Scottish independence: SNP has raised the white flag and given up on Scotland leaving the UK – Kenny MacAskill
Humza Yousaf may say everything’s still on the table and repudiated his colleague Ben Macpherson’s “stepping down a gear” but there’s no direction and just no oomph. It’s the natural progression for an administration which, other than in 2017 when a call to arms was no sooner made than activists were stood down, has talked a good game, yet delivered little. Indeed, as with the Supreme Court decision, much of what they’ve done has been positively harmful to the cause.
Now it’s to be ‘steady the ship’ as the administration’s floundering and seek to increase devolved powers. Macpherson was just a minister who popped his head above the parapet to articulate the new line. But he was hardly slapped down unceremoniously, and his views are being pushed by others. In the absence of any strategy to achieve independence, it’s naturally where they were going to end up.
The suggestion that Scotland isn’t ready for independence is just absurd. Scotland’s better equipped now than at any point in recent history and, on that logic, the 2014 referendum would never have come about. Of course, challenges remain but the risk of staying has increased as the UK economy tanks, and Britain becomes an ugly and brutal society. It’s why the core independence support remains high despite the failure to build upon it over these past eight years.
Now increased devolution isn’t precluded in seeking independence. I’ve always thought it bizarre that anyone committed to independence would oppose improving Scottish democracy. But there’s been no push for increased powers over this recent period. Demands for the ability to tackle air weapons or address the scourge of drink-driving weren’t followed up, though plenty of issues existed which could have gathered broad public support, debates that could have been won.
Devolution of broadcasting and the board of BBC Scotland being appointed by the Scottish Parliament spring to mind. Instead, it was trust in a leadership which had a plan for a gold-plated referendum. But the “no ifs, no buts’ strategy has crashed and burned.
So now it’s devo-max, which to be fair, I have always preferred to the status quo. But the reality is that ship has sailed. It’s just not on offer from a hardline unionist Tory administration as we’ve seen with recent actions. It also won’t be dangled even if they’re replaced by a Labour one. That party has likewise signed up for muscular unionism north of the Border.
Progress may be made in Wales where Mark Drakeford has carved out a niche for Welsh Labour, but it’s not mirrored in Scotland. Besides, current shared council administrations and potential future Holyrood arrangements with the Conservatives, along with seeking support from Tory voters, rule out anything other than minor genuflection towards increased devolution. Gordon Brown’s anodyne proposals will simply offer cover without delivering significant change.
What became of the “Vow” or the most powerful devolved parliament on the planet? It’s been the same old tired rhetoric not just in 2014 but a century ago. Back then “Red Clydesiders” pushed for radical home rule but that idea was sucked in, stitched up and sold out. Nothing’s changed and it’s why this strategy is as doomed to failure as Sturgeon’s. It’s independence or the status quo.
Kenny MacAskill is Alba Party MP for East Lothian
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