By Rab Bruce’s Spider

With the election campaign under way, each Party is telling us what plans they have for the new Parliament session, and it must be said there are quite a few welcome proposals, with even the Tories getting in on the act with their plans to help people with mental illness. I must say, though, that the SNP have certainly come up with some very welcome ideas. Whether any of the Parties will actually keep all of their manifesto promises remains to be seen, although history would suggest that more than a few of the announced ideas will fall by the wayside.

However, as welcome as many of these proposals may be, this election will be dominated by the constitutional issue. Because of that, the SNP will inevitably win the greatest number of seats. Let’s hope for the sake of independence that they do win a majority because, sadly, they seem to have accepted the Tory narrative that only a majority justifies holding IndyRef2.

The Tories, of course, continue to issue contradictory statements. They are desperate to prevent an SNP majority in order to block IndyRef2, while simultaneously insisting that Westminster will not allow IndyRef2 anyway. They also insist that Nicola Sturgeon concentrate on the day job and forget IndyRef2, while also asserting that it is not possible to hold a referendum during the current pandemic.

"You just can’t, colin!"

In those four words, Douglas Ross (or whatever name his London bosses have given him this week) has encapsulated the Tory vision of Scotland. Uniquely among the developed nations of the world, we just can’t do things other countries take for granted. He has, quite rightly, been savagely mocked on social media for this utter lack of ambition for, and confidence in, Scotland.

It is always easy to mock the Tories because, as their complete reversal of their position on the safeguarding of children’s rights has shown, they will always do as they are told by their London masters. What concerns me more is that the message on IndyRef2 coming from both the SNP and the Greens is that it must wait until the current Covid crisis has passed. I’m afraid it is difficult to differentiate that attitude from Dross’s, "You just can’t, Colin!". What I’d really like to hear from Nicola Sturgeon is why it is safe to hold an election, but not safe to hold a referendum. Surely the same arrangements are in place for both of these? If not, then what is different? I know she has insisted it would be a dereliction of her duty to change focus while tackling Covid, but she has also said it would be a dereliction of her duty to let the Tories drag us further in the wrong direction. In Ms Sturgeon’s defence, this may simply be a clever political stance which keeps her options open, and that is very much in keeping with her usual cautious approach. However, it must be obvious to anyone who is paying attention that those two duties she feels so strongly about cannot be reconciled. If she delays IndyRef2, the Tories will take full advantage because, despite their words, they are most definitely concentrating on their Power Grab even though Covid has not yet been brought under control. If Nicola Sturgeon does not push ahead with IndyRef2, she may leave it until it is too late.

As for the new kids on the block, Alex Salmond has put forward the idea that a pro-Indy majority in the Parliament will be sufficient justification to begin negotiations immediately, without the need for a referendum. Whether you agree with that or not, it won’t happen because even if Alba gain half a dozen seats, they won’t be able to exert enough pressure to force Nicola Sturgeon to abandon her slow, cautious approach.

There may well be a practical reason for delaying IndyRef2 because the SNP, who will form the next Scottish Government, may feel they do not have the resources to tackle Covid and run a referendum campaign, and hopefully thereafter enter negotiations with Westminster. That, I think, is not an entirely valid argument. What it shows is that Nicola Sturgeon might feel she would be under too much pressure personally because she is busy enough with the Covid situation. Now, nobody can deny that she has done a terrific job of fronting the Covid task force, but with the vaccine roll-out continuing apace, and with Lock down easing, surely she can now feel justified in delegating some of those responsibilities to whoever her new Health Minister will be. If not, why not? For the same reason, I would not expect her to take part in daily negotiations with Westminster over Scotland becoming a normal country. She should appoint a negotiation team and should maintain a watching brief over the discussions. Nobody expects her to be Superwoman and do all the work herself.

Finally, it shouldn’t need to be pointed out that the SNP are taking part in an election campaign during the pandemic, and I am struggling to see what would be different about running a referendum campaign.

So, once again, I must ask, why is it not possible to hold IndyRef2 sooner rather than later? Citing the current crisis is all very well, but when will it be judged to have ended? And what if another crisis comes along? Let’s hope it will not be another pandemic, although that is not impossible, but crises are pretty much the norm, whether they are long-term financial disasters such as we are still feeling the effects of after 2008, or a self-imposed disaster like Brexit, or climate-driven weather disasters, or some sort of scandal in Health or Education, we lurch from one disaster to another. OK, Covid has pushed the effects to an extreme level, but my point is that it is always easy to find an excuse not to do something.

Fear of failure may well be an element in the SNP’s reasoning, but my fear is that waiting only helps the Unionists. People being people, most will adapt and adjust to altered circumstances. Whether it is the impact of Brexit, possible ongoing Lock Downs, re-imposed Austerity, the UK is a past master at convincing people that things would be even worse if they did not continue to support the status quo. They have no positive case for their position, but they play on fear of the unknown, relying on people simply shrugging and getting on with things when their own, self-imposed disasters strike home.

But with Brexit, and the rampant and all too obvious corruption at the heart of everything the Tories do, surely now is the time to paint a proper vision of what Scotland could achieve? There is no need to delay things. Or, if there is, I wish someone would explain what the reason is.

"You just can’t, Colin!" simply isn’t good enough.