One of the SNP’s two long standing feather-bedded MEPs, Alyn Smith – described as ‘SNP chief’? [now you have it] – has seen fit in the media today, 20th September:
- to rule out indyref 2 ‘for years’;
- to patronise and set aside the forceful drive for independence – the party’s sole purpose for existence – by the majority of the SNP’s members;
- to ignore Nicola Sturgeon and criticise John Swinney’s performance with the economy.
This was some gig.
What Smith, a member of the SNP’s National Executive Committee [NEC], said was not even correct.
He declared that no one at the top of the party was interested in or talking about a second independence referendum. Worse, he expressed this in such a way as to dismiss the grassroots beyond some invisible line within which exist those who are ‘in the SNP’.
Mr Smith told the Scottish Mail on Sunday [Ed: our emphases]: ‘There is nobody in the SNP, truly there is nobody, talking about bringing forward another referendum’.
So – in addition to the obscuring of Alex Salmond and Jim Sillars, the view from the summit of Ben Smith does not see Cabinet Secretaries as being ‘in the SNP’ – and certainly not, along with the geat numbers of the grassroots members, as ‘somebodies’ in the SNP.
One week ago today, two Cabinet secretaries, Richard Lochhead, [Rural Affairs] and Angela Constance [Education] were revealed to be signed up members of the 10,000 strong Yes 2 Scotland’s Independence, a group established to campaign for a second referendum. Yet the percipient Smith sees ‘nobody in the SNP talking about bringing forward another referendum’?
It is also in the public domain that there is a session for SNP councillors slated for the party’s upcoming October conference, focusing on a second independence referendum. Are elected councillors [who, unlike MEPs, really do have to work for their seats and answer to their electorate more directly than any other elected politician] also, according to Smith, not ‘in the SNP’, relegated with the grassroots, Cabinet Secretaries and legendary party elders to the status of ‘nobody’?
It got worse.
By saying ‘There’s a lot of other things going on in Scotland that we need to be kicking on, like the economy’ [one in the mouth for John Swinney there] – Smith appeared airily to dismiss as of secondary importance the one thing the SNP exists to make happen. Independence. His priority is the ‘lot of other things going on’.
Where has he been?
Ah – Brussels. The cushiest number of the lot for those lacking what it takes to get elected on their own strength. That figures.
And it got worse again.
Warming to his theme and conferred importance as ‘party chief’, Mr Smith said of a second indyref [Ed: the emphases are ours]: ‘I don’t think there’s an appetite for it beyond the 30% of the population that really wants to see this happen – and they’ll always want to see this happen and that is great, that’s my team. But in terms of the others, I don’t think we would be thanked for bringing it forward. It’s only a year.’
But when has there been a year like this in Scottish or British politics?
This has ‘only been the year’ the SNP almost completely obliterated Labour – Labour – from any representative capacity for Scotland in the Union parliament; not to mention dispatching the Liberal Democrats in the same vigorous mode.
Its easy to see why Alyn Smith has, to date, gone safely to Brussels. This is man clearly given to looking one almighty gift horse in the mouth.
But it might not be a runner?
What horse in this particular field has the SNP’s sort of track record? And you don’t get this sort of speed out of a distance runner or out of a horse that’s good over the sticks. A seasoned punter would put his money on this one – over a short distance.
It is no surprise that the SNP’s master-punter, Alex Salmond, has been feverishly talking up an early indyref 2 as the current leadership sucks its teeth and wants to wait for a guaranteed win. There is no such thing. Fortune favours the brave.
It is not in the nature of winners to consider ‘the others’ – and it has never been in the nature of ‘my team’ – as Mr Smith so possessively describes the SNP’s mighty grassroots – a team that if he is leading at all he is leading from behind, as they outpaced him long ago.
Interestingly, Smith is not reported in the piece as making any reference whatsoever to his party leader and First Minister. He appears to have been speaking ex cathedra from his own position of eminence.
It would seem that Smith is one of the many who realise that the lack of a clear direction from the leadership is disheartening the grassroots and spooking the business sector. In a spirit which his leader is unlikely to appreciate – he has taken it upon himself to provide that missing direction, hoping to sell the virtues of the long haul to the sprinters that have towed the SNP to its current heights.
The MEP may even have felt that he was being helpful to the First Minister by taking the responsibility to say in public what she clearly wants – but will not say, as she is still trying to play both ends against the middle.
That aside, how could Smith have imagined he was being helpful in providing stability to sectors of the electorate and the business community who are unsettled by the continuing uncertainty?
- He is a politician who spends most of his working life out of the territory and on a gravy train none of ‘my team’ could imagine.
- He is making a factually incorrect and misleading statement that cannot even put a number on ‘the years’ he says it will be to a second indyref.
- He dismisses as unworthy the instincts of the grassroots to whom the SNP owe everything they have today.
Let’s look at Mr Smith’s cited ‘30% of the population’ he says are passionate about wanting independence. He must have been speaking as loosely as he was thinking, since he cannot seriously have been talking about ‘the population’ but the electorate.
If his 30% are the majority of those who voted Yes a year ago, why should the will of that 30% be set aside by the other 14.5% who voted the same way?
If these were the 30% to which the MEP refers, they became 40% of the force that drove the SNP to a numbing wipe out of the opposition in the 2015 UK General Election.
But there is no respect ‘in the SNP’, as MR Smith puts it, for the heart and muscle of that force. Despite what they have done, despite what they are ready to do for the last push for indy, the ‘somebodies’ ‘in the SNP’ who know better are not prepared to empower this community of their own – but are to require them to wait ‘for years’.
Good luck with that.
Scotland can wait no longer. The country and everyone in it is holding their breath and waiting. No one can plan a life, a job, a business, even a place. It was borderline manageable during the endless three years of the indyref 1 campaign. It seems sadistic and self destructive now.
We have to see an end to the dithering of the SNP leadership, imposing paralysis on Scotland and on those who live and work here.
If it’s going to be indy, let’s get on with it.
For Argyll continues editorially to see Scottish independence as wrong headed, small minded and economically illiterate, putting the most vulnerable at the greatest risk should the enterprise fail. We will continue to make those arguments on evidence – and if Scotland chooses independence, we’ll be going nowhere but adding our voice to what tattered opposition remains in what will effectively be a one party state.
Although this is emphatically what we do not editorially wish to see, we would be glad of any end to this interminable shadow boxing.
The inability of the SNP leadership to see what is genuinely its own final opportunity, its dishonest playing with the emotions and potency of its own grassroots and its inability to see the economic damage this limbo is doing to business, investment and the economy, is leaving us unnerved about its ability to govern an independent country with no back stop.
If the leadership decides that the best future for Scotland is playing a leading role in a federal United Kingdom, with unparallelled independence within that union – that is an intelligent and honourable conclusion which would have been achieved wholly by the SNP and its redoubtable supporters.
If that’s the direction of travel of those ‘in the SNP’, they owe it to the others whom, according to Smith, they do not quite see as being ‘in the SNP’ and who have fuelled their stratospheric rise – to come clean.
The thing to watch for is the result of the 2016 Scottish election.
However the First Minister may hesitate; however the Finance Secretary is dreading having to take responsibility in exercising powers very much greater than those he has had and has avoided using to date – if the grassroots make their big push anyway and deliver a thumping majority for the SNP next May – on whatever weasel words are in the party’s manifesto; if they show the fearful Sturgeon that she can win, she will have to go for it.
The future of the SNP and of the dream of independence is not now in the hands of the First Minister and the ‘nobodies’ ‘in the SNP; who are ‘truly’ not thinking about it. It is in the hands of the grassroots. It all depends on just what they can make happen in May 2016.
They are the only game in town.