David Maddox: SNP’s foot-shooting exercise leaves the Yes campaign with no seat at a very influential table
THE spat that saw SNP MP Eilidh Whiteford walk out of the House of Commons Scottish Affairs select committee seems a distant memory now, but the decision is proving to be a costly one for her party.
While we will never know the rights and wrongs of what happened Ms Whiteford, Alex Salmond’s heir in Banff and Buchan, claims she was the victim of abusive comments from the abrasive Labour chairman of the committee Ian Davidson in a closed session.
The fact that every other member of the committee jumped to his defence – and he is not an MP who inspires love and support from those of different political parties – suggests that there may have been another reason.
Indeed Ms Whiteford’s resignation closely followed the committee’s unanimous decision to hold an inquiry on “Scottish separation.” Ms Whiteford actually agreed to it including the s-word much to the chagrin of the SNP leadership.
But, as the Yes to the UK campaign gets going officially this week, it is noticeable that it is this often derided committee which is landing some damaging punches on the independence campaign through its inquiry.
The committee has kept the door open for Ms Whiteford to return even though Commons rules say she should be replaced if she misses three meetings.
It is clear that the SNP hoped a boycott of the committee would make the process look partisan, which frankly it is, and would damage its integrity to the point that it would be ignored. This of course has not happened and the committee, which is currently in the defence phase of its inquiry, has generated some very damaging stories to the independence campaign.
The report on the wording of the question was particularly canny. The committee simply strung together the quotes of independent and neutral experts dismantling Alex Salmond’s preferred wording.
Then there has been the blunt instrument of “set-up” evidence. Inviting in witnesses, such as the shipyard union reps, to spell out industrial Armageddon post separation. In all this time headlines have been generated on a number of issues and more will undoubtedly come.
The problem is that the SNP has no voice there to challenge the witnesses or produce minority reports and as a result is reduced to a reactive footnote in the stories.
The committee is greatly aided by the vacuum of policy on key issues such as the economy and defence for an independent Scotland.
The SNP’s relative silence on these issues has allowed the committee members and their witnesses to openly speculate and look at different scenarios, most of which would leave Scotland far worse off.
While things were going well for the independence campaign and SNP then the boycott may have been a shrewd strategy – now it is looking ill- judged.
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