I have it on good authority that, as matters stand, some senior figures within the SNP are concerned by the way the party has lost – or is perceived to have lost – momentum this summer. Of course, the road to the independence referendum is a long one and there’s ample time for the nationalists to up their game. Nevertheless, right now, their message is not cutting through as effectively as they would hope. That’s the subject for a column I’ve written for today’s Scotsman:
Even so, the SNP’s message has become oddly blurred. What is independence actually designed to achieve? For months now, the party has reassured voters that much of what they hold dear about Britain will remain unchanged post-independence. The “social union” is a real thing and Nationalists are surely right to stress that, in many ways, it would remain strong even after independence.
Yet the more the SNP reassure voters that less may change than they fear, so it also weakens the case for change at all. Gradualism can grind to a halt. Moreover, while there is an undoubted “positive” argument for independence, the Nationalists are happy to offer a negative case too. Independence, they suggest, is required to protect Scotland from Conservatives.
[…] a stridently anti-Tory independence campaign is, in essence, a negative campaign. The SNP is at its best when it is at its most generous. Suggesting that Tory voters – and Labour voters, too, come to that – are in thrall to parties inherently, even inevitably, hostile to Scotland is insulting and counter-productive in equal measure. Insulting because it presumes – with an unbecoming and transparent arrogance – that the SNP has a monopoly on patriotic wisdom; counter-productive because the Nationalists need the support of voters who ordinarily endorse other parties on election day.
Some elections, such as George W Bush against John Kerry, are attritional campaigns in which victory is won by the side better able to get their troops to the polls.