It cannot be stressed enough just how important the May elections are for the future of Scotland. Toxic divisions and infighting between Sturgeon and Salmond supporters need to end. If they do not, we will all lose.
First published in March 2021.
If we are all truly committed to the ideal of an independent Scotland and a permanent escape from the appalling realities of Brexit Britain and the cruel, heartless and callous future that Johnson’s right wing English nationalist Conservative party has in store for us, then we must all strive to make the best of the political situation the independence movement is currently in and not to carp and complain about not having the set of political circumstances that each of us with our different political and social views might consider ideal. We must work to get the best possible outcome from the cards that have been dealt and which are actually on the table.
For all the current difficulties and divisions, the foundations of the independence movement remain strong. Even in the absence of a date for a referendum, which would serve to concentrate the minds of that huge part of the population which does not habitually engage with politics, for over a year opinion polling has demonstrated that a half or more of the population of Scotland favours independence. Among younger age groups, support for independence is overwhelming, meaning that we can expect to see support for independence grow over time among the population as a whole. We are not yet quite at the point where support for independence is the settled will of the people of Scotland, but that is what the demographic trend very clearly points to.
For Alex Salmond supporters, making the best of the current situation means accepting that the campaign to unseat Nicola Sturgeon has failed. She’s not going anywhere. Furthermore the constant attacks on her from supporters of Alex Salmond merely risk alienating undecided and swithering voters who are put off by the sight of a divided movement which seems more interested in arguing amongst itself than in attacking the anti-independence parties or in pointing out the dangers posed by the Conservatives or the lack of any convincing solution to the constitutional issue from the Labour party. That risks driving down the SNP vote in the coming election, which is counterproductive for Alex Salmond’s supporters as the success of his new party and its strategy of maximising the number of pro-independence MSPs crucially depends upon ensuring that the SNP sweeps the board in the constituency vote.
Former FM Alex Salmond. | Scottish Government
The key problem here is that the supermajority strategy of the Alba Party is fundamentally a strategy for maximising the number of pro-independence MSPs, it is essentially a proposal to carve up the pro-independence vote in what is hoped will be a more productive manner, it will not in itself increase the pro-independence vote in any significant way. The big danger is that if Salmond’s supporters do not cease their attacks on Nicola Sturgeon and her supporters they run a very real danger of damaging and decreasing the total pro-independence vote. This is all the more of an issue because the mere existence of Alex Salmond’s new party ensures that the narrative of a divided SNP and the fall out between the current and former leader of the SNP will remain dominant in this election campaign, particularly in a Scottish media which is overwhelmingly anti-independence and which seeks anything which it can use to minimise the pro-independence vote. Alex Salmond’s decision to associate himself and his new party with deeply divisive figures like Stuart Campbell only makes that easier for them.
Supporters of Alex Salmond need to accept that Nicola Sturgeon is still very firmly in place and must move on from their failed efforts to remove her from office, instead they must focus on doing what their leader called for, which is working to build a supermajority for independence in the coming elections. That means doing what they can to maximise the pro-independence vote, and critically for the success of the Alba party’s plan, to ensuring that the SNP sweeps the board in the constituency vote. That in turn requires that they stop their attacks on Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP and start to focus on attacking the British nationalist parties and highlighting that they have nothing to offer Scotland.
FM Nicola Sturgeon. | Scottish Government
Equally supporters of Nicola Sturgeon need to accept that Alex Salmond isn’t going to just go away. They may have hoped that having failed to unseat Nicola Sturgeon he would quietly pack his bags and head off into retirement, but that isn’t going to happen any more than Nicola Sturgeon is going to resign as leader of the SNP. He has launched his new party now and just as his supporters need to cease their attacks on Nicola Sturgeon so as not to damage the total independence vote, so supporters of Nicola Sturgeon need to stop attacking Alex Salmond for the exact same reason. As far as the attacks on each other are concerned, everyone needs to wheesht for indy.
Both Salmond and Sturgeon are formidable politicians. Both of them have significant numbers of supporters. Neither of them is going to back down. This is a far from ideal situation that we are in but we have to make the best of it and work to ensure that the next Scottish elections deliver that all important pro-independence majority. Above all that means ceasing the vitriolic personal attacks on other independence supporters, making the positive arguments for independence, attacking the forces of British nationalism who are the only beneficiaries of our divisions, and finding common ground. In yesterday’s blog I made my own feelings about this new party clear, but the new party has happened now and the only priority for those of us in the grassroots is to ensure a strong pro-independence majority in May. That means finding a message around which we can all coalesce.
The message now for independence supporters should be to vote SNP in the constituency vote and in the list to give your vote to the pro-independence party whose policies are most in tune with your own views and opinions. For me that means voting SNP 1 & 2, but I am not going to attack, criticise, or question the motives of those who have a different opinion, and I trust that those people will pay the same courtesy to me and others who retain our trust in Nicola Sturgeon to deliver a referendum.
The toxic divisions and infighting need to end, because if they do not, we will all lose and this period in Scottish politics will go down in the history books as a prime example of this nation’s unfortunate habit of wresting defeat from the jaws of victory.
▫ Wee Ginger Dug, also known as Paul Kavanagh. Blogger.
- Paul Kavanagh is the author of Barking up the Right Tree | Vagabond Voices
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[This piece was originally published in Wee Ginger Dug’s Blog and re-published in PMP Magazine on 27 March 2021, with the author’s consent. | The author writes in a personal capacity.]
(Cover: Flickr/Scottish Government. - Referendum consultation - press conference. | 25 January 2012. / Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.)