Despite all the travails of Brexit and Covid-19, just a few short weeks ago the political future of the Scottish National Party was looking bright. Riding high in the polls and with the option of independence enjoying unprecedented levels of support, it seemed that the forthcoming regional elections in May were going to give Nicola Sturgeon and her colleagues an overall majority in the Scottish Parliament, a symbolically crucial factor in their potential referendum plans. Then came the much anticipated Alex Salmond inquiry at Holyrood and the sight of rival factions of the SNP washing their dirty laundry in public, gleefully assisted in that task by their unionist opponents in the Conservative, Labour and Lib Dem parties.
Initial polling – some of it quite dubious in nature – seemed to indicate that Scottish nationalism was on the back-foot and that the SNP was going to pay an electoral price for both its real and perceived failures inside and outside of government. However the most recent survey of voters by YouGov has found surprisingly resilient levels of support for the party and the independence project, leading some observers to speculate that maybe the worse is over in terms of voter disgust at the disreputable personal behaviours and politics in Edinburgh.
That may be somewhat optimistic as the loose coalition for an independent Scotland remains divided over the way forward in a myriad of social, economic and constitutional matters; and perhaps unsurprisingly so for a movement that among other things must somehow make room for separatist center-right monarchists and separatist far-left republicans in its ranks. Even the world of online activism is divided with the influential – if controversial – website Wings Over Scotland turning on the Sturgeon-led SNP and practically advocating a no-show by nationalist voters at the ballot boxes in May. Which can be fairly characterised as criminally inept advice, if typical of a once worthwhile publication which seems to have lost its way over the last two years.
Meanwhile, this is an interesting description of the political turmoil in Scotland by the veteran British journalist Patrick Cockburn writing in the Independent newspaper:
Most nationalist movements wait until they have achieved independence before having a civil war over who runs the country. But Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond have jumped the gun by opening hostilities while Scottish self-determination is still well over the horizon.
Strangely enough, I’m pretty sure that I read something similar somewhere else very recently…