If the SNP resolved to disband in the aftermath of a Yes vote, would it be more likely to win in 2014?
It’s Nick Clegg’s fault really, but what isn’t these days. The No2AV campaign successfully, if malevolently, turned the referendum on the Alternative Vote into a referendum on the Lib Dem leader rather than on the issue itself. Faced with having to personally win over more than 50% of the voting electorate, Clegg and his proposed improvements to the UK’s voting system were doomed before the debate had even gotten off the ground.
The SNP could and should learn from this. After all, it is facing the same opposition that so ruthlessly put the Deputy Prime Minister to the sword. Given the chance, they don’t take prisoners and will leave you tied in knots before you even realise that you are done for.
Take the NATO debate. The SNP is getting publicly bogged down in what its own party policy is rather than facilitating a national discussion on whether Scotland should make this decision on its own in the first place. The Scottish media, naturally, is leading everyone a merry dance in portraying this as an independent Scotland’s de facto NATO policy rather than just one party’s. It is the same, or at least similar, for policy areas such as nuclear power, tuition fees, currency and foreign relations. The SNP speaks for Scotland when, for once, it doesn’t want to.
There is, of course, every chance that it would be a Labour (or a non-SNP coalition) that makes up an independent Scotland’s first Government. What would our country’s policies be then? Well, we don’t know because every unionist party is wisely keeping schtum and letting the SNP twist in the strengthening southernly breeze.
To win the referendum, the SNP is having to jump through two hoops:
Hoop 1 – to soften up enough people to the very idea of independence
Hoop 2 – to effectively win the first independent Scotland election on domestic policy two years before it takes place. And with a clear 50% of the vote.
You simply can’t succeed with odds stacked so heavily against you. No wonder Alex Salmond has summoned all of his political nous to try getting a Devo Max option onto the ballot slip, but that is not going to happen. After all, why should the unionists give the SNP an easy way out when they can win a single question referendum at walking pace and potentially blow the SNP’s formidable machine to smithereens?
The fight that needs to be fought is the first of the two hoops above and in order to stop hoop number two even being a consideration in the public’s mind, the SNP needs to take itself out of the game entirely, and I do mean entirely. I am proposing that the SNP would cease to be after Autumn 2014 if it is a Yes victory with all SNP MSPs immediately being Independents in the Parliament and all party employees made redundant soon after, unless able to be kept on by the aforementioned MSPs.
This would, needless to say, be unfortunate for those involved but there may even be a further, subtle advantage to this. The McChattering classes openly speculating where Sturgeon, MacAskill, Russell et al would go, how many new parties may spring up in place of the mothballed SNP and what sort of policy shakeup this would mean for Scotland across all parties. It would be a fascinating discussion at an already exciting juncture in Scottish politics and the more people speculate, the more they’ll want to know the answers, answers that can only come with a Yes vote.
Let’s be honest, the SNP would be creaking at the seams if it didn’t have independence to bind it together. The party contains, from top to bottom, would-be Conservatives, Greens, Labourites and even Lib Dems. Pull away that Saltire-emblazoned big-top canvas and Nats would be tumbling out in all manner of directions.
Perhaps the very onset of independence is the time to let that free for all take place. Why delay the inevitable if it’s win-win?
Another factor to consider in all of this is that a significant slice of the establishment has a deep-seated, irrational hatred of the SNP. Examples abound from Coventry journalists labelling us racists, Tom Harris’ famous ‘hate fest’ comment, Guido Fawkes’ assistant’s “scum” insult and of course the unimaginative classic ‘xenophobe’ charge from MSPs in the Lib Dems and Labour. The SNP’s collective instinct surrounding this problem is to fight back fairly but harder, and that has reaped dividends over the past decade. However, there are times when flight is a smarter choice than fight and robbing the exhaustive list of influential persons across the UK who don’t have a good thing to say about the SNP of their bogeyman may be the smartest means to a particular end.
To take this one step further and for the SNP to actively talk up Johann Lamont as the likely first Prime Minister of an independent Scotland would be the ultimate example of flattering to deceive. How many soft but currently resolutely partisan ‘Labour’ votes could be turned with that inducement alone?
And, needless to say, to take the duplicity to the fullest extent, the SNP could simply reform under a different name and brand in the relatively long period between a Yes victory in Autumn 2014 and the Spring of 2016 when the first elections would likely take place. All is fair in love and war, after all. The Scottish Social Democrats has a nice ring to it, a title that hasn’t done too badly across most of the Nordic countries in the past few decades.
Anyway, if there is a No vote in 2014, this is all largely redundant. The SNP would regroup, lick their wounds and try again in a generation, or sooner if they can engineer it. I see the Quebec Independence Party is set to return to power again, promising a new referendum, a mere 17 years since the last one. Noting that the one before that was only 15 years ago, there’s realistically really not so long for the SNP to have to wait to rebuild their strategy and have another go at this constitutional question.
Not that many in the SNP will be considering defeat. Indeed, they are presumably willing to leave it all out on the field to get the result they want at the first time of asking. Well, why not make that literally ALL out on the field? Furthermore, to invoke Clegg again, is there a hint of a suggestion that to not stick to the underlying objective of the party and to not disband the SNP after an independence victory smacks a bit too much of a love for the ministerial limousines? We wouldn’t want the SNP staggering on into the era of independence primarily because its once-radical leaders enjoy their privileged lifestyles too much.
No, the longer this moribund excuse for an independence debate continues, the longer the polls remain resolutely rigid and in order to concentrate Scottish minds into delivering its goal, the Scottish National Party might be required to make the ultimate sacrifice.