The prospect of a Scottish Labour party re-energised by its new Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has had an astonishingly immediate effect.
A clearly panicked First Minister tried at once to diminish Mr Corbyn, saying that his election meant that the continuing lack of an opposition to the Conservatives in Westminster might see people decide that the only way to get away from Conservative governments was Scottish independence.
That Ms Sturgeon so quickly used the ‘i’ word – which has figured seldom in her vocabulary of late – was an indicator of concern at the potential galvanic for Labour north of the border in the widespread excitement at new politics from which the SNP themselves benefited in and since indyref 1.
This seems to have been the start of a headlong acceleration by the First Minsiter to protect the SNP/indy vote from the possibility of a Labour revival.
The SNP went on reveal late tonight that it will lay out its intentions for indyref 2 in its manifesto for the 2016 Scottish Election. That manifesto is to spell out in more detail what the change to which material circumstances would trigger indyref 2.
That is, of course, not actually the same thing as setting out a timetable to a second push for indy. Tonight’s statement may well have been designed to lure the SNP grassroots into thinking they’re getting more than they may in this manifesto. If the manifesto tuns out to commit to a 2021 push, this cannot actually be promised, events being events. Only a commitment to a 2016 mandate will offer the grassroots anything they can feel secure in having; and a major material change is likely to be the evidence in the election of massively increased support for the SNP and for the indyref proposition in the manifesto.
It is also possible that the SNP move tonight is principally an attempt to take back quickly the publicity initiative, to divert attention away from Corbyn and back to the SNP, without any apparent commitment- which might galvanise the opposition too early.
As we said earlier today in looking at the impacts on Scottish Labour of Corbyn’s breathtaking victory, he has stolen the SNP’s media thunder. He is now the new kid on the block of new politics, of departure from the norm, of popular exhilaration at the prospect of change; and his accession has seen the Labor membership accelerate to a level it has apparently never seen before.
The SNP are not used to being upstaged in the buzz factor.
An attempt to retake the initiative in going for media and popular attention in this publicising of an apparent but rather ambiguous commitment to a push for indyref 2 in the 2016 manifesto seems less a prepared strategy and more a panic response. The SNP do not normally push out major news to the media late at night. Sky put it out in its late news preview. BBC Scotland had it later, around 23.30.
The SNP are, though, canny strategists.
There has already been tension between those who see that 2016 is their best and possibly last chance to capitalise on the strength of the momentum they have built, with Sturgeon and Swinney who, for similar and different reasons, have been hesitant, to say the least, on a return to the indy issue for the time being.
The arrival on the scene today of Corbyn is yet another factor that can be calculated progressively to erode the extent of the SNPs current dominance – adding to the gambler’s wisdom of going for indy now rather than later.
This sudden public shift in the First Minister’s position on indyref 2 is without question a powerful indication of the capacity Jeremy Corbyn has to make the kind of difference to Scottish Labour that would be to the SNP’s material disadvantage.
In fact, Corbyn may be the unanticipated ‘material change’ which would lead Ms Sturgeon to give the go ahead for indyref 2 – and she may not be wrong in her assessment.