The weekend saw the end of the SNP’s autumn conference, their last before the Independence referendum next September. That the referendum is at the forefront shouldn’t be so surprising, what was surprising is the apparent left turn taken by the SNP leadership.
Promises for central government to subsidise the green levy for household bills sort of falls into the same “something must be done” territory that Labour have gone into with their fuel price freeze, while a promise to renationalise Royal Mail seems to be supported by everyone. Apart that is from members of the main Westminster parties.
The more you look at things though, this isn’t so much a left turn by the SNP but a re-stating of Scottish values set against the Westminster parties own UKIP influenced right turn. You could also argue that this underline’s Lamont’s wretched strategic planning by ensuring that there will be no left turn for “Scottish” Labour any time soon. However, while all this manoeuvring is interesting in terms of 2016, it will not have a bearing on the Independence debate by itself.
In Salmond’s speech, he claimed that the referendum is still wide open & that Independence can still be won. He is both right and wrong. He is right because there are still a large number of undecided’s and soft “no” voters that can be won over. This is why the SNP have looked to have taken a left turn and why the SNP have given serious consideration to the proposals put forward by the Jimmy Reid Foundation under the name of The Common Weal.
Yet, there is still the sense that Scotland will vote to reject Independence next year. Scotland is just not ready to vote for Independence, the default position for many Scot's is still pro-Union. A much bigger reason though will be the performance of the SNP hierarchy themselves in the campaign thus far. The triumvirate of Salmond, Sturgeon and Swinney must have had a hand in the decisions that have put the “Yes” camp behind the 8-ball. All of which make’s Kate “The Burd” Higgins claim that more involvement in “Yes Scotland” by the SNP is a good thing somewhat baffling.
Sturgeon’s insistence that Scotland will remain in the EU was the first sign after that launch that made people think that the “Yes” camp maybe hadn’t put the prep in, or as much prep as they needed. This is continually compounded by Sturgeon’s (and for that matter, most pro-Independence supporters) insistence that Eurosceptisism is a purely English mindset. There are no Eurosceptic’s here in Scotland.
A much bigger mistake though has come from Swinney’s policy that I-Scotland would seek to enter a currency union with the rest of the UK. This policy has enabled the chairman of Better Together, Alistair Darling, to make hay pointing out that this sort of fiscal union clearly works with the Euro. While the unpopularity of the Euro has clearly had an influence on Swinney’s formulation of this policy, there is a much more common sense approach that has been ignored. I-Scotland’s new currency should be the currency we have just now. Our currency is the Scottish Pound, which is tacked to the Pound Sterling.
You could also apply this common sense to the other serious policy issue. The common sense approach should have been that it is an aspiration for I-Scotland to join the EU, but we will only join if our people want to. That would have avoided Sturgeon’s show of petulant inexperience and also we would not have the Winton Paradox, which the SNP still not answered. The Planet Politics blogger Stuart Winton asked the question “Why is it OK for us to leave a small union only for us to join a larger union where we would have less democracy?” The problem for the SNP here is that there is very little room for that well known political manoeuvre, the reverse ferret. The damage has been done & there’s still no sign of the SNP winning the economic argument (as previously mentioned a key battleground). It’s for this reason that I think that Salmond is wrong in thinking that the referendum is still winnable from the point of view of the “Yes” camp.
That’s not to say that the result is a foregone conclusion, there are signs of complacency creeping into the Better Together camp, while the climate at Westminster seems to provide conditions that contradicts Better Together’s key arguments. However in the aftermath of their autumn conference, the SNP are in the curious position of being in good shape for Hollyrood 2016 while relying on snooker’s to pull them back into the referendum campaign.