By Rab Bruce’s Spider

Criticism of the SNP leadership is growing, with both George Kerevan and Jason Michael having recently written powerful articles outlining some of the issues. No Government should be free of criticism, of course, and it must be said that the UK media may actually help the SNP in this regard as its criticism is so blatantly biased that any remotely valid negative opinions are lost in the noise of SNPBad

Many in the Yes movement are critical of the reaction of the Scottish Government to the recent opinion polls, with the gradualists among the Party faithful insisting that 54% is not yet enough to risk IndyRef2, this being despite our opponents assuring us that the 55% No vote in 2014 was decisive.

On the other hand, it must be said that the gradualists can point to the recent uplift in support for Yes as vindication of their approach. It must also be said that Nicola Sturgeon’s response to the Covid19 pandemic has raised her personal profile significantly, while the ludicrously inept performance of the Westminster Tories has certainly helped banish the notion that politicians of real ability are only to be found in Westminster.

Nicola Sturgeon is undoubtedly the most accomplished politician in the UK, but the important word there is "politician". She has led the SNP to an almost unassailable position in Scottish politics, and opinion polls – for what they are worth – suggest she is in line for even greater success in next year’s Holyrood elections. The big question must be what she will do if that expected majority does appear. Will she go for IndyRef2, or will she find another reason to put it off? The problem for Yessers is that, if she does delay once again, what alternative do they have? Much of the current support for the SNP is based on the knowledge that they are the only Party capable of delivering independence for Scotland. Cynics have suggested that the reason IndyRef2 will not happen under the current SNP leadership is that they are perfectly happy with the status quo, and that they know that independence will see much of the electoral support disappear as voters shift to other parties once Scotland has a normal Parliament which is not dominated by constitutional matters. This argument suggests that, while independence may be good for Scotland, it may not be so good for the SNP.

Of course, others disagree. Many are buoyed by the recent opinion polls and remain convinced that the SNP will push for IndyRef2 next year, especially as the effects of Brexit will have begun to bite by then, thus further demonstrating the sheer incompetence of the UK Government. This is certainly a valid point of view, and only time will tell. However, there are a couple of other factors which we should also keep in mind.

First is the current case being brought by private citizens to obtain a ruling from the Courts on whether Scotland needs a Section 30 Order to hold a valid and binding referendum. Courts being what they are, it is difficult to know how this will turn out, but a positive result for the case will put more pressure on the Scottish Government. Will they continue to insist on asking for – and being refused – a Section 30 Order in spite of such a ruling? Or are they leaving it to private citizens to obtain a ruling which they feel they cannot pursue themselves for political and constitutional reasons? Again, a crystal ball would be required to predict the outcome of this.

Then there is the Alex Salmond situation to be considered. Will he hold his tongue in light of the recent opinion polls? He wants independence as much as any of us, and he surely must know that any revelations about his recent Court case have the capacity to seriously damage the SNP. Or will he, as some have suggested, step up to lead a second pro-Indy Party? Again, polls suggest this could be a game changer for Scottish Politics. Polls indicate such a Party, putting up candidates only on the List, would produce an overwhelming majority of pro-Indy Parties in Holyrood. The SNP’s response has been to view this as a threat, which is quite revealing. They are, their supporters claim, on track to deliver a majority in Holyrood once again, even though the mathematics of the electoral system are against that. Don’t forget that the D’Honte voting system already significantly dilutes the SNP vote when they more or less sweep the board on Constituency seats. Nevertheless, polls suggest they are on track to break the system once again. Why should we jeopardise that by splitting the Yes vote? This argument raises the possibility that the SNP may well be putting Party before country, because having a second Party would surely send a strong message of how the people of Scotland view their future.

Or would it? There are a couple of problems here. First is that the UK media always equate support for Indy with support for the SNP. Look at how the Greens are ignored despite their pro-Indy stance. So the media would no doubt attempt to downplay the arrival of a second pro-Indy Party and would almost inevitably give them little air time in any election campaign. To get the message out, the new Party will need to raise a lot of money in a short time, and have some very high profile candidates so they can ensure their message is relayed to the wider public. Can anyone achieve that? If they can, then another pro-Indy Party in Holyrood may be able to apply pressure on the SNP to push for IndyRef2.

And finally, we do need to push for it, because the other thing lurking behind Brexit is the Power grab. Be in no doubt that the Tories want to strip away Holyrood’s powers. They might not abolish the Scottish Parliament, but they certainly intend to gradually neuter it, rendering it essentially ineffective. The 2021 Holyrood elections will probably be our last chance. Whatever transpires between now and then, somebody needs to take that chance.