By Ken McNeil
The announcement by committed Unionist and Conservative, Sir David Murray, that he believes that the election of an SNP government would be the best result in the coming Scottish election will be seen as something of a coup for nationalists.
Whilst it is true that Sir David continues to believe in the continuation of the Union, his views have come a very long way since his intervention in the midst of the 2007 campaign and his warning against the election of an SNP government. It may be that Sir David will move no further towards nationalism, then again maybe not.
However does this statement by Mr Murray not point up a potential new strategy for the SNP to run alongside the call for independence? There are two strands to nationalist thinking; the all out approach and the gradualist approach.
Whilst it is frustrating for those of us who would like independence tomorrow, it cannot be denied that the ‘don’t scare the horses’ approach has provided progress. But why not get more aggressive with the gradualist approach and appeal more directly to non-nationalists and the non-committed during the campaign?
Whether Sir David Murray is ever converted to the nationalist cause remains to be seen, but surely there must be many amongst the ordinary electorate who can be led towards support for independence.
According to the Scottish Sunday Express one in five Labour supporters and almost a third of Tories and Lib Dems want to give the SNP a second term in office. Many voters, if they are honest, will admit that the SNP has done a very good job, perhaps a remarkable job, governing with a minority. Many are impressed by the government’s obvious commitment to Scotland and to working in the best interests of the Scottish people. This can be seen in stark contrast to the behaviour of the Unionist parties and their relationships with their London leaders.
So why not a direct appeal? If you believe an SNP government is the best option for Scotland what do you have to lose by voting for it?
The fear for Unionists would be that a vote for the SNP would be a vote for the potential end of the United Kingdom. But in practical terms this simply isn’t the case. The only way that Scotland can progress to independence is for a referendum vote to return a majority in favour. So why not vote for competent government? In the event of the SNP gaining sufficient strength in the Scottish Parliament to bring about a referendum you have the simple choice of voting against it.
Why shouldn’t the SNP adopt a multi strand approach to appeal to different sections of the electorate? If the SNP win the next election they gain a further four, perhaps five years to confirm their competence and to argue how much more could be achieved with independence. In the meantime the Unionists and the non-committed get a government that will work tirelessly on their and the country’s behalf.
I believe that many can be converted and indeed must be converted if Scotland is to gain her independence, but those non-nationalists who do vote for the SNP must be reminded that the final destiny of this country still lies within their power.