So we’ve had the first real sign of jitters within the SNP ranks tonight. Up until now, they’ve been as tight as anything, united against everyone else as they pursue their lifelong goals. In fact, I suspect there might have been a few times Nick Clegg has looked at the loyalty of SNP members and elected members and maybe felt a wee pang of envy. Even when two SNP MSPs resigned the whip over the party’s abandoning of its anti NATO stance, it was all done more in sorrow than anger. In practice those MSPs still vote with the party and it’s oh so civilised.
Tonight, though, we’ve seen the first public sign of unease in the SNP camp. At a debate organised by the Law Society in Scotland, Alyn Smith, SNP MEP, said that the SNP leadership should admit that they had made a mistake over an independent Scotland’s EU membership. They assert that they would be able to get in with the same terms as the rest of the UK, despite a growing pile of evidence to the contrary. There is little doubt that an independent Scotland would get EU membership at some point, but the terms and the speed at which it would happen are far from clear.
Smith told the astonished crowd that the SNP leadership had not listened to his advice that membership would not be as automatic as they had claimed.
George Lyon, Scotland’s Liberal Democrat MEP was there taking part in the debate and saw it all happen. Afterwards he said:
This admission by Alyn Smith that his leadership must confess about mistakes over its EU position is refreshing. People now know that membership of the European Union would not be automatic for an independent Scotland.The frustration that Alyn Smith feels about the lack of honesty from the SNPs leadership is revealing. It shows that the SNP are prepared to say and do anything to win the referendum.
With the stakes so high, there are bound to be fraught moments for everyone involved. This is the first public sign of tension in the SNP, though and it’s quite revealing. The body language at their European campaign launch in the morning will be interesting. There seems to be trouble in paradise. How deep does it really go?