But the omens are not good. We know that the SNP has failed to consistently increase support for independence since 2014, and yet there is little sign – at least in the higher echelons of the party – that they are preparing for a serious debate about a rethink or initiate a restart. Saying the same things over and over will get you the same result, so stop saying them.
So, as an outsider looking in (with a bit of smoke in my eyes), I was wondering if I could suggest some of the things that have been said so far in the competition that are counterproductive, by which I mean they are for some of the Things work hardcore, but not for voters who have yet to be persuaded. You – we – are looking for something else.
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Number one is “All we need is 50+1”. That’s what Ash Regan said. In their view, if pro-independence parties get more than 50% of the vote in an election, that would be an indication that Scotland wants independence; Ms Regan says she can then negotiate independence with Westminster. Oh, and we would apparently switch to a Scottish currency within the first few months as well.
Currency gibberish aside, it seems to me that Ms Regan’s comments reveal a real lack of awareness that the fight over independence support has been going on for some time. Nationalists themselves are increasingly recognizing that one must build a firm majority before independence has any chance, and that likely means sustained public support of around 60% or more.
I am referring here to nationalists such as Tom Arthur, MSP for Renfrewshire South, whose recent comments on the subject have been interesting. A close result like 50+1, he says, is problematic for whoever wins. If it were no, nationalists would not accept the result (we already know that, don’t we?). But if it were, he says it would likely lead to calls for another confirmatory referendum. This is all really logical stuff.
But it’s Mr Arthur’s comments on building sustained support for independence that could be really useful. In his opinion, firm public opinion means over 60% support, and that can only be achieved by improving perceptions of devolved government and promoting a clear perspective that anti-independence opponents can see as credible (which presumably means that no plans for a new currency). “within months”).
“We’re not in a situation where independence is the firm will,” he said, “and we have to be honest with ourselves if we’re going to be credible at home and internationally.” Mr Arthur is right, but who’s listening to?
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The second thing nationalists shouldn’t say relates to Mr Arthur’s comment about improving perceptions of decentralized government, which is “we’re going ahead anyway”. We saw it with the hate crime law. We say it with gender reform. And now we see it again with the bottle deposit system.
The program is a good idea (in principle) but it’s not yet operational and yet the Minister responsible – I’m afraid it’s Lorna Slater – says the Government is moving forward. This is the kind of thing that basically undermines any campaign for independence, because if we don’t see that people are competent, capable, and good at running devolved government, it makes us wonder if they’re better off running independent government would.
And that brings me to number three: “no media allowed,” which happened in the recent leadership hustle when the SNP initially said it would not let the press in. This really goes to the heart of the party, rather than the broader pro-independence campaign: the SNP has always been far too desperate to control the narrative (even if it doesn’t work) and it’s a far better idea to allow open talks and discussions to lead.
Joanna Cherry made a similar point regarding attitudes toward party members themselves: People are encouraged not to question policy or strategy unless labeled disloyal, “not a team player” or worse, and only a reset can do that clear up. Ms Cherry is right, but who’s listening?
Which brings us to the fourth point that nationalists should avoid saying, “I wouldn’t have voted for gay marriage,” or anything along those lines. There are unionists who seem to fear Kate Forbes as First Secretary because her socially conservative views could attract Tory voters.
But I suspect it’s far more likely that her comments will curb recruitment from progressive politics. If you have a leader who doubts gay marriage, sex before marriage and abortion, aren’t young people tempted by Labor instead? And won’t the Conservatives stay with the Tories anyway because they don’t like independence? lose lose
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And that brings me to my final point, which is a bit more trivial but still insightful in its own way and touches on something Alex Salmond said in regards to the Coronation and the Destiny Stone. The former First Minister said that in a context where “the legitimate desire of the Scottish people for a referendum” is being rejected by the Westminster Government, the Scottish Government should not simply humbly hand over the stone. He also said the following: “The authorities will likely whip it out before the competition is over; That’s the kind of sneaky trick that got it stolen in the first place.
Mr Salmond himself admitted that this was not the most serious point he had ever made, but it is this particular brand of nationalism that many trade unionists find particularly repulsive. The kind that can’t seem to see beyond symbols like rocks or flags. But also the kind that seems constantly in a bad mood. It’s that old thing, isn’t it, about Scots being surly lodgers in Britain rather than open-minded participants, and it’s the kind of vibe the leadership candidates need to be shot by on the spot.
Maybe there’s a chance: Aside from the comments on gay marriage, Kate Forbes’ campaign in particular has emphasized the positive. But I don’t really see a lot of evidence through the flames and smoke that the candidates are really looking back at what worked and what didn’t. But it’s the only way they’ll begin to make the kind of progress all three of them so desperately crave.
https://www.heraldscotland.com/politics/viewpoint/23364219.scottish-nationalists-shouldnt-saying-right-now/?ref=rss Which the Scottish nationalists shouldn’t say now