Analysis: SNP at a crossroads and face defining choice of leader
It is a significant and generational crossroads for the party that, until Wednesday, had considered the question of what comes next after Nicola Sturgeon as something to be answered on another day.
That complacency has left the party directionless without her, asking itself the big questions on strategy for independence and what it wants to deliver for Scotland for the first time in decades.
The importance of what comes next cannot be understated.
Sturgeon’s preferred ‘choice’ of a de facto referendum is an idea that appears to get the SNP no further forward. Win on their own terms and get ignored, or lose and be ridiculed. There seems to be no good outcome.
That poses the membership a serious question; do they trust themselves to look beyond the emotional pull of those promising independence yesterday, or do they think deeper in the very tradition of the woman who has made way?
On domestic policy there is also a choice to be made.
Kate Forbes appears to be positioning herself as a lurch to the right, one that trusts and promotes business and one that would spend less time on what many of the public and internal Sturgeon critics felt were misguided, damaging social policy projects.
But that forgets the fundamental basis on which the SNP has won eight elections in eight years.
Yes, the constitution matters, but the threat of a resurgent Labour party has – so far – been beaten away by that straddle of left and right centrism. Abandon the left and where do those voters go other than Labour?
Lots will be made about the gender reform row that has split the party deeply, but Ash Regan’s leadership is one built on misapprehension of the true scale of dissent around the issue within the party.
It is a side-issue, one that will ultimately not determine the victor – though Kate Forbes’ position on challenging Section 35 could prove pivotal as polling shows SNP voters on a majority basis wish to see that delivered.
This is a generational choice for the SNP and one where contenders must answer the big questions. Ultimately their choice could sink or revitalise its project.
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