Back in 1979 when the SNP voted to bring down Jim Callaghan’s Government, the then Prime Minister described them as “turkey’s voting for an early Christmas”. His administration fell through deeper factors than the confidence vote, but he was right in his prophesy as SNP were mauled in the election.
In helping bring about the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election the SNP leadership are doing likewise decades on and will again face a thrashing. Blame can’t all be laid at Humza Yousaf’s door as the actions against Margaret Ferrier were initiated by his predecessor, but he did nothing to hold back party attack dogs.
Labour clamouring for a by-election was to be expected. But the glee with which SNP leadership pursued Margaret Ferrier was shameful and lacking in any tactical nous. For sure she had done wrong, but she admitted it, was heavily punished by the courts, and when numerous others faced either no charge or simply fixed penalties.
She was a dedicated and extremely hard-working MP and despite the monstering in the press that seems vindicated in the recall petition. Despite six weeks of a multi-party campaign to have folk sign up for her demise, including a direct mailshot from the council, the threshold of 10% was only just surpassed. And significantly more voted for her than ever sought to recall her. The frenzy of politicians wasn’t reflected in the wider public. But it’s done now.
The SNP’s positioning was morally reprehensible in its treatment of someone who had been a Party stalwart whilst the sins of colleagues were either ignored or treated lightly. As ever in the Sturgeon regime it was whether you were part of the “in-crowd” and she certainly wasn’t. Beyond that though its simply political self-harm of a gargantuan nature for the SNP.
By-elections are a referendum on the government but in Scotland we have two. This may be for Westminster but as many will be voting against the SNP/Green administration as Sunak’s. Holyrods closer and politics is local. The unionist vote will coalesce around Labour to give both the Holyrood administration and independence a kicking.
Meanwhile the SNP will struggle to mobilise it’s support, let alone galvanise that of the wider Yes Movement. Many who supported Margaret Ferrier will be disgusted and stay at home. Portraying Labour as Tory lite is correct but justifies not voting Labour, as opposed to supporting SNP.
Of course, the wider movement largely supports the radical calls and rightly disdains Starmer. The government and opposition in Westminster may swap benches but life in Scotland will remain the same. That’s misery and penury for many, which’s why the real motivation for the movement’s independence.
But seeking support for it in a by-election when you previously promised a “No Ifs, No Buts” referendum that same month rings hollow. Worsening that the Supreme Court considering the GRA in the run up to the vote will simply highlight where the SNP focus has been under Sturgeon.
As the landslide of 2015 was her inheritance, largely delivered by her predecessor, this by-election gubbing will be her legacy, even if inherited by her successor. If Yousaf want’s to avoid the debacle he can sign up for Scotland United, otherwise the electorate I sense will deliver a harsh judgment on Sturgeons legacy and Continuity SNP.