by Rab Bruce’s Spider

With the easing of Lock Down restrictions, and with Scotland still unable to control its own borders, it was inevitable that cases of Covid would rise. The big concern must be the extent of that rise and the severity of the cases of those unfortunate enough to contract the disease. The vaccination programme is still rolling out and let’s hope it does help keep symptoms mild in those who do contract Covid, although the number of cases certainly doesn’t seem to be diminished by the vaccinations.

With that in mind, it was little wonder to see the Scottish Government announce that they will be seeking an extension to the Covid powers for at least another year, and possibly up to September, 2022.

Now, some cynics may view this as the Government simply wanting to retain control over people’s lives by using emergency powers even if there is very little to the emergency. After all, Governments like having power and control. However, given the severity of the impact of Covid so far, I don’t think many people would argue with the need to retain some sort of ability to react quickly to any major outbreaks.

For many Scots, though, the announcement of the extension of powers simply confirms that the SNP are looking for excuses to delay pushing for IndyRef2. In fact, it’s not as if you needed a crystal ball to predict this would happen since Nicola Sturgeon has been quite clear that she has no intention of trying to gain independence while the Covid pandemic remains her number one priority.

What many of us have been asking is why it is unsafe to hold a referendum when it was deemed perfectly safe to hold an election, especially when the vaccination programme should be helping minimise the number of Covid sufferers requiring hospital attention. What I have found disappointing is the SNP’s refusal to even address this question.

In fact, there is an answer they could easily give. The 2014 referendum clearly demonstrated that it was face to face discussion which helped persuade many voters to Yes. If the pandemic does continue to dominate, and if cases cannot be kept under control, then allowing doorstep canvassing is going to be very difficult. It could therefore be argued that we cannot risk holding IndyRef2 until conditions are such that we will have the greatest chance of persuading people to vote Yes.

I can see both sides of this debate, but I do wish the SNP would be a bit more open about their intentions. So far, despite all the pre-election rhetoric, the actions we are seeing suggest IndyRef2 is as far away as ever, and comments from SNP representatives that becoming a normal country could take another ten years really don’t inspire confidence. The big danger with delaying is that Westminster will never stop campaigning against Scotland, no matter whether there is a pandemic or not, and they have the media on their side to help the messaging. I agree that it is difficult to counter that messaging unless activists can get out and pound the streets, knocking on doors, but the longer we wait, the less chance there will be of ever getting IndyRef2. The Power Grab is under way, Brexit is causing immense damage, and sitting back to watch it all happen is not in Scotland’s best interests. Yes, you can argue that people may become so fed up of the poverty and hostile environment as Westminster strides ever further down the road to extremism, but people’s capacity to adapt to circumstances should not be underestimated. The big argument the Unionists have is fear of the unknown. They will say, "Yes, things may be bad just now, but it would be even worse if Scotland became independent". Sadly, many people would fall for it again. That’s why we need to have the positive case advanced among the general public, not just on Scottish Twitter. That’s why we need to be able to talk to our neighbours face to face.

So I can appreciate why IndyRef2 may not be rushed, but the SNP must start making plans, and they really need to be a lot more vocal about the positive case for becoming a normal country. The message needs to be delivered time and time again to help lay the groundwork for when a proper campaign can begin in earnest.

And, if the vaccination programme does reduce the severity of Covid, then we really need to see some action on IndyRef2 before much more time goes by.