Ewan Crawford: Sturgeon trusted to chart course of party

Nicola Sturgeon will be trusted to chart course of party and Scotland's  future. picture: PA
Nicola Sturgeon will be trusted to chart course of party and Scotland's future. picture: PA
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In the early days of the Scottish Parliament, when I helped draft speeches for the SNP leadership, I remember taking care to ensure there were sufficient references to independence.

Adjusting to the reality of devolution and striving for government, my concern was that the membership might grow restless if the “i” word didn’t feature in the text.

Such concern was badly misplaced. SNP members of the time were pragmatic, understood and, on the whole, supported the overall strategy.

They didn’t need references to independence to be shoe-horned into every speech. Like most party political members they (we) wanted more than anything to win, because without winning, parties are powerless.

That, in turn, meant connecting with people who previously would not have contemplated voting SNP.

These are important considerations when trying to understand the way the SNP, and its current leader, will now react to the EU referendum result.

Firstly, the First Minister, and those around her, will be trusted to chart the course. Yesterday, in remarks that struck exactly the right tone, she put a second independence referendum firmly on the table. But no-one, least of all Nicola Sturgeon wants another referendum for the sake of it.

The stakes are too high to fail. The Westminster alternative is bleak: a Scotland that, at best, will be an ignored part of the UK, governed by an isolationist Conservative Party lurching ever-further to the right to compete with Nigel Farage.

That’s why all SNP members will intuitively understand the vital importance of reaching out and listening to the concerns of those who voted No in 2014, particularly over jobs and the economy.

Since that vote, a game of “I told you so” has been played between Yes and No voters. Those on my side of the argument now have the EU referendum to play against the No side’s oil prices card. But this competition is now a pointless sideshow to what needs to be done: to work out openly, in a spirit of generosity, how we, together, can build a more prosperous, equal society as a normal, independent, full member of the EU.

For Scotland’s future, building that consensus is now, by far, our most important task.

• Ewan Crawford was Special Adviser at the Scottish Government 2012-2014