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The Day's Best Takes
What I think was worth reading and watching on big day in Scottish politics.
On a busy day for news in Scottish politics, I thought it might be useful to send a quick digest of the most interesting takes and thoughtful things I’ve read throughout the day.
Remember the voters don’t share Sturgeon’s sense of urgency.
Today started with some fascinating focus groups published by the Scottish Fabian Society which asked the views of voters who were previously SNP voters, but who are now undecided. It is worth watching these videos as a reality check on a noisy day:
It is clear that there is a large constituency in Scotland, whether they lean Yes or No, who are just scunnered. They have been through the financial crisis, the antagonism of two referendums, Covid, and then another economic crisis and just want a quiet life. Offered more chaos and division their response is likely to be ‘gie’s peace!’
Meanwhile, one pollster reminded us of recent polling that showed Nicola Sturgeon’s plan to fight the General Election on a single issue is likely to place her on the wrong side of voters. Even a quarter of SNP voters would oppose her plan:
Scotland is not a colony.
Nicola Sturgeon asked the supreme court to decide on an issue of legislative competency, even though she already knew the answer they would give, so she could string along her activists for a few months more. In response, she got more than she bargained for as the judges made clear that, regardless of what her activists might be tweeting, there is no case for claiming Scotland is a colony being denied self-determination.
As John Ferry noted, that should give those of us who support sharing sovereignty with our neighbours more confidence in making the case for our shared democracy:
Meanwhile, as Adam Tomkins reminds us, the thing holding back another referendum isn’t a court decision, it is a lack of support among the Scottish people.
Instead of using this court decision as a way of distracting from the fact that her independence campaign has made no progress, despite being gifted so many opportunities by successive Conservative governments, she should work on persuading Scots. Instead of pushing for a de facto referendum, she should be working on publishing some facts on how we’ll fund public services, manage a new border with England, or operate without the security of a central bank. Nobody seriously believes the SNP are ready to make the case that might win over voters.
Alex Massie wrote very well on this point earlier:
For, in the end, this is a question of feelings, not the law. When the SNP won its Holyrood majority in 2011 even those people – and parties – who did not desire a referendum accepted it was legitimate to have one. Those circumstances do not apply today. The consent which matters is not in Downing Street but, rather, in Scotland itself. If it were clear that a significant majority of Scottish voters thirsted for a referendum it would be impossible, perhaps even immoral, to deny that desire. This is not where we are at present.
The SNP increase the demonisation of their opponents.
Cat Headley made an important point about how today is yet another attempt by nationalists to other their political opponents and to further polarise an already poisonous political debate:
I wrote a piece for the i newspaper where I urged readers to remember that position that Nicola Sturgeon once held the view that she now labels as anti-democratic:
“For all the intemperate language today, accusing their opponents of being anti-democratic, the SNP don’t really think that it is illegitimate to argue that breaking up a union should be an occasional rather than regular choice. We know they don’t believe this because it was Ms Sturgeon’s position – right up until she lost a referendum.”
A new political dividing line is emerging.
By pledging to fight the next election as a referendum that most people don’t want, Nicola Sturgeon risks alienating her own soft supporters. Labour’s messaging today was perfect. Led by Anas Sarwar they refused to step into Nicola Sturgeon’s trap - not now, rather than not ever for another referendum - and confidently offered an alternative route to the change that people want.
As people across the rest of the UK unite at the next general election around change, the SNP will sound like they are fighting the last war. Labour will offer safe and immediate change, but the SNP will be offering more of the chaos and division of the last few years.
There are more strategic positions for the SNP to fight the next general election on, but having told her activists that this is the referendum they have been denied, they will expect nothing less than a campaign for independence at the general election. There is every chance her party will be having a completely different conversation from the rest of us.