One of the brightest sights in the known universe is the death throes of a star. Celestial giants of sufficient mass (say eight times that of our own sun) can end their stellar lives in a conflagration of brilliance and ferocious energy. The supernova is a spectacular apex of nuclear fusion and explosion that signals the beginning of the end and offers a quite beautiful demonstration of the axiom: going out with a bang.
At around 1.45am on Friday the 6th May 2011, the SNP went nova.
The founding fathers of Scotland’s constitutional convention, the framers of devolution, settled on an electoral system that was designed to lend itself to consensus and compromise by ensuring the near impossibility of an overall majority. On polling day, the SNP beat the system and got exactly that. They may come to regret that success for a generation.
Any way you slice it the SNP manifesto and its architects now represent the Alpha and the Omega for all that will happen over the next 5 years of this parliamentary session. No longer can they point to the limitations of minority government to excuse their short comings in office and whilst they can blame Westminster for the size of the cake that is given to Scotland, they alone shall be judged on how that cake is sliced. With 'austerity' and 'shortage' as the watchwords of the fiscal future, it isn’t going to be pretty.
Cakes and cuts aside, the 600lb gorilla in the wings for the Nats is what to do about the Promised Land. Even the most deluded of nationalist drones, can’t fail to see that the good will and trust invested in them by the Scottish People in May does not come with a commensurate surge in support for independence. Far from it. A YouGov poll last week put support for independence at just 29%, sober reading for the phalanx of newly elected Nat MSPs.
The major problem for the SNP will come when that question has been put to the people. Whatever the answer, the formidable discipline that the SNP have shown, will surely begin to dissolve as the factions begin to surface once again now that there is no longer the greater good of the independence project to keep them focussed and in line. Indeed, the cracks have already started to appear in the shape of a grass roots kick-back against the notion of 'independence-lite', developed by pragmatic SNP grandees who aren't blind to where the Scottish people are on this issue.
People forget just how riven the SNP can be. Shortly after the millennium the SNP were on the verge of meltdown. Open warfare between factions loyal to Swinney, Cunningham and Sturgeon threatened to tear the party asunder until the king over the water finally returned from retirement at Westminster to knock a few heads together.
Since Salmond reclaimed the nationalist throne, he has been able to keep his troops in absolute check (not a single rebellion in the past 4 years) by suggesting that the ‘ultimate prize’ would be jeopardised should the SNP show anything other than absolute unity. Without that carrot, and with having to carry the can for all that goes wrong over the next 5 years, the SNP will begin to turn on itself once again. The sizeable base of floating voters that now exists in Scotland will then drift down stream from the SNP and it may never return.