Back in October, I asked five questions about the future of Scottish politics. The idea was to look at questions that would be pertinant over the next few years, but a lot of my thinking was based on the EU referendum being held in 2017 rather than in three months’ time, so this gives me a reasonable excuse to look at these issues again.
What can I say, as much as the 2015 general election took it out of me, I didn’t foresee this horror:
Once you’re done applying the mind bleach, let’s have a look at those questions again and see if any of them have been answered or otherwise made redundant…
The campaign for Holyrood 2016 is looming in front of me right now, and the Tory apocalypse is making measured thought harder every day, so this post represents a hurried attempt to think about a couple of questions that might become important over the next few years before I get swamped by more pressing questions – a bit of a peak round the corner of Scottish politics, if you will.
Anyway, here are my questions…
- Will the SNP commit to using Smith powers to make a public bid for Scotland’s rail franchises? New Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn’s line on this was was off-key, but while there were many stinging, X-Factor style critiques of his performance doing the rounds (this was my favourite, heavy as it is on technical detail) there was little indication that the SNP would have done things differently if they could have. Will any such promises be gained under continuing pressure from Corbyn’s Labour and the Scottish Greens
- Is Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party capable of finding an angle on Scotland that works? Related to the above. So far signs aren’t good, with Corbyn and his main man John McDonnell recycling the same lines that Scottish Labour have been failing to convince the electorate with for the past five years. Is there any chance of a radical commitment to devolution arising from the part’s current open policy debate? Is there a position they can take here that doesn’t look like surrender? It’s easy to talk about “winning back Scotland”, but the reality seems far more difficult for principled socialists and canny Kendalistas alike.
- Will RISE run a left wing anti-EU campaign? The TTIP debate and the ongoing imposition of brutal austerity conditions on Greece has re-energised anti-EU sentiment on the left (and no I don’t just mean Owen Jones). With the SNP and the Scottish Greens certain to argue for EU membership, there’s space for someone to work up a left-of-centre, pro-Scottish independence pitch against the EU. I’ve no idea which side of this issue RISE will fall on, but some recent noises from the Scottish Left Project and discussions with some of their supporters suggest that they might find support for such a campaign.
- Will support of the promised interconnector between Scotland and Norway be enough to keep Greens on the pro-EU side of that campaign? The completion of this project seems like it should be central to any vision of Scotland’s future that involves achieving prosperity through renewable energy, and while the official line on winning the EU’s capacity to positively influence trade inequality and combat climate change country by country is more noble, the benefits of this project are a lot more tangible. This isn’t to suggest that my fellow Greens need buying off, it just seems easier to argue for something when you’ve can point to what you’re arguing for.
- Is the SNP’s position on fracking likely to solidify next year? The party line involves repeated deployment of the words “evidence-based”, “cautious” , and “considered”, but while a motion to extend the current moratorium on fracking is on the agenda for the SNP conference, banning it outright is still off the table for Scotland’s dominant political party. Ineos and co are currently working their arses off trying to sell the idea that fracking is a great business opportunity for an increasingly independent Scotland. Whether this is enough to overpower anti-fracking sentiment within the SNP remains to be seen.
While I was working up to writing my previous post on the rhetoric of the independence campaign, I put a few feelers out to see if anyone I knew was interested in talking about the language of the referendum – campaign slogans, press sound bites, dramatic headlines, things they’d overheard on the bus, etc.
As my pal Scott can attest – having witnessed my reaction to the arrival of a few fairly graphic comic book panels I’d described in a script but not fully anticipated – I’m a fairly verbally minded sort of guy, so the first response I got took me by surprise by focusing on the use of national iconography during the campaign.
What follows is a transcript of a conversation about the visual rhetoric and branding of the debate, as conducted with a friend who is involved enough in this area to want to remain anonymous.
ANONYMOUS: The adoption of the saltire colours on both sides of the debate was really interesting to watch – ‘Look we’re deffo more Scottish that you are’/ ‘ Naw you’re not, we are!’
I found that the Yes campaign’s use of the Scottish flag with the ‘Yes’ slogan emblazoned on it it in black contrasted with the ‘No Thanks’ cross a little puzzling.
Was it a saltire cross? Was it a ballot box cross? Were the Yes campaign just quick off the mark to adopt the saltire first? I guess both sides wanted to be viewed as the most Scottish option.
Personally I found both sides’ desperation to appear the most Scottish frustrating as a voter – I am voting to better the future of my country, to make it a better place to live for me and my children. I get that you are both patriotic but I don’t care. I’m not going to cast my vote based on which option is the most Scottish thing to do. Was the referendum not meant to be all about change?