By Rab Bruce’s Spider

Over the past few days I have drafted and discarded several versions of a blog post covering this week’s antics about the Sturgeon / Salmond case. I have found this very difficult because I am not a member of the SNP, and I don’t really "support" either of these individuals. I know they are both highly skilled politicians, and both are extremely capable, with strengths and weaknesses of their own. My main concern, though, is with Scotland becoming a normal, self-governing country, and I fear this whole sorry episode is putting that in danger. My main emotion just now is anger, and that’s why it has been so hard to put my thoughts down in writing.

I am angry at so many things, but here’s just a short list to allow me to get this off my chest.

I am angry that politics in Scotland is so dominated by the constitutional crisis and so tribal that the members of the Holyrood committee have, entirely predictably, voted along Party lines.

I am angry that the vote has been leaked to the media in advance of the final report – surely a disciplinary matter of itself.

I am angry that the media are, as usual, reporting only one side of the story in their ongoing attempts to demonstrate that Scotland would be incapable of running its own affairs because, quite obviously in the eyes of the media, the Scottish Government has too many failings.

I am angry that people are falling for this personality-driven view of independence. The words and actions of any individual should have no bearing on the fundamental fact that independence is normal. Nicola Sturgeon, Alex Salmond, Douglas Ross and Boris Johnson will not be around forever. They are merely products of the current bizarre constitutional arrangement, but being a normal country is a permanent thing. Anyone whose decision on how to vote in an independence referendum is based upon whether they like or dislike any individual politician really doesn’t understand the issue.

Above all, though, I am angry at the SNP. They have brought this situation about at the very worst time. May’s Holyrood elections could be our last chance at demonstrating our desire to be a normal, self-governing country for a very long time to come. Yet Nicola Sturgeon made a huge error of judgement when she either instigated, approved or turned a blind eye to the attempts to have Alex Salmond jailed. Ever since then, those at the top of the SNP seem to have been scrabbling around trying to cover up the whole sorry saga.

What on earth were they thinking of? Anyone who has been following Scottish politics for even a few years knows that the unionist Parties and media will seize on any opportunity to proclaim how bad the SNP are. By conflating support for the SNP with support for independence, they attempt to portray the whole idea as nonsensical and dangerous when, in fact, it is the UK which is the aberration in terms of how countries govern themselves. But the media has always done this, and the leadership of the SNP ought to have known better than to give them ammunition. We know that the Unionists will stoop to any level in order to damage their reputation, and that will involve a lot of mud-slinging. The last thing the SNP should have done was provide them with more mud to fling.

I have no idea whether Nicola Sturgeon will resign. Quite honestly, I would not blame her given the stress she must be under due to Covid. Whether her going would help the independence cause probably depends on what view you take of her desire for Scotland to leave the UK. There has been very little evidence that, despite her words, she actually intends to go through with it, and she does seem to be willing to give the Westminster Government every opportunity to block it. Others would argue, with some justification, that this approach will undoubtedly result in Scotland gaining international support which could help us if the UK continues to block calls for a section 30 Order. Countries come into existence if they are internationally recognised, and there is always a chance that Scotland could hold its own referendum, declare independence unilaterally and be recognised by the international community who would recognise the undemocratic nature of the UK. Personally, I think that is a dangerous route to go down, but perhaps it would work as a last resort.

None of this speculation diminishes my anger at the current situation, but I would say that this anger is also directed at too many in the social media sphere who are doubling down on taking sides. I’ve even seen someone claim that Alex Salmond is to blame for the whole thing which, wherever you stand on this, is a ludicrous suggestion. I do not recall Alex Salmond doing anything except defend himself from accusations and win his case every time. I know he is not popular with many people, but facts should not be ignored. But this sort of claim shows that the Yes movement is fragmenting, and that is what the Unionists want. Tick another box on the Reasons to be Angry chart.

The one saving grace is that support for independence remains strong. Whoever leads the SNP into the elections will probably be able to count on a lot of support. If they do form the next Government – which seems more than likely – then they will need to deliver. I want to see their leader come out before the election and give an unequivocal guarantee that an SNP Government will drive forward with IndyRef2. I also want to see them promise some eye-catching policies which an independent Scotland could follow. They need to paint a picture of positivity which will outweigh the inevitable barrage of negativity which will come from the media. I honestly don’t care who that leader is, as long as they have the passion to deliver. And the good sense not to provide our Unionist opposition with chances to point the finger at behaviour which is in any way less than exemplary.