THE next Holyrood elections are in May next year, and for the SNP they can’t come soon enough. Riding high in the polls, they hope to gain an overwhelming majority in a parliament designed to prevent such a thing and use that majority to push for IndyRef2. At present all that is standing in the way of the break-up of a successful three centuries-old political union is the SNP itself.
Nicola Sturgeon is having a good pandemic. On our TV screens every evening she acts the firm First Minister. She comes across as being in control, giving the impression that she deeply cares for us and is only imposing restrictions for our own good; a steady and protective mother figure. Boris Johnson, when he does appear, seems bumbling and indecisive.
Scotland’s infection rate is little different from that of England and the measures enforced in Scotland are pretty much the same as those down south. Despite this the public perception, reflected in the polls, is that Sturgeon is in control whilst Johnson is constantly changing tactics. It is frightening that the biggest constitutional change since 1707 could well be decided on the personalities momentarily in charge.
Fortunately for the SNP, they face very little real opposition. Conservative leader Douglas Ross, a pretty boy Lib Dem in Tory clothing, does not even have a seat in Holyrood. Richard Leonard, plaintive leader of Scottish Labour, is out of his depth and drowning. Having recently survived a no confidence vote from his colleagues, he knows he won’t survive Labour’s expected trouncing in May. Willie Rennie of the LibDems comes across as an ineffectual modern studies teacher wanting to be friends with his class. Patrick Harvie of the Greens, with his co-leader Alison Johnson kept well out of sight, is one of the more ruthless political leaders. But the Greens are so much in the pocket of the SNP that their only influence is in making the SNP even more woke.
Despite all that is going for them the SNP are facing trouble, and all of it their own making. They love a Big Nanny state and have yet to find a woke bandwagon for which they will not buy a ticket. Their eagerness to polish their woke credentials for the new Nats who came into the SNP post-Salmond is leading them into alienating their core constituency of working-class ex-Old Labour voters.
Every woke step forward the activists take distances them from their core. Not just the steps themselves but the SNP bungling of their implementation. Announced in 2014, the disastrous Named Person scheme whereby every child in Scotland was to be given a state-appointed guardian from birth to 18 was supposed to be introduced in 2016. All the political parties, apart from the Conservatives who abstained, supported its introduction. Yet it not only aroused intense opposition amongst the public but the introduction of this flagship programme was handled so badly, including a SNP government loss in the UK Supreme Court, that it was cancelled.
The SNP determination to introduce legislation supporting self-recognition of gender change has met opposition from within the SNP. Fifteen MSPs, including three cabinet ministers, have urged their own party not to rush into legislation. Gender change controversy has reached the stage where the inclusion of a transgender male in the supposedly all-female SNP shortlist for the Stirling constituency has caused a real stushie to develop with legal action being threatened.
The introduction of the smacking ban to become law on November 7 has also been bungled. The SNP government allocated a marketing budget of £20,000 for raising awareness throughout Scotland. Wales, where similar legislation comes into force in 2022, has ring-fenced £2,759,000. Abuse of children is abhorrent, yet there is adequate provision in law at present. In their drive for ever greater state interference the SNP will manage only to create a situation where, despite assurances that it would not happen, it is becoming apparent that even the mildest physical discipline will turn loving parents into criminals. It is feared that the legislation is an open door to neighbours wishing to get even.
The Offensive Behaviour at Football Bill, crafted to reduce sectarianism, was introduced in 2012 and repealed in 2018 as totally unworkable. The Hate Crime Bill, which will criminalise the expression of genuine differences of opinion on contentious subjects, is opposed by the public, the Police Federation, the Law Society of Scotland, the Catholic Church and the Secular Society.
The only thing which can bring the SNP down is the SNP, and there is plenty of evidence that, true to Scottish tradition, the infighting is increasing, the scandals are lining up. Chief amongst them is the attempt to destroy Alex Salmond. The former SNP leader is not noted for having a gentle and forgiving spirit, and it is generally thought that emerging unscathed from his trial for sexual offences in the High Court of Edinburgh he had something on his mind other than a quiet evening by the fireside in his slippers.
At present the ire of the Salmondistas is focused on Sturgeon’s husband, Peter Murrell, who is also chief executive of the SNP. The reluctance of the Sturgeon/Murrell duo to provide evidence to the Holyrood inquiry into the ‘Salmond affair’ places the pair in a difficult position which any competent opposition would be exploiting to the maximum. Amongst the evidence Murrell was reluctant to reveal were WhatsApp messages appearing to back police and prosecution action against Salmond. The word may come from Italy but the principle of vendetta has long been to the fore in Scottish history and politics.
Such is the animosity between Salmond and Sturgeon supporters that internal party rules have been changed preventing Joanna Cherry, SNP spokesperson for Home Department and Justice in Westminster and a supporter of Salmond, from being selected as a candidate for a Holyrood seat in Edinburgh, in favour of Angus Robertson, one-time SNP deputy leader and a close ally of Sturgeon.
The great hope for the retention of the union is that SNP infighting will become so rancorous that a hitherto compliant media will be forced to major on it and the SNP implodes.