Sunday 19 March 2023

Quite a big thing that nobody seems to have noticed.

To say that the SNP leadership contest has been interesting would be something of an understatement. But you won't be short of pieces elsewhere to provide the gory details.

So what I wanted to write about here is the most interesting thing of all but has been little noticed. Even the candidates for the leadership of the SNP have conceded that Scotland is not going to be independent,, at least in the foreseeable future.

What? I hear you cry. All three of them said at the conclusion of one of the TV debates that they were confident Scotland would be independent within five years. And indeed they did. But they were lying. Not to persuade anybody in the wider electorate but to appeal to the apparently eternally gullible membership of the SNP. Or at least what is left of them. Scotland is not going to be independent

For look not at that momentary answer, look at what they are actually saying. Both of the candidates with any chance of winning are conceding that the only way to secure independence is by way of a referendum. And accepting that needs the consent of the Westminster. Which they do not have and in current circumstance are unlikely ever to have, even if the Party in power at Westminster changes hands in the Autumn of 2024. Now, admittedly they assert that Westminster could not defy clearly expressed majority demand for a second referendum and, for what it is worth, I agree with that. Indeed Michael Gove and (I think) Alister Jack have said as much. But, frankly, that is not going to happen any time soon. And they know it.

Since 2016, the SNP have had the most fortuitous set of circumstances: Brexit; chaos at Westminster; Boris Johnson and then Liz Truss!!!!! as Prime Minister on the one hand and the Queenly Nicola, Our Lady of the Pandemic, on the other, with the bonus of only having a sporadically competent opposition. Yet the dial has not moved. Indeed the only occasion recently where Yes led in a few polls in a row was during the BBC's usual ludicrously anglocentric coverage of the World Cup. A quadrennial event that turns a fair bit of Scotland in to 90 minute nationalists.

So, why should that more consistent stasis change?  Ms Forbes thinks it might if the SNP could run Holyrood more competently. It might indeed but that is a long term project before it would show any results. And, even if achieved, raise questions as why it hadn't happened before. Useless, showing his well earned reputation for hard work and attention to detail, thinks it might change just because it might. 

So, in truth, there will be no pressure of public opinion on the Westminster Government to concede another referendum and no prospect of them doing that without that pressure. So, Scotland is not going be independent.

Now what does that mean in the world of politics? Well, I think that depends on who wins. If it is Ms Forbes, who I believe to be sincere in her desire to improve the quality of Government, the public might just be prepared to give her a chance. If it is Useless, I suspect it would be carnage at the 2024 polls and his probable demise before the end of that year. Only, in the latter case, for any successor to have the same problem.

But that's not really my point. My point is that the issue of whether Scotland imminently is going to become independent, which, with the assistance of a press with a vested interest in that "possibility", has dominated Scottish politics for ten years has been settled. It is not.