Yet again, the polls are being used to divert our attention from… the polls! The triumphant proclamation and ostentatious celebration of every upward blip in support for Yes is intended to disguise the fact that support for independence is around ten points below where we might reasonably expect it to be given the near-ideal circumstances for a campaign to end the Union.
The only reason the polls aren’t higher is Nicola Sturgeon’s failure to take advantage of these circumstances. It is a failure of strategic political thinking stupefying in its self-serving stupidity. A series of appalling misjudgements – such as committing to the Section 30 process and choosing to fight Brexit rather than the Union – has left the independence movement in disarray and Scotland’s cause in a precarious state.
Even disregarding the failure to capitalise on the momentum the Yes campaign had in the early years of Sturgeon’s tenure as First Minister and all the missed opportunities that predate the public health crisis, we need to be honest with ourselves about where we are at this time. Where we should now have been consolidating a significant lead in the polls in preparation for the final push using the 2021 Scottish Parliament elections to obtain a mandate for a Manifesto for Independence, we are facing the prospect of another five years without any progress towards restoring Scotland’s independence. Five years in which the British political elite will continue to systematically dismantle Scotland’s democracy and put new impediment in the way of Scotland’s cause.
Even if the margin-of-error ‘soaring’ of the polls above 50% could confidently be regarded as increased support for independence rather than fluctuations attributable to other factors, it is not enough to prevent the same polls as are now being hailed as the harbingers of victory being used to rationalise yet further pusillanimous procrastination after the election. Had polling been hovering around 60%, as it should, then Sturgeon would have had to find another excuse for delay. That might embarrass even someone who shows not the slightest embarrassment over the way she has failed to provide the independence movement with the leadership it needs. Or anything else, for that matter.
I totally reject the foolish notion that Sturgeon has forsaken the aspiration to restore Scotland’s independence. But I cannot do other than conclude that this aspiration has been overtaken by self-interest and an unwillingness to participate in the kind of confrontational politics which would necessarily be involved in any serious effort to end the Union. It is difficult to avoid labeling this reluctance political cowardice. Mostly, a fear of losing which severely impairs her judgement.
Time is short. Scotland’s predicament has never been so perilous. We simply cannot afford to let the weaknesses of one individual jeopardise our cause and our nation. If the SNP goes into the election now less than 50 days away without a manifesto which includes an unequivocal commitment to the actions set out in the Manifesto for Independence the opportunity of this democratic event will be lost as were so many others in the last seven years. We cannot be at all confident that another such opportunity will present itself. We cannot be sure of being able to create such an opportunity. We absolutely must seize this chance.
However these polls may be presented by those whose loyalty to Nicola Sturgeon is greater than their allegiance to Scotland’s cause, they tell a story of past and continuing failure. We have only days to ensure that this story ends here. We have only days to start writing a new story.