After the convulsions of the Brexit referendum in 2016, and in the lead-up to the 2017 General Election, the situation in Scotland seemed ripe for a constitutional revolution. Many believed that the decision to leave the EU would be the catalyst for the independence movement to finally break the Union and make Scotland a sovereign country once again.
The plan was clear: To turn the Brexiteers’ victory into an opportunity to build an alliance between pro-EU Scots and independentistas, converting enough former No voters to win a new independence referendum.
However, the waters became murkier after Theresa May’s infamous “Now is not the time” statement, and the SNP’s underwhelming performance in the 2017 election left the independence movement stuck in the mud, unable to make any significant headway.
Now, as the SNP looks to elect a new leader, the question on many people’s minds is who should they vote for, and what direction should the party take?
As someone who was once a proud member of the SNP but who has since abandoned the party in frustration over its lack of progress, I still have a keen interest in the independence cause and the future of Scotland.
If I had a vote, I simply couldn’t vote for Kate Forbes. She’s too right-wing, both socially (see this article) and economically (see this article), and while that might be acceptable in the SNP’s traditional heartlands in the North-East, it would cause an exodus of the Central Belt voters who joined the SNP after the indyref in 2014. She also appears to lack interest in how to win independence, making her completely unsuitable for the position.
Humza Yousaf is likely to be a continuation of the Sturgeon line. He doesn’t seem to have performed particularly well in his ministerial jobs, though, and he most certainly doesn’t seem to want to do much on the independence question. Additionally, the SNP hierarchy are clearly favouring him, which suggests that he has made backroom deals to ensure very little will change. This is a significant problem as the SNP requires a significant overhaul. If I had a vote, I would probably reluctantly place him second on my ballot paper.
It will therefore be no great surprise that I’d put Ash Regan in first place. She’s by no means perfect – she is not the best public speaker and has some flawed ideas (see this article for a critique of her suggestion of using EFTA as a stepping stone to EU membership). However, she at least has some plans for advancing the independence cause, and she would make real changes to the SNP. It’s very deep waters to throw a relatively untested politician into, but I have hope she’d swim, and swim well.
The future of Scotland is far from certain – independence is by no means inevitable. The road ahead is fraught with challenges and uncertainties, but one thing is clear: The SNP needs a leader who is willing to take bold and decisive action. If not, the independence movement could remain stuck in the mud for another generation.
Let us hope that whoever emerges victorious from this leadership election will be up to the task, for the fate of Scotland may well depend on it!