The bright flash of Scotland’s self-proclaimed “democratic moment” looks increasingly like the precursor to intellectual heat death. But the turn away from the SNP could be a generative oneby Dominic Hinde / August 9, 2017 / Leave a comment
In the damp heat of Scottish summer, a storm has been brewing that threatens to wash away the last feelgood remnants of Scotland’s pro-independence campaign.
The official campaign for Scottish independence, and the associated Yes brand, were established by the SNP and launched at a surreal and hastily-organised event in an Edinburgh multiplex cinema in 2012. That the campaign very nearly succeeded was close to miraculous; its popularity aided by a ham fisted pro-UK counterpart that made a number of unforced errors and masked the division in the Yes side’s own uneasy coalition of Greens, existential nationalists and Nordic welfarists.
The Yes movement, as it came to be known, carried on after 2014 in the form of cafes, public meetings and a commercially opportunistic pro-independence newspaper, whilst the SNP hoovered up members and kept the Yes brand on ice in Companies House in case it needed to be reactivated.
Since the SNP zenith of the 2015 general election, and the modest success of Ruth Davidson’s Scottish Conservatives, lazy and sometimes self -interested columnists have begun to forecast the end of independence. The existential disdain many people hold towards self-government and Davidson’s ability to say anything have both proven valuable electoral tools—but they have done so in a more general atmosphere of political entropy, in which the “Yes” alliance has begun to split.
Social democrats and progressives who nailed their colours to the Yes mast in 2014 have since expressed disappointment at the SNP’s reticence to engage in confrontational politics and its fondness for focus groups and demographic targeting over serious reform. The bright flash of Scotland’s self-proclaimed “democratic moment” looks increasingly like the precursor to intellectual heat death.
The SNP have become expert at exploiting this atmosphere. Like Davidson’s rebranded Tories, they have learned to operate in the vacuum of a notional middle Scotland, in a country where increasingly skeletal newspapers pump out headlines and recycled opinion pieces in lieu of meaningful discussion of the problems faced by the nation.
Sturgeon’s party increasingly criticism with headline-grabbing announcements—using referendum tactics in government. A recent scheme to retrain Syrian doctors to work in NHS Scotland, for instance, was trumpeted as an example of the Scottish Government’s progressive agenda. But the small print revealed that it had stumped up just…