Even as the Holyrood election campaign is only gathering pace, we have already heard all manner of nonsense from representatives and supporters of the OPIPs (other pro-independence parties) as they are sent into a feeding frenzy by the almost totally illusory prospect of electoral prizes. Carolyn Leckie is to be congratulated on managing to avoid such nonsense right up to her final paragraph.
Not that the article was entirely without its puzzling aspects. Ms Leckie appears torn between a partisan urge to castigate the SNP administration for its supposed timidity in relation to Council Tax reform, and her entirely rational appreciation of the reasons for caution. As she points out, consensus is required if we are to find a lasting solution to the issue of funding local services. But even as she acknowledges this need, she is critical of the Scottish Government for failing to act on a consensus that she admits doesn’t exists. That left me scratching my head.
The question we should be asking of the reforms announced by Nicola Sturgeon is not whether they are sufficient, but whether they are as much as could reasonably be expected under the circumstances. We know that they don’t come anywhere close to fully addressing the issue. But that was never going to happen at this stage. Those who pretend that the SNP has missed an opportunity to pull a perfect new system out of the hat are either being extremely foolish, or deeply dishonest.
To her credit, Carolyn Leckie looks to have recognised that most of the attacks on the SNP’s proposed tweaking of Council Tax are ill-founded. But she can’t resist the temptation to have a dig which only looks the more gratuitous in light of the commendable pragmatism that characterises the bulk of her assessment. To say that the decision on Council Tax “casts a shadow of a doubt over the SNP’s stated goal of reducing economic inequality to Scandinavian levels” is plainly silly. That is a long-term goal that wasn’t ever going to be achieved in the space of a single election manifesto. If anything, the SNP’s willingness to at least ‘do something’ with the existing system bodes well for the prospect of more meaningful reform once the party – and Nicola Sturgeon – has secured a further mandate from the Scottish electorate.
Which brings us to that hugely disappointing final paragraph and the daft claim that,
“…we need a rainbow pro-independence parliament after May 5, with fresh, eloquent voices from Rise and the Green Party to remind everyone that the independence movement is multi-dimensional.”
There is just so much self-serving fallaciousness crammed into that comment. Firstly, the possibility of any of the OPIPs winning seats is so vanishingly small as to be not worth considering. And what could they add to an SNP majority in any case? Eloquent voices? Perhaps! But they would be voices raised in support of policies that would either already find favour with an SNP administration in a position to implement them, or that would be beyond the reach of any administration.
Even if they could get elected – which is extremely doubtful – OPIP MSPs could only have a positive impact when supporting policies and actions that would be more effectively progressed by an SNP administration with an unchallengeable mandate. There are no circumstances in which even a number of OPIP MSPs could significantly influence an SNP administration even if said OPIP MSPs could somehow miraculously agree on a common position.
In terms of the constitutional question, what could the conditional support for independence of the OPIPs possibly add to an administration formed by a party which has an unconditional commitment to independence written into the very top of its constitution? None of the OPIPs is more dedicated to the restoration of Scotland’s rightful constitutional status than the SNP. Mostly, they are less committed because their support is conditional on a particular policy agenda.
To whatever extent you may be treating your vote in May’s election as a vote for independence, there is no way to express that preference more unequivocally than by voting SNP on both ballots. And, to the probably greater extent that you are voting for a competent administration, there is no way that denying either of your votes to the SNP can serve that end.
Another thing that Carolyn Leckie does not take into account is the way the British media would use whatever OPIP success might, by some remarkable happenstance, come to pass. The harsh reality is that OPIP MSPs would be entirely disregarded by a mainstream media capable only of portraying politics in terms of simplistic dichotomies such as that represented by the faux rivalry of the two main British parties. Media which, in any case, is only interested in perpetuating a caricature of the independence campaign being ‘all about the SNP’.
The only exception to this blanking of OPIP MSPs would be those occasions when they said something that could be spun as anti-SNP and/or anti-independence. At which point said politicians would be splashed all over the front pages. With the distinct possibility that they would be encouraged to make further ‘controversial’ statements just so as to get some attention.
Thus, there is the very real possibility that those “eloquent voices from RISE and the Green Party” could have a decidedly negative impact on the closest thing to a progressive government that we can hope for at this time.
One final bit of foolishness from that fatally flawed final paragraph. Does Carolyn Leckie seriously suppose that we need to be reminded that “the independence movement is multi-dimensional”? Does she think we don’t know that? Among the audience she is addressing there is surely not one of us who didn’t spend the first referendum campaign working alongside others from different parties and none, united in our aspiration to bring our government home and create a better, fairer, greener Scotland.
Now, at least as much as then, we urgently need that same unity of purpose. Now, every bit as much as it did then, our purpose must be bent to a particular aim. Then, it was a Yes vote. Now, it is an SNP majority with the most powerful mandate achievable. Not for any partisan reasons but simply because that is the outcome which best serves our common cause.
The ultimate folly of that final paragraph is that it argues against the #BothVotesSNP strategy which will be most effective in achieving what we might safely assume to be Carolyn Leckie’s long-term aims, in favour of some dubious short-term party political advantage. Surely now is the time to rise above such foolishness.