Thursday, 24 June 2004

When we have independence we can...


Well, John Swinney has resigned as leader of the SNP, and I've applied to renew my membership. Perhaps now the SNP can turn itself around. But Swinney was not the problem (or at least I don't think he was the problem); he merely served as a figurehead for the problem. The problem is political caution and negativity.


The SNP, if it is about anything, is about recreating and re-energising Scotland as a nation. We can't do that by endlessly knocking the party in power. We can't do that by endlessly bleating 'the minister must resign'. We need positivity, we need positive policies, and we need a slogan which unites those positive policies into a coherent message.

So what's the coherent message which differentiates a party which at it's core is about Scotland's nationhood from one which is not? Ah, yes.

When we have independence we can...



That slogan has sort of hit me in the face twice in the current week. The first time was about immigration. The BBC news was carrying a story about a young woman who's application to settle in this country was turned down, despite the executive's 'Fresh Talent' initiative. And the underlying reason, of course, is whatever the executive's aspirations, immigration is a reserved matter. Scotland needs immigration, England doesn't.

When we have independence we can set up our own immigration policy.



Of course, as usual in politics, it isn't as simple as that. We're in the EU, and the EU has mobility of labour, so if we give people the right to settle in Scotland we're actually give them the right to settle in the EU, and the bright lights of London (or Frankfurt; or Paris; or Prague) may still beckon. But it is still an area where a distinctively different policy depends on independence.

And then I was looking with disgust at the council's new, blue, recycling bin and the hill of packaging that came from the latest supermarket delivery. You can only put cleanish paper into the recycling bin, but virtually every piece of packaging was anonymous plastic of one sort or another, so it will have to go for landfill. The Germans have their grune punkt scheme for returning packaging to the shop; the Irish have their tax on carrier bags.

When we have independence we can tax packaging.



Of course, we could tax packaging within the UK, and, indeed, other, more overcrowded parts of the UK need to reduce their landfill even more than we do. But no UK party is making much of a push on this, so we can. Yes, I know, it doesn't differentiate us from the Greens. But we need to be making common cause with other parties if, in the new multi-party Scotland, we are to achieve our aims, so I really don't see much downside to that.

"When we have independence we can..." should be a slogan around which the SNP should be able to unite. Regardless of factional stupidities, everyone in the party has a vision of independence. Every positive policy we can put forward is possible given independence, and it's the ones which are more possible given independence which will differentiate us from all Scotland's other vaguely soft left parties.

But the language is important. When, not if. Can, not will. 'When' is confident. It's positive. It says we will get there. 'Can', too, is confident and positive. It says we have the ability, we can make our own choices. Some of those choices (for example, immigration) are hard, and making firm policy commitments about them now will alienate some voters. But so long as we say 'can', we're offering positive, true, hope. When we have independence we can. Whether we will or not is up to the voters then. But we can. And it's that positive true hope which makes us different from other parties, so we should say so.
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