Chris Roarty says the unlikely coalition of left and right that constituted the Yes campaign in 2014 and has supported the SNP since is beginning to have its differences exposed, but the focus on independence still looks set to dominate the 2021 election, to everyone’s cost.
As the independence referendum campaign got underway in 2012/13, I would often try to attend local events. One of my first observations was that many of those speaking in favour of a Yes vote contradicted each other hugely and set out very different versions of what independence would mean, but the cheers and applause all round never differed. Each speaker was supported regardless of the content or their oratory, and it didn’t matter if someone was speaking in favour of a centre-right, conservative independent Scotland or a republican, socialist independent Scotland.
What I took from the many events I attended was that those in favour of independence were happy to support and endorse any set of conflicting ideas that filled people with “hope”, and weren’t interested in a rational examination of what independence would really mean. And this also ignored what the SNP were floating at the time, which was for the most part a middle-of-the-road, don’t-scare-the-horses proposal propped up by ludicrously optimistic economic projections and evasions on key questions. Groups like Radical Independence were willing to pin their argument to a prospectus which they knew would not achieve widespread support in an election, and the wider Yes movement was willing to embrace that and pretend it was a possible outcome, in a cynical attempt to maximise the Yes vote.
Fast forward six years and since lockdown it’s become apparent that there is a level of dissatisfaction and impatience on the part of those who simply put independence first, and are happy for Scotland’s day-to-day business to be left on the back burner. We have seen a new pro-independence party launched, clearly keen to attract support from elements of the nastier side of the pro-independence movement, and now we are starting to see a regressive side of the independence movement splinter too, to which the SNP responded by throwing the toys out of the pram amid assertions of entitlement to the pro-independence vote.
We may be seeing the independence movement finally batter lumps out of each other, and I expect more to follow in the next few months. But what will the debate be like as we enter 2021?
With all fingers crossed, the debate should be around how a post-COVID Scotland will operate and how we can implement a National Care Service, how we regrow our economy as well as our industries to ensure that people can get back to work with confidence, and how we ensure that local government has the funding and resources it needs. But I fear there’s a very good chance that instead that debate becomes the SNP and the impatient pro-independence movement battering each other around the timetable of another referendum, and the actual welfare of Scots will be of little concern.