If I may quote myself, from yesterday’s blog -
The Scottish National Party’s raison d'être is the independence of the Scottish nation by the free democratic choice of the people of Scotland, a choice that will be offered to them during the life of the next Scottish Parliament, the electorate and May the 5th permitting.
Could anything be clearer than that? One would think not, but it is not clear enough for Iain Gray. But then, not much is clear to Iain Gray, as his flagship policies and dodgy statistics have made abundantly evident over the last few weeks.
Gray has now adopted the advice, offered by several commentators anxious to help him revive his campaign, to ‘go negative’ and attack Alex Salmond and the SNP on the independence issue. Let me explore the rationale behind this. I hope Kenny Farquarson of Scotland on Sunday will forgive me for using some of his arguments in yesterday’s paper to aid me in this.
Kenny’s first paragraph in his first of six steps is very revealing, and I think it may fairly be taken as representative of the Unionist opposition arguments. (The red highlighting is mine.)
1.Talk up independence. No-one predicted that this was going to be a factor in this election. But with the polls now pointing to an SNP-Green majority at Holyrood - and consequently a majority for a referendum - independence is now front and centre.
This paragraph fascinated me by its realpolitik frankness. It doesn’t need any decoding, just paraphrasing - “We unionists thought they were going to lose and now they might win - time to panic!”
In the next part of the argument, I will use Kenny’s figures, even though they can be challenged, because frankly, they suit me. (I can do realpolitik too!)
The problem for Salmond is that only a third of Scots favour breaking up the UK. In fact, more than one in four SNP voters is against independence.
First, a purely technical point. Scotland securing its independence would not ‘break up the UK’ - it would become, de facto, the United Kingdom of England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Of course, it would lost that term highly valued by unionists, Great Britain, and continuing to call the England and Wales part British would not be entirely accurate, except perhaps geographically.
The problem with Kenny’s stats is that they are actually a problem for Iain Gray, Annabel Goldie and Tavish Scott, David Cameron and Ed Miliband, not Alex Salmond, and for a couple of very good reasons.
1. If the stats are accurate, then Iain Gray and his fellow unionists have nothing to fear from a referendum, since the Scottish electorate would reject independence by a substantial majority, one that wouldn’t even requiring playing around with the rules after the event, as happened the last time. Iain Gray’s best strategy would then be to adopt the Wendy Principle, and demand that the First Minister “bring it on". Independence would then perhaps be off the agenda for a generation.
2. If Alex Salmond believes the stats, he has two choices - either renege on his explicit promise to ask the Parliament to let the Scottish people decide within the life of the Parliament, or go ahead in the full knowledge that he would lose.
All of these options should logically be attractive to Iain Gray and the unionist, but there is a worm in the unionist apple - they don’t believe the figures themselves, and they fear that a referendum might just yield a majority for an independence vote.
This leaves them with the difficulty that they appear to be denying the Scottish people their right to choose, including those voters who are against independence - unionists.
In the past, the unionist politicians have attempted to deflect the flak on the basis that the Scottish Government can’t afford the costs of a referendum, and that the time and resources devoted to it are a diversion from other more pressing matters. Whatever force this argument might have had, it is now totally discredited because the UK ConLib Coalition are fighting like ferrets in a sack over the AV - Yes or No referendum - costly, damaging to the unity of the UK government (it may precipitate a general election later this year) at a critical time for the economy, and one for which there was no demand whatsoever from the electorate, who are treating it as a great irrelevancy.
The Scottish electorate are not fools - they can see who is obsessed by an independence referendum, and it is patently not Alex Salmond, but Iain Gray.
Alex Salmond consistent focus is - and always has been - the Scottish economy, effective public services and law and order, employment, renewable energy and a revitalised Scottish private sector.
Nationalists have waited a long time for independence, and although they have their eye on that bright horizon one day, their focus right now is to get Scotland out of the monumental mess created by the Labour Party over decades, the last Westminster Labour Government’s disastrous incompetence in running - I would say ruining - the economy, and the lethal compounding of these giant problems by the inept and squabbling coalition, now on the verge of breakup within the year.
I have a closing word for all Scots voters. You are currently near a watershed on May 5th in a great historical process, one that has ramifications, not just for Scotland, but for everyone who lives in these isles, for the people of Ireland, for Europe and for American foreign policy, and therefore for the world.
It is a process that has been taking place for centuries - the unstoppable urge of a people for independence, for their right to stand up as free men and women in their own nation and run their own affairs. The natural state of a nation is democratic independence by the will of its people.
Be sure to be part of that great liberating process in Scotland - vote for the Scottish National Party on both ballot papers on May 5th. Two simple crosses will determine your future - make the right choices.
Both Votes SNP