The SNP in Inverness – the Independence ball is now rolling

Party conferences are usually of minor passing interest to anyone beyond the party faithful. The stage-managing is drearily transparent; the debates are anything but; the set piece speeches by the Great Leader & His Loyal Lieutenants are usually just a succession of sound bites tossed to the seagulls who follow such political trawlers; and everyone (who is on message) gets drunk, swaps email addresses and goes home happy…  only to wake up and read the morning papers wondering why their elation, pride and backslapping hasn’t translated to newspaper headlines nor column inches.

Should SNP delegates to Inverness feel any different?  Possibly not.  And yet, beyond the inevitable celebratory mood, and the legitimate gripes about fair coverage from the BBC, something significant happened in Inverness. The SNP big hitters not only talked about Scottish Independence but sent the clearest possible signal that the party, and the Scottish government, were firing the starting pistol in the Independence referendum campaign.

The SNP leadership over the last few years has, for tactical reasons, steered away from directly campaigning for Independence and concentrated instead on strengthening its hand at Holyrood.  This approach has frustrated many pro-Independence fundamentalists, myself included.

But the proof of the pudding is always in the eating and no matter which way you look at it Alex Salmond and his campaign team have thus far got their tactics right and got the SNP exactly where they want them to be: in power, hugely popular among the Scottish people, and with a majority and a mandate to hold a decisive game-changing referendum.

Following the May election victory the conference in Inverness was as good a time as any to kick start a referendum campaign and up the Independence ante.  And that’s exactly what they did.  Nicola Sturgeon repeatedly hammered home the Independence message.  John Swinney made the point that Scotland would be the sixth wealthiest nation in the world if we were Independent and in control of our North Sea assets.  It was announced that the Edwin Morgan legacy of almost a million pounds would be ring-fenced to campaign in the referendum. And Alex Salmond’s key note speech emphasised that he and the SNP would be campaigning for full independence in the forthcoming referendum.

You would think this would be recognised for what it was. Yet it was predictable that the unionist media in Scotland would look the other way.  The Scotland on Sunday even went as far as to run a bizarre front page story headlined “SALMOND FACES BACKLASH”.  The jist of the story was that the First Minister was planning a second ballot box question on “Devo Max” or Full Fiscal Autonomy.  Yet what Alex Salmond actually said was:

“In contrast fiscal responsibility, financial freedom, real economic powers is a legitimate proposal. It could allow us to control our own resources, introduce competitive business tax, and fair personal taxation.

All good, all necessary, but not good enough.

Delegates even with economic powers Trident nuclear missiles would still be on the River Clyde, we could still be forced to spill blood in illegal wars like Iraq, and Scotland would still be excluded from the Councils of Europe and the world.

THESE THINGS ONLY INDEPENDENCE CAN BRING WHICH IS WHY THIS PARTY WILL CAMPAIGN FULL SQUARE FOR INDEPENDENCE IN THE COMING REFERENDUM.”

Who, on the Independence side, could argue with that?  There was no mention of Devo Max on the ballot paper except to imply that Full Fiscal Autonomy was “a legitimate proposal” but “not good enough”.

As one of those quoted in that SoS article – supposedly putting Alex Salmond “under fire” – I can only shake my head.  In a telephone conversation I told the journalist from SoS that naturally I would prefer a straightforward Yes or No question but was very relaxed about Alex Salmond hedging his bets at this point as three years is a long time in politics and the political landscape could be very different in 2014 or 2015.  I guess the second part didn’t fit the negative thrust of the article so was left out.  I’m guessing that most of the others interviewed were also quoted out of context to try and sew division.  No change there then.

That aside the gloves are off. The Independence referendum campaign has – at last – begun for real.  The pro-union side are in disarray.  For our part it’s now about getting organised and making sure we can deliver a Yes vote.

The SNP know they can’t win this on their own.  A winning campaign will need to involve all the political parties who support Independence as well those who are in none.  Civic Scotland holds the key to success and in this respect the Scottish Independence Convention is already up and running and ahead of the game.  Bella Caledonia will continue to support and publicise such initiatives in the coming months.

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  1. Very good article Kevin. I would like to see everyone supporting Scotland Forward http://scotlandforward.net beyond the SNP initiative. We can win this referendum even with DevoMax on the ballot paper but I want to see a united campaign and not just left to the SNP. The role of the Scottish Independence Convention will be valuable and crucial to the success of the task that is mapped out for us.

    1. Albalha says:

      Just looked at the scotlandforward site it appears to be an SNP site rather than ‘beyond the SNP initiative’.? Maybe I’m not quite grasping your point.

      And if you are involved in the site I’d suggest a wee makeover not the easiest to navigate.

      1. bellacaledonia says:

        I agree on the navigation. There’s definitely a need for a non-party or beyond party group …

  2. Daniel B says:

    I think there is a recalibration ongoing between the SNP and the UK more generally. It is the first steps in an evolving relationship which will decide Scotland’s future. Read this post http://lettertoscotland.blogspot.com/2011/10/recasting-snp.html

  3. The Hootsmon editorial team have been all over the place this weekend – on Saturday we had the fable that Labour were going to support the coalition in reigning in Salmond. No sooner had the headline hit the streets than all the new best buddies were popping up all over the place saying that is not what they said, honest!

    Today we have had Moore’s briefing about a Scotland too wee to defend itself, we’ve had Murphy burbling about devo-max and, in effect, asking the SNP to define Labour’s devo-max campaign for them. Now Ian Davidson (Labour Westminster) of the Scottish Select Committee (sole function to hold the secretary of State for Scotland to account) saying he’d like to be Labour’s Scotland Region number two.

    One journalist whose Union flag thong is well known, Kevin McKenna, writing in the Groiniad / Observer stated that the Union has five years left because, ‘there are no politicians of the stature of Alex Salmond within the Labour or Tory camp.’

    Yes – Kevin McKenna!

    The MSM are increasingly irrelevant to the course of the referendum, the vote will be driven by the gut instinct of the electorate and the message will be from blogs like Bella and Newsnet Scotland – not forgetting ForwardScotland.net.

    Westminster has only even more meanness towards the Scots left as their strategy – the too wee, too small, too stupid Westminster narrative has lost its bite. I am now looking forward to an indepndent Scottish Nation well within this decade.

  4. Doug Daniel says:

    The MSM are incredible. Even Brian Taylor, on the BBC’s brief, half-hour overview of the conference at 11:45pm last night, admitted that the dissenting voices were surprisingly few and far between, because people have given Salmond their unequivocal trust to make the right decision. He has earned himself a LOT of leeway, and so he should. After all, just read this passage again:
    “Alex Salmond and his campaign team have thus far got their tactics right and got the SNP exactly where they want them to be: in power, hugely popular among the Scottish people, and with a majority and a mandate to hold a decisive game-changing referendum.”

    Getting the SNP in power for one term would, by itself, have been a magnificent achievement. Making the SNP the most popular party in Scotland would, on its own, be a magnificent achievement. Getting the SNP to be the first ever party to get a rule-breaking majority in Holyrood would, in itself, be a magnificent achievement. Getting the party in a position to hold the independence referendum would, in itself be a magnificent achievement.

    He has done them all, in almost one fell swoop.

    You can feel the momentum the almost flawless SNP team is creating at the moment, and it’s overpowering. That’s why the MSM are in disarray, with even journalists on the same papers finding it impossible to stick to a coherent message. Some say the referendum needs to be held now because the conditions are perfect and the SNP cannot possibly keep things going as well as they have for another 3 years. These people are wrong. The arguments for independence will become stronger and stronger, until eventually even normal people are practically screaming out to be given the chance to put their X against independence.

    The independence movement is becoming an unstoppable juggernaut, one which is just yards away from crossing the rubicon, and it will smash through whatever barriers and obstacles are put in its way.

  5. MacNaughton says:

    Catalan newspaper Aviu quoted exactly the same part of Salmond’s speech:

    “Responsabilitat fiscal, llibertat financera, poders econòmics reals són una proposta legítima. Tot és bo i necessari, però no és suficient”, ha insistit Salmond entre aplaudiments.
    Sense la independència, ha argumentat, “els submarins nuclears seguiran a les nostres costes, se’ns obligarà a vessar sang en guerres il·legals com a l’Iraq i seguirem sent exclosos dels organismes europeus i de la resta del món”.

    http://www.elpuntavui.cat/noticia/article/3-politica/17-politica/467036-salmond-cap-politic-de-londres-determinara-el-futur-de-la-nacio-escocesa.html

  6. Ard Righ says:

    “Civic Scotland holds the key to success and in this respect the Scottish Independence Convention is already up and running and ahead of the game. ”

    I don’t know where you’re coming from with that one Kevin, Civic is always subordinate to the Sovereign, the Sovereign people of Scotland ( http://www.ustream.tv/channel/snp-conference-2011-inverness-scotland1 ) will be driving the future of Scotland.

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