Leader: Warning lights start to flash as Greens do a U-turn
BARELY three weeks since he featured prominently in the launch of the SNP’s “Yes” campaign for independence, Patrick Harvie, leader of the Green Party in Scotland, has walked away.
The confirmation that the Green Party will not be formally joining the official campaign cannot but be seen as a setback for SNP leader Alex Salmond’s attempts to build a broad coalition of parties and interest groups behind his campaign.
That the defection has come so soon after the much-hyped launch will be an embarrassment to both. Mr Harvie has complained that his party was not there “to wave the flag for someone’s else’s campaign… We feel frustrated by the lack of progress towards a genuinely inclusive campaign, and concerned that a non-inclusive campaign will be less likely to succeed. We have been knocking on the door and the door has not been opened.”
Many may feel Mr Harvie has only himself to blame. He has known Mr Salmond for years. He has had plenty of opportunity to clarify what the position of the Green Party would be in the referendum campaign and to gauge how well he could work with an SNP leader well used to blind and unquestioning loyalty within his own party. How strange to hear that only now has the realisation dawned that this was going to be an SNP show and that the Greens, welcome though their support would have been, had little more status in shaping the campaign than that of tag-alongs.
But equally searching questions will be asked of Mr Salmond’s leadership style and whether the SNP leader is prepared to share control of the referendum campaign with any other group other than his own party. The image that the launch event attempted to create – of an inclusive, all-embracing group of disparate people coming together in one harmonious group in the cause of independence – now looks decidedly ragged. Criticised for the attention given to non-dom Scots celebrities and for the absence of senior figures from the business community, it was quickly evident that this event was rather less than the sum of its parts.
It would be wrong to over-state the political pulling power of Mr Harvie’s party. It is not exactly over-endowed with representation in Holyrood. But with the Greens walking off the formal campaign stage, this leaves the SNP with the Scottish Socialist Party: a partnership that anyone in the SNP with a concern for perception would wish to see counter-balanced by other interests and voices. A grouping so obviously tilted to the Far Left could nullify all the assiduous cultivation by the SNP in recent years of the business constituency.
Mr Harvie’s exit speaks to an unspoken concern among many over Mr Salmond’s leadership style. While party stalwarts hailed the campaign event as a triumph, it cannot be long before party strategists turn their minds to damage-limitation… and a relaunch.
Spanish loan will not rescue eurozone
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy says the decision by eurozone ministers to help Spain shore up its struggling banks is a “victory for the euro”.
Given the long succession of previous eurozone accords and agreements being trumpeted as breakthroughs and triumphs only to be followed by a relapse into crisis, it is surely premature to hail Spain’s formal application for €100 billion of bank assistance as a victory of any sort.
There may well be a surge of relief in markets that at least events have moved on and that an outline compromise has been reached that should halt the run on Spain’s banks and, rightly, spare the government yet more austerity measures.
The chronic uncertainty created by events in the eurozone has, as Chancellor George Osborne made clear, been a major factor in depressing business confidence here.
But major questions still have to be resolved as to where the rescue funds are coming from and the extent to which their terms will accelerate a move towards a common system of banking regulation across the eurozone – a development that could bring a significant enhancement of powers at Brussels and put Britain at a potential disadvantage. Much thus hangs on the terms and conditions attaching to this deal.
And if that is not enough to curb the inexhaustible urges of eurozone leaders to self-congratulation, there is the second Greek parliamentary election this coming weekend.
A victory for the anti-austerity parties – or another deadlock – could restart the alarm bells and at an even louder pitch than before. We are not out of the woods yet.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Sunday 19 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 16 C
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