by Colin Campbell
FERGUS Ewing has announced that he will stand for a sixth time for election to the Scottish Parliament next year. He has no intention of stepping aside and giving someone else a chance, saying he has “unfinished business”.
Does that include extending broadband access right across Scotland, a target he set as a minister, saying he would resign if it wasn’t met. It wasn’t met and of course he didn’t resign. Failure to meet targets is not a resigning issue for SNP government ministers as we’ve seen time and time again.
Does his unfinished business involve securing a new prison for Inverness? A low point for Mr Ewing in his current term in office came when the much vaunted £80million new city jail plan was kicked years down the road for financial reasons and he was left to point out, somewhat feebly, that the land to build it on had been successfully secured and all that was missing was the prison.
What he does include in his unfinished business list is “securing independence for Scotland”.
That particular business has been unfinished since 1999 when he was first elected and there are no clear indications that it’ll be finished anytime soon.
That, however, will not get in the way of Mr Ewing being re-elected to Holyrood next year. Becoming an SNP MP or MSP these days is a job for life, as Fergus Ewing’s situation amply demonstrates.
Fergus Ewing, Drew Hendry, Ian Blackford and the rest are repeatedly sent back to continue enjoying their highly paid and privileged lifestyles by supporters who expect them to “secure independence”.
There’s no penalty to be paid for failure. It’s always a case of next time we will deliver, and they never do. And when they fail to deliver they’re voted in again, and so it goes on.
What a truly enviable situation they’re in.
Fergus Ewing put independence at the top of his priority list, but when he doesn’t have his focus on re-election he hardly ever mentions it.
He writes a column every fortnight for the Inverness Courier and I always or nearly always glance over it and I can’t remember the last time he used the “I” word in it. It may not be as far back as 1999 but it’s been quite some time. He is not a nationalist who wakes up in a feverish sweat in his desire for separation.
More likely he is half-hearted at best in his enthusiasm for independence. If you’ve been riding on the SNP bandwagon as an MSP for 20 years and are still prepared to cling on for a few more it hardly suggests you’re becoming worn down with frustration over the issue.
Maybe Fergus Ewing wants independence, half heartedly, or maybe he doesn’t really want it all, but is quite happy to be a permanent fixture at Holyrood. There’s no way of knowing, although I’d be inclined to believe he’s content with the status quo. He’ll make the right noises for his supporters before being returned to office next year to get back to Holyrood business as usual.
As part of his campaign he’ll claim that a a vote for him will contribute to an overall SNP majority in 2022 and will make Boris Johnson’s refusal to grant a section 30 order allowing indyref2 “unsustainable”, a word we’ll hear more than ever in the months ahead.
And the reality as every SNP politician from Nicola Sturgeon down knows it is perfectly sustainable for as long as the prime minister wants it to be. And that the more likely he thinks the nationalists are to win a referendum the more resolute he will be in denying them the chance to hold one. And short of mounting their own doomed-from-day-one illegal referendum, they haven’t a clue what to do about it. Isn’t life cruel?
This may cause diehard nationalists to wake up at night in a sweat of cold fury but Fergus Ewing is not one of them.
In 2026 he may even stand again for a seventh term in office, which would surely be some kind of record breaker.
And top of his unfinished business list? What else but “securing independence”.