by Colin Campbell
A SMALL pile of election leaflets accumulated over the last couple of weeks, delivered by party stalwarts who deserve credit no matter what quarter they’re from for expending time and shoe leather in support of their cause.
I set them aside to read through, as I normally do at elections.
But when the time came to digest their content, for the first time in years I glanced at the small glossy bundle with zero enthusiasm and dumped them in the bin.
This upcoming election is over bar the shouting, and the noise will certainly continue unabated for the next two weeks.
But for me it’s over and not because the SNP are sure to have the largest number of seats.
Maybe the amount of spare time available over the past few months is why so many opinion polls grabbed so much attention and led to such animated debate and dispute. And why the Salmond Sturgeon clash hosted by a Holyrood committee seemed of such huge importance. And why all the other ructions, mainly among the nationalists, were followed in every twist and turn along the way.
And what are we left with after absorbing the polls, the friction, and the feuds?
I don’t believe anyone has much of a clue as to how significant the election on May 6 will turn out to be. Yes, the SNP will of course gain the largest number of seats but that’s the only certainty and in itself it doesn’t mean much.
Will they gain an overall majority? Will Salmond’s Alba Party make inroads with voters? Will the SNP secure more than 50 per cent of the total vote, as they need to if their indyref2 plans are to have any shred of credibility?
Are many people who do not want another referendum sufficiently energised by the nationalist threat to turn out and vote to stop it?
Are some people basically sick of the sight of Nicola Sturgeon after her dominance over our lives for the past year and liable to register their vote accordingly?
No-one knows the answer to any of these questions and those of us who have been paying attention, maybe too much attention, should have as little confidence in our guesswork as those who have been paying none at all.
I pity “observers” like the eminent Sir John Curtice who has, unfortunately, become as much a random pundit as he is an expert pollster, who have to try and sound informed and knowledgeable about the likely outcome of the election. After wildly varying polls, he recently swung in the space of a week from declaring Salmond’s Alba was a no-hoper outfit to claiming it could exert vital influence at Holyrood. He hasn’t a clue about the outcome either.
Last week one poll found that less than 20 per cent of people rank independence as among their top five priorities, after health, education and so on. Days later another found 36 per cent back the most extreme action possible – a unilateral declaration of independence – if a pro-indy majority of MSPs are elected on May 6. These bizarrely contrasting findings aren’t worth the paper they’re written on.
So the sound and fury will continue for a couple of weeks yet but I’ve pretty much tuned out. The weather is better, lockdown is almost over and there are better things to do than continue paying attention to the election blather which has gone on for so long.
Those of us who have made up our minds on how we intend to vote, needless to say, will not be changing our intentions.
Those who are still undecided may well end up not voting at all.
The results, because of the delayed count, will be announced two weeks next Sunday and that will be a very interesting afternoon.
They will lead to another surge of sound and fury which will probably go on for months.
But that will rapidly become tiresome.
Many people will probably not pay much attention to the daily outpourings over the independence issue, which are liable to continue indefinitely. If some want to become obsessed by it, that’s up to them.
The only event of unavoidable significance will be an attempt by the nationalists to hold a Catalan-style illegal referendum after Boris Johnson has vetoed a section 30 order for a legitimate one.
Then the situation in Scotland would be impossible for any responsible citizenship to sidestep and it could be predicted with absolute certainty that all hell would break loose.