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Ponsonby: It's all about post-election strategy for Sturgeon

As they launch manifesto, what happens after December 12 will be at the forefront of SNP minds.

Nicola Sturgeon will launch the SNP manifesto on Wednesday.
Nicola Sturgeon will launch the SNP manifesto on Wednesday. Nicola Sturgeon

The SNP manifesto launch will be big on vision and policies, confirming its left-of-centre status aimed at tapping into where it believes the mainstream of Scottish political opinion lies.

It will be bolder than the Conservative manifesto since Boris Johnson has opted for a safety first approach, mindful of Theresa May's disastrous campaign in 2017 when the Tories had to clarify (i.e. bin) their proposals on social care.

However, it will look more 'moderate' than the Labour offering. Jeremy Corbyn's strategy has been to offer a series of eye-catching pledges in an attempt to build a broad progressive coalition comprising low-paid workers, young renters, WASPI women, and public sector employees, etc, to propel him to Downing Street.

The Labour hope is that playing to large sectional interests will produce a majority and cut through a campaign which seems hermetically sealed by Brexit.

This election for the Nationalists is as much about post-election strategy on two constitutional fronts than it is about implementing core pledges.

For the SNP and indeed the broader independence coalition the next six months will be vital in shaping the terrain on which a second independence referendum might be fought.

Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon have most to lose on December 12. A setback for both would derail Brexit for him and put the momentum behind indyref2 demands into reverse for her.

The polls, of course, say this will not happen for either leader. But as Ted Heath used to remind us, the only poll that counts is the one on polling day, a refrain that was repeated ad nauseam when people said he couldn't win in 1970. He did and confounded just about every poll in the process in an historical echo which should prevent against complacency in SNP and Conservative ranks.

The SNP needs to win the general election in Scotland and do so with more seats and votes than in 2017. They need to be able to throw the result in the Prime Minister's face.

Along with that will come the argument, defy the will of the people and you will make a second referendum a foregone conclusion when political reality torpedoes behaviour grounded in obstinacy.

A majority Conservative government will see the shutters crash down on discussions about the Scottish Government's position on a second referendum.

I simply do not see this UK Government declaration lasting in perpetuity, especially if the SNP continue to look like what Harold Wilson used to refer to as 'the natural party of government'.

A refusal to make peace with reality could plunge Scotland into the kind of stand-off that would take us into Catalan territory and surely no-one wants that.

Given what Johnson and Corbyn have said on Indyref2, it looks like the earliest a Labour government would concede it would be around 2022. The Tories, for hard electoral reasons are pure Paisleyite in their cry of 'we say never, never, never'.

However, another win for the SNP in 2021 at the Holyrood elections and Boris Johnson would be forced to change. In the end event, even Dr No in Ulster eventually said yes.

Stubborn mindsets take you only so far in politics. They can be born out of short-term considerations but they rarely survive the demands of the long term far less what appears to be the tug of history.

That is not to say that everything will run the Nationalists way. Although nothing to do with independence, the trial next year of the most historically significant figure in the SNPs history could have unforeseen consequences.

And what about voters who said yes in 2014 and also voted for Brexit in 2016? How does the SNP square them especially since they have declared that an independent Scotland will knock immediately on the door of EU membership?

There is one other key factor here: the unknown, that timeline of events that will happen just as night follows day, but which one can't predict or even prophesize. It is the factor that puts the fear of god into politicians and makes every date with destiny a dance with the unpredictable.

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