So said Lewis Carroll in the marvellous Alice in Wonderland and it’s a lesson, fishy puns to one side, that Salmond and Sturgeon should take on board.
I would wager that the Scottish public are open to being convinced by the merits of independence and its superiority as a constitutional option over Scotland remaining part of the United Kingdom but convinced they need to be, and with a burden of proof that requires to be overwhelming. The current apparent purposelessness of the SNP is particularly unappealing and is at best preventing support for independence to increase, at worst it is leaking it. Whether full independence in a matter of years is even where the First Minister is looking to lead us has been questioned. I suppose there is comfort to be found that if you don’t know where you’re going, then any road will get you there.
This inert waywardness is the SNP’s primary problem right now. The party’s reason to be has been hamstrung by Alex Salmond’s smart, quite possibly too smart, push for a Devo Max fallback option behind full independence. The big-tent politics of old is riddling with cracks from republicans vs royalists, fundamentalists vs gradualists and Europhiles vs Sterlingistas vs Scottish poundheads. If the SNP isn’t careful, it’s going to have to resort to Lib Demmy, wishy-washy statements like ‘we’re for fairness for everyone’ in order to sound like it has a single objective. Of course, if you’re for everything and everyone, then you’re really for nothing and no one.
Margo MacDonald wasn’t shy this week to call the SNP out on these very weaknesses, citing “a lack of preparedness and a lack of planning” as part of the reason for her own frustration at the lack of progress Yes Scotland has made. The unnecessary muddying of the independence waters with Devo Max was another bugbear, as too was the “noise” that exists rather than a proper debate. Her advice to the pro-independence campaign was to “stop talking about winning or losing and start talking about what they would like to do” (with independence).
Indeed, the SNP frantically going nowhere reminds me of the Caucus Race, again from Lewis Carroll. Everyone starts from different positions, everyone starts and stops the race whenever they like, the race ends at an arbitrary time, everyone thinks they’ve won and everyone gets a prize.
The ongoing, circular dialogue between unionist and nationalist has grown tiring for those that can still bear to listen in, but still they run and still they tell themselves they’re winning. I would have hoped by now that the SNP would have struck out in a different direction and taken the initiative with a clear, stripped down (and preferably bullet-pointed) x-point, bite-sized plan for why and how Scotland would be independent. They’ve had 75 years to come up with one, it shouldn’t be too difficult. However, with polls last night showing in inglorious regional detail the extent to which support for independence is falling way back, the SNP can’t stay in the starting blocks of a race that’s going nowhere for too much longer. They won’t even win a prize at that rate.
The bottom line of the recent past is this, Alex won’t make it to Wonderland unless he finds his porpoise.