Leaders: Alex Salmond must explain himself
THE new opinion poll commissioned by the SNP, which we publish exclusively on our front page today, is a perfect illustration of why support for Scottish independence is struggling to rise much above a third of the population at the moment, and also why the party leadership is determined to execute one of the most dramatic policy U-turns in its history.
Despite the SNP’s renaissance over the past decade and its stunning victories at two Holyrood elections, support for its key goal of independence remains stuck at around a third of the electorate. The Nats may not like the word “separatist”, but in the eyes of a substantial proportion of the electorate that is what they stand for – a Scotland that would separate itself from international unions and alliances and go it alone. While some are excited and energised by this prospect, many more find the idea uncomfortable. This caution is entrenched – it has been part of the voters’ psyche for a generation, despite the shifting of other political allegiances. Even a huge wave of positivity generated by a slick Yes campaign in the referendum campaign would struggle to close this gap. The “one more heave” option will not work. What the Nationalist high command seems to have concluded is that the proposition itself must change, and that independence must be redefined to make it more attractive to a sceptical and canny Scotland.
Hence the proposed embrace of the Nato military alliance; and the embrace of the monarchy; and the embrace of the concept of Britishness as something senior Nationalists now say is compatible with independence; and the embrace of the pound sterling as an independent Scotland’s currency, with monetary policy under the control of the Bank of England; and the embrace of the idea that devo-max should have a place on the referendum ballot paper alongside independence (instantly making independence less likely). There will be others too – the only way to ensure an open Border at Gretna Green will be to accept the same immigration policy as the rump of the UK; the price of keeping the pound will be to accept that Scottish fiscal policy cannot stray too far from Treasury strictures (echoing the key lesson of the Eurozone crisis on how a currency union must work).
All these shifts in strategy make perfect sense. They are undoubtedly what the SNP must do if it is to have any chance of winning the referendum in 2014. But they represent an extraordinarily radical reinvention of the idea that has lain at the heart of Nationalist orthodoxy for 80 years. And this is where Alex Salmond has made what this newspaper believes is a serious tactical misjudgment. He seems to have been determined so far to redefine independence by stealth – the monarchy policy, for example, was snuck through an SNP National Council meeting, bundled up in a general strategy document, without any activists noticing (in fact, some still refuse to accept the policy has changed).
Nato will, in fact, be the only one of these many strategy shifts that the SNP national conference will have had a chance to debate, and decide upon. The stealth strategy was foolish, and counter-productive. What Salmond must do now – and should have done already – is to be honest with his party and his country. He must come clean and say that, yes, he is redefining independence. He must explain his (plausible) reasoning. He must fully delineate the new orthodoxy. He must tell his party they must adapt, or lose. He must do what a real leader does – lead from the front and win the argument.
Gunning for trouble
AT LEAST 12 dead and almost 60 injured – many critically – in the latest mass shooting in downtown America, which remains a nation awash with firearms. The motives behind the actions of heavily-armed James Holmes, a 24-year-old neurophysiology student, as yet remain unknown but are likely to emerge as he starts to go through the legal process in the US courts. But as his killing spree took place at a cinema premiere of the new Batman movie, Dark Knight Arises, and he told police who arrested him that he was “The Joker” – Batman’s nemesis – the conclusion is already
being drawn by some that Holmes was acting out a comic book fantasy. Over the years, the Batman portrayed in the more innocent days of 1960s TV has been turned into a darker force involved in violent storylines, pitted against with aggressive master criminals.
There will be the usual calls for a clampdown on the depiction of violence in films, TV and computer games. This is far too easy a scapegoat. We cannot order popular culture to take account of how a psychologically unstable and heavily armed young man might interpret it. Scrutiny should instead fall the all-too-easy accessibility to US citizens to armouries of battlefield proportions.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 6 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 9 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 14 mph
Wind direction: South west