Sometimes you ponder that if the SNP had a third foot it would purchase another gun with which to shoot it. Here was a week where the Scottish Tories looked poised to annoint a part time footy referee as the third leader in three years. Then planned to summon a Baroness from the subs bench until the aforementioned whistler got his feet under the right desk.
Here was a week when Richard Leonard was forced to contemplate the fact that two years plus before the Scottish Labour mast appeared only to have increased his public anonymity. You might think, and I foolishly did, that this was a week when the Scot Nats would concentrate all their fire on the omnibourach on the opposition benches, whilst reminding the world at large that polling in favour of independence was well over 50 per cent for the umpteenth sample in a row. Silly, silly me.
Their national executive committee contrived instead to score a couple of own goals at the wrong end of the park. (Sporting metaphors courtesy of Ross D.) You might think, and I foolishly did, that they would bend every sinew to find an elegant solution to two of their big hitters going after a nomination for the same seat. Instead they came up with a raft of stumbling blocks to a Joanna Cherry bid for the seat, assorted alibis for which move convinced nobody in any camp whatsoever. To call it ill advised and clumsy is about as polite as is manageable.
And then they decided on an all female shortlist for Cathcart - only Cathcart mind - to prevent the sitting MSP James Dornan standing. This latter device was swiftly reversed some hours later when found to be “unconstitutional”. You might think, and I foolishly did, that a party’s NEC were the principle authors and guardians of the constitution. Silly, silly me.
At which stage committed footsoldiers for independence were not so much muttering “keep the heid” as “screw the expletive not deleted nut.” Rarely can the twitter shorthand FFS have bestowed such popularity on two modest letters of the alphabet.
And the result of all these orchestrated manoeuvres in the dark? There are now three candidates – and counting – for the Edinburgh Central nomination. (I would imagine the local party rather wish the NEC would just butt out and let them get on with it.) Whilst across the M8 in Cathcart peace is unlikely to break out unchecked.
As it happens, on that same sorry evening, the Scottish Independence Convention, an umbrella body for indy supporting parties and organisations, was also zooming away. On the agenda was a draft proposal from Scottish Independence Foundation’s chief executive, Greg McCarra. In essence his paper tried to address the current impasse of a Scottish government reluctant to consider indyref2 without a section 30 order, and a Westminster government determined not to issue one. McCarra notes that there is considerable enthusiasm in many quarters for the simple proposition that Scotland should have the right to determine its own destiny – whether that is in the UK or not. A sort of Claim of Right mark two.
The proposal argues that campaigning for Scotland’s Right to Choose would have to be owned and supported by the grassroots, a proposition which the Scottish Government might be well advised to use as a template given the current perception that the support of the wider yes movement is being taken for granted. A brief glimpse at election history tells you that Scottish Labour won 56 seats in 1999 with almost 39 per cent of the constituency vote. A combination of failing to improve the lot of its traditional voters and the SNP offering a more radical alternative found that support doing its snow off a dyke impersonation.
The McCarra proposal argues too that campaigning for the simple democratic principle of letting the people decide might at once stiffen the resolve of the Scottish government in terms of its 2021 electoral offer and de-legitimise the kneejerk hostility of the UK one. And perhaps also caw the feet from under the would be boycotters.
For this “we said no and we meant it” mantra is just pure mince, as the Scottish Tories know full well. We’ve had three different Prime Ministers since 1914 and a Brexit vote which spells economic disaster for a nation which voted Remain. Not to mention a global pandemic. The world has changed beyond recognition. As has the character of modern Britain.
The pandemic and its dreadful threat seem unlikely to be gone any time soon. The election, however, is coming along like a train regardless of what else ails us. Which means that the wider Scottish political world has to get its campaigning boots on. Calling for a referendum as a recognition of common morality and the democratic process is something with which all right minded people could identify no matter their stance on our nation becoming an independent state.
I imagine the SNP hierarchy is increasingly aware that a “this year, next year, sometime soon” referendum pitch will cut very little ice with people who see the current alignment of political stars as Scotland’s best chance of grasping the prize for which so many have fought for so long. Similarly it is to be hoped that the message is getting through that chapping on Mrs McTumshie’s door promising her a choice of gender is not the fast track to electoral triumph.
Decent jobs, health, education, and housing are what always matter come the crunch. With the crucial added rider in 2021 that these are manifestly more likely to be delivered by an administration de-coupled from the sh*tshow in London. Meanwhile let’s leave the ferrets in the sack number to the ferrets.