New deputy leader lays out terms on which next referendum will be fought
ANGUS ROBERTSON has said that ideology cannot and will not win any future Scottish independence referendum.
Speaking to CommonSpace before his speech at the Clyde Auditorium 15 October, Robertson rejected the view that his election to the position of deputy leader at the beginning of the conference (13 October), was in any way either a move towards conservatism or an end to any radical impulse in the SNP.
However, he also emphasized that an approach based solely on targeting an ideologically motivated section of the population would be unwise for the prospects of any future independence referendum.
Speaking to CommonSpace Roberston said: “It’s not the job of the depute or anyone for that matter to shift the party to one direction or another.
“Look, we have to convince an extra what – 1 in 20 of Scots during any future referendum, we’ve already started with the survey, gathering views and trying to be as representative as possible. Because it’s the level of organisation and us listening that will result in success, not ideology.
“I am proud to come from the core of the SNP, the SNP as a moderate, left of centre party which has achieved so much and is one of the most, if not the most, successful political force on the European continent at this time.”
The comments follow Robertson’s victory in the depute leadership race in which he secured 52.5 per cent of the party’s vote. The race was dominated by the contrasts between Robertson and Tommy Sheppard, Alyn Smith and Chris McEleney, who presented themselves as more radical alternatives with greater connections to the influx of new members.
Runner-up Tommy Sheppard had based his campaign on ensuring that the next referendum and the ideological direction of the party would represent “more socialist position.”
Party left wingers such as the SNP Socialists faction have argued that the way to win a second independence referendum would be to emphasize the more radical and explicitly socialist tendencies in the party membership. They claim this would be the only way to raise turnout among voters who did not vote in the last referendum and who, mainly live in poorer areas of the country.
Robertson added: “And let’s not forget the grassroots. I won over 50 per cent of the party vote – and you know that’s from a range of support, old and young members. The grassroots know, as was expressed during the election, there is very little ideological difference if we are honest but organization, competency and experience – is crucial to them.”
Hinting at the turmoil in the Labor party, which has seen repeated clashes between its Westminster parliamentary group and leader Jeremy Corbyn, and the Conservatives, who are divided over the nature of Brexit, Robertson said: “It’s fundamentally a mistake to look at the depute election or inside the SNP through the lens of what’s happening inside other parties.”
Regarding another referendum the MP for Moray, who is the leader of the SNP’s Westminster group, stated that the party had to reach out to as many types of voters as possible.
Refuting the notion that such a strategy was technocratic, Robertson said: “No not at all technocratic. We need a holistic approach to convincing people to come over to independence. If we are honest, and this relates to the depute election too, not one single issue is going to win any extra supporters.
“Having said that the context is clear. We have a government which is actively hostile to Scotland’s interests and this is always a central issue going forward.”
In relation to the question of Europe and how Scotland can remain part of the single market, the new deputy leader lamented that more cooperation and “innovative approaches” to the issue could not be reached. Blaming the “disinterest and active hostility” of the UK Government, Robertson cited the plan raised by Republic of Ireland (RoI) MEP Brian Hayes who this week suggested that RoI could pay the contribution fee of Northern Ireland (NI) allowing it to stay in the single market. Academics at the Centre for Cross Border Studies (CCBS) in NI have already suggested the project of a Celtic Union to allow ROI, NI and Scotland to pool contributions and stay in the single market.
Robertson said: “Now if we had a constructive UK Government as a partner then such innovative solutions like this could be found but we don’t, which is disappointing, but it’s where we are.”