Scottish independence: Nicola Sturgeon's mistakes have led SNP astray. Party members who have kept silent must act – Kenny MacAskill

The Supreme Court ruling simply confirmed the supreme folly of Nicola Sturgeon’s strategy.

Nicola Sturgeon's bid to persuade the Supreme Court to allow the Scottish Government to hold an independence referendum was doomed to failure (Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA)
Nicola Sturgeon's bid to persuade the Supreme Court to allow the Scottish Government to hold an independence referendum was doomed to failure (Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA)

With the World Cup ongoing, the closest football analogy’s having your goalkeeper, in the shape of the Lord Advocate, offer a free shot into an empty goal. And how the Supreme Court relished blootering it into the net.

Whatever possessed Sturgeon to pursue that strategy no one knows. But a cunning plan it wasn’t. Worse were the lies told by her and her acolytes. A “no ifs, no buts” referendum was promised and patsies such as her Westminster group leader Ian Blackford every year assured us all that it was coming, next year was a certainty.

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Yet they knew that was fraudulent. It’s why there were no preparations, and the sterile debate was just a ruse. Speak to them privately and they knew it wasn’t coming, yet publicly they continued to insist that it was.

Now they’re not just bereft of a strategy but of a coherent line. You’d have thought lines to take would have been prepared by one of the numerous staffers they employ. But no. The new line depends on who you speak to.

The FM has gone strangely silent when usually she’s out in front, with everyone else confined to the shadows. Not this time, a vacuous statement on democracy after the judgement was the best she could manage. Meanwhile the senior spokespeople are speaking from different scripts, sometimes even contradicting each other.

In some ways it’s unsurprising as the plebiscite election suggested by the FM as the fall-back hasn’t been thought through. Which election, how would it be contested and by whom were all left vague and now we’re told it’ll all be resolved at a party conference next year. There’s a fair likelihood it’ll be booted into Row Z by the Westminster MPs. Other senior sources are already rubbishing calls to collapse Holyrood and force an election.

So where do we go from here? Well, the SNP leadership sure haven’t got a clue. The historic position of the British Establishment on the Union, articulated by Harold McMillan, ironically the last Tory PM to win a general election in Scotland, was that it had to be more “of the wedding ring, not the handcuff”. Now it’s more “Know yer place, Jock”.

A border poll available every seven years in Ireland but precluded apparently due to Scotland’s peaceful civic nationalism is perverse. If this isn’t a colony, what’s the status because it’s sure not a union of equals.

That’s neither acceptable nor sustainable. Whilst their Lordships may have ermine robes to keep them warm, in energy-rich Scotland folk are freezing. Britain’s economy’s tanking and its political system, as allegations of impropriety facing Lady Mone suggest, is fundamentally rotten. Scotland can do better than this, whatever their Lordships opine.

There are steps that can be taken, this has always been a political rather than legal question, indeed as the court advised. But that requires those with elected office to act, not sit schtum. Many in the SNP have kept quiet, fearful of breaking ranks but conscious that this was a disastrous strategy.

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But stifling internal democracy in Sturgeon’s New SNP has harmed the party’s very raison d’etre. Those who stayed silent owe it to the movement to not just speak out, but take action.

Kenny MacAskill is Alba Party MP for East Lothian



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