Scottish Politics Review prides itself on seeing the good and bad in all sides of the political spectrum. It’s true that as the governing party, the SNP probably come in for more criticism than the rest in these pages, but that is due to their position of government; they are there to be shot at.
Admittedly though, when you are viewing a party through the prism of governance, it is easy to forget just what it was about them that this blog so admired. Last week’s SNP conference served as a brilliant and timely reminder.
Forget the playing to the gallery from the keynote speeches; we are always loathe to put much stock in speeches that are aimed as much as the party loyal as they are at the wider world. No, as rousing as some of those speeches were, and in Nicola Sturgeon’s case, how loaded with threat to the UK Government they were, it was not these that proved so impressive.
Instead it was the less public, more intimate and sometimes even off the record conversations that took place in various fringe events that this blog either attended or heard about in the general conference chatter.
Brexit was an understandably hot topic, and dominated the conversation. And on this issue, the SNP are at their very best. Both principled and calculating, they have adapted to this situation with an agility completely lacking in the other parties. Oh how Messrs May and Corbyn must envy the discipline and unity of purpose that Nicola Sturgeon can command of both her members and her elected officials.
It’s not that all here at Scottish Politics Review agree with their stance; some of us are firmly of the opinion that it is wrong, and nakedly partisan to conflate the Brexit issue with the referendum issue, which let us not forget was only two years ago and delivered a firm verdict. But we all accept that what the SNP has done in coupling to two issues is damn good politics.
Even leaving aside those maneuverings, the energy and clarity of purpose with which many different, senior SNP MSPs, MPs and MEPs appear to be going about their business is very impressive, and serves to highlight the complete inadequacy and shoddy dereliction of duty that the UK Government and the pro-Brexit side have demonstrated thus far.
This is not to say that they will definitely achieve their goals; the stated one of keeping Scotland in the UK and the EU, or the unstated one of keeping Scotland in the EU and gaining independence. There are many obstacles to overcome, not least that little of this is within the Scottish Government’s competency. But as the particularly impressive SNP MEP Alyn Smith stated on more than once occasion, the law will follow the politics on this issue, a point too often missed in this debate.
And if the SNP don’t achieve their goals on this issue, it won’t be because of lack of energy or political acumen. It will likely be because of events out with their control. And while Nicola Sturgeon, in the opinion of this blog, came very close to overplaying her hand in the immediate aftermath of the vote, they have been surefooted even since.
Regardless of the eventual outcomes, it is good to have the reassurance that at least one of our governments knows what it is trying to do, how it wants to do it and what its fall-back position will be. Like we said, clear, focused, strategic and coherent. Not words that have often been associated with either the Brexit referendum or its aftermath.