AFTER I enjoyed the beautiful sea air on my Sunday morning walk I took time to watch the Sunday politics shows and read my Sunday National (still a bargain).

This week however, as I was watching Mr Ian Blackford argue that nobody would argue that Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine should be a veto to an independence referendum – a week after he himself was arguing that Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine should delay indyref 2 – something struck me.

The SNP Westminster leader again, without backing up the when or the how, maintained the position that there would be a referendum in 2023. The SNP had a mandate he said. That doesn’t sound too different from when back in 2019 he said there would be a referendum in 2020 because the SNP had a mandate to hold one. Back then it was to be a “gold standard referendum”. Or indeed it doesn’t sound that different from when in March 2020 when pensioners and care home residents were dying across Scotland he said there would still be a referendum in 2020. Then I read that the SNP were going to hold a meeting of members “soon”. Apparently they couldn’t do that now because they were focused on the council elections. That’ll be the same council elections that they’ve held a spring campaign conference beforehand on every occasion since reorganisation. I take it they weren’t focused on the council elections then.

Of course this matters for one of two reasons: The first is that the SNP is the party of Government (albeit with the Greens their minor coalition partner). They have removed every single Covid restriction other than the need to wear a mask in certain public places. You know, like how you need to wear one in a pub or restaurant when you’re walking about but when you sit down to eat scampi and chips, or stand and drink a pint, you can remove your mask because seemingly this highly contagious airborne virus has some sort of moral compass that dare not interfere with chow time.

So if the party of Government think it’s safe for us all to get back on with our business, and that the dozens of deaths and tens of thousands of cases daily are figures they are content to endure without putting back in place any meaningful public health measures, then why are they still refusing to hold in-person gatherings when they are the rule setters that deem them safe? And of course whether it’s Humza Yousaf at a rally in Glasgow or SNP President Michael Russell at the upcoming AUOB rally in April, they obviously don’t have any concerns about attending such events under someone else’s banner.

Secondly, if the above is not in fact the reason the SNP leadership are hiding from their membership then it can only mean that they do not want to be subjected to meaningful scrutiny by their own rank and file. This is a dangerous state of affairs in a democracy if a parliament has become impotent in their ability to hold the executive to account whilst at the same time the politburo of the Governing Party has been dissolved from a lay led membership organisation into effectively season tickets holders that can cheer on the successes but have no influence in the running of their club.

Many say judge the SNP by their deeds. Yes, they said they had a “cast iron” mandate to hold a referendum within the term of the last parliament. Yes, they said there would be a referendum once the terms of Brexit were clear. Yes, they then said there would be a referendum to stop Scotland being dragged out of the European Union. Yes, they then said there would be a referendum in 2020. Yes, they said there would be a referendum in the early part of this Parliament… and yes that effortlessly transitioned into there will be a referendum in 2023. But this time they definitely mean it.

Perhaps if we all just vote SNP 1 and 2 in May to give Nicola another mandate the campaign will start then.
Frank Wood
Port Glasgow