“This life we live nowadays! It's not life, it's stagnation, death-in-life.”
Read Part NINE here
The Holyrood election changed little a pall hung over Scottish politics. The SNP easy winners on the back of the pro-Independence vote are a barely competent administration. There is no vision, no transformative policies, no big ideas.
Ferry contracts are sent abroad instead of to Fergusson Marine on the Clyde. Aberdeenshire loses out on Carbon Capture. The Scottish Health Minister is embroiled in a civil case with his local nursery, which loses the government the support of the Indian Community. Government Minister Angus Robertson pulls out of an event to promote his book when it is revealed his department partially funded the event. Drug deaths reach a new record level and one in four Scottish children are living in poverty.
Sleaze accusations at Westminster, the complainant has to go public as the SNP ignore his complaint. Patrick Grady stands down as Chief Whip, he remains an MP and no action is taken. Harassment complaints are taken seriously only when politically expedient to do so.
Brexit is done, the mandate unused and independence is a vague aspiration no longer an immediate and real prospect.
Sturgeon promised in the SNP Holyrood manifesto there would be an independence referendum ‘once the COVID crisis has passed’. Sturgeon tells the SNP conference that she wants to hold a ‘legal’ referendum before the end of 2023 COVID crisis permitting.
There is a lot to be put in place before an independence referendum can be held and that takes time. The SNP plan is firstly to request a section 30 order from UK PM Boris Johnston. If Johnston agrees then the section 30 order will have to pass both houses of parliament.
If, a similar timeline as prior to the 2014 referendum is assumed, the section 30 order will take 4 months to pass. Holyrood now has the powers and can pass a referendum bill which on the 2014 timeline would take a further 6 months.
The electoral commission requires a minimum of 6 months to organise the referendum. This would necessarily happen only once the referendum bill is law. The Scottish Government agreed to have the question tested again, which takes a minimum of 3 months, although this can be done concurrently with other stages, it necessarily has to be completed prior to the Holyrood referendum bill being drafted.
Realistically the minimum referendum timeframe is around 16 months after an agreement with Johnston is reached. If Sturgeon has any intention of having a 2023 referendum, then action will have to be taken very soon. Given that negotiations with Johnston haven’t even started. It is already too late for a referendum in the first half of 2023.
But of course, everybody knows, Johnston will not agree to a section 30 order. It is dubious whether Sturgeon will actually legislate for a referendum during her time in office. But if she did the UK government would undoubtedly challenge the legislation. The Scottish Government fought against clarity on this issue during the Keatings case so the UK government challenge would likely mean years of court battles.
And of course, Westminster has a trump card. The Continuity Bill was passed at Holyrood, the bill was to ensure that Scotland remained aligned with the European Single Market. At the time the bill was passed it was within Holyrood competency. However, the UK government challenged this bill and while the court case was ongoing changed the law at Westminster to remove the powers from Holyrood. The same tactic could be used by Westminster during any Holyrood v Westminster dispute over the referendum bill. Power devolved is indeed power retained and it is unlikely that Holyrood could win the referendum bill legal fight.
The strategy proposed by Sturgeon is really quite hopeless.
Then more trouble for the SNP. Only weeks after the Holyrood election Douglas Chapman SNP Treasurer and ‘good guy’ resigns. Chapman’s reason is similar to the reason given by the three members of the finance and audit committee – that he did not have enough information to do his job. And days later Joanna Cherry also resigns from the SNP NEC citing her inability to bring transparency and scrutiny to the party.
In July the police announce that they are investigating fraud allegations regarding the SNP’s use of 600k raised by independence supporters. This investigation is ongoing.
Sturgeon appoints Sir Nicolas Macpherson to her economic advisory council. MacPherson is the man that strongly advised George Osborne to reject a currency union with Scotland in 2014. MacPherson’s excuse was the normal rules of civil service neutrality do not apply when people are ‘seeking to destroy the fabric of the state’.
Sturgeon already employs as head of SNP Media Murray Foote author of ‘The Vow’, a 2014 front-page Daily Record story, written in collusion with the No campaign and designed to dissuade Scots from voting Yes.
Sturgeon is given a choice of candidates to replace Lesley Evans as Permanent Secretary. Sturgeon choses John-Paul Marks currently Head of the Department of Work and Pensions responsible for the cruel Universal Credit program and Disability Benefits which have driven so many into despair and poverty.
Sturgeon can be known by the company she keeps.
In November COP26 comes to Glasgow. The UK Government is the host so Sturgeon has no official role. But, despite not being in the room for the big decisions Sturgeon sees COP26 as an opportunity for self-promotion.
But Johnston has said he ‘didn’t want Sturgeon anywhere near COP26’. To reassure the UK government Sturgeon says independence is not the priority and she does not intend to discuss independence while at COP26. She also removes the Scottish flags from Bute House.
Sturgeon is able to take advantage of COP26 to burnish her green credentials and promote herself. She is pictured with various heads of state and celebrities. Independence is not advanced one inch.
Coinciding with COP26 there is controversy over the Cambo oil field, north-west of Shetland and whether drilling licenses should be issued. The field is thought to contain 800 million barrels of oil and will produce oil and gas for 25 years.
Environmental campaigners are unsurprisingly against the development of the field. Sturgeon also says she opposes development of Cambo. Although Cambo development is a decision of the UK Government, Sturgeon’s opposition has consequences for the case for independence. If the economic prospectus of an independent Scotland lacks the benefits of oil and gas prior to a move to renewables, then our economic case is weakened.
The SNP are heading into their annual internal elections. The results are expected on Monday November 29th . The SNP delay publishing their list of candidates for the NEC and Committee positions until a 3 days before the voting opens. Patrick Grady is standing for the Conduct Committee.
The speculation is that the SNP are worried about another ‘good guys’ campaign this year and not announcing candidates will stop any campaign being organised. It is paranoia, there are too few ‘good guys’ left and the SNP had their chance to listen to their members and change they didn’t, no one is going to put any effort into saving them now.
But, what of the ALBA Party and Salmond have they accepted that they can’t win, that the SNP are just too strong or have they risen to continue the fight for Scotland.
Find out in Part 11.
Sturgeon referendum strategy - https://www.ft.com/content/fcfe2f9a-ae13-47e9-91af-01a353e2a7ce
Douglas Chapman Stands down - https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-57299030
Archive version - https://archive.md/96LRy
Archive version - https://archive.md/wip/ufsVJ
Archive version - https://archive.md/wip/sT4QG
Archive version - https://archive.md/KHDzY#selection-1653.3-1653.19
Archive version - https://archive.md/RsTzJ
Archive version - https://archive.md/mzJ5p
Drug deaths reach record level - https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-58024296
Continuity Bill - https://www.gov.scot/news/continuity-bill-update/
Archived version - https://archive.md/8yylB
Archive version - https://archive.md/wip/d6NW9