Will the SNP be able to survive the tirade of problems it has caused for itself, in order to prove that they could run an independent Scotland?
Unlike the Labour Party, the SNP have the pleasure of being a problem for Westminster. They hold a uniquely popular nationalist agenda in a political landscape where parties move heaven and earth in order to appear as counter-nationalistic.
Yet, the SNP continues to push forward with the feigned virtue of the notion of independence, pushing hard for a referendum in May 2021. A popular vote that would go ahead even if Westminster refused to recognise it.
At the end of the day, the battle is nothing other than the SNP vs Westminster, and it is the SNP’s fight to lose. If the SNP are to be successful, they must push through the mire of controversy that has surrounded them for weeks. If they succeeded, they would push the Party to a level of legitimacy that could convince the Scottish electorate to flee the UK.
An issue that cuts to the core for the SNP is the Alex Salmond fiasco. To put it briefly, the former SNP leader has been accused and cleared of 13 counts of sexual misconduct. Salmond’s alleged scandal spanned a duration of several years while he was leader of the party but he has since been cleared of all charges.
However, a committee is now going to assess whether or not these allegations were investigated to a meaningful and just extent. The committee’s investigation requires an interrogation of the present leader, Nicola Sturgeon, who was a central figure in Salmond’s absolution.
Speculation about the outcome of the committee’s investigation would be fruitless, but the re-emergence of Salmond’s sexual assault scandal at this time is significant. Of particular importance is that it coincides with the SNP’s push for a vote of independence. My concern is that the resurfacing of the scandal threatens the SNP’s image: to win a referendum, the party must convince the public that they are a well-founded alternative to Westminster. With Salmond’s dubious history casting a shadow over Sturgeon’s independence attempts, the future looks uncertain.
To make matters worse, Scotland is lagging behind England on vaccinations. At the time of writing this article, in England the NHS has been expanding the vaccine rollout to younger age groups, as well as those most clinically vulnerable, while Scotland is still stuck in the 70+ age group. The difference here is important because it adds weight to the argument that Scotland would be worse off if they left Britain.
These are the issues which will matter most for an independent Scotland:
Head-to-head, policy-to-policy, who will serve Scots’ best, an independent Scotland or one which is supplemented by the United Kingdom?
Before an independence referendum can be held, the SNP must first stop the spread of the virus, reopen the country and complete the vaccine roll-out. The SNP’s ability to fulfill these criteria is essential to its case for independence. Should the SNP fall behind the Conservative government in these areas, the case for an independent Scotland becomes much weaker.
Furthermore, Sturgeon heavily railed against Boris Johnson’s decision to leave the EU vaccine scheme. At the time, her objection seemed well-founded, but now looks like a grave mistake. While the UK programme excels, the EU’s is failing.
On the other hand, the SNP’s cause is not completely hopeless. It is helped by the complete ineptitude and disappearance of any meaningful opposition in Scotland.
At the moment, less than four months before the election is scheduled to take place, the Conservatives front the mild-mannered Douglas Ross, while Labour has had no leader since the resignation of Richard Leonard on 4th January 2021. This is clearly worrisome for Labour who have relied heavily on the Scottish vote in the past and, in this instance, could not have come up with a better way to give the SNP an upper hand.
Perhaps, since no other party offers a credible opposition to the SNP in Holyrood, they have decided to become their own opposition. As discussed, internal conflicts and vaccine vacancies show that the SNP’s greatest obstacle is themselves.
Instead of politics being a conflict between them and opposition parties, the SNP have transcended this, and they must now overcome the problems they created themselves. To achieve the goal of an independent Scotland, they must prove that they will be a more effective government than whoever occupies the Westminster hotseat. If they continue on their current course, this will not happen.