David Blackburn

The SNP flees for the hills

The SNP flees for the hills
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Last week, I argued that the Glasgow North East by-election would force the SNP to alter its tactics. The Scottish press are reporting that Salmond will scrap his plans for a straight referendum on independence in favour of a multi-option poll on what further powers Holyrood should assume, short of independence. Such a withdrawal was being mooted before the election but has been accelerated by the scale of the SNP’s defeat and its disintegrating confidence.

This concession is seen as the only way the SNP minority government can maintain the co-operation of opposition parties on the issue. Only, according to the Daily Record, they won’t play ball. Opposition parties are on to a winner: the SNP remain fixated with hypothetical referenda, rather than the reality of the recession. Labour’s victory as ‘insurgents’ was predicated on such terms. Arguing that Scotland’s economic and social problems have not been addressed by the SNP, and therefore that the financial benefits of union are a prerequisite to immediate recovery, is an unanswerable paradigm.

Salmond is in the opening phases of a rearguard he should never have had to fight. Scotland’s entrenched social problems are Labour’s legacy rather than the adjunct of SNP incompetence. The party’s struggles owe everything to Salmond’s tactical naivety in pushing independence in a recession and choosing to present himself predominantly as a ruler. He has become the focal point for criticism, not the Scottish Labour party. This governing lark's harder than it looks.