It’s taken a full twenty years but the SNP have now completely supplanted the Labour Party in all aspects. Complete dominance of Scottish politics? Check. Superb slick media operations. Check. Leadership adrift in centrist compromise? Check. Party besieged by internal factionalism and bloodletting? Check. Accusations of infiltration and entryism? Check. Expectations of massive electoral success? Check.
The day after the schisms and splits within the SNP were fully exposed – and victory declared for various factions (of which more in a moment) – IPSOS and STV polling showed huge trust in the SNP and in the First Minister, huge support for the SNP and a pro-indy majority at Holyrood in May and sustained support for independence at 56%.
The Holyrood seat projection from IpsosMORI poll has the SNP with a 17 seat majority; a pro-independence with majority of 27; with Tory & Labour falling back and the Greens, oddly losing a seat. All of this slightly undermines those who decry the SNP leadership as (variously) useless, feckless, corrupt (insert insult here).
See “SNP dominates Scotland’s political landscape ahead of May elections” for full breakdown.
A note of caution amongst the celebration, Emily Gray from IPSOS points out: “But a quarter of Scots don’t appear to hold a completely definitive position in favour of either indy or the Union. Yes campaigners can’t afford to be complacent, and all might not be lost for those who want Scotland to stay in the UK.”
Given the lack of credible opposition in Scotland, opposition to the SNP has to come from within the SNP itself.
The danger is – looking at these figures and a five month timeline – what exactly are the plans for the dissident wing? Can they act as a coherent pressure group from within the party to effect change and play a positive role, or will ego and ambition drive them to destroy the host? How do those within (and accountable to) the party driven by genuine desire to embolden the party – relate to those outside the party driven by their own personal agendas and vendettas?There couldn’t be a more Scottish outcome than having got to this stage in history then witness self-sabotage at a grand scale in the final hour.
Questions remain about the coherence of the group (s). As ousted policy development convener Alyn Smith has written: “I don’t see a lot of coherence there – the idea that sincere women’s rights defenders will find much long-term common cause with Alex Salmond apologists hardly strikes me as likely.”
There’s no doubt that some of the elections are a big defeat for the party leadership racked with criticism for inertia and timidity and corporate sell-out and the results have emboldened the more critical wing of the movement/party. As George Kerevan writes on Conter:
“Many movement activists (a lot of whom are outside the SNP) are not prepared to rely on parliamentary manoeuvres to win independence. There is a lot of discussion within the movement of mass action, civil disobedience and holding a referendum without Westminster approval. Movement activists are aware that, at the very least, it is necessary to keep pressure on the SNP leadership. Recent weeks have seen the creation of YesAlba, a new, autonomous membership organisation pledged to winning independence, along the lines of the Catalan ANC.”
The trick would be for mass action and civil disobedience to come in forms and formats that brought energy to the whole movement and country which is on a path to independence rather than actions that undermine that momentum. In the same way, while the “just hold a referendum” “just get on with it” “do UDI now” plays well within the bubbles of the movement, it’s not at all clear it plays well in the wider society.
But creative civil disobedience and direct action could play a major part in providing powerful symbol and energy to the whole country if well conceived.
I’ve not been convinced by other side of the culture wars, and not prepared to be confined by the binary nature of the “debate”, such as there is any. The shrill and often hysterical language used in much of this debate has been, often, appaling, and the divisions, in my mind unnecessary.
It seems like this time needs leadership which is thoughtful and courageous but can also unify a party scarred by division. Yet there are key issues which the party needs to resolve in forming its manifesto, and key amongst these is the currency question. In this sense some of the appointments might make that crucial debate much easier to have because it will be impossible to silence those of us critical of the Growth Commission’s Sterlingisation plans.
If the SNP have come to form some of the defining characteristics of Labour, there are other similarities. Between those jostling for position with political ambition and those spearheading toxic factions, there are in the party and the wider movement the far greater proportion of people who just want change and want to transform Scotland through independence to a more peaceful and more ecologically viable country. The great majority of the movement – and increasingly now the country – want to eject from the class-ridden inequalities and poverty of the British state and still sense that Another Scotland is Possible, to use a well worn phrase.
It’s in this context that Nicola Sturgeon was clever to frame Scottish independence as an essential part of our post-covid social reconstruction, not an obstacle to it. “Independence is not a distraction from the task of post-covid reconstruction it is essential to getting that right” she said.
The challenge ahead is to find a way to rebuild in the ashes of post-covid / No Deal Brexit in a way that looks forward with the real ambition and energy and vision that the moment requires. That might require us all to be our best selves and to seize the moment and the opportunity for the country which lies before us.