Comment: Independence agenda limits SNP appeal

Nicola Sturgeon with Stewart Hosie MP who replaces her as deputy leader, both must make the SNP a more progressive party that will inherit the mantle once held by Labour. Picture: Getty

Nicola Sturgeon with Stewart Hosie MP who replaces her as deputy leader, both must make the SNP a more progressive party that will inherit the mantle once held by Labour. Picture: Getty

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MAKING the SNP a more progressive party that will inherit the mantle once held by Labour was one of the main messages coming from Perth Concert Hall. But as ever with the SNP, the constitutional question could not be avoided.

As she made clear, her desire for progression and good governance for Scotland was for an express purpose.

“Everything I have experienced since 2007 and everything I witnessed during the referendum campaign, persuades me that good government and progress to an independent Scotland go hand in hand,” she said.

With the threat of EU exit, austerity and a new generation of Trident weapons looming, she claimed independence could be “closer than we could ever have imagined on the morning of the 19 September.”

It was the sort of remark to send shivers down the spines of the those of a Unionist persuasion, who point out that the independence question was settled in convincing fashion on 18 September.

It was also a remark that suggests that her desire to reach out to No voters ahead of May’s General Election is extremely challenging.

Her attempt to woo those who rejected independence came in the form of a plea to work together to support “Scotland’s Party”.

Supporting the SNP as Scotland’s Party would increase our influence in a hung parliament was her argument. Scotland’s interests would be best served by a strong SNP group at Westminster refusing to deal with Conservatives while pressurising Labour into rethinking austerity and delivering more Scottish powers.

Her plea for unity, however, will not impress all given that many regard the SNP’s drive for a referendum as the most divisive event in Scotland’s political history.

Meanwhile it will not be lost on Sturgeon’s opponents that the childcare pledge she reaffirmed yesterday was the same one contained in the Scottish Government’s White Paper.

Before the referendum, the SNP rhetoric was that only independence could deliver the White Paper’s “transformational” childcare package.

After the referendum, it would appear that independence is not required after all to deliver on something that has always been within the power of the Scottish Parliament.

In an age of austerity, the SNP’s opponents will raise questions about how such an ambitious programme can be funded. What other public services will have to be sacrificed to fulfil the childcare/NHS promises?

And would an SNP Government be prepared to use the new tax-raising powers destined for Holyrood to finance them?

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