When even a significant minority of SNP members and/or supporters are even partly in agreement with Jim Sillars then there is a problem which must be addressed by Nicola Sturgeon, not some anonymous party spokesperson. When one of the party’s own MPs is echoing the concerns felt by increasing numbers of independence activists, Nicola Sturgeon herself must address those concerns.
The issue is simple. If there is to be a referendum in the “second half of 2020” or “before the end of 2020” then there must be a process by which that can happen. This process cannot be secret. It cannot be known only to Nicola Sturgeon and a few trusted colleagues. Options are not unlimited. If Nicola Sturgeon can work out what this process is, so can Boris Johnson’s advisers.
So, in theory, can everyone else. Jim Sillars was never going to do so because he long since ceased to be interested in thinking beyond the first excuse for attacking the SNP leadership. Kenny MacAskill might be expected to figure out what the process is. But, by his own admission, he is more than content with not doing so because he has his own agenda. But there are thousands of politically aware and astute people who are both perfectly capable of discerning a process by which there might be a referendum in 2020 – while adhering to the Section 30 process – and none have been able to do so. Or, at least, so we must assume, as no such discovery has been made public.
For many in the independence movement, not least myself, the days are past when we would accept Nicola Sturgeon’s assurances on the matter of a new independence referendum. The change from “second half of 2020” to “before the end of 2020” may be subtle enough for some to dismiss. But to regard it as inconsequential requires that we dismiss the previous slippage that now adds up to at least a year. And that is on top of what some consider an unconscionably long period of all but total inertia in the wake of the 2014 referendum.
The hard truth behind all the talk of independence being closer than ever is that it is if anything and by any meaningful measure, more remote now than at any time in the last decade. Just like talk of a referendum in 2020, the rhetoric about independence being imminent is empty. Ask anybody who makes either claim to add some substance to their fine words and you will get nothing but evasion. Or denunciation as an unbeliever.
I don’t do faith. If there is any substance to the claim that independence is closer than ever then I want to hear it. And I want to hear it from Nicola Sturgeon. If there is a way that Nicola Sturgeon can both remain committed to the Section 30 process and deliver a new independence referendum in 2020, then I want to hear from her at least an outline of the process involved. Less of the glittering generalities and more on the mundane practicalities.
Neither do I want from others any more of those clumsily contrived and woefully convoluted metaphors involving chess or poker. And give the Sun Tzu quotes a rest as well. Give me something tangible. Or give me relief from the vacuous waffle.
I’m anticipating being told that we have to wait and see what the situation is at the end of the Brexit transition period. That will surely be more than even the most trusting of Nicola Sturgeon’s admirers can thole. At that point, the murmurs of discontent and calmly voiced concerns may rapidly grow to an angry roar. Nicola Sturgeon must act now to turn around a situation which can only deteriorate.
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