My first reaction to The Herald’s exclusive that the Greens have “walked out on the Yes campaign” was exactly the same as Labour MSP Patricia Ferguson’s soundbite – it’s either Salmond’s way or the high way.
It would take the most blinkered Cybernat to dress this up as media bias or an exaggeration of a minor split. Patrick Harvie sat cheek by jowl with Alex Salmond in the Cineworld cinema two weeks ago as part of the ‘broad church’ Yes Scotland campaign kick-off. Now Patrick can’t confirm that the Scottish Greens will even be participating. We will have to wait until the SGP conference in October to learn if that’ll happen.
This isn’t the first time that the Greens are concerned they are being taken from granted by the SNP. Who can be forget the pulsating drama as the Greens voted against Swinney’s budget in 2009 over an insulation plan that did not go far enough? And on her blog, Joan McAlpine has regularly mildly scolded the Greens for not pushing independence harder:
“As a party, they claim to support Scottish independence, but I see little evidence of this in their campaigning.”
Two parties wanting the same thing but undermining each other by not overcoming their relatively minor differences makes me think of the squabbling Socialists and their unfortunate lack of representation at Holyrood. The second parliamentary term contained six Socialist MSPs, so the appetite for their policies is out there, but political infighting is the easiest way to scare away voters and that’s what could happen with Yes Scotland here if this disagreement isn’t fixed.
Why would floating voters vote Yes to independence if even the proponents of a separate Scotland can’t get on? Indeed, why would would-be-Yes-voters vote Yes?
The silver lining is that we are still well over two years away from the independence referendum and a more consensual approach from the SNP coupled with a notably hungrier attitude to winning a Yes result from the Greens is a compromise well within reach.
Those in the SNP may reasonably point out that the SNP have all the campaign money and its election machine won a parliamentary majority at the 2011 election while the Greens didn’t improve upon their lowly two representatives, so who is best placed to lead, perhaps even dominate, the Yes Scotland campaign? That may be so, but it would be arrogant to assume that any party would want to sit under the SNP only to lend their arguments a greener hue and more weight. As James has said before, the Scottish Green Party is not the environmentalist wing of nationalism. It certainly shouldn’t be treated as such.
So what happens from here? Well, it may sound dry and boring, but hopefully an organisational design can be drawn up that satisfies all relevant Yes Scotland stakeholders and decision makers, and then the coalition can get on with doing what really matters – taking their arguments to the nation and convincing the voters.
Alex Salmond doesn’t suffer fools gladly but if he continues to see Patrick Harvie (and Colin Fox) as passengers and not partners, and by extension ‘fools’, then he’s going to win a very small battle but lose a very big war.
There needs to be a third way over and above Salmond’s way and the high way for something as important as this.