This article appears as part of the Unspun: Scottish Politics newsletter.

At the very moment when the SNP could and should be presenting an inspiring vision of independence, it falls back on the most tired and pointless discussion around process. The tactics alienate, rather than attract.

The SNP has just set out its key independence motion ahead of its annual conference. Signed by Humza Yousaf and seconded by Westminster leader Stephen Flynn, it states: “If the SNP subsequently wins the most seats at the General Election in Scotland, the Scottish Government is empowered to begin immediate negotiations with the UK government to give democratic effect to Scotland becoming an independent country.”

There’s something of Miss Havisham here. Like Dickens’ character, the offering is dusty, shabby, tired, threadbare, and rather quite mad. How fitting that Miss Havisham appears in Great Expectations. The expectations of many independence supporters seem destined to be greatly disappointed.

Firstly, no UK government will accept that winning the most seats presents a mandate for either independence or another referendum. This is a significant step-down from Nicola Sturgeon’s ‘de facto’ referendum plan whereby a majority of votes – crucially – signalled a mandate.

Whilst democratically Sturgeon’s plan certainly added up, even it wouldn’t have cut much mustard with Westminster. What Yousaf offers is weak and unambitious beyond belief. It speaks of an exhausted and rather gutless party of government.

The SNP is starting to recover in the polls. It seems the Keir Starmer vision for Labour has lost its glister in Scotland. Independence is also doing rather well in polling. So why not be ambitious? 

Why is the SNP concentrating on the dull process of how to get a referendum or open negotiations, rather than setting out a bold vision of how independence could change Scotland?

The Herald:
Answer those damn hard questions around borders and currency – questions the SNP relentlessly and inexcusably shies away from – and then get on with talking independence up.

Park the dry discussions about process, negotiations and referenda, and concentrate on inspiring Scottish voters with a vision for an independent Scotland. Keep going until a majority in the polls solidifies for independence and holds firm. Then worry about process.

These discussions around process are so navel-gazing, so insular, so lacking in dynamism. Perhaps it keeps some weak flame burning in the hearts of the SNP base, but it does nothing for ordinary folk inclined to independence, or floating voters who just might get onboard should they be wooed by strong and courageous arguments.

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The headlines the current proposals are generating are laughable. We had “Yousaf: 30 seats at election is enough to start independence talks with UK” this morning. Nobody believes this.

Yousaf risks alienating soft Yes supporters with this mirage, folk who will just think ‘oh, to hell with this, they’re not serious, what’s the damn point’. 

The greatest problem for the SNP – and the wider Yes movement – is that it talks to itself. We saw that recently at the large Yes march in Edinburgh. All the talk was of Yes voters getting their mojo back and a new dawn for the movement.

It was nothing of the sort. It doesn’t matter if Yes voters feel good about themselves or not. All that matters is that the Yes movement and the SNP are able to communicate the benefits of independence to soft No voters and undecideds. That is the only job in hand.

The party and the movement need to lift their heads up, stop staring at their shoes, and start communicating with the people who matter: that persuadable constituency who just might vote Yes if they hear the right message. Currently, they are simply being ignored.

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