The SNP back in Holyrood just short of an overall majority but Nicola Sturgeon insisted before Scotland went to the polls that the Scottish election was not an independence referendum. Of course, it wasn’t. In the eyes of Ms Sturgeon and her cohorts it was another five years in which to take powers from the people and put them in the hands of the parliament. It was the green light for more whacky policies, and the continued game of kicking independence into the long grass never to be seen again. Thursday 6th May will live in the memory of yes movement for one reason; for it was the day in which independence was put to death by the very party who profess to want it most.
Just how did the SNP go from being the thriving party for independence to the party of today?
A chilly evening back in November 2014, a massive crowd filed into the magnificent Hydro based in the ‘yes’ city of Glasgow. With smiles on their faces and hope in their eyes, their dream still alive. The day had brought a steady stream of the great and the good to the stage, but the people had only come for one reason and one reason only. To hear from the woman in which they had put all their trust, the woman who they believed would lead Scotland to freedom. Like some sort of pop star Nicola Sturgeon took to the stage, the large screen behind showing the SNP membership on the rise.
“Democracy rocks.” She thanked her adoring fans for attending going on to pay tribute to her predecessor Alex Salmond whom she described as “Remarkable and outstanding.” Well, we all know what has happened since.
“I know we did not win the referendum but don’t the party on the other side look for all the world like they lost?”
At that time, they did, now however, they look like the cat that got the cream.
“Scotland will become an independent country.” Sturgeon assured.
After the defeat of the referendum, we in the yes movement picked ourselves up, dusting ourselves down and vowed to continue the fight. How in such a short time have we gone from a group of people with the same goal and a vow to carry on, to a fragmented shadow of ourselves? The answer lies with one woman and one party.
In twenty-fifteen the yes movement got behind a party that would ultimately betray us in the harshest of ways. The general election saw 56 out of 59 MPs being sent to Westminster to settle-up not settle in but that is exactly what they did. Things did looked promising at first, with disobedience of applauding and singing in the chamber but that was soon quelled and most of the 56 settled at the troth of wealth forgetting the reason they had been sent. By October 2015, a systematic uncoupling of the SNP and the Yes movement appeared, subtle so as not to draw suspicion. However, those firmly in the camp of independence had taken our eye off the ball. In her speech to conference, instead of concentrating on the one thing the party were founded on, there were several key pledges, “We will always strive to be the best that we can be, our manifesto will rise to the challenges of the future. Our dreams and ambitions for the future of this country know no limits.” And my personal favourite “We are stronger for Scotland.” No, you are not, “Scotland will always be stronger with the SNP.” Picking myself up off the floor now.
What a lot of tosh!
“The party must persuade a majority of Scots of what we already know to be true, independence is the best future for Scotland. We believe that Scotland should be an independent country, we always have, and we always will.” Nicola Sturgeon to conference.
Empty promises made to the people of Scotland.
Sturgeon said this: “Following the referendum and general election Scotland has found her voice and we are never going to let our voice be silent again. The only real and lasting alternative to Tory governments we don’t vote for is independence for our country.”
Listening to this you would be forgiven in believing that Sturgeon wanted independence and possibly she did back in 2015. However, in referring to Scotland’s strong voice in Westminster, she pledged it would be for “Progressive opinion right across these islands.” Could that have been the start of the peddling away from independence?
If 2016 was anything to go by, there was still a glimmer of hope, as the sun rose on a warm June morning, the people of Scotland and in particular the yes movement waited with bated breath for the instruction from the first minister. What would she say? It was all systems go; the EU referendum had offered up the gift the yes movement had waited for. Scotland had voted to remain within the European Union and expected Sturgeon to deliver.
“Yesterday, Scotland, like London, and Northern Island voted overwhelmingly to remain in the European Union.” Sturgeon began and I don’t think I am the only one who wanted her to get to the point, we didn’t give two flying figs whom else had voted to remain, all we wanted to know was when the referendum would be. The material change of Scotland being dragged out of the European Union against our will had happened. What we wanted to know was when that 2016 mandate would be honoured.
“There is no doubt yesterday’s results represents a significant material change of circumstances in which Scotland voted against independence in 2014. My job now is to act responsibly in the interest all of Scotland. I want to make it absolutely clear today that I intend to take all possible steps to explore all options to give effective to how people in Scotland voted. In other words to secure our continuous place in the EU and in the single market in particular.
To that end, I have made clear to the Prime Minister this morning that the Scottish Government must be fully and directly involved in any, and all discussions about the next steps that the UK government intends to take.”
Well look what happened there, the Scottish government were treated appallingly, purposefully kept out of discussions about Scotland’s future. That is when in my opinion Sturgeon should have began making the case for independence. That was the time to hit the UK government. The SNP had a cast iron mandate to go to the people once more. Many in the yes movement on the day after the EU referendum were full of renewed hope and expected the SNP to honour the mandate given to them, however, that did not happen. In 2017 Sturgeon bottled it as was apparent by the autumn conference when she gave no firm commitment and therein lies the betrayal of the party to the people who had put their faith in them to deliver. Instead they continued with the mantra of making the case. The case was made, Scotland faced being dragged out of the European Union. Instead of making the case for independence Sturgeon toured Scotland making the case for the whole of the UK to remain in the EU and in doing so lost the trust of the independence movement. By 2018, the yes movement were being side-lined and ignored, with Sturgeon preferring not to attend any yes marches or rallies but would appear in London the following year to speak at the one million march to demand another referendum on Brexit. What a slap in the face to those in the yes movement who had kept her in power. Only when it looked like the independence supporters were about to rebel did Sturgeon show up at a rally in George Square, this time to tell the faithful to vote a whole heap of SNP MPs to Westminster in December 2019. “We are gathered here today, in our thousands, in the beautiful civic square of Scotland’s biggest city and we are gathered here for one simple purpose and that purpose is to demand the right to choose a better future for our country, we are gathered here to choose an independent future for Scotland.”
What the hell was she talking about, reading between the narration of words Sturgeon gave power to Westminster, ‘our right to choose’ which reading between the lines means that Scotland in the eyes of Westminster doesn’t have the right to choose, and doesn’t have the right to choose a better future. Why are we giving power to Westminster and moreover, why are we not demanding that the SNP do what they were given a mandate to do. For too long those in the yes movement have taken a backseat, content to let the SNP take the reigns to drive us forward, yet here we are in reverse. Sturgeon has been in the driving seat for too long, it is time for those of us in the yes movement to come together. Time to take a stand and demand our representatives do what we put them in power to do. No more kicking independence into the long grass, no more of the carrot dangling. We need to take the wheel, push the gear into first and steadily move forward, we need to build the case for independence ourselves because no one else is going to do it for us. Time for those with their noses in the troth to get with the program of get out of the way, no more stalling. Scotland cannot afford to wait until this pandemic is over, we cannot afford to wait for the economic recovery. If Scotland is to thrive again, then we must take the reins. If recent events in Pollockshields have shown us one thing, it is that people power is a formidable force, when people come together for a common cause, then we win, time to come together, time to take control, time to win Scotland her freedom.