George Kerevan rightly points out that “a strategy that relies on gentle persuasion and infinite patience is not going to work with the Johnson clique“. It is certain that there is no route to the restoration of Scotland’s independence which does not pass through a point at which there is direct and acrimonious confrontation with the British state.
George is also justified in assuming that the SNP+SGP/Scottish Government is disinclined to “play hardball with Westminster”. All of which suggests that he has in mind an approach to the constitutional issue which is significantly different from that adopted by Nicola Sturgeon. If this is so then it is difficult to understand why George Kerevan has chosen to align himself with Alex Salmond and the Alba Party when their ‘thinking’ on the process by which we might restore Scotland’s independence is indistinguishable from the ‘Sturgeon doctrine’.
I understand, even if Alba/Salmond devotees do not, that the party can do absolutely nothing practical to aid Scotland’s cause. Alba has no power, no leverage and no influence other than over its own members and supporters. Although even that last has to be in some doubt. If Alex Salmond is serious about ending the tribal squabbling between his party and the SNP so as to allow for cooperation instead – as he intimated in an interview on The Sunday Show – then he is evidently failing to persuade his followers. So what he imagines he and his party can contribute to the independence cause is a bit of a mystery.
The claim is that Alba Party is going to put pressure on Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP. Holding their feet to the fire is the favoured cliche. But suppose they actually could put the squeeze on the SNP+SGP/Scottish Government to act, what exactly would Alba/Salmond have them do differently? The answer according to that same interview is absolutely nothing.
Alba Party’s ‘mission’ – insofar as this can be gleaned from speeches, statements and publications – has gone from ‘delivering independence’ to demanding that the SNP uses its mandate to hold a referendum as a matter of urgency and now that they look like doing that, to demanding that they immediately fire the “starting gun” on the Yes campaign for this referendum. So far, so unimpressive!
When it comes to the mechanics of the referendum and the strategy for the Yes campaign there is not a scintilla of fresh thinking to be found in Alex Salmond’s utterances. This is where Alba Party COULD be different. This is how it could distinguish itself from the SNP. This is where they might even manage to bring a small fire into the vicinity of Nicola Sturgeon’s feet. As it is, everything Alex Salmond said with regard to the referendum and associated campaign could just as easily have been said by Nicola Sturgeon.
Imagine if Salmond had taken the opportunity of that TV appearance to reject the ‘Sturgeon doctrine’ of “gentle persuasion and infinite patience”. Imagine if instead of ridiculing the idea of changing the question to be put on the ballot he had demanded that it be changed so as to make the Union and not independence the contentious issue. Imagine if he had insisted that the entire constitutional question be reframed and the campaign rethought.
Imagine if he had repudiated the Section 30 process and called for the Scottish Parliament to assert its primacy in Scotland on the basis of the democratic legitimacy it alone derives from the sovereign people of Scotland.
Imagine if he had exhibited some of the boldness and decisiveness that Scotland’s cause requires. Imagine the reaction from the part of the Yes movement that isn’t made up of SNP loyalists and apologists. Imagine the fire that he might have lit.
George Kerevan closes his column by saying,
Unless Scotland is willing to impose its own political agenda on events, we are likely to find ourselves in a permanent political and constitutional limbo.
How disappointed and distressed George must be to see that neither Nicola Sturgeon nor Alex Salmond is talking about anything other than sticking with the British state’s ‘gold standard’ referendum process and a Yes campaign that is just the decade-old strategy without so much as the stoor blown off it.
Scotland is being let down by its entire political class. Scotland’s cause has never been in more need of bold, determined and imaginative leadership. That describes neither Nicola Sturgeon nor Alex Salmond.
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