by Colin Campbell
AMID so much hype and hogwash, the SNP/nationalists have tried to frame the May poll for the Scottish Parliament as “the independence election”.
Nothing else matters apparently, not the pandemic, the vaccine, the recovery that will get underway when businesses start to reopen, and the inevitable rise in unemployment among those who’ll have no jobs to go back to.
That’s how they see it, or at least that’s how the noisier element see it, and they are very noisy indeed.
But the nationalists can frame it any way they wish. Regardless of the outcome, it isn’t going to get them any closer to another legal referendum, which requires Westminster approval, far less to independence itself.
And it seems their “independence election” bluster hasn’t even filtered down to some of the SNP candidates.
The election material which arrives on doormats may not be required reading for everyone, and may be heading directly for the waste bin. But I scanned the glossy brochure produced by Fergus Ewing, the SNP candidate for Inverness, who has been a permanent fixture at Holyrood for the past 22 years, and who is seeking re-election for the sixth time.
Normally he rarely if ever mentions the “i” word, not in his Inverness newspaper column, not in public statements, not on social media, not anywhere. But this time, given the clamour from some of his colleagues and SNP supporters, I expected him to go with the flow and make some kind of “now is the time” declaration.
But he hasn’t. In his election brochure there’s not a mention of a referendum or the need for independence. There’s not a single word about either.
His priorities, as outlined, are dualling of the A9; the new Inverness “justice campus”; plans for a new Inverness prison; the rollout of the vaccine; mental health issues; the need for more affordable homes; and rebuilding the local economy.
In the good old days before the emergence of the zealots and fanatics in the SNP, that would have been a reasonable enough menu to present to the voters.
But nowadays, the omission of indyref2 (desperate need for) is glaring.
The slithery manoeuvres of the SNP are difficult to follow these days. But it’s difficult to comprehend why an SNP candidate standing in their “independence election” doesn’t in his campaign material make any reference whatever to independence.
Those who take the time to read Fergus Ewing’s electoral offering are entitled to take it as his summary of the reasons for voting for him and as a statement of intent on what he’ll do if re-elected.
He’s committed to dualling the A9 and getting a new prison for Inverness, among other things, and says as much. What he is not committed to is forcing through the biggest constitutional upheaval for Scotland in 300 years. At least, not according to that brochure, if it’s to be taken at face value.
Fergus Ewing illustrates why the SNP’s “independence election” hullabaloo doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, and why it falls apart.
He’s not seeking re-election to force through another referendum. He’s seeking re-election with his focus on Inverness and regional issues, the kind that really matter to people. Given his length of time as an MSP he will attract personal support from people he’s assisted over the years, and who are not voting for Scotland to be torn out of the UK.
That’s the reality. But it’s not, of course, how the SNP hierarchy will try and present it when the results are known. These chancers will toss every single vote for Fergus Ewing onto their indyref2 bandwagon and insist every single voter marked their cross for independence.
That will be a lie, but it’s par for the course.
Fergus Ewing himself may be lukewarm about another referendum. It’s reasonable to assume from his referendum-free brochure that he shares the view of the vast majority of people – including, according to polls, a significant number of SNP voters – that at this time it’s far from being the no.1 priority. So much for the SNP and their “independence election” hype.