Did you notice this? Between 600+ and 800 ‘activists’ (the claimed number varies) gathered yesterday at Glasgow’s up-market Radisson Blu hotel to discuss preparing for a second separation referendum. You can find the programme here and my own unkind take on it at the end of this post. Organisers CommonSpace, about whose progenitor Common Weal I have – believe it or not – said some kind things in the past, were open enough to stream the event live.
No you’re right. I didn’t apply for a ticket. Anyhow, it was sold out by all accounts. I noticed one or two weel-kent, not to say eccentric faces on the live stream, in what looked like a remarkably mature audience (that’s code for a lack of young people). Lesley Riddoch was buoyed up by the event and tweeted that in contrast you could get all the No activists in a phone kiosk. Memo to Lesley: we don’t need activists, we’re not trying to wreck what we’ve got.
Apparently, there was a collective agreement that they didn’t know when another referendum might be but, predictably, no-one seems to have mentioned it was supposed to be a generation away (©Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon 2014).
The SNP had three slots in a fun-filled agenda:
- 10.40 Introduction, Angela Constance SNP MSP
- 11.20 Objectives of the SNP Growth Commission, Jim Mather
- 16.00 [Movement] An SNP View, Tommy Sheppard, SNP MP
and for all I know some of the other speakers were SNP members. Of course, that’s what you might expect given the fact they are by far the largest separatist group: all the others are mere hangers-on by comparison. In her slot, Angela Constance said:
The Scottish independence movement ‘must engage with a fresh perspective and an open mind.’
Now this is fascinating, because elsewhere on the programme, we find this:
- 14.00 What do we know about Yes/No supporters? Dr Craig Dalzell
and presumably openness would include sharing information about those two groups of people.
[Dr Dalzell, for those who don’t know, is a laser engineer to trade who has turned his hand to wider social and economic issues, not least in Beyond GERS: Scotland’s fiscal position post-independence, published in 2016 and torn apart (my words) by blogger Kevin Hague]
I don’t know what Craig said about Yes/No supporters but there’s plenty of polling evidence out there I hope he was sharing. His subject links with Ms Constance’s ‘open mind,’ because until they do address a real understanding of what people think and why, supporters of separation are doomed to go around in ever decreasing circles until … sorry, inappropriate metaphor. Let’s just say they’ll be stuck in an endless ground hog day.
One minor curiosity of the event was that it wasn’t thought necessary to address the ‘what do we know …’ question until the day was half-way through. Surely such a fundamental question should be right at the forefront of the programme?
But here’s the bigger curiosity.
There is supposed to be a bang-up-to date source of evidence of what two million Scots think. It asked questions on how people voted in both the independence and EU referendums and a whole range of issues from public services to immigration. It’s called the ‘National Survey’ and it was carried out last autumn by … the SNP.
So what better place than an independence convention addressed by a cabinet secretary to launch this amazing source of data on what we know about ‘Yes/No supporters’? How helpful it would be to informed discussion.
But guess what?
Not a sausage. Zilch, nichts, nothing, nada.
You see, they never had two million responses. The number was a fiction.
Even worse, for all those open minds, it appears that such results as they do have are not going to be published. The sceptics (I’m one) say they never intended to publish it because it was all about harvesting people’s contact details for future canvassing/membership/ voting drives. A little birdie told me another reason was that the results were undermining of the party’s position on the EU, their current No. 1 grievance (as if you didn’t know).
Still, events like a ‘convention’ are a way of keeping the pot simmering at a time of year when outdoor flag-waving’s not quite the attraction it is in summer.
But does anyone believe a few hundred enthusiasts in a room on a January Saturday are going to change anything?