Instead of an all-singing and dancing press conference on the banks of the Clyde, hapless hacks were left scurrying around a hotel near the Scottish Parliament seeking hard copies of Andrew Wilson’s magnum opus.
“An absolute shambles” was one of the kinder – and cleaner – descriptions of the bizarre way the SNP chose to “manage” the print media interest in the long-awaited paper making the economic case for independence (take two). Scribes arrived at the parliament bemoaning the lack of a press conference and the chance to hurl questions at Mr Wilson and others. They had expected that the document would be published online at 9.30am. The minutes ticked by before word got out that there would be actual copies at the MacDonald Holyrood Hotel. Hacks hotfooted it to the hotel. The broadcasters were ensconced in the “library” with Mr Wilson. But still no sign of the report or the online version.
Tempers frayed and after - what seemed like a lifetime - a SNP spinner finally arrived clutching a small number of hefty ring binders containing the document. There was a scuffle as journalists shoved each other out of the way to grab a copy. “Why aren’t there any more?” one demanded. “Steady on, they cost £80 each,” said the spinner.
The arrangements for the media was not the only contrast between yesterday and the White Paper era. Where Mr Salmond’s production exuded unbridled optimism, Mr Wilson’s document made a virtue of “realism”.
“Independence must never be seen as a magic wand or a quick and easy step to success,” his introduction said. “Indeed there is no pot of gold, black or otherwise, at the foot of the independence rainbow.”
A decade to sort out public finances so that Scotland was fit for a new currency. A quarter of a century to get economic performance up to that of other advanced small nations. Mr Wilson made little attempt to gloss over the challenges faced on the road to independence.
Perhaps Mr Wilson’s injection of a heavy dose of reality could explain the SNP’s reluctance to host an all-singing and dancing press conference to show off latest plans. Perhaps it was also an acknowledgement that in a divided country the notion of indyref2 has yet to set the heather on fire beyond Nicola Sturgeon’s supporters.