Two things are clear from the news this morning: a) there’s an election coming, and b) there’s an SNP annual conference soon. A flurry of indyref chatter always precedes these events, and this time is no different. Those of us who have seen this act play out time and time again can be forgiven for finding it a little tiresome by this point.
On the unionist side, Gordon Brown is wheeled out. The weird thing is that the former UK Prime Minister and key Better Together campaigner in 2014 is treated almost as if he is a neutral voice at this point, like a wise old sage who is now above politics, simply here to offer non-partisan guidance. Brown believes Scotland must “heal” before any new indyref is held.
“The question at the moment is not whether you could have a referendum, the question is whether you should have a referendum,” he told Andrew Marr on Sunday.
Now is not the time for a referendum, then, but it is apparently time for a “wholesale, root and branch constitutional review” of the UK as a whole.
Brown has being saying something remarkably similar for about five years, slightly augmented for each news cycle: Scotland should accept Tory rule and the democratic will of the country should be delayed yet again for the vague promise of vague constitutional reforms. It gets less convincing every time.
Then on the independence side, we have Ian Blackford putting on his superman costume. ‘Independence referendum is to happen next year,’ reads the front-cover of the Sunday National. It would make a good PhD to examine the history of such pronouncements, there proximity to party conference’s and elections, and how long it takes for these statements to fade from memory before they are safe to be regurgitated. I’m almost certain I have heard Blackford say the exact same thing in 2019 for 2020, and in 2018 for 2019.
To be fair to the Sunday National, this time Blackford is asked about previous commitments that have come and gone, with the SNP Westminster leader himself admitting that the last time he said in the House of Commons that the SNP “will not put up with this”, many people responded on social media: ‘How often are you going to say that?’
Blackford’s reply? “It’s not about us, it’s about those that we’re bringing across towards us and demonstrating the way we are being treated, demonstrating what the Covid crisis is showing, and indeed, Brexit has shown.”
I’m not sure the Scottish public are as attracted to empty threats as Blackford thinks. Regardless, he is back in The National today stating that the party could have done “much more” to reach out to the wider pro-independence movement, and now he wants to put that right. It’s clear, though, that what Blackford has in mind is rallying the troops for the election next year.
“First and foremost we need to secure the referendum next year and I’m saying this unambiguously that the only way that we can really secure that victory to determine that Westminster listens is a majority SNP government,” he says.
Well that’s not really true is it. Any pro-indyref majority at Holyrood is as perfectly sound a mandate as any other. Is Blackford seriously saying a vote for the Greens, for example, is not a vote for indyref? It’s a bit cynical to talk about indy movement unity while waving a ‘Both votes SNP’ flag.
Brown and Blackford – they make a good double act, but on the eighth or ninth viewing you may start switching off.
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