Eight months to go until the Scottish electorate (all things being safe), give their verdict on the SNP in government and the desire for a second independence referendum.
Thursday 6 May 2021 should be ringed on your calendar if it hasn’t been already. We know for certain that at least a fifth of the current MSPs are not standing again and they should be rightly praised for the hard work they have done for Scottish democracy over the Scottish Parliament’s current 21-year history.
Without the sterling efforts of this band of veteran parliamentarians, the Scottish Parliament would not be the primary trusted legislative body that it is to the vast majority of Scots.
As safe economic recovery moves to the fore, the election battle lines have already been drawn. New Scottish Tory leader, Douglas Ross, is peddling his ‘dynamo economy’ message. Sadly, this metaphor sounds all too odd: the self-generated dynamo is totally reliant on UK fiscal transfers according to the Unionist interpretation of government finances.
Just as the Tories tell Scotland we are too poor and too wee to be independent; we are to believe that a Scotland reliant on Treasury handouts will become a vibrant enterprising economy based on… well, we will have to wait and see apparently.
It is clear, as polling has evidenced, that Scots believe the Scottish Parliament should have full powers to decide how to recover from the catastrophic impact that COVID-19 has had on us over the past six months.
A clear majority believe that the Scottish Parliament should have the right to decide whether to call a second independence referendum. A clear majority believe the Scottish Parliament should have full economic powers. A growing majority believe that Scotland should be an independent country.
The confidence of the Scottish people is growing by the day, partly in response to the progressive leadership of Nicola Sturgeon and partly, in disgust with the UK leadership of Boris Johnson. As Johnson’s popularity nose dives, so Nicola’s increases.
The Unionist opposition in Holyrood is at a quandary. Both Labour and Tories are shackled with unknown, untried and ineffective leaders. Devoid of any clear policy intentions other than to oppose whatever the Scottish Government and SNP put forward; they are found wanting.
No change in leadership is likely to be able to turn that position around. In fact, Douglas Ross admitted as much as he told his party to return to their constituencies and prepare for five years of opposition.
The difference between now and four years ago is abundantly clear. Scottish (and Ulster) Unionism has been sold out on the altar of Brexit as expressed in the illegal ‘UK Internal Market bill’ – the embodiment of British exceptionalism, splendid isolationism and tawdry English nationalism. More isms than one can shake a stick at.
As parliament reassembles, the First Minister will present her last Programme for Government ahead of the Scottish elections. Its focus is on the bread and butter concerns of Scots: how do I survive in the recovery. It is right to focus on those priorities, as the SNP does best when it reflects the primary concerns of Scottish people.
The time for the independence mandate is the manifesto for 6 May. Be in no doubt that next year’s elections will be all about independence. The recovery from the pandemic, avoidance of the worst excesses of Brexit and more Tory austerity, hinges on the Scottish people making the decision to return an SNP majority government (and as many independence-supporting MSPs as possible).