There’s a distinct note of desperation in the way senior SNP figures can’t speak of the Ashcroft poll without using terms such as “phenomenal”. Like those people at major celebratory events who are trying just that wee bit too hard to look like they’re having the most fun anyone has ever had. Who are they trying to convince?
In Keith Brown’s case, that would be us – party members and the rest of the Yes movement. The SNP leadership has seized on the Ashcroft poll with the eagerness of someone accused of a serious crime who has suddenly been offered an alibi. At last! Something they can represent as vindicating the relentless waiting that has become their only discernible strategy.
But all the purple prose and rhetorical superlatives cannot long divert from the fact that, approaching five years after the first referendum, the independence cause has not been advanced one millimetre by anything attributable to the SNP. It will be protested that they are doing stuff now, such as Citizens’ Assemblies and the Referendums Bill. But that merely prompts questions about why these things weren’t done two or even three years ago.
By their reaction to the Ashcroft poll, if nothing else, the SNP demonstrates the importance it attaches to such indicators of the public mood. So the fact that the polls have barely twitched while the British political elite has been behaving like a troupe of demented clowns must say something about the SNP’s ‘strategy’. And nothing very complimentary. If there was a ‘secret’ plan to take advantage of the disarray among British Nationalist politicians then it has been so secret as to leave no impression either on the polls or on the consciousness of observers.
And before the idiot SNP-haters get their smug faces on, this also demonstrates that the Yes movement can’t do it alone. Because nothing the Yes movement has done in the last few years has had a significant impact on the polls either. If anything, this simply proves the need for the SNP and the Yes movement to work together.
But even if all the parts of the independence movement were working well together, they would still require some kind of strategy. And ultimate responsibility for setting that strategy must rest with the SNP. The Yes movement has a vital role to play in developing the strategy. Having no hierarchical structures of its own, however, the Yes movement has to rely on leadership provided by the SNP. The SNP has not done nearly enough to connect with and draw on the people power and campaigning resources of the Yes movement. The Yes movement has to do better at utilising the political power and organisational resources of the SNP.
Kenny MacAskill’s criticisms of the First Minister may be largely, if not wholly, justified. But this is not a time for recriminations. Opportunities have missed. Time has been squandered – in particular the extra year’s grace afforded by the Article 50 extension. Rather than making us bitter or despondent, this should goad us into efforts to make up for the time that has been lost and create new opportunities to replace those that have been missed.
Developing an effective campaign strategy requires that the SNP and the Yes movement work together. As I wrote three months ago – evidently to no avail,
An accommodation must be found. Factionalism is most certainly not any kind of solution. It is, in fact, a way of avoiding the difficult task of finding that accommodation between the SNP and the Yes movement – and among all the elements of the independence cause – which will allow each and all to be effective.
In the Yes movement, we have come almost to worship diversity as the greatest of virtues. For a movement, this may be true, But for a campaign, the greatest virtue is solidarity. In celebrating our diversity, we have fallen into the habit of talking about our differences, rather than that which we hold in common. Recognition that “we all want the same thing” tends to come as an afterthought to lengthy discussion of distinctive policy platforms – if it comes at all. We talk about our respective visions for Scotland’s future, relegating consideration of the key to that future to somewhere lower down the agenda.
The single point at which all the elements of the independence cause meet is the Union. The thing that everybody in the independence movement agrees on is that the Union must end. It cannot even be said that all agree on independence. Because there are differing ideas about what independence means. There is no ambiguity whatever about the imperative to end the Union.
It is a happy coincidence that the point at which all the elements of the independence campaign come together also happens to be the British state’s weakest point. So, let’s not talk of factions. No faction is going to prise Scotland out of its entanglement in the British state. This will only be achieved by the four constituent parts of the independence campaign acting in accord. The SNP as the lever. The Scottish Government (Nicola Sturgeon) as the fulcrum. The Scottish Parliament as the base. The Yes movement as the force.
And let us all agree that the object we are acting against is the Union.
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