What now for SNP strategy in the wake of the referendum defeat and the pending departure of First Minister Alex Salmond (Your report, 20 September)? In the next 20 months it has to aim to achieve three goals (not, of course, mutually exclusive).
The first is to continue its broad reputation for competent government at Holyrood. There will always be disputes about the quality of the health service, the number of college places, the council tax freeze and so on. It is all eclipsed by a strong sense among voters that at least the administration is in control of domestic matters and has a strong sense of direction.
The second is to gain the balance of power in Westminster at next May’s general election. This is a formidable task, not least because of the size of the Labour majorities in a large number of Scottish seats.
But the equivocal approach already adopted by the Westminster parties on the question of new powers for Scotland could well work to the advantage of the Nationalists.
This will be true if many No voters come to realise that the promised powers contained in the so-called “Vow” prove to be bogus. Lord Smith of Kelvin will no doubt do an efficient job, at Prime Minister David Cameron’s request, of putting forward recommendations for the constitutional future. But they will simply be recommendations which might well be drowned by feuding among the Unionist parties.
The third is to win the Scottish parliament elections in 2016. It no longer matters that it might be a minority government. A referendum is now off the agenda, possibly for decades. But gaining more powers for Scotland by a combination of Westminster pressure and Holyrood acumen should now be central to the SNP’s approach under its new leader.