Stephen Noon, strategist for the ‘Yes’ campaign in the run up to the Independence Referendum in October 2014 seems to have started something of a hare running.
He suggested that the SNP might well disband in the event of a ‘Yes’ vote – and the party has vigorously refuted that today.
The notion of disbandment seems to be based on questioning what an independence party could do after independence.
The SNP’s chief raison d’etre is the achievement of Scottish independence but this itself is based on a specific, if narrow, care for Scotland.
It is intellectually blinkered to suggest either that the party might feel it had no other purpose were that status to be achieved in 2014; or that there was nothing more it could or was obliged to do in that event.
Why post-independent SNP disbandment is not credible
The SNP is primarily a party for Scotland – as is the Argyll First group of C0uncillors primarily for Argyll, in the smaller confines of this part of the country.
It is its single minded pro-Scotland focus that, in the good old says of 2007-2008, made it such a good go0vernment. It was not the second division side of a team whose first division squad played elsewhere – although it is no different from the traditional parties in that too many of its more competent politicians are Westminster MPs.
It owed no subservience to a lead organisation elsewhere, therefore in both its political singularity and in its own interests, it put Scotland rather than party first in the way it approached and negotiated any issue.
Scotland welcomed that priority and will in future require it of any government in whatever political standing the country finds itself.
Then the SNP started to turn most of its attention to winning the referendum and, sadly, lost focus on the demands of good government and began to play distasteful games of subterfuge to shore up its position in this contest. These manoeuvres have deservedly lost it trust and credibility to a degree which is not recoverable in the timescale to October 2014.
Instead of being a different sort of party altogether, it was seen to be same as any other jobbing horse coper – so why should Scotland change steeds to travel in the same direction under a rider from the same stable?
However, it remains that single focus – Scotland – that was its strength before and could be again, in any political context – independent, federal or devolved.
This comes from its freedom from philosophical political dogma. The SNP has been and can be a party that naturally, in the interests of Scotland, combines a focused and hard headed economic development strategy with a discriminating social conscience. There is nothing dogmatic to stop it – there never has been – from playing cards from decks in both the right and the left hands as the state of the country and its people require.
These two factors – the single minded focus on Scotland and the freedom from narrow political dogma has always made it potentially the best source of a government for the country, in whatever political circumstances.
Moreover, if it should win the independence referendum in 2014, which we do not believe it will, it will have the heaviest of all possible moral obligations to lead the country to independent economic success – and sustainably so.
‘Sustainable’ is crucial because there will be no way back from independence. 15 years of an easy life, paid for by oil revenues and followed by being the possessor of a basket case economy would be the ultimate betrayal of faith.
The SNP government does not yet have the spectrum of ability to fulfill this governmental responsibility – which is one of the reasons why we believe the independence referendum will fail in these tough and uncertain economic times.
But we do not doubt that the SNP has the will to govern Scotland well – and no other party in Scotland has a talent pool that is any less shallow than the SNP’s.
There is not the slightest chance of this party disbanding after a hypothetical winning of independence. It may well be that, in such a point, Alex Salmond would feel that his ‘eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord’ and would sign out after a short time as the first Ceannard of Scotland. Heretical as it is seen, the party has actually needed this standing back for some time. But the party would absolutely campaign to govern.
The real threat
The real threat to the party lies in the contrary political hypothesis. Would it survive losing the referendum?
Alex Salmond would have no further obligation to remain as leader for any period at all and would, by then, probably welcome release. In the context of defeat and the departure of Mr Salmond, it is hard to see the party maintaining the sort of Stalinist discipline that has overridden its internal divisions and kept it together since before 2007.
Nicola Sturgeon would be unlikely to survive into the leadership her current position as Deputy theoretically suggests she is destined to inherit. She was not, on her own, a strong candidate for the party leadership before Salmond pulled the party out of internecine war by coming back – in spirit – from Westminster as leader across the water, so to speak, with Sturgeon, his deputy, holding the fort at Holyrood.
She has had a lot of shelter from the First Minister and has latterly seemed better than she is in contrast to his decline. But she looks woefully astray at Infrastructure and Capital Investment and yet is known to have ambitions in that direction that irk the more capable John Swinney.
So Infrastructure is directionless, lacking in overt governing strategy and in unsteady hands. Transport is in a mess for much the same reason in the absence of strategy although Keith Brown’s hands are steadier. Education is in an ever worse mess, with school-based education failing, the universities uncertain and nervous and the colleges – where? Health is under pressure on many fronts, revealed only today to be issuing free toothpaste while denying crucial drugs to sick patients. Arts and Culture is off the map. Energy is all over the place, with the wheels coming off at speed in consequence of the First Minister’s politically driven commitment to wind in large scale and at all costs.
This has been expensive not only to the failure to provide for baseload energy and to protect coming energy costs to the consume – rbut politically in the alienation of voters and the loss of perceived competence in so manic and unbalanced a programme.
Of course we need wind. Few would oppose that. But its unreliability puts it as no more than a component of the energy source portfolio we need.
There has been a brutalist push to plaster the country with wind farms as quickly as possible, on and offshore, simply to support the credibility of the independence proposition. This has seen the willy nilly overriding of local authority planning decisions alongside government instructions to scrutinse wind farm applications less rigorously.
This entire narrative could not have done more damage to the perception of competent government. It’s actions reeked of panic. They was too often indiscriminate and unthinking – and they were irrationally resistant to serious and informed contrary argument.
If the SNP do not win the independence referendum – and that is the probable scenario – it is likely to fall back upon itself, demoralised, leaderless and vulnerable to a bull run in the rush to succeed. Ambitious candidates for this coming contest have been seen to be positioning themselves for some time, as we have pointed out. By the time they finish with each other, there will be little left. There is slender substance to start with.
In the interests of the Scotland he has spent a political lifetime fighting for as he has seen fit, Alex Salmond has to recognise that the best he can do for the country will require his own ultimate sacrifice.
He needs to get down to Plan MacB – which should focus on a Scotland that has chosen to remain in the Union but will be best led by an SNP government, free of any single political dogma; and who come to recognise that their achievement is already made. They have single-handedly given Scotland most of the the independence – in spirit and in fact – that it needs and wants. Scotland will not be the same again. It will be a more confident member of the union, demanding and supportive.