The SNP can’t fight on every front … that’s why us Yessers need to step up
The National, by Lesley Riddoch
But in truth, Tuesday’s statement wasn’t really aimed at Holyrood’s politicians, Scotland’s press or Theresa May.
No there were two other audiences for that speech — the general public and the wider independence movement. And with that latter emphasis, Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP leadership may have crossed an important Rubicon.
The First Minister said; “My party will engage openly and inclusively with, and work as part of, the wider independence movement. We will seek to support, engage and grow the movement, and build the case that having decisions made by us – not for us – offers the best future for Scotland.”
It was great to hear Nicola say her party will engage with the wider independence movement – effectively acknowledging one exists beyond the organisational reach of the SNP. Sometimes, SNP words and slogans have implied they’re not just a political party but a movement too. But despite their massive size, that could never be true.
The enduring Yes movement is about far more than size – it’s about vision, ideas, empowerment and informal, local, cooperative ways of working. A party is occasionally about these things but must first and foremost win elections. These clearly matter to everyone – without an SNP/Green working majority at Holyrood the next independence referendum will never happen. But the indy movement doesn’t have to be completely deflected by the energy-sapping hurdles, the slogans, messages and party chauvinism which inevitably accompany encounters with the ballot box Equally, as a party of government for 10 years at Holyrood, the SNP must also put issues other than independence first sometimes.
The independence movement, on the other hand, can stay on the case 24/7, arguing for independence when it doesn’t suit the SNP to bang the drum.
Of course, in case it needs saying again, the movement wouldn’t be where it is without half a century of single minded party-political focus by SNP members and more recently the Greens, Socialists and RISE.
But will the SNP alone get independence over the line? It seems party leaders have finally realised what many rank and file members have known for a while – the party cannot fight on every front at once.
In many ways party politics is like a dressage event that focuses on detail, precision, show, small movements and well-turned out, totally controlled horse and rider teams. But the drive towards independence is more like a steeplechase; freer and longer demanding more energy and benefiting from more riders.
The SNP and the wider independence movement need each other now – just as we did in 2014 when the verve, confidence, energy, buzz and enthusiasm came from both local groups and politicians. We need horses for courses.
So if the “reset” prompts the SNP to have a “bold and radical rethink” of domestic policy, to widen the context for independence beyond Brexit, to focus on independence as a goal, rather than #ScotRef as a process and to seek cooperation with the long-standing umbrella group that represents all pro independence parties and groups – then that’s a big result.
And the Scottish Independence Convention is absolutely ready and willing to spend the summer putting all our heids together.