Do you remember back in 2018 or early 2019, when the bulk of us in the independence movement were still giving the SNP leadership the benefit of the doubt in relation to their assurances that an independence referendum had merely been delayed slightly and would still take place before Brexit? Journalists and certain academics used to treat us as hopelessly naive, and would say that “everyone knows privately” (“everyone” being code for the political elite and their journalistic chums) that talk of a referendum in the foreseeable future was just for show, and that the real battle to decide whether a referendum took place would come in the form of the 2021 Holyrood election.
Now, it’s easy to say in retrospect that those people were right about our naivety in taking the SNP leadership at their word, but here’s the thing: if they had also been right about the 2021 election being the true moment of reckoning, they would now be saying “the SNP won decisively, it’s over, a referendum is happening”. But they’re not doing that, are they? Take a look at this quote from a new newspaper article (it appears to be from The Times) which is suddenly talking about the 2024 Westminster general election in exactly the same way that the 2021 Holyrood election was previously talked about – as the decisive electoral event.
“The next general election is seen as key to the prospects of a second referendum. If the SNP increases its number of MPs, which at present stands at 45…further pressure would be placed on the prime minister to agree to re-run the 2014 vote.”
Are you beginning to see how this works? Every time an election billed as “the big one” takes place, it magically turns out afterwards not to have been particularly important after all, but oh my God, the next election, just you wait, that’ll be the one to make civilisations tremble.
If by some miracle we actually improve on the 81% of Scottish seats we won in the 2019 general election – a ridiculously tough target that we shouldn’t be setting for ourselves, and that nobody should be setting for us if they have a democratic bone in their body – we’ll then be told that the SNP need to win an overall majority in the 2026 Holyrood election, and Boris Johnson will be sure to buckle under the pressure at that point. And then if the SNP win that majority, hey presto, it’ll turn out that they also need to make yet more gains in the 2029 Westminster election – which by that point may mean winning more constituencies than actually exist.
I’ve no idea if this is an intentional con-trick on the part of the SNP leadership to keep us distracted while they get on with staying in power and delivering the stuff they really care about (like GRA reform), or whether it’s a sign that they lack confidence in themselves and are too nervous to bring matters to a head. But either way, we need to break out of this endless cycle of passivity. We have an immaculate mandate to hold a referendum, and we must use that mandate before the next general election even takes place. It’s as simple as that.