There is no vacancy. There is no appetite within the SNP for a leadership contest. Discounting hard-line Unionists, there is little if any demand in the country for a different First Minister. Nicola Sturgeon has proved herself to be a competent and very popular party leader. It is hard to imagine anyone might be a better ambassador for Scotland in Europe and across the world. At home, she has shown herself to be highly proficient at handling the media and adept at explaining, promoting and defending her government’s policies and positions. All round, Nicola Sturgeon scores nines and tens across the board. Yet she may have to go. She may have to step aside due to a problem of her own making.
Angus MacNeil identifies the problem. When Nicola Sturgeon’s strategy for pursuing independence “hit the brick wall” she has nowhere to turn. She is so wedded to the Section 30 process that she has effectively ruled out all other options. She has no Plan B because she hasn’t left space for an alternative approach to the constitutional issue. An issue of such crucial importance to the party and the nation that failure in this area must outweigh all those high scores in other aspects of her roles as party leader and First Minister. It is in her third role as de facto leader of the independence movement that her performance has disappointed many – and continues to cause frustration and not a little anger among those who are otherwise totally supportive of Nicola Sturgeon.
What Angus doesn’t say; what he could hardly be expected to say, is that Section 30 process has already hit a brick wall. It was always going to do so. Any process which is crucially dependent on the honest and willing cooperation of the UK Government is bound to fail. And it has. Nicola Sturgeon’s strategy for getting independence is, in fact, part of the British political elite’s strategy for preserving the Union. The Section 30 process maintains the illusion of a democratic route to independence while keeping the British state firmly in charge of access to that route.
Nicola Sturgeon’s strategy has not only hit a brick wall but a brick wall at the end of a very narrow bind alley. There is no room to turn because the British state has erected an impenetrable barrier to progress. Thre is no room to turn because the walls on either side are hemming her in. She can hardly complain since she helped build those walls. She has no choice but to go into reverse. And she won’t want to do that.
Going into reverse would mean abandon the Section 30 process altogether. Nicola Sturgeon’s commitment to that process is so dogmatic that she has effectively staked her career on it. Politically, a U-turn on her approach to the constitutional issue would be an admission of failure such as might end a political career.
Apart from a handful of thoughtless individuals, nobody in the Yes movement is calling for Nicola Sturgeon’s head. But increasing numbers are demanding a change of approach to the constitutional issue. A clamour is growing for the Section 30 process to be ditched. It is certain that, if the project to restore Scotland’s independence is to proceed it must be by some route other than that to which Nicola Sturgeon has committed. She cannot unmake that commitment. She can’t reverse back to the blind alley’s entrance and drive off in another direction. The damage has been done. She did it. Relying on the goodwill, good grace and good faith of the British establishment was a mistake. A massive mistake.
With no ill-will whatever, and regardless of the protestations of her friends and allies, it looks very much as if Nicola Sturgeon will have to go. The only thing that might make this unnecessary – for the time being, at least – would be if Boris Johnson were to oblige her with a Section 30 order. This would not end the problem for Nicola Sturgeon, however. Grant of permission to hold a referendum would not demolish that brick wall. It would merely knock a hole in it just big enough for Nicola Sturgeon to crawl through. The wall will be rebuilt behind her and the apparently open and clear democratic route to independence will turn out to be littered with traps and landmines making it every bit as impassable as it had previously been.
What chance is there of the British Prime Minister relenting? How likely is it that he would act to save Nicola Sturgeon’s neck? How remote is the possibility that Boris Johnson would be allowed to initiate a process which puts the Union in jeopardy absent an absolute guarantee that the process could be blocked further down the way?
It is this, and not difficulties over any of her policies or ‘scandal’ involving her predecessor, that will force Nicola Sturgeon to quit. She might do the U-turn and hope she can ride out the ensuing storm. But the best option to secure her future career and preserve her political heritage, not to mention keeping her reputation and dignity relatively intact, is to step aside with dignity in order that the independence campaign can move forward.
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17 thoughts on “Going down gracefully”
Peter – good article but I really do not think she needs to resign over the failure of the art30 process. If she has it in her – & I think she does, I can hear the speech now – then there need be no stigma attached to abandoning the A30 process on the grounds that she gave it her best shot, and then adopting all of the other potential routes to our independence in some order of preference, But it needs to be done soon,
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Independence has been the SNP’s raison d’être – or, at least, its core policy – so, like all parties, it should have been possible to pursue that main policy whilst also governing. That would have meant the FM splitting her advisors and strategists into two camps, with careful selection as to the abilities of each. Horses for courses. In that way, she could have concentrated her efforts as FM on the governing of Scotland, which she has done very well, despite claims to the contrary by the Unionists and their enablers in the media. This is precisely what Johnson has done and why he will succeed in his endeavours to introduce very fundamental, right-wing policies and to steer the UK in the direction he wants. It will not always be easy for him, but he will succeed because he is not dissipating his energies in one direction and trying to crowd-please. Being all things to all men is simply not possible. That is why independence has stalled and is paralysed: in trying to bring sufficient numbers of previous NO on board to win a convincing second indyref; and that was always going to be almost impossible, given the demographics in Scotland and their allegiances – often outwith Scotland.
In 2014, and for the following two years, it seemed unlikely – and, again, contrary to what Unionists believe – that independence would hit the agenda again big time. However, 2016 and the EU referendum vote changed that totally. It was at that point that we needed to be clear about where we were going and how to get there. Unfortunately, it all went pear-shaped because the target moved from a strategic plan for independence on to a doomed – and that was always the case – plan to save England-as-the-UK from itself. What we had to do was save ourselves, not go down with the sinking ship. That has been our bane: so many times we have been on the very cusp of profound and long-term change, and we have bottled it in favour of playing England’s game – and it is England’s game because it has nothing whatsoever to do with Scotland, Wales or NI. We simply have never figured at all, and that was also to be expected.
I don’t know when independence seekers are ever going to get their heads around the fact that it was always about England; it is all about England; and it will always be all about England. It would be all about England even if we all had identical population sizes and equal status because England is, at its most fundamental, a country that must be top dog. It has been thus for a thousand years. When are we going to understand that? It has also been a country of excellent moral and principled philosophies, culture and erudition, but, then, so was Germany prior to WW I and the collapse of its social fabric.
I said I wasn’t going to put my oar in again, and here I go again. Sorry, Mr Bell, I am so depressed and tired of all the nonsense that surrounds independence, and even the pc cul de sacs that seem to plague the world right now, and us with it. It feels that there is a kind of madness in the air that is infecting normally rational people, and we must hope that the pendulum does not swing back too far – as it is wont to do. I know how Sysiphus must have felt.
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I do not totally discount the possibility that Nicola Sturgeon might survive a U-turn of the magnitude of abandoning the Section 30 process. If anybody could, it would be her. I would be delighted were she to pull off this remarkable feat.
But I suspect she would not try to hold on. If she realises the futility of the Section 30 process she won’t want to hang around for its inevitable eventual failure. Also, she has somewhere else to be. The next move in her political career has been planned and prepared. She may well decide that the time has come to make that move.
But when? That’s the question. It seems unlikely she’d want to go before next May’s Scottish Parliament elections. If this was, here intention she’d be going now so as to give her successor time to prepare for the election campaign.
It’s all speculation, of course. But there’s nothing wrong with that.
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She doesn’t have to go.
She just has to admit her way is not going to work. It was a worthy try. And then say she has listened to what the yes movement wants, (that’s democracy) and change the tactics.
Try, try, and try again doesn’t mean keep bashing your head against the wall, it means go and get a a bigger and better tool to knock the wall down with.
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Peter: “With no ill-will whatever, and regardless of the protestations of her friends and allies, it looks very much as if Nicola Sturgeon will have to go…
Apart from a handful of thoughtless individuals, nobody in the Yes movement is calling for Nicola Sturgeon’s head.” ???
As one such ‘thoughtless’ individual, it has long been abundantly clear to me that Sturgeon knew, or reasonably should have known, that neither May nor whoever succeeded her as Tory leader and Tory PM, would agree to an S30. As I wrote in 2014 before indyref1 it was obvious even then that Boris Johnson would never agree to such a thing. This isn’t rocket surgery.
Sturgeon is guilty of gross political malfeasance that has led our country to the brink of complete absorption within a One-Nation Greater England. She declared all other avenues to independence ultra vires AND illegal. She has transformed the SNP from the vanguard of the Scottish liberation movement into a wee pretendy party of independence that pays fealty to an English state some laughably still call a union. This is insane.
She has promoted and surrounded herself with pusillanimous self-serving careerists who care more for their sinecures than they do for hundreds of thousands of their fellow citizens left to suffer the appalling ravages of universal credit. Scotland’s poor and the hungry can wait while these troughers ‘caw canny’ and play ‘the long game’, admonishing those reduced to foodbanks tae ‘keep the heid’.
Sturgeon continued to promise #indyref2 long, long, after she knew she had no intention of doing what was necessary to deliver it. She lied to the People. The #SNP and its leader pledged to deliver a referendum on independence in the lifetime of this parliament in the event of material change. It isn’t going to happen. It was never going to happen given Sturgeon’s insane UK-centric constitutional policy and declarations closing off ALL alternatives to the granting of an S30 by the English state.
No Peter, given the degree of incompetence and demonstrable mendacity characterising Sturgeon’s tenure, she should not be ‘invited to go’, she should be unceremoniously kicked out on her arse!
Peter: “Apart from a handful of thoughtless individuals, nobody in the Yes movement is calling for Nicola Sturgeon’s head…
With no ill-will whatever, and regardless of the protestations of her friends and allies, it looks very much as if Nicola Sturgeon will have to go…” ???
I was about to write that you were overstating the magnitude of the error. Then it occurred to me that I might thereby leaving myself open to accusations of trying to minimise it.
I think May have agreed if the SNP had boxed clever over the Brexit votes and did a deal. Sturgeon failed on that one to. She has to go.
She has a rapidly vanishing window of opportunity to adopt the 2021 plebiscite option, but I don’t see how she could credibly front a campaign for a consultative referendum. She has said again and again that any referendum would have to have the same legal basis as 2014.
They will have this on a loop in the Unionist media. During a consultative referendum campaign she would be relentlessly flayed on everything she has said about section 30 being the only way. So how could she front the campaign?
It would need to be someone who could credibly say ‘I never believed that nonsense. If it is a properly conducted vote, organised by the representative institution of the country, there is no such thing as an illegal referendum.’
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I agree wholeheartedly with Christian Wright @ 12.26 Nicola Sturgeon PROMISED a referendum re material change and has done everything in her power to frustrate this , she has and is ignoring the clamour from the indy movement to get things done , she has embarrassed Scotland and the Scottish people by her subservience to the english parliament and in doing so has lost credibility.
The challenge should have been taken on in 2016 when Scots overwhelmingly voted to remain within the EU , we are constantly told that the treaty of union is between 2 kingdoms and that it was entered into voluntarily ( ha ha ) we are also told that Scottish citizens are sovereign , as our elected representative NS should have FOUGHT to expose and ratify our sovereignty , instead she was more concerned about fighting to keep the uk in the EU against the express wishes of english and welsh voters
Ian Blackford STATED repeatedly in hoc that Scotland would NOT be taken out of the EU against our wishes how has that turned out , BLUFF and BLUSTER , I have read repeatedly that Nicola has a plan and to have more patience and more patience , as everyone keeps saying will the next mandate be any different in 2021 and quite honestly with this GRA debacle will the SNP even win governance
There is no independence in Europe.
Europe created their desire to become a United States of Europe. A position which they maintain , the seven countries that make up the United Kingdom have lived fought and died together for more than a thousand years we fought against each other as friends and foes we fought through and against all the Europeans who would overwhelm us in their lust for power, much the same people as those trying now. The last person who sided with them to overpower our nation was Mary Queen of Scots and she lost her head we do not require a new Mary Queen of Scots. We are a proud Country within a proud Nation whom safeguards its own boarders against all foes. My heritage is Scottish my family where clansmen they where Knights with the Stuart’s my clans still exist as does our desire to retain our United Kingdom and our unified and and positive democratic voice within it. We will not be ruled over by a dictatorship called the United States of Europe with their laws their control over our borders, our assets finance our way of life we have and will maintain our voice in our nation against all comers. Full Stop….
You come across like the product of an unnatural coupling between Nigel Farage and Rory Stewart.
“unnatural” you say – possible they were made for each other
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Thank you for your comments I am afraid I do not recognise either the persons you name, they are certainly not people that have the safety and union of our great nation at heart and soul of their words, thoughts or actions , they seem only to look to their own power and control ,
Unfortunately they do not own. Or process either.
It belongs now and always will to our great Nation and the tremendous people’s of our heritage and their successes who have built our nation and continue to defend it, be they from Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Isle of Mann, channel Southern Ireland , Northern Ireland, or England.
As we say Britain’s never never never shall be slaves.
If you don’t know who they are how can you know so much about them?
You’re really not very clever, are you? It’s a characteristic I’ve found to be common to the generality of British Nationalist fanatics. It’s as if being really stupid is a prerequisite of being a British Nationalist. The alternative being that you started off as a person of normal intelligence and somehow the British Nationalist ideology deprived you of your wits. Which seems rather less likely that you were just thick as shit to start with and therefore susceptible to the appeal of a jingoistic ideology.
I’d ask for your thoughts. But I suspect you’ve already given your all in that regard.
We have thoughts unlike your good shelf
Perhaps one day Mother Nature will assist you to develop yours in time.