By Rab Bruce’s Spider

Scottish politics fair puts you through the wringer of emotions. I often find that sitting down to write a blog post helps me put my own thoughts in order, but it is becoming increasingly difficult because of all the conflicting emotions whirling around in my head.

I honestly thought we might be able to draw something of a line under recent events, albeit a very thin and shaky line, but Alex Salmond’s announcement that he will be initiating legal action against the Scottish Government left me feeling totally scunnered.

Don’t get me wrong; I can understand why he would do this. Alex Salmond has suffered some dreadful treatment, and I don’t think there can be much doubt that some people in the SNP were out to get him. That nobody has accepted any responsibility for the botched investigation is disgraceful.

Having said that, it seems clear that Alex Salmond could be difficult to work with, and some women obviously felt uncomfortable with how he behaved, although others seemed to cope with it. I can’t help thinking that a word of apology from him could have gone a long way. But the trial he faced was clearly a step too far, and I can understand his anger. I just wish he had waited until after May’s election before making any further announcement.

As for Nicola Sturgeon, I must say that serious doubts remain about the direction the SNP has followed under her leadership. Quite apart from the lingering suspicions about the extent of her involvement in the crusade against Salmond, I am not yet entirely convinced that she actually wants Scotland to gain independence. Her impressive leadership during the Covid pandemic may have helped the cause, but that is the only thing I can think of which she has done to improve our chances of becoming a normal, self-governing country, and she seems intent on giving Westminster advance warning of pretty much everything which she is proposing, thus giving them time to counter it. I really hope she makes me eat my words on this, but I retain strong doubts as to whether we will ever get IndyRef2 under her leadership.

Having said that, I am certain that our chances would have gone from poor to almost non-existent if she had been removed from office. Much as those of us who pay attention to politics might distrust her, it must be said that most other people I have spoken to outside of Scottish political Twitter regard Nicola Sturgeon very favourably. Her Covid performance, combined with her attempts to be reasonable and constructive during the Brexit fiasco have left a strong impression, and other issues have been pretty much disregarded. You may think that is short-sighted, but that is the overwhelming view I hear from friends and wider family who have only a slight interest in daily politics. Indeed, a recent poll suggests that Nicola Sturgeon is the most trusted politician in the UK. Some may laugh at that, but bear in mind that, if we don’t win IndyRef2, the politicians we will have to put up with will be a lot less trustworthy. The Tories have demonstrated time and time again that they cannot be trusted with anything, let alone controlling Scotland.

For myself, I am not taking sides in the Sturgeon vs Salmond saga. I think both are hugely impressive politicians, but they are also human beings with the same share of flaws and weaknesses we all have. Unfortunately, they are also both very strong-minded, and I can’t see either of them backing down. There will, though, be only one winner to emerge from this contest, and it’s not either of them; it is the British Establishment.

We saw the media frenzy over the Salmond trial, with most MSM opinion having him found guilty before the trial had even begun. I was delighted when he was found not guilty, just as I was pleased earlier this week when Nicola Sturgeon was found not to have breached the Ministerial Code (albeit with caveats). Because we saw once again that the media, having been foiled in its campaign against Salmond, turned on Nicola Sturgeon as soon as they caught a whiff of a chance that she might be ousted. One thing is certain; the media did not run the stories it did out of concern for finding the truth. Their sole aim was to have Nicola Sturgeon removed as a possible threat to the continued existence of the UK. That gives some comfort that she might actually be able to deliver what we so urgently want and need.

We now face a critical time in Scotland’s history. Westminster is determined to turn Scotland back into North Britain, overwhelmed with Union flags, stripped of any real powers, and exploited for its wealth. We may have only one chance to escape a very bleak future indeed.

I know that many people will find it hard to vote for the SNP in May. Too many unpopular policies, too much secrecy and evasion, and too much authoritarianism have put some people off. But, realistically, the SNP offers the only chance we have of getting IndyRef2. Not only that, they need to win this election with resounding support. We have already seen the media trail polls suggesting that the SNP might win an overall majority, something which the voting system is designed to prevent. But, with that having been pushed as a possibility, you can be sure that a failure to achieve the almost impossible will be proclaimed as a failure by the media. It won’t matter how many List seats the Greens, AFI, or ISP win, they will be discounted by the media and Westminster because, in their minds, the Yes movement is always conflated with the SNP.

So, much as it may offend your moral judgement, I don’t think we have much choice in our Constituency vote. The future of our country is at stake here, and only a resounding victory will give the Scottish Government any leverage with Westminster. And if you are one of those people who are struggling to find a reason to vote SNP, then look at it this way. Until Scotland becomes a normal, self-governing country, the constitutional issue will hang over every single election. Failing to vote for the SNP effectively becomes a vote for the Union, because you can be sure Unionists will turn out in numbers to vote against any prospect of Scotland becoming a normal country. Unless a viable alternative to the SNP suddenly materialises, they are our only hope of ever gaining normal status. After that, elections will hopefully return to something approaching normality. Yes, I know some people dislike the direction the SNP are taking in some areas, and I know concerns have been raised about the heavy-handed policing approach directed at opponents of the Scottish Government, but if you think that is bad, just wait and see what awaits us if we remain part of the UK. Fascism is on the rise, and it is coming our way. Our best hope; our only hope, is to escape Westminster’s control, then elect the sort of Government we want to see.

An independent Scotland will not be a Utopia. We will have a lot of problems to face, but we need to reach that goal first, Only then can we face the challenges like a normal country.

We should not forget that "Divide and Conquer" is not just a cliché; it is the modus operandi of the UK Establishment. In the current split in the Yes movement, they see all their dreams coming true. They have botched attempts to remove Nicola Sturgeon, but that doesn’t mean they will not keep trying to set us all against each other. It is fine to disagree with one another; it is even normal for people to fall out over their political opinions, but the one thing we must all agree on is that only by becoming a normal, self-governing country can we begin to sort the many problems that beset us. The constitutional issue distorts everything, and it needs to be resolved in favour of independence. That’s my aim. For the sake of future generations, we must not let this chance escape our grasp.