Friday, 25 June 2010

Salmond double whammy for SNP?

More disappointing news for fundamentalist Nationalists today in a Times interview with Alex Salmond. The newspaper says that for the first time the first minister has conceded that the "centre of gravity" in the debate on Scotland's future is substantial financial powers for Holyrood, rather than the dream of independence. He's quoted as saying:
You must campaign for what is good for Scotland as well as campaigning for independence. It is not a question of (independence) taking a back seat, it is a question of fulfilling your duty. I regard that as a duty. When the SNP was formed the second aim of the party was to further Scottish interests. I believe it is part of my obligation to further Scottish interests as well as to campaign for independence.
Of course, it's arguable that independence has been on the back burner for some time now, but this latest interview perhaps confirms that Mr Salmond knows independence won't happen during his tenure as first minister or even SNP leader, and clearly he sees some degree of further devolution of financial powers as a more realistic legacy.

Interesting also that the language used is "fiscal responsibility" rather than "fiscal autonomy". This, of course, partly reflects the nascent Campaign for Fiscal Responsibility, but also perhaps a realisation that, although voters don't want to think about the downside of public spending cuts, on the other hand they realise that the days of the spending spree are over, whether under the current settlement or a more fiscally independent Scotland. Mr Salmond says:
It is really important, in my view, to be able to say to people how we can change the circumstances and increase revenue as well as decreasing expenditure. It is my job to come up with some answers, along with others. If you jump up and down nihilistically saying ‘dreadful dreadful, dreadful, cuts, cuts, cuts’, then I would be failing in my duty to the people.
The last sentence is particularly interesting, because here the first minister seems to be criticising his own strategy hitherto, but whether this indicates a real change in emphasis remains to be seen; perhaps it's a mere superficial nod towards the CfFR.

But like the change in the centre of gravity away from independence, this shift in tenor towards a more fiscally conservative stance is unlikely to please the fundamentalist/progressive strand of Nationalist opinion, however well it may go down with Ben Thomson et al.


Atomic Dog said...

Do 'fundamentalist nationalist' actually exist or is it just an another figment of the fevered unionist mind?

Stuart Winton said...

Well I suppose a few months ago Alex Salmond was a fundamentalist insofar as he launched his referendum bill, but has now effectively conceded that it's dead in the water.

So even to that extent I doubt if nationalist fundamentalism is entirely a 'figment of fevered unionist mind', but you would have to ask the unionists for their precise thinking on the matter.

Andrew BOD said...

Hi Stuart

I don't think Salmond was ever a 'fundamentalist' per se. He had the job of binding both gradualists and fundamentalists together. The fact that the SNP launched a referendum bill is pretty normal when you think the essence of the party is independence for Scotland, and furthermore they have never held office before. In fact it would be abnormal if they didn't want a referendum!

I also think that the political climate has changed drastically. Despite their centre-left positions, Labour and the SNP are arch-enemies, and the Westminster enemy has been voted out. There is a greater spirit of co-operation between the SNP and the new coalition, and Salmond's tone reflects this. And I think this is very clever positioning.

I feel, like many others, that the coalition is a new step toward sensible politics. I support neither the Lib Dems nor the Tories, but I support the coalition. I probably would have felt the same had the coalition been Lab-Lib. And my point is that working together to achieve economic stability in these uncertain times is really very important. This has been lost on Labour, and they are still mired in the political attitudes of the past.

Stuart Winton said...

Thanks for the comments Andrew.

Indeed, there's no strict dichotomy between the gradualists and fundamentalists, but I think, in response to Atomic Dog, that it's not merely a figment of the unionist imagination (although the Scotsman's story today - 'War of independence erupts within ranks of SNP' - perhaps overeggs things a bit').

As regard the coalition, indeed it does seem to be quite popular, but being the cynic I am I can't see the appeal lasting, and its popularity is probably based on the novelty factor and the usual political honeymoon.

There's an interesting article on the Telegraph website which concurs with a lot of what you say, although it's written by Charles Moore, who's an arch-Tory ;0)

Andrew BOD said...

Hi Stuart

I think the Fundamentalist / Gradualist thing within the SNP is not like the North & South pole. I think, like in every aspect of politics, there are also lighter and darker shades of grey in between. I guess the same exists amongst unionists where Lord Forsyth would rather there were no devolved parliament and Tavish Scott would like to see a large degree of financial autonomy. Pretty natural too.

In terms of the "political honeymoon", this would be the case with one majority ruling party as well. I understand that point. However, my main point was that political parties working together is a much healthier situation, and will have longevity if PR is passed within the next five years. As I pointed out, it doesn't matter to me if that coalition were made up of different parties, as long as one party doesn't go off on an ideologically extreme policy which is then undone when the opposition gains power. It also limits the power of a dictatorial PM, ruling with his seventy-odd advisors, using an iron fist!

Remember also, that the coalition was elected as individual parties by 59% of the electorate. Blair's last term was supported by 35% of those who voted and only 21% of the total electorate.

SNPWatcher said...

Scotland is not ready for independence.

The SNP haven't been promoting it for sometime.

Salmond is right to say that the SNP need to address other issues in the meantime.

Salmond is completely wrong to say that the centre of Scottish politics isn't independence.

If Salmond thinks that going 'unionist lite' is going to win him another 4 years at Holyrood he is barking up the wrong tree.

The SNP has sqaundered the goodwill they were given in 2007.

On top of that stupid decisions were made like the Gathering, Edinburgh trams,SIF,CfE and others to numerous to mention.

Activists on the ground have known for sometime that the SNP has stopped listening and ran out of ideas.

You only have to look at how the SNP keep getting wiped out in by-elections.

Elect a Local champion was a joke.

Fighting on Trident was plain stupid.

More Nats less cuts dreadful.

Once Salmond loses next May, he will never be First Minster again.

He has relegated the SNP to be nothing more than a northern Scotland protest group with branches in the south.

The defeat of Nicola Sturgeon, the second highest SNP will drive the message home of how out of touch, they have become from ordinary people.

If the second highest SNP person can't get fptp then it shows how badly the SNP misjudged the people.

Going 'unionist lite' won't work or solve deep seated problems.

Broken promises, repeated failure to deliver and bad candidates, the current SNP.

Salmond made a mistake not to push independence, it will cost him the control of the government next May.

Labour has already won because of the stupidity of the SNP leadership, a small inward looking clique.

Andrew BOD said...

"Unionist Lite". Sounds like a new kind of brew.

"Salmond is right to say that the SNP need to address other issues in the meantime.
Salmond is completely wrong to say that the centre of Scottish politics isn't independence."

These two sentences are incompatible. Have you made an error?

"Elect a local Champion." Sounds a bit corny, but delivered an increase in the share of the vote compared to 2005.

Offering an alternative to Trident when no other party had the guts, probably gave the SNP some extra GE votes.

Stupid decisions like the Gathering(?), was part of a much larger and very successful Homecoming year which drove material exports into Scotland and the UK in a time of great need.

Stupid decisions like "Edinburgh Trams?"

I think you'll have to do your homework on that one as well. The SNP voted against it and even now want to reduce the size of it to cut costs.

"He has relegated the SNP to be nothing more than a northern Scotland protest group with branches in the south. "

Northern Scotland is a stronghold for the Lib Dems. Another inaccuracy.

And the rest? Looks like your own personal opinion.

Salmond's biggest mistake was to go it alone as a minority government. If he'd made a fraction of the concessions he appears to be making now, the Lib Dems and Greens might have formed a coalition.

(That's my personal opinion.)

Stuart Winton said...

Andrew, I'm inclined to agree with much of your (second) post, but I think tensions in the coalition are inevitable and I think that, the end of the honeymoon and the impact of the cuts and continued economic stagnation will dissipate the coalition's support.

As for PR, I can't really see it happening, and I'm not sure it's really on the table in any shape or form, although to be honest I've not really been following things too closesly.

But it's all uncharted territory, so it'll be interesting to see how it works out.

SNP Watcher

I don't think the SNP have done anything spectacularly bad, but they haven't done anything spectacularly good either.

Which is kind of how I saw it going at the outset, because Nationalist expectations were far too high, but on the other hand the basket case scenario painted by the unionists was never going to happen.

Thus hardly surprising that the result is somewhere in between.