The Great Mistake 226

The SNP risks a great loss in putting Independence on the back-burner. They have the huge energy of the street Yes campaign behind them. Shifting from fifth gear to reverse risks not only loss of momentum, but damage. “Go out and work for Independence!” is what 80,000 new members want to hear. “Go out and work for Devo-Max and a supply and confidence agreement with Labour at Westminster”, is not.

I was not too concerned at reports that Alex Salmond had said that Independence may not feature in the SNP’s coming Westminster manifesto, and it would be up to Nicola Sturgeon. It was just one interview, and the great man was possibly just musing, I thought. But then we had Nicola Sturgeon’s message to all members, repeated as adverts in the newspapers, setting out the stall for the General Election. This makes no mention of Independence at all.

I think there are two major mistakes here. The first is that rather than state its fundamental beliefs, the SNP is tailoring its message to be appropriate to a specific tactical situation – a hung parliament with the SNP able to sustain a Labour-led government, in return for certain demands. Tailoring the message to this circumstance is a mistake because it is a scenario which is entirely beyond the power of the SNP, or even Scotland, to bring about. And my very firm prediction is that it will not happen.

Labour and the Tories are neck and neck in recent polls, but I fully expect the Tories will make ground, as the incumbent government always does in the final months before a UK general election. They have the opportunity of a populist budget to boost them. UKIP support will dip, disproportionately returning to the Tories. Murdoch will back Cameron, along with the Mail, Express and Telegraph. The Tories have over twice the campaign funds of Labour. The LibDem vote will plummet but they will hold on to more of their own seats UK wide than a uniform swing would indicate. I am willing to bet that the Conservatives remain in power, probably still as the ConDems, after the General Election.

In this scenario, what happens in Scotland is irrelevant to who forms the UK government – as so often. Whether there are more Labour or more SNP on the opposition benches will make little difference to Cameron and Osborne. What will happen, however, is an increasingly urgent demand for Scottish Independence in the face of five more years of unwanted Tory rule in Scotland.

It is tactically essential that, in this scenario, the SNP MP’s can claim to have been elected on a clear mandate for Independence. The SNP may have a majority of Scottish MP’s after May. There will be a vote on whether the UK leaves the EU. Should the UK vote to leave the EU (which is not improbable), the demand for Scottish Independence may become overwhelming. If at that stage we have a majority of Scottish MP’s clearly elected for Independence, there are a number of possible options for achieving Independence. If however those MPs were elected only on a platform that prioritised Devo-Max, the arguments look very different.

The second major mistake is that Devo-Max is unobtainable. Whitehall and Westminster will never agree to hand over to Scotland its full oil or whisky revenues. It is in any event not possible for Scotland to run an expansive fiscal policy within the overall control of the Treasury and Bank of England. It is possible to get limited extra powers for the Scottish parliament. The Smith Commission is very close to the limit of what Westminster will ever agree within the Union. Even were Smith to be fully implemented (which like Calman it won’t) it is no substitute for Independence.

And as I have frequently stated, so long as our foreign and defence policy is still controlled by Westminster, so long as they can still send Scots to fight and die in illegal wars, so long as they can involve us in hideous torture and permanent conflict in the Middle East, we have not obtained ethical responsibility, and the rest means little.

Many No voters already regret their vote. The SNP does not need to pitch its message to appeal to continuing unionists. As the Independence vote is heavily behind the SNP, while the Unionist vote has more significant diversions between Labour, Tory, Liberal and UKIP, under first past the post the Yes voters alone will sweep the board – which is precisely what opinion polls show as happening.

The other thing we know from the Referendum is that a significant number of SNP voters, voted No. The truth is that not every supporter of the SNP is a fervent supporter of Independence. Certainly a great many members do not relate to the social radicalism and desire for sweeping societal change that motivated so much of the astonishing street Yes campaign.

The SNP has now a substantial professional class. It has MSP’s, Scottish ministers, MP’s and MEP’s, and all their research assistants, secretaries, constituency secretaries and SPADs. It has paid councillors, committee chairs, leaders of councils. It has a Chief Executive and HQ staff. If the process of gradualism has brought you a good income and a comfy living, it is a natural temptation to see the accretion of a few more powers, and the addition of a lot more jobs for MP’s and their staff, as all part of useful progress, without wanting to risk anything too radical. Independence can become a misty aspiration, lost in the day to day concerns of genuinely ultra-important stuff like running the NHS or schools or local transport.

The SNP is not the small band of noble rebellious souls it once was. It is now a major institution in itself, and part of the fabric of the British state. Institutions, even composed of the nicest people, always develop and protect their corporate interest.

I worry that the downplaying of the Independence goal for the General Election may drain the fire from those 80,000 Yes-oriented new members. I worry even more that this may not be an accident.

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226 thoughts on “The Great Mistake

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  • Brian Doonrthetoon

    I work on the assumption that the SNP doesn’t, necessarily, have to restate its position on independence all the time. The party’s position is stated in its constitution:-

    Aims 2. The aims of the Party shall be:

    (a) Independence for Scotland; that is the restoration of Scottish national sovereignty by restoration of full powers to the Scottish Parliament, so that its authority is limited only by the sovereign power of the Scottish People to bind it with a written constitution and by such agreements as it may freely enter into with other nations or states or international organisations for the purpose of furthering international cooperation, world peace and the protection of the environment.

    Assuming that the current polled voting intentions are converted to actual votes in May, the SNP will return a majority of MP’s from Scotland to fight Scotland’s corner, pushing for the promised ‘devo-max’.

    If, the ‘vow’, made by the three unionist parties, is reneged upon, then I would suggest that the SNP, with a majority of Scottish MP’s, could then invoke clause 2 (above) of its constitution.

    Call it ‘Plan B’, if you will.

  • BrianPowell

    Nicola Sturgeon, on FMQ, when ‘questioned’ about something Alex Salmond said, made a reply that was clear that Independence had not gone away.
    She has used the info that over 55% want another referendum soon. The way is open.

  • Iam Scott

    It’s actually the same tactic that got us to the position of a referendum.

    i.e. the SNP dropped independence from their manifestos to gain power in Holyrood to show that they were a competent to govern, which resulted in them being the 1st party to get a majority in a parliament that was designed to prevent a majority.

    So apply the same tactic to Westminster elections and if you get a majority of Scotland’s allocation of MPs, then you can show just how badly Labour has represented the Scots by doing a much better job (which won’t be hard).

    Then at the Scottish Parliament elections make a commitment for another referendum.

    So I don’t share your fears, I just think the SNP are playing the long game and by going for bust at this stage could set independence back at this particular point in time.

    Of course everything could change with the result of the GE or the EU referendum, but I think the SNP have made enough noises to that effect already.

    I’m not actually a member of any party and would not normally be voting SNP.

    But To get to this point they have needed to be very canny and realistically I think we need to get behind them just now as the only realistic means of getting independence.

  • Republicofscotland

    House of Lords restaurants lost almost £2million last year – leaving ordinary taxpayers to pick up the bill.

    The upper chamber’s controversial catering subsidy increased by £100,000 last year according to official figures released this week.

    The lavish subsidy allows peers to enjoy fine-dining at knock-down prices on the Parliamentary estate.

    There you have it the UK taxpayer picks up the bill for the House of Lords, which has some of the richest men in Britain, stuffing their fatcat faces.

  • Robert Crawford


    If you want to know why there is no chance of Devo-Max just take a look at Ian Hamilton Q.C.’s U-tube video, “we are winning”.

  • craig Post author

    Iam Scott

    I agree we all need to get behind the SNP too. I also agree that tactically their gradualist approach took us far. But that does not mean the same tactic is appropriate now. As in a 10,000 metre race or limited overs cricket, a change of gear at the end is vital.

  • thomaspotter2014

    I am Scott
    You put my point across so much better than me
    Craig ,sorry if it sounded offensive.
    Not my intention.

  • nevermind

    “And what about your blog? As an aspiring politician who wants to earn people’s respect and trust – where is your own blog in your real name?”

    Aspiring politician. not any more, I rather help others and divert knowledge on what to avoid during a campaign, although not always heeded I hasten to say.

    For example, Unison has emailed its members in Norfolk the link to download postal votes here in Norfolk, now that is asking people to download it, fill it out and send it off, when the elections are not even called and could still be annulled.

    Why are you asking? need some help with standing up yourself coming May?
    Habby, Desp Res and some others might help you.

  • Ba'al Zevul

    Is Fred still ejaculating over the price of oil? Talk about turkeys voting for Christmas!

    If Fred and his ilk had voted Yes, it wouldn’t have been UK plc’s problem and his hated Scots neighbours would have been shown the error of their nazi nationalist ways. As it is: job losses in good old South Blighty, too, and yet another burden for the kindly young chancellor of Engerland And The Rest, both due to loss of tax income and to having to prop up up the oil industry with Fred’s money on behalf of the hedge funds..

    Bad call, Fred. Pity you didn’t see it coming either…btw, do you see much sign of the Great British Government utilising the low price of energy to encourage productive industry? I don’t. What I see is the usual bunch of fixers filling their boots, and furiously scribbling objections to renewables.

  • BrianFujisan

    ” worry that the downplaying of the Independence goal for the General Election may drain the fire from those 80,000 Yes-oriented new members. I worry even more that this may not be an accident.”

    For the last few weeks, since Craig’s Bedroom tax Question, Then hard on the heels of that, the Tory Planted Question, at a Talk/ meet. i have been worrying about this too, and the last sentence i have been actively fighting – that this may not be an Accident.

    keeping Momentum was always my worry, i could never understand why SNP never got those European election Monitoring people involved, as Craig had posted about ( i forget When ) And then Look what Happened with bbc and almost all MsM Bias.

    I would venture that most of us 80,000 new members are watching, we still want our Independence.

    and i Do agree with Craig’s Analogy with a race, going up gears

    Then we have the Utter Disdain to Scots, of Murphy, Hiring A fellow Blairite…Thatcher Worshiper John McTernan, a man who thinks –

    “This is the first dirty secret of Scottish politics: that Scotland is doing very well, thank you. When it comes to public spending, it is a mendicant nation, always looking for more.”

    “If you’ve not been to Sweden before I think you’ll really like it,” he wrote. “It’s the country Scotland would be if it was not narrow, Presbyterian, racist, etc, etc. Social democracy in action.”

    “There’s a traditional saying: How do you eat an elephant? Answer: A lot of people start at different edges and eat towards the centre. In similar way the SNP will only lose their dominance over Scottish politics if they are challenged by a revival of all the other parties. So, a revival of the Scottish Tories is necessary.”

    I think RoS put this up in the Last Thread… Anyhoo, For more of this little Rats Crap See here – Mind the Sick Bag Though…his Bullshit on most things things especially Iraq is truly Sickening

  • giyane

    So far Ed Milibands party doesn’t believe in anything you could call a policy. This is how modern politics is done. You stand with your hands in your pockets saying nothing.

    They want us to forget Blair lying to parliament, Geoff Hoon sending young men to Afghanistan in farm vehicles, Gordon Brown choking on his own Bilderberg economic vomit.

    The SNP have a power base and they want to reach out to some NO voters to gain extra punters. Where Craig was right to balk at bedroom tax is that imaginary middle ground of compromise, a SNP – New Labour pact. It can’t be done. Bring your Labour values into our independence party is one thing. Sell your soul for power is a totally different thing.

    To listen to Tories now, you’d think they won the last election on their own. Does the SNP want to be in the same position as the LibDems now, being scraped off the tread of a warmongering New Labour’s shoe in 5 year’s time?

    Craig is right, as often. Compromise for short term gain is doomed to failure in the long term.

  • fred

    “Is Fred still ejaculating over the price of oil? Talk about turkeys voting for Christmas!”

    Arrogant cunts.

    Every day I see post after post, people who think everyone most want to read what they read so they cut and paste it all and regurgitate it here, people obsessed, who pour out their obsession with one man, tracking his every movement in post after post.

    I stick to the important, the relevant, we dodged a bullet, the Nationalists got it wrong, the 55% got it right.

    SNP white paper told us oil prices over $110, oil prices in reality $50, those are the facts, that is the truth and I’ll keep on telling it much as you don’t want to hear it.

  • RMG

    [ – trapped by Akismet at 14:57]
    [maybe it doesn’t like spiders, or bombs]

    Our schitzo western economic system goes into recession about every seven years, and there’s a major crash about every 80 years (this pattern goes back 100s of years). The cause of the last major crash, 2007-2008, has never been properly addressed (unlike the 1930s depression); in fact, it’s been swept under the carpet and the spivs and barrow boys in Wall Street and the City of London have been allowed to Carry-On Corruption.

    This year, 2015, we’re due for another recession; this on top of an already bankrupt economy. Things could get very, very tough and this might perhaps lead to many more people in Scotland clamouring for independence.

    With regard to the SNP no longer standing on an independence platform, I agree that it can only be an own goal.

    (Mods, this is RobG trying a different username)

  • Habbabkuk (la vita è bella)


    “Is Fred still ejaculating over the price of oil?”

    Is Baal still ejaculating over Tony Blair and his travels?


    Not for a day or two, I believe. But older gents often have trouble in that department, I’m led to believe.

  • Habbabkuk (la vita è bella)


    “btw, do you see much sign of the Great British Government utilising the low price of energy to encourage productive industry?”

    That’s a great sound bite, but so wooly and non-specific it light have been made by a politician rather than an elderly, retired gent.

    What do you mean, exactly? Or even inexactly? How should the govt go about doing what you suggest?

  • Ronnie

    On balance I am with IAmScott, it is the less risky approach as a fall on the home straight could be devastating. We have made a huge step with indyref, there’s savvy in consolidating.

  • fred

    “Is Baal still ejaculating over Tony Blair and his travels?”

    One thing has struck me listening to our world leaders talking of freedom of speech this week, I thought that’s not what they said about Assange, that’s not what they said about Snowden, they only support freedom of speech when it’s saying what they want to hear.

    Then I read this blog and see the exact same hypocrisy here.

  • giyane


    “SNP white paper told us oil prices over $110, oil prices in reality $50, those are the facts, that is the truth and I’ll keep on telling it much as you don’t want to hear it.”

    I’m astonished that Fred doesn’t understand that markets can be manipulated. Up or down. I don’t know who is doing it but there again I don’t know who bankrupted Greece Spain and Ireland.

    What we do know is that if you don’t play the neo-con game you get put back into the middle-ages. Not all oil is produced in the Middle-East, but everywhere oil is produced is either threatened with Islamic terror, or gets its domestic air flights shot down. Malaysia. Brunei. Lockerbie. Salmond.

    If you are a Western democracy, even if you are Scotland, you have to be a Charlie and participate in false flag shit from time to time. For France, not so much patriotic Tricoleur as ‘trick or treat?’ time.

  • Clark

    fred, 5:32 pm

    “The fact you can’t face reality without ascribing it to some perceived hatred in me also says a lot about you.”

    Fred, I was using a figure of speech. What I remember you saying was that you thought that if the referendum result was Yes, Salmond and the SNP would turn Scotland into a fascist tinpot dictatorship or something like that.

  • Ba'al Zevul

    Lol @ Fred re. “arrogant cunts“.

    If you imagine money being mis- or un- allocated is an issue specific to Holyrood, take a look at Westminster some time. And bang on about that as much as you like. It will be no more effective in changing anything. But it won’t irritate so many people, so I guess you won’t, eh? Twat.

    You didn’t see it coming, Fred. No-one did. It’s the product of several coincident factors and when they uncoincide it will go away. Rapacious speculators, Saudi self-interest and Chinese demand will ensure that. It’s a pity that UK plc, unlike Norway, didn’t set up a sovereign fund for the lean years which were bound to occur: I remember the SNP voicing the possibility, but Thatcher wanted to turn the UK into a bankers’ paradise and banks were as safe as, er, banks. Then. Perhaps.

    And something might come out of it, if the policy were being made by an oil economist rather than a failed PR man with a trust fund sidekick. If the oil is cheap, elementary economics suggests you leave it in the ground until the price rises. Leaving it in the ground itself helps the price to rise. You can always borrow until better times arrive? Yup, carry on borrowing. That’s what Osborne’s doing…

  • technicolour

    And perhaps Craig’s example hasn’t proved him entirely wrong? I’m glad Fred is here, presenting his point of view: he doesn’t twist, or play games; he doesn’t have a weird little coterie which pretends to disagree with him in order to back him up (Herbie/Jemand (or Fluffy, as I like to think of him). This is nothing to do with whether I ‘agree’ with him or not, and it doesn’t matter either way, actually.

  • ash

    stop gooing on about scottish independent and scotland. You willnever get independence. getting bored of it now

  • Tony M

    Fred: That’ll be because you’re simply vomiting mainstream media bilge and ConLabDem ‘talking points. Nothing of original thought; just because you’ve abdicated thinking for yourself, doesn’t mean anyone else should consider doing so too. If we wanted that crap there’s plenty of places pushing it 24/7, and many being well paid for it too. Your paucity of imagination, contorted non-sequiturs, vacuous catchphrase “I don’t like nationalism” and intolerance of the least disagreement, quickly sliding into abuse, isn’t free-speech, it a tiresome broken record.

  • fred

    “Fred, I was using a figure of speech.”

    And I was just stating the facts and those facts are facts regardless of me so if the facts don’t conform with what you want to believe leave me out of it OK?

  • technicolour

    That’s right; try and drive him off the board. Lovely, these free-thinkers. Maybe Hitchens had something to say about this which it suits you to quote – but then, maybe not, it’s immaterial. Haven’t forgotten your charming attempt to blame SS run prisoner-thugs in concentration camps on *all* the prisoners, btw, Tony M.

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