THE COLIN CAMPBELL COLUMN
WHEN Nicola Sturgeon announced in March, 2017 her demand for another independence referendum – a move that set nationalists ablaze with excitement – I said in the paper I worked for at the time that her climactic belief that “now is the time” would cost her dear, and her arrogance and threats would fizzle out into a sense of crushing disappointment. And on the eve of the last election I said the SNP would lose between 10 and 15 seats. In the event, they lost 21 – so I wasn’t too far out. This time around, although circumstances have changed substantially, I believe Sturgeon and co are making the same mistake again.
Fuelled by passion within their own ranks, they are sounding too cocksure, too arrogant, and again taking the voters for granted with their “independence is now inevitable” slogan.
In advance of elections, politicians invariably downplay expectations of how well they’ll do in case things don’t work out as well as they hope.
The SNP, in stark contrast, are more than happy to talk up their prospects, and encourage the belief that they could end up winning every seat in Scotland.
That is rash, bordering on reckless triumphalism. And now, most damningly of all, Sturgeon announces she has held talks with Jeremy Corbyn about working with him as Prime Minister in a minority government after the election, if he agrees to back a second independence referendum. Does she think the election is over before it’s barely begun? Even the most cautions nationalists must be wondering – has she learned nothing from their 2017 debacle?
Their track record in government in Scotland is generally dismal. Sturgeon the grievance-monger is no vote-winner for the SNP. She is deeply unpopular across broad swathes of society.
And yet the nationalists are fully back in “Queen Nicola can do no wrong” mode.
They are relying totally on an anti-Boris, anti-Brexit backlash from the voters. That will play some kind of role in the election but may not have anything like the impact the SNP are hoping for.
They should not discount – but they already have done – the anti-Sturgeon backlash which is also a major factor.
The outcome may not be as disastrous as it was for them in 2017. They undoubtedly will win the majority of seats in Scotland. But I very much doubt if they’ll be as cock-a-hoop on the morning of December 13 as they are just now. There are many, many people who know that independence is not inevitable and who are strongly opposed to the turmoil and divisiveness of another referendum. They don’t make the flag-waving noise of nationalists on their triumphalist marches. But on election day, I believe they’ll turn out in droves to bring the SNP back down to earth, in the same way as they did in 2017.
Pact that could send Blackford packing
AS a welcome alternative to the ferrets in a sack squabbling we normally see between political parties in the run-up to an election, Labour and the Conservatives have made an informal pact to try and get rid of the SNP’s Ian Blackford in the Ross, Skye and Lochaber constituency.
They’ll aim to give a clear run to Liberal Democrat Craig Harrow who they believe has the best chance of defeating SNP Westminster leader Blackford in the December 12 poll.
Now it’s up to Harrow to get out there and deliver. He may not have the reputation or charisma of his great Lib Dem predecessor, Charlie Kennedy, but if he and his team put in the necessary graft they can oust Blackford and gain a result that would shake the nationalists to the core.
Nicola Sturgeon has been firing up the nats – and many scarcely need much firing – to turn out en masse for “the most important election of our (their) lifetimes”.
Those of us who have seen polls come and go for decades know that’s a level of importance attached at some point to each and every one.
She says this election north of the border will be all about Indyref2 from the a nationalist perspective, with independence front and centre in their campaign, and that an SNP majority of seats in Scotland will render Westminster opposition to another referendum “unsustainable”.
That remains to be seen. But at least the SNP are open in their aims and not trying to sneak their candidates to victory under risible claims of the Scottish Government having worked wonders in the NHS, education, transport and every other sphere of life.
The message is clear: vote SNP and you are voting for another referendum.
Vote against them and you are voting to block one.
The anti-Blackford coalition will not, regrettably, be repeated in many – if any – other constituencies.
In the Inverness constituency Drew Hendry will be favourite to be elected for a third time in succession, as he sucks in all the nationalist votes and those of an alternative viewpoint split their votes between the Tories, the Lib Dems and Labour, with some others backing the Greens.
If he wins along with other SNP candidates across Scotland Sturgeon will be shouting from the rooftops about how “Scotland has spoken” when in reality they only will have gained 35-40 per cent support.
The dreadful prospect of the appalling Jeremy Corbyn seeking Sturgeon’s support for a minority government may seem such a nightmare ticket to many that it will force them, however reluctantly, to “vote for Boris”. That must be the best outcome, imperfect though it is.
If the SNP somehow gained more than 50 per cent of the popular vote in Scotland it’s difficult to see how Johnson could legitimately refuse Indyref2.
Anything less and as Prime Minister he would be fully entitled to say no, no, and no again to Sturgeon.
And if Blackford is given more time to earn a humble living in his new-found role as a Skye crofter after December 12, what a splendid Christmas bonus that’ll be.
Credit where it’s due for Winter Festival
IN Inverness the Winter Festival is fully underway as an imaginative programme of events helps lighten the seasonal gloom.
The Halloween spectacular at the Ness Islands was as spookily popular as ever, and now preparation at the Bught is complete for the annual bonfire and fireworks display, another attraction which will pull in thousands.
And the Festival will have a lot more to offer between now and Christmas.
Credit is due for this to Highland Council and its’ events team, which has been a source of winter cheer for many years.
Those who pour scorn on just about everything the council does should take note and give praise when they get things right.
Much of the past 10 months has been dominated – and there is no downplaying it – by the furious dispute over the planned riverside Gathering Place. That tarnished the image of the council, and will continue to do so, more than anything else has done in years.
It’s satisfying to drift towards the end of the year on a more harmonious note, recognising the good work that the council does, in Winter Festivals and in much more serious ways.
And it would be good to forget about the Gathering Place until the day that wretched issue rears its ugly head again. Which, after the Halloween ghosts at the Islands and the explosive displays at the Bught are forgotten, it unfortunately, inevitably will.