“Sell the sizzle, not the steak”, goes the old sales maxim, and the SNP excels.
Clearly planned by ‘media savvy’ professionals, vast resources were ploughed into the recent by-election – the now de rigueur young, photogenic (experience-free) candidate; the full page and online, block-booked adverts; the invasion of yellow-clad activists, ministers, MPs and MSPs; and the shimmer of “Vote SNP” posters the length and breadth of Shetland.
Yet, even with Tavish Scott away, they lost. The anticipated “Pyrrhic victory” ended in “Pyrrhic defeat”. It wasn’t even close.
Like humbled football managers, they ‘take (and invent) the positives’: “It was a wonderful campaign”, “We’ve made real progress”, and “We are well placed to win, next time”.
Yes, it was certainly a “wonderful campaign”. Alas, “the operation was a success but the patient died” [Ebbe Skovdahl, Aberdeen FC].
Progress? In 2016, Tavish Scott blew away high SNP hopes, raised by Alistair Carmichael’s close shave in 2015, substantially increasing his majority.
They have clawed some of that back, benefitting from Scott’s departure, Labour’s collapse and the arrival of three independents and the Green Party who eroded LibDem support.
However, given the colossal effort and the circumstances, claiming “real progress” is a bit of a stretch. The idea that they are “well placed to win, next time,” is an even bigger one.
For no amount of “selling the sizzle”, will entice those who have already sampled their ’teuch’, sinew-laden “steak”. They have been in power too long.
The expensive, inadequate NorthLink service; the summary introduction of airport parking charges; the reneged pledges on inter-island ferry funding; and the ritual humiliation of the SIC in the annual council budget round all rankle with isles voters.
And the SNP’s national policies simply don’t make sense.
Briefly, the EU has stated repeatedly that we would leave the EU, automatically, with “No Deal”, on Independence Day, implying immediate tariffs. If Britain stays in the EU as the SNP wishes, there would be EU tariffs on the 63 percent of our trade that is with the UK.
Trade negotiations would be with Brussels, not Westminster and it will take years of austerity to reduce our initial budget deficit to meet EU joining conditions.
Whereas if Britain leaves the EU, negotiations would be with Westminster and free trade could continue, uninterrupted.
Throw in adoption of the euro and return of the fishing to the Common Fisheries Policy and you have a crock that unionists will exploit and for which Scots will not vote.
“Next time” will be a General Election and last month’s humungous campaign will not be repeated. This was the SNP’s ‘do-or-die’ push to win Shetland and they failed.
They will not throw good money after bad.
This time they will face the vastly experienced political heavyweight, Alistair Carmichael, who destroyed Miriam Brett’s feeble campaign in 2017. The only big policy difference is over independence, in a strongly unionist constituency.
So the focus will be on marginal seats where they have a chance of success.
It follows that SNP Shetland is not at all “well placed to win”. Rather, they are back down the big snake, to square one.