Well, for those of you who’ve been following it, my month of being wooed by the SNP ended on 31 May.
I suppose it was a bit more of a pre-wooing, like a pre-nup. The review itself is supposed to begin this summer, which by common consent should be the beginning of July, when the school term ends (at least where I stay) and Holyrood goes into summer recess. So only 29 days away as I write.
You may remember the ‘wooing’ is part of a wider exercise the first minister said the party would undertake to work out what went wrong in 2014, begin developing a new case for separation, and start to convert ‘No voters.’
My month started out with an expectation that if the SNP were serious about this, or at least the wooing part of it, they’d prepare the ground by reining in some of their more acerbic senior people (by which I meant mainly – some – MPs and MSPs) and starting to reach out in conciliatory tones to the majority of the population unconvinced by their determination to break up the UK.
I did try to record how they met up to my not unreasonable expectations, of which more anon, but a couple of unpredicted events threw me, and more to the point them, off course.
First, on 1 May when I started this exercise, all the talk (the SNP talk at least) was of the triumphant election they’d have on 5 May. Their favoured hashtag on Twitter was #bothvotesSNP and there was excited speculation about whether they would win all the constituency seats in parliament. As you don’t need reminding they had a bad election. They lost seats, failed to win 14 of the 73 constituency seats, and had to resign themselves to forming a minority government.
Second, on 1 May we knew that the party’s deputy leader and deputy leader at Westminster, Stewart Hosie, would be leading the summer review. By 11 May, all thoughts of the Holyrood setback behind him, Hosie was tweeting ‘This summer join in the campaign to build a Scottish independence majority.’ Unfortunately for this perennial optimist the call was not a reaching out to ‘No voters’ but merely a link to a page on the SNP website on which optimists of a different stripe could ‘pledge’ their support for separation. Not a sausage about the three previously publicised aims of the exercise.
Within two weeks of that rallying cry (for some) Hosie was, as they say, toast, caught at Westminster with his trousers, or if press reports were correct, his Y-fronts down. In quick succession he and his wife (SNP Holyrood luminary Shona Robison) had separated and his resignation as deputy party leader received a frosty acceptance from the first minister, ending ‘I wish you well.’ There was no mention of the review, but clearly Hosie wasn’t going to lead it.
In fact, no-one has yet been fingered to carry out a task more challenging than could have been foreseen before the election results started to come in overnight on 5-6 May. Tommy Sheppard (an MP for all of 55 weeks) seems to have thrown his hat in the ring with an article in The National headlined ‘Why the battle for independence can now be won.’ It included a gratuitous sideswipe (he denied it of course) at the No-voting oldies who’d die off leaving a nation pure and unsullied by yoons to vote in indy with acclamation.
I suppose what I’m trying to say in a long-winded way is that it’s not been a good month for the SNP and I can’t see their summer review getting under way soon, if at all.
That’s why my month of being wooed has ended in a rather unexpected place. Still, here are some highlights of how it felt to be wooed, or sometimes trampled on, by them over the last month. Dates are as they appear on my ‘being wooed’ page:
- 1 May – Hosie, still on the scene, starts the month well by describing Tory and Labour ‘joined at the hip’ to ‘talk Scotland down’ (a favourite SNP cliché), at one fell swoop alienating the 1+ million people who voted for those two parties a mere four days later
- 3 May – someone with deep SNP connections who once described Nicola Sturgeon as ‘Mother Scotland’s loyal and adoring daughter and our beautifully patriotic sister’ posts a note on Facebook calling unionists, amongst much else, ‘scum … thick as excrement in the neck of a bottle’
- 9 May – old friend Angus MacNeil who was later revealed to have had more in common with Stewart Hosie than we knew (her name – Serena) tweets a picture of some statistics about the Conservative Holyrood vote with the caption ‘This pic annoys Tories so RT :))’
- 16 May – prominent Perth SNP member Pete Bell, whose Twitter profile sports a photo of him with Nicola Sturgeon tweets ‘Why are British nationalists such bitter wee shites?’
- 19 May – John Mason SNP MSP tweets ‘I am certainly anti-British’
- 28 May – every unionist’s favourite SNP politician Pete Wishart makes a late appearance with a tweet referring to ‘Scotland’s EU membership.’ A minor irritation but I had to get him in somewhere.
Along the way if you look closely enough (20 May) you’ll find a link to an article about the SNP by Gerry Hassan, a more thoughtful nationalist than any who crossed my path during the month, with the title ‘The party that stopped speaking to a nation.’
I would advise the first minister to sit down in a quiet room with a good single malt in hand to read, learn and inwardly digest what Hassan says before taking even the first step to resuscitate her all-singing all-dancing review.
Alternatively, she could just knuckle down and govern Scotland for the next five years. There’s plenty needs doing.