When McDuff poses the question at the beginning of Act 4 in Macbeth. Ross’s answer is far from encouraging and sums up how I expected to feel after a No vote in the referendum
“Alas, poor country! Almost afraid to know itself.”
And yet the reality of where Scotland stands today could not have been further from my fears. We have a reinvigorated party, trebling its membership with activists engaged and inspired by the Referendum campaign. A membership surge for whom we should thank every SNP YES activist who gave people the confidence to come and be part of the SNP. It is a tribute to how our Members conducted themselves in the YES campaign.
We have an excellent New Leader and First Minister in waiting and a trio of outstanding candidates for Depute Leader, each of whom has a vision for moving our party forward and engaging with our new Membership. And we have seen Alex Salmond, as the true statesman he is, face defeat in the Referendum with dignity, grace and honesty and a welcome promise that he is not going away. What a contrast to the bile, backbiting and meltdown of the Labour Party in winning the Referendum!
Johann Lamont’s explosive revelations on resigning; of control from London and Scottish Labour merely a branch of London Labour; the damning criticism of her Westminster MP colleagues as dinosaurs and claims of betrayal of a friend and ally; a tale of Shakespearean proportions indeed and though viewed as a tragedy by some, will be viewed as a comedy by others!
Stands Scotland where is did? Not at all. The referendum campaign has engaged our communities and young people in a politics that has asked the big questions of our country: questions about our values, our position on nuclear weapons, welfare, fairness, pensions, international relations and whether you voted yes or no you have answered these questions and Scotland is stronger in its vision and ambition for the future. And we have big decisions ahead, on Leaders and Depute leaders, possible yes coalitions, restructuring of parties and our organisational structures and a Westminster election to fight! The polls last week were incredibly encouraging for the future of the SNP. One thing is for sure, while the SNP stands united and strong in taking this vision forward and empowered by our deputy leadership election, Scottish Labour stands in disarray and confusion, searching for an identity and purpose. I wish that they had shown more honesty and transparency about the state of their party before September than they display now. I’ll take my cue from Pulina in A Winter’s Tale, “What’s gone and what’s past help should be past grief.”