit referendum is not helpful in that context.

The SNP should have been campaigning for independence without having called the referendum for two years now. If they had done that, bombarding all households with information about how an independent Scotland in Europe would be enormously better off than Brexit Scotland, we would probably have had a huge majority for independence in the opinion polls by now.

If they were never going to do anything, they should have told us. So yes, I’m angry.

7 thoughts on “Yes, the SNP’s dithering is making me angry!

  • 06/08/2018 at 16:51
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    I think understandably the SNP is not keen on bouncing themselves into losing another independence referendum, given that brexit has failed to twitch the dial on independence. However, perhaps when the final deal is known there will be something concrete to campaign against.

    And – bombarding Scotland with leaflets criticising a not-yet-defined post-Brexit Scotland relative to a Scotland in the EU – well, I doubt that would have worked.
    We are stuck between a rock and a hard place unfortunately. Scotland with a hard border with no-deal England would be heavily economically damaged even if it was in the EU.

    Reply
  • 06/08/2018 at 18:13
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    Hi Thomas.

    Interesting piece. I think, in some ways, it serves to remind us that EU citizens in Scotland are chiefly concerned about the impact that it’s having on their lives (or seems likely to) rather than who is to blame as such (not that I am saying there won’t be strong opinions on that point amongst EU citizens but just that there might be more of an attitude of ‘practically, it’s better I think about what to do about it?’.

    I’d like to make two points, if I may.

    The first is that I can totally see how some EU citizens might feel let down by the SNP/ScotGov following June 2016. The exact words may not have been used but the general tenor of Nicola’s speech on 24 June that year was ‘this is a disaster, we need you, and we are going to do absolutely everything to make sure you can continue to make your lives here’ sprinkled with ‘sometimes you have to do something because it’s the right thing to do’ (which seemed a pointed reference to ‘even if polling doesn’t seem to show we would win’). I definitely think, sans some dramatic happenings in Westminster changing everything, there is some way to go before ‘absolutely everything’ has been tried. I also don’t think ‘we tried, but they told us no’ is good enough to claim that either.

    The second point relates a little to where you discuss voters punishing the SNP after Brexit if/when things fall to bits. I think that this is a possibility and it’s doubly ironic that some SNP politicians appear to be mainly concerned about ‘we need to win in 2021, so we need to wait and get another mandate etc etc’. Much like those Tories in England who are pushing hard for a Hard Brexit, this is displaying short-term thinking as far as electoral calculations go (in my opinion). I think, electorally, the SNP are in much more danger if they do not attempt to pull the trigger on indy before any Brexit than if they never go for it at all – legacy-wise, I’d rather be Salmond than a Gordon Brown on the ‘do I go for it?’ stakes. Furthermore, people who say ‘you won’t be allowed’ never explain how that alleged obstacle becomes any easier after Brexit.

    Anyway, once again, good read. I, like you, can see why the need for a certain degree of caution but, at the same time, people (and I think this includes EU citizens of Scotland and other Indy supporters alike) lose some faith that the party will do what it needs to do. And this risks losing some of the credibility that was gained by actually going for it first time round when they said they would – rather than pulling a Labour (House of Lords) thing of advocating something endlessly but never doing the needful to make it a reality.

    Reply
  • 06/08/2018 at 18:49
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    “Scotland with a hard border with no-deal England would be heavily economically damaged even if it was in the EU.” How’s that, commenter?

    Reply
    • 09/08/2018 at 11:02
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      Seems obvious. The big majority of our international (post-indy) trade would be impacted negatively.

      Pretend that I am talking about the UK being harmed by a hard border with the EU – it might help you get past your personal biases on this issue.

      Reply
  • 06/08/2018 at 22:56
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    We entered the end game some time ago and in the grand chess game of independence Westminster has only three moves left.

    1. They can create legislation to create a “Devo Max” Scotland without interference from Westminster. ie no weasel words like “normally”.
    2. They can agree to stay in the EU.
    3. They could grant a Section 30 order.

    The Scottish response has to wait until the result of the “Continuity Bill” court case, due in October.

    Keep the heid, we’re getting there.

    Reply
  • 07/08/2018 at 09:03
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    While I appreciate your impatience for a resolution, we all share it. But, I believe you are allowing your own circumstances to cloud your judgement.

    The SNP is a political party whose raison d’etre is Scottish independence. But, like all political parties, it also wishes to remain relevant to its supporters. In 2014, the EU citizens in Scotland, on the whole, voted against independence. They bought into the lie that a vote for Yes was a vote to leave the EU. Their uncertainty about their status led these voters to become the useful idiots of the British establishment.

    There can be no disputing the fact that a significant element of the supporters of the SNP felt betrayed by our fellow EU citizens on that day. Feelings that still linger. The spectacle of EU political leaders, officials and bureaucrats lining up to oppose our independence throughout the runup to the vote also grates, even today.

    When the First minister made her gambit for a 2nd Independence referendum, shortly after the result of the EU referendum became clear, she did so by unequivocally tying it to Scotland being dragged out of the EU against its wishes. She has remained consistent with this line ever since. It led directly to the loss of 21 MP’s in the following general election, due to SNP supporters failing to turn up to vote. Voters who still harbour ill will towards the EU.

    The majority of independence minded supporters recognize that EU citizens resident in Scotland were manipulated during the Independence referendum. They accept that we all are in the same boat now. The blinkers have been removed.

    But please remember that not all independence supporters are in the SNP. Within the latter though, there are many aggrieved who would now prefer to belong to no union. Thus, the leadership of the party must lean towards caution. We must trust that this strategy will play out successfully.

    The ball is in Westminster’s court. Were it always has been. They are making a right pig’s breakfast of it. With time, independence will fall into our laps as surely as a tree sheds its leaves. But patience is required. You complain of having to wait two years for certainty in your life. I have been waiting for such certainty for over forty years, and counting.

    You are invested in a country or you’re not. You, and the other EU citizens who live here, must decide if Scotland’s independence is a philosophy that you share with us, come what may. If it is merely a convenience that now aligns with you’re preferences, please don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

    Reply
  • 09/08/2018 at 21:43
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    A good read. However, I do wonder if NS sometimes feels like a general trying to control her army as the enemy comes over the hill. At that moment, all she can do is tell them to hold firm, wait, wait, wait. It is a question of holding your nerve and trusting in your commander. As one of the previous comments stated “We’re almost there”

    Reply

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