Dissatisfaction with Ian Blackford had been growing and not just over the Patrick Grady affair, which was at odds with the “whiter than white” party image cultivated by Nicola Sturgeon’s inner circle, even though far from the reality. It was therefore simply a matter of time as the decibels of dissension rose.
Blackford often seemed to embody the words from the Proclaimers' song Cap in Hand: “We boast, then we cower.” The jolly investment banker, masquerading as a lifestyle crofter declared that “Scotland will not be dragged out of the EU”, followed by commitment to a ‘no ifs, no buts’ referendum. Instead it was a whimper and the continuation of overlong questions to the Prime Minister, simply bringing derision from Tory MPs and gripes from his own.
The troops were unhappy and not just with him. As with the rebellion in the SNP Holyrood group over gender recognition reform, exasperation has been growing with Nicola Sturgeon in the Westminster group. The removal of her surrogate Blackford is also a minor insurrection against her. Her style of leadership with them wasn’t so much she’d say “jump” and they’d say “how high”, it was more that they weren’t even spoken to and were just expected to do her bidding.
The referendum’s referral to the Supreme Court was without a by-your-leave to Westminster SNP members and even more importantly for them was the suggestion of a plebiscite Westminster election if that failed. They were prepared to shut their mouths for the former. To a man and woman, they knew it was doomed but more concerning for them was a fall-back strategy with them in the firing line. That they wouldn’t accept meekly.
That was the catalyst for the coup. Stephen Flynn has already been highlighting the challenges and it’ll be him and his colleagues who’ll lead the charge. The franchise and nature of the campaign make a Holyrood plebiscite poll far better than a Westminster one. The latter’s an away fixture in football parlance.
The ousting of Blackford’s a further weakening of Sturgeon’s grip and it’s likely that Flynn will encourage a slightly more aggressive and moderately more radical position. That’s to be welcomed. But he’s already ruled out support for the idea of collapsing the Holyrood Parliament to force a ‘de facto referendum’ in the elections that would follow. That could be triggered for next year and Scotland’s vote delivered as promised in October. Instead, he’s sided with Sturgeon arguing that it can’t be done in a cost-of-living crisis.
Yet it’s Westminster rule that has caused this, especially Brexit and then Truss’s tanking of the economy. Austerity now beckons along with a recession running until at least 2024. Both Flynn and the First Minister argue that they don’t have the fiscal powers to address the situation and argue independence is required.
As energy-rich Scotland sees Scots in fuel poverty and with independence support ahead in the polls there’s growing pressure from the grassroots to trigger a Holyrood poll. So far Mr Flynn has cut a more dynamic figure than his predecessor but hasn’t moved for a more radical strategy that’s equally required.