Riding high in the polls, a political leader with a strong public approval rating, our FM in the world top 5 of women leaders, on course for a general election victory and outright independence majority, the closest we have ever been to our political goal and what could possibly go wrong?
For starters, internal division. The suggestion by some independence supporters that the SNP and, by implication or direct accusation, Nicola Sturgeon are not interested in independence beggars’ belief.
Polling analysis by Sir John Curtice (no ally of independence), that the sustained lead for independence is gaining momentum and the SNP-led national movement has crossed a tipping point in popular support. Another professional pollster, Mark Diffley, lays the shift in support at the door of the Scottish Government’s position on Brexit.
In Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP and wider independence cause has an unflappable leader with an ability to cut through to former No voters in a way that no other SNP leader has before. Her handling of the pandemic is a model in political communication, even if there is little difference in strategy and outcomes between the Scottish and UK Governments.
The recent SNP National Executive Committee’s approval of selection rules for the Scottish Parliament elections in 2021 has surfaced as the latest ‘SNP at war’ headlines. Stoked by consistent leaks by members of the NEC briefing the media for their own interests, the principles of the party’s decisions are being lost in a melee of personality and ego.
The SNP decided in the late 90s at a national conference that the re-convening of the Scottish Parliament could gave rise to the potential of dual mandates. This was overwhelmingly opposed by delegates at the time and since, even if the principle conference decision has been diluted by the exception for Alex Salmond (in 2007-10 and again in 2015-16).
Alyn Smith has been thrown up as another example but this is inaccurate. Alyn Smith was automatically debarred from remaining as an MEP the moment he was elected to the UK Parliament for Stirling. An MEP is not allowed to be a member of their Member State legislature. His place as an
MEP was taken by Heather Anderson.
Banning a dual mandate is not a barrier to an MP becoming an MSP in any case. An MP can be selected for a Scottish constituency or regional list but will be asked to stand down as an MP in time for a by-election writ to be moved to allow the vacancy to be filled on the day of the Scottish Parliament elections. Staff of an MP are employed for three months following resignation to ‘wind up’ the office so no one is made redundant in the process.
It is understandable that a member may wish to change course in serving in a different parliament but the idea that you can hold both positions for a considerable period of time or cause a by-election to be held is unacceptable to the wider electorate, not to mention going against the grain of party members.
It is a privilege and honour to serve the party and movement in public office. Many worthy members have never had the opportunity to fulfil such a role and it is an insult to them that their abilities have been overlooked by individuals seeking more than one parliamentary role.
Hopefully all this chatter will dissipate in the coming weeks and the party and movement can return to the more pressing issue of recovery from COVID-19 and making the case for independence.