This really is turning into the strangest election campaign I can recall in 55 years in the SNP.
What was looking like a fairly routine campaign with the prospect of a possible SNP majority 12 months ago has developed more twists and turns than a Stephen King plot.
First, we had the Alex Salmond trial, which so many of us feared would leave a major doubt in voters’ minds about the whole campaign for Independence. Then came the acquittal on all charges and we breathed huge sighs of relief and awaited the return of Alex to the fold and an eventual peace deal being brokered. The prospect of Alex heading the YES campaign while Nicola continued to build her reputation for competence, honesty and the “why” of Independence.
Ah, the best laid plans o’ mice and men!
As the virus dragged on the differences between Scotland and London, between Nicola and Boris were first a source of concern for many, as the media played its usual games, gradually however Scotland turned away from the blustering buffoon and took the calm, measured and transparent presentations each day as the way to go. Each day Nicola took to the stage and delivered the hard, sometimes blunt, messages and in stark contrast to the buffoon recognised and admitted the inevitable mistakes. In contrast the “leaders of the opposition” changed their positions and views to match what they perceived as short term headlines to their considerable shame and harm.
Then came the Hamilton Inquiry and the Parliamentary Committee inquiry.
The behaviour of some of the MSPs should have been sufficient in itself to bar them from standing, but no, they plod on seemingly unaware of how much self harm they were inflicting on themselves, their Parties and the Parliament as a whole. When you move a vote of No Confidence in the First Minister even before she has appeared it’s hard to argue impartiality or open mindedness. It’s hard to know who came off worse, Ross, Davidson, Bailey or Rennie. What is not debateable is that their credibility will struggle to recover and hopefully at least the latter 2 will be defeated in their constituencies.
So with the Hamilton Inquiry exonerating the First Minister we thought, let’s get back to some normality.
During this we had seen various “pop-up” parties start up, declare candidates and really took very little notice of them. Many of us suspected, as the atmosphere worsened between Nicola and Alex, that he would announce that he was going to stand again. What came as a real surprise was the creation of yet another “pop-up” and an effective declaration of war on the First Minister and in turn on the SNP. A good friend of mine who had been “approached” to stand summed up the situation well. “We can all argue about this policy or that policy but what you don’t do is s*** on the Party! The declaration of the new party followed the play book developed by David Owen and the ill fated SDP in announcing defections on a daily basis, but when the level of hostility not just from SNP members but the population as a whole became clear the expected stream became a trickle and then stopped in any meaningful sense. The polls which initially suggested a decent prospect for the new party have turned sour and without the attention which decent opinion poll ratings would have given the party and its leader seem irrelevant. Alba was becoming a dream which would indeed die!
Now we have the sad death of Prince Philip, a tragedy for his family who will be grieving the loss as so many families have done since Covid burst onto the world stage at the start of last year. What, if any, impact this will have on the campaign remains to be seen.
What has become clear however is that the arrival of these new parties, however long they last, has served to ignite discussion and sometimes heated debate about the List vote. It sometimes seems that everyone has a degree in political science and paired it with a working crystal ball so confident are they in their predictions of the final results. Now we all know that while favourable opinion polls are great for morale, they don’t decide anything. The only poll which actually matters is the one on May 6th.