I have been having a wee think, yeah it does actually happen from time to time, and I have been thinking about the rumours that are starting to surface about the impending SNP Conference in October.
It’s looking like there will be no debate about the timing of the next independence referendum or the issue of the growth commission or currency debate. Common Space are reporting that they have seen the provisional list of motions for the conference and Scottish Independence is no where to be seen. This is either a mark of genius or a huge mistake. By not debating the timing of the next indy referendum or the growth commission report for me are potential mistakes that will alienate some of the SNP membership, but more worryingly the wider YES movement.
I was a member of the party and left in 2014 when all women shorts lists were coming in and the consolidation of power within the party by the national executive that for me became less democratic, not more. Now I understand the need for party discipline but even Tommy Shepherd when announcing his withdrawal from the Deputy Leadership contest noted that “the key task here is to modernise our policy making structures so that our mass membership can have much more of a say, and the considerable talent and expertise that lies within our ranks harnessed”. Malcolm Kerr, SNP Convenor in Arron, has broken ranks and noted that for this October conference “The big issues of the day are conspicuously absent: public health, Europe, Trident, local government finance, energy policy, land reform. The word ‘independence’ is only mentioned once.” “Scotland is looking to our movement for inspiration and leadership, not just competent management. We have a duty to showcase the diversity of views within the SNP, which is a strength, not a weakness.”
The SNP are rightfully saying that not everything can be debated due to the limited time available so some people will be disappointed by that, but when your conference becomes a happy clappy self congratulation of your achievements while avoiding the pressing issues that both many in membership, but also the wider public, sympathetic to the independence cause, expect to see debated you are running the risk of alienating the very people you rely on. I noted in my last blog that both the SNP and the YES movement need each other to deliver that desperately needed yes vote but non members are more likely to shift their vote or not vote at all if they feel that you are either afraid to debate the issues, have went soft on the issues, or are avoiding the issues.
I totally accept that the SNP are the only vehicle to an independence referendum, while I am not a member I also don’t want to see the SNP failing for the reason of independence and of the fact that a unionist holyrood would be a disaster for Scotland in every shape or form. However, I am also not someone who doesn’t speak their mind. If the SNP actively avoid the issues without giving a hell of a lot better explanation than time, they are running the risk of seriously pissing off their members, and the YES movement, to the extent that they could split the movement or bring about a disillusionment in the cause to the extent that people don’t vote in ever greater numbers than those that didn’t turn out at the last GE.
I accept that many people on this blog, and elsewhere, are urging patience due to Brexit and I get that but by being seen to be avoiding the issue in public will in my opinion do a lot of damage to the issues as we move forward and will give the unionists all the ammo they need, along with their media friends, to imply that both the SNP and the wider YES movement are soft on independence. I would also be worried about what this says to the thousands that will march in Dundee tomorrow for independence. Now is not the time for being overly cautious and playing games, debate is healthy in any movement and if the SNP are starting to be fearful about even having the debate then they will lose support and will be on that slippery slope of Scottish Labour, you lose your core vote they are not coming back.
My message to the SNP leadership as a yes voting SNP voter, be careful, be very careful. If you won’t even debate then people will go where their voices will be heard and a debate will be found, when the discussion is being had in the Scottish Greens the Scottish Greens is where people might decide to go.