Most people, it seems fair to say, expected more resignations from the SNP over the NATO vote at conference just over a week ago. As passions ran high, some Scottish political journalists went so far as to name the next expected departure (supposedly list MSP John Wilson). Yet no more transpired, and it seems reasonable to suppose that any who were going to would have done it by now. So why haven’t they?
There are numerous possible explanations, of course. Perhaps everyone’s just calmed down after the heat of debate and accepted that they lost a democratic vote and independence is still more important than any single policy, or that it still represents a vastly better chance of a nuclear-free Scotland than staying in the Union. Perhaps nobody wanted to be singled out as the person who cost the party its majority in Holyrood, even if only technically.
But it occurred to us this morning, as we watched Scotland On Sunday embark on a determined and multi-pronged attempt to keep the EU-advice row alive in the minds of a largely-disinterested public, that it might instead be the case that Labour’s hysterical, overblown handling of the matter has served to concentrate SNP minds away from internal disagreements and on the wider good of the party, and to have them close ranks in protection of a First Minister who’s still by a distance the most popular and trusted politician in Scotland (if not the entire UK).
Napoleon famously once said “Never interrupt your enemy when he’s making a mistake.” Scottish Labour waded into Alex Salmond at a time when his party seemed in danger of being seriously split for the first time since he regained the leadership, and in doing so may well have pushed his dissenters back into line for him. Not for the first time, the FM may have cause to thank his opponents for the blind tribal hatred that so often seems to drive them into sheer blundering ineptitude.