Michael Kelly: SNP’s apparent calm masks divisions

FIRST Minister Alex Salmond’s highly risk-averse case for independence covers a mass of conflicting visions in his party, writes Michael Kelly

Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon unveiling the referendum date. Picture: Jane Barlow

It’s the vision thing that is going to do for the SNP in the end. It seems to have come as a late surprise to supporters of independence that to secure the vote they seek in next year’s referendum they need more than a campaign based on greed, grudge and grievance. These three driving forces have been enough to motivate the party’s core support for decades. However, when it comes to the mass of the electorate – especially those new, young voters slipped on to the register – more, much more in the way of spelling out an exciting new future is required.

Last week in this newspaper, George Kerevan, fearing that this golden chance to change will pass by without a whimper, called on the First Minister to provide that inspiration. There are two problems with this, the first being the type of operator Alex Salmond is. He is simply not a conviction politician. George compared him to Margaret Thatcher. I can hardly think of a more inaccurate comparison. Thatcher had a core set of beliefs – most of them wrong – that she stuck to and people eventually admired that steadfastness. Mind you, her pig-headedness could have resulted in her being a one-term prime minister. She was at the depth of her unpopularity when the Falklands crisis came along out of the blue and saved her bacon. There is a big downside to conviction politics.

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