West of Scotland SNP Depute Leadership Hustings

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Today the digital ballots are out, and SNP members across Scotland are invited to vote for the SNP Depute Leader. There are four candidates this time around, each with their own distinct merits and contributions to the role. While this particular hustings is being organised in Greenock’s Tontine Hotel, branches across the West of Scotland – Arran, Dumbarton, Dunoon, Eastwood, North Ayrshire, Renfrewshire, and more – are invited to attend.

Here’s a quick overview of the candidates, in alphabetical order, with some videos I felt showed the candidates at their best. To ensure fairness, I have dedicated exactly 100 words to each. Quite proud of that!

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The Great Indyref2 Conundrum

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As confusing a time as it may be for Scottish Independence supporters, it’s even more confusing for the British Nationalists who make up their opposite number. The meme right now is that even with the prospect of the UK leaving the European Union, the people of Scotland don’t want to “compound” that by breaking up the UK – even if leaving the UK means preventing Scotland’s separation from the EU, which the people of Scotland voted against in the first place.

Right now, the British Nationalist parties are adamant that the SNP (for as ever, there is never the acknowledgement that the independence movement reaches beyond one political party) just put aside all this silly constitutional nonsense and “stick to the day job” – after all, even unnamed “senior SNP figures” don’t want Indyref2 just yet:

SNP insiders urge Nicola Sturgeon to put brakes on second independence referendum

NICOLA Sturgeon is being urged by senior SNP figures to wait until after the 2020 General Election and another expected Conservative victory before calling a second independence referendum.

Influential party insiders are cautioning their leader against a rush to the polls again as an opinion snapshot suggested the highest number of respondents, 46 per cent, said there should not be another referendum in the next few years. It found 33 per cent who want one by 2019.

– “Senior SNP Figures,” 19th September 2016

And former SNP advisers:

Indyref2 is years away. Nicola’s too smart to rush it.

In the febrile hours after the EU referendum vote, she famously said under questioning that she thought another referendum on independence was “highly likely”. I suspect she now regrets those words, as they have created a rod for her own back and a stick for her opponents to beat her with.

The unexpected Brexit result has placed her between the hammer and the anvil. If she delays or kicks the idea of another independence vote into the long grass, she will risk alienating the party, and most particularly the 100,000 or so who have joined since 2014. Independence is the SNP’s whole reason for existence; rejecting any opportunity to seize it would be a risky and precarious move for her.

So, though, is the alternative of seizing the moment and calling a referendum. With the polls apparently not having shifted much since the first indyref, this would be an even more risky win-or-die strategy. Score a victory, and she will become a politician of truly global stature, writing herself forever into Scottish history. Lose again, and she will be gone by the next morning, her political career a shredded carcass for the vultures to feed on.

Nicola Sturgeon is not a gambler. The serious, scholarly 21-year-old I met all that time ago has grown in political skill, respect and stature. But she is still a cautious, quiet thinker who relies on instinct and common sense rather than on impetuous bravery.

Andrew Collier, 23rd August 2016

Perplexingly, these conveniently unnamed & unverifiable “senior SNP figures” (and Andrew Collier) appear to be in tune with none other than the leader of Better Together:

Darling: ‘No indyref2 any time soon’

Nicola Sturgeon will not call another independence referendum any time soon because she fears defeat, the man who led the pro-UK campaign ahead of the last vote has predicted.

Alistair Darling said Ms Sturgeon had to regularly “throw red meat” to her supporters by hinting at a second vote.

But he said she “knows she will be finished” if she loses again.

Alistair Darling, 19th September 2016

And one of the chief architects of the Other Party’s downfall:

Scotland won’t get its second independence referendum – that suits Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP just fine

How’s that second Scottish independence referendum looking?

Not all that good, actually.

John McTernan, 6th May 2016

So, according to – apparently – everyone, if there’s a second Independence Referendum soon, and it’s a No vote, then that really will end it for a generation. It will “finish” Nicola Sturgeon; it will devastate the SNP; it will set the cause back years, if not decades.

And yet

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The Article 50 Directive

Since it’s pretty clear the UK Government still has no idea what it’s doing three months after the European Referendum, the MP for Gordon decided to toss a metaphorical firecracker into the public domain:

I would expect Nicola Sturgeon to fulfil her mandate to keep Scotland within the single market place, I would expect her to give Theresa May the opportunity to embed Scotland within the negotiations to enable that to happen.

And I fully expect, my reading of the situation is, the UK will not be flexible or wise enough to do that and therefore I expect there’ll be a Scottish referendum in roughly two years’ time.

And, because British Nationalists are the only people more obsessed with Scottish independence than its own supporters, the press erupted in a predictable paroxysm of petulance:

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You’ll notice that neither the words “pledge” nor “vow” – nor any synonyms thereof – appear in the interview with Russia Today, which the above newspaper quotes itself in the article. All it says is that Mr Salmond expects. It’s a prediction, not a promise. It’s not the first time British Nationalists have read into things that weren’t there.

But curiously absent from most of the papers is Mr Salmond’s reasoning as to why he came to this conclusion.

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“Scotland? What is this Scotland?”

Neil Findlay: The minister says that we “did not vote for” it, but we participated in the vote as members of the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom voted to leave, and we were part of the United Kingdom.

[interruption.]

Mike Russell: I am sure that Mr Findlay is delighted by the Tory cheers. That proves the point. There is a basic difference between Mr Findlay and me in our understanding of nation and nationhood. I understand that the people of Scotland are sovereign; they have the right to be sovereign, and they should be heard.

So spaketh Neil Findlay & Mike Russell in the Scottish parliament yesterday. By that same logic, “we” voted for the current UK Government in 2015. After all, we participated in the vote as members of the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom voted for David Cameron’s party, and we were part of the United Kingdom. Since the United Kingdom is an incorporating union, we do not vote as we do in the EU, where each nation has proportionate representation – we vote in the knowledge that we have a neighbour with over ten times more MPs than we do. We vote as One Nation, not four – though in practicality, it really is one of those four nations which decides for the other three.

Is that not how it works, Mr Findlay?

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Well I don’t know, Mr Findlay. I’ve argued before that there is an important distinction between asking if Scotland should remain in the EU, and if the UK should remain in the EU – but to ignore that the people of Scotland as a country voted differently from the people of England is precisely why it’s an important distinction.

There is indeed a case to be made that this referendum should have been viewed only from a UK perspective. It’s a UK-wide referendum on the UK’s membership: many (usually UK government members or advocates) point out it should not be viewed through the perspective of Scottish independence, party politics, or anything other than the UK’s membership of the EU.

The problem is, Mr Findlay’s party didn’t seem to get the memo.

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The Complex Truth and the Simple Lie

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There is a saying, often attributed to French philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville: “it is easier for the world to accept a simple lie than a complex truth.” I kept this in mind during the 2016 Scottish Election campaign, when the possibility that services at Inverclyde Royal Hospital were to be closed was used in the election campaign of the Other Party’s candidate:

The source of these revelations was a leaked draft discussion document. The story should have ended right there, because by definition, a draft is a preliminary document which is written with the knowledge and intention that it will, in all likelihood, be changed in future versions. They are the armature on which the final, official document is built – and the final document can sometimes be revised so much that it is virtually unrecognisable from that first draft. It is for this reason that drafts are not published for public consultation – they are irrelevant, outdated, obsolete, and of no bearing on the final document.

The draft document contains phrases like “live within available resources,” “move without further delay,” “review transfer of trauma,” and “review provision of physical disability”. None of these phrases are contained in the final document, which was published in February 2016.

What has happened since the election is that a new document has been published. And that’s where things get complicated.

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Plenty of Wrong Answers to Wrong Questions

For anyone arguing that Scotland is being taken out of the EU against its will, think of the question on the ballot paper. Scotland was not mentioned. To believe that those who voted Remain would vote for independence, is naïve.
Jim Sillars, 27th June 2016

The First Minister has said that she wants to preserve Scotland’s position in the EU. That is fine, but quite what that means is also unclear. Of course, Scotland is not—and never has been—one of the EU’s member states. The vote in Scotland last week sought to preserve the UK’s status as a member state—not to insist that Scotland becomes a new member state.
Adam Tomkins, 28th June 2016

This referendum vote was conducted right across the UK, and the more than 1 million voters in Scotland who chose leave deserve representation. They do not deserve to be disenfranchised. For remain voters, it was clear that the vote was UK-wide and that the fundamental premise of the vote was the UK’s relationship with the EU. So, with regard to the motion, I cannot vote to welcome the overwhelming vote of the people of Scotland to remain, since I voted leave and since the basic premise of that is flawed and misrepresents the question that was asked in the referendum. The ballot paper did not ask, “Do you want Scotland to remain in or leave the EU?”
Elaine Smith, 28th June 2016

The proposition that I campaigned for and voted for last week—that the UK remain in the European Union—no longer exists. That was the proposition on the ballot paper. The proposition was not that I—or anyone else, for that matter—vote for Scotland to remain in the EU whatever the terms or the circumstances. I voted for Scotland to remain in an EU in which the whole UK was an influential member state.
Jackson Carlaw, 28th June 2016

The thing that I find most disreputable is that Nicola Sturgeon has spent the past two months trying to use my Remain vote and thousands of Scots like me to coop that into trying to leave the United Kingdom, and that’s not what anybody was voting on.
Ruth Davidson, 28th August 2016

When Jim Sillars is making the same point as Adam Tomkins, you know something’s a bit off, right?

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