by John Lloyd
Saturday, 7
May 2022
Analysis
07:00

Nicola Sturgeon’s time is running out

The SNP is treading water — and has been for some time
by John Lloyd
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon visits the Connect Community Trusts Connie Centre. Credit: Getty

In fifteen years of governance, the Scottish National Party has put to the Scots people an unvarying, and hugely effective claim, presented as a truth. Independence from the United Kingdom will: restore a pride in a nation state cruelly truncated three centuries ago; release Scots from the economic failures of the ever-sluggish British economy; allow re-union with a Europe of which it was always a more ardent part than chauvinist England; and elevate Scotland to a place among the prosperous and pacific social democracies of Scandinavia.

This beguiling vision was developed by two of the most effective politicians of the late 20th and early 21st century, Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon — inspirational speakers, ruthless in their presentation of half facts and full-blooded falsities. Where Salmond was ever walking on a tightrope of bad behaviour, Sturgeon has been the living proof of Scots’ tendency to see themselves as more moral than the English — an act eased by the premiership of Boris Johnson, in whom no sliver of decency, integrity or competence can be allowed to exist. 

Yet now, the message from the council elections is not that of another SNP triumph, but of a party, and a leader, at their highest level well short of the peak. Independence, not governance of a part of the UK, is the SNP’s sincere desire. And independence recedes.

The results of the council elections have hardly changed the field on which Sturgeon operates. The SNP has not lost seats — indeed, it has gained them. Despite a few Labour gains, the nationalists have politically gutted Keir Starmer’s party in its urban and industrial heartlands as effectively as they were gutted economically over the past half century, and it will take more than a few tens of new Labour councillors to staunch these wounds – for now.

Yet the fact that the SNP is treading water, and has been for several years, means that Sturgeon, who has given all of her colossal energy to what is seen as “Freedom!” — Braveheart’s cry — now has nowhere else to go, and talks – to Vogue! – of another life after Holyrood. 

The transcendent future promised by Sturgeon is highly popular with half of Scotland. But only half. And she, who has said in the past that she would not go to referendum on independence until she believed 60% of the population were for it, will not do it when — as now — assent to secession is a little less than 50%.

One of her supporters in the media, the distinguished theatre critic and social commentator of The Scotsman Joyce McMillan, wrote recently that the forces are not aligned for a pro-independence vote, “and may not be for another half decade”. That Sisyphean prospect cannot bring gladness to Sturgeon’s heart. She promised a referendum in 2023 — but few believe the forces will be more aligned then. Her party may not be losing votes, but it is not gaining many more either. She cannot think her chances of winning the referendum will do better any time soon; and, even if no one of her talent is visible to succeed, she is not likely to be long for her post.

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AC Harper
AC Harper
15 days ago

The SNP’s dream of independence has been rehearsed in elections and referenda and failed to convince enough people. To attract more support will require a more detailed explanation of how things could look after independence and how they could be better.
The practical consequences of independence are rarely addressed in detail by the SNP, probably because they would be too painful to endure unless you are really, really, determined to be independent whatever the cost – and that is not a characteristic of those who remain to be convinced.

George Bruce
George Bruce
15 days ago

When I go back home to Scotland, I always think what a joke it is that the national fantasy is to be like Scandinavia. It does help if you are serious minded and well educated if you wish to emulate them. That is not the 2022 Scots.
Perhaps Serbia or Croatia or Greece would be more realistic. Or if those are too far away, even Ireland.
My main about the SNP, though, is that they never give me the impression they are interested in the Scottish people, poorly educated, mired in substance abuse, and with an awful diet. They cannot even form families and have children any more.
So-called New Scots, now that would be something they could like!

stephen archer
stephen archer
15 days ago
Reply to  George Bruce

Living in Stockholm for the last few decades and spending a lot of time in Scotland there are a couple of similarities but then there are no more. Both are backpedalling in terms of prosperity and are afflicted with a desire to support an immigrant influx which is a social and economic burden on society and the economy. In Scotland’s case the backpedalling will lead to 3rd world status and for Sweden it could be signalling the end of relative affluence and a high standard of living. Scotland’s many problematic issues behind this seem unsolveable as long as the current insane drive for independence dominates proceedings. As for the rest, the respective governments are underperforming, Sweden’s to a lesser extent considering Scotland’s doesn’t give a d.mn about the country’s wellbeing. Scotland should just be thankfull that it hasn’t yet inherited Sweden’s out of control social problems with gangland killings, widespread no-go suburbs and the degradation of law and order. Sweden’s govt is incapable of addressing such issues whereas Scotland’s is just cemented in cloud cuckoo land.

Last edited 15 days ago by stephen archer
Lord Rochester
Lord Rochester
15 days ago

Scottish indepence is a solution without a credible problem.

And I say that as an ex-Scottish nationalist living in Midlothian.

Andrea 0
Andrea 0
14 days ago

As someone living in groundhog Day every election is like the previous one. Nothing changes and no one is interested in interested in change. The SNP vote is monolithic (both inside and outside Holyrood) and what goes on in Scotland hardly matters to anyone.
In 4 years’ time the SNP will be entering their third decade in power. That is a frightening thought!

Emre 0
Emre 0
14 days ago

If Scottish independence isn’t happening following Brexit, I can’t imagine what else would be enough to trigger it.

Melanie Mabey
Melanie Mabey
12 days ago

Things break down not up – they will be free soon enough.

Last edited 12 days ago by Melanie Mabey
Paul Walker
Paul Walker
14 days ago

More predictable British Nationalism from Unheard. Still the fundamental question remains, why should Scotland not be a fully functioning democracy. Why should our neighbours decide our country’s policies. Yet to hear a good reason from those who obsess about the SNP yet fail to grasp they are just a part of the independence movement. As for Braveheart ,grow up. That’s not our motivation,taking responsibility for our country is. We should be able to expect a bit more from Unheard.

George Bruce
George Bruce
14 days ago
Reply to  Paul Walker

Why should our neighbours decide our country’s policies. 

Just two small points.
1) Surely that is what one gets in the EU? Neighbours deciding the policies? Okay, you get your say and your vote too, but so does Scotland in the UK.
2) The debate is ABOUT whether the rest of the UK should be just a neighbour to Scotland or if Scotland is a PART of the UK.

Last edited 14 days ago by George Bruce
Paul Walker
Paul Walker
14 days ago
Reply to  George Bruce

The debate is about whether Scotland should govern itself or be governed by our neighbours.

The EU is not comparable to Westminster in terms of powers. The UK never gave all its money and sovereignty away to the EU, to receive pocket money back.

Last edited 14 days ago by paulwalkerdunfermline
polidori redux
polidori redux
14 days ago
Reply to  Paul Walker

That is not an accurate description of the present arrangement, as well you know: It is a combination of calculated mis-representation and rabid bigotry. The reason that Scotland has not withdrawn from the union is that a majority of Scots voted not to do so .
Perhaps the most effective route to “Freedom!” would be for you to campaign for the English to have a vote on the dissolution of the union. It would work on me Paul, because I do not wish to share a country with you.

Paul Walker
Paul Walker
14 days ago
Reply to  polidori redux

I know that if you don’t hire your politicians and you cannot fire them then they don’t work for you.
No bigotry,no crying for freedom. Just a proper functioning democracy where Scots choose their own governments rather than foisted on them by their neighbours. Like democratic western nations do. After all as Brexit showed us England wouldn’t stand for anything less.

polidori redux
polidori redux
14 days ago
Reply to  Paul Walker

You have as much freedom as any English person in the UK and far more than you would have in the EU. But that is for the Scots to decide in a democratic way. So far they have refused to vote for freedom from their wicked English oppressors. Well in due course, maybe they will and then again, maybe they won’t, but in the meantime perhaps you could refrain from run around shouting “Freedom!” and “Braveheart!”, because, to be frank, it make you sound like an idiot.

Joff Brown
Joff Brown
13 days ago
Reply to  Paul Walker

Absolutely laughable.

ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
13 days ago
Reply to  Paul Walker

Firstly ‘You’ were roundly defeated at Culloden, Vae Victis!
Secondly how many people actually pay tax in Scotland?
The Barnet Formula has kept ‘you’ in manner that quite frankly you are not entitled to.

stephen archer
stephen archer
14 days ago
Reply to  Paul Walker

”Go it alone” Scotland could be a functioning democracy if you turn a blind eye to issues of defence, geographic location, and the economic consequences. Then if EU membership is a decisive factor in attaining a more viable future your neighbours deciding policies would be located in Brussels and the other 27-30 (sooner or later) states. The thing is, Scotland is a country of dreamers, not everyone but too many of them. There are absolutely no factors or conditions where Scotland could be sucessful or economically viable. All the positives are massively outweighed by the negatives. 10 years ago I believed in independence as the only way to get rid of the shackles of a London/SE-centric government (eg. Crosslink,HS2, Fortess Heathrow, St.Pancras disconnect from Europe, just to take infrastructure investment as an example) and give Scotland a chance at establishing itself as a free standing (-defence) nation, albeit under Brussels. Now I’ve realised that there is no realistic possibilty of this, the problems are too many and the clowns in Holyrood are a level above the clowns in Westminster in terms of incompetence and blind power obsession.

Last edited 14 days ago by stephen archer
ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
13 days ago
Reply to  Paul Walker

“why should Scotland not be a fully functioning democracy”?
Because quite simply ‘you’ cannot afford it! Without the massive English subsidy you would resemble Ruanda or worse. But you must know this, so why keep up this embarrassing bleating?