Why the SNP is launching ‘day of action’ on Scottish independence

The SNP made two newsworthy announcements yesterday – the first declaring that a date for Indyref2 wouldn’t be announced at conference – and the second that they plan a ‘day of action’ on the issue at the end of this month.

Ambitious plans to 50,000 voters in a single Saturday on September 29 were reported in The Scotsman earlier today.

Keith Brown. Picture: John Devlin

Depute Leader Keith Brown, who is no longer in the Scottish cabinet, appears to have taken on the mantle of increasing support for independence as his personal mission.

He said that the day of action is a way for the SNP to talk to the public across the country as Britain’s departure from the EU looms.

Brexit is being used by pro-independence politicians to highlight their belief that Scotland is better off outwith the UK.

But why now? And why this particular campaigning tactic? We look at the possible reasons for the party’s ‘day of action’.

Campaigning inspiration

In terms of campaigning methods, the approach taken by Keith Brown, who as a three-term MSP and former Royal Marine knows a thing or two about strategy, is not new.

Elections and referendums have involved door-to-door campaigning ever since universal suffrage, and the SNP’s targeting system for potential supporters has long been the envy of rival political parties.

One of the successes of the Yes campaign at the 2014 referendum, despite its ultimate failure, was ensuring that activists were well versed on the basic arguments to take to doorsteps, through training and the easy availability of resources.

It might seem strange that the SNP is stepping up its campaigning with no date in sight for a second independence referendum (and with the Scottish Parliament currently denied the powers to hold one), but the day of action is as much about fact finding as it is about changing minds.

If the SNP want to marshal arguments in favour of independence next time around, they need to speak to as many people as possible to find out what might change enough voters’ minds.

Speaking to 50,000 of them and finding out their views is a decent start.

Political motivations

In political terms, the SNP’s motivations might seem obvious (drumming up support for independence), but in fact there could be more to it than that.

Days of action like this are a way for the party to motivate activists, and get them used to working together, especially ahead of the party’s conference which takes place next month.

With the revelation from Ian Blackford yesterday that those expecting the announcement of a date for Indyref2 soon will be disappointed, the day of action serves to reassure any members agitating for more urgency that the SNP’s raison d’etre is still a priority.

Outside groups are also starting to take prominence in the independence movement, as the attendance at a ‘Hope over Fear’ rally organised by Tommy Sheridan this weekend will surely prove.

A day of action could remind independence supporters (and the politicians that are due to speak on Saturday) that the SNP remains the biggest and best vehicle for constitutional change, no matter how many rallies are held by outside groups.

Response

SNP politicians were quick to throw their weight behind the day of action, with politicians and party officials sharing The Scotsman story.

National Executive Committee member and former SNP MP Margaret Ferrier tweeted: “On day of action on September 29th we will speak with 50,000 voters across Scotland. #ActiveSNP”

Opposition representatives were, as expected, rather less charitable, and again urged Nicola Sturgeon’s party to focus on issues at Holyrood.

Alex Cole-Hamilton of the Lib Dems suggested that voters across the country would close their curtains if they saw an SNP canvasser at their door.

Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson said that the SNP ‘might need a bit more than 50k, just to make up the ground they’ve lost’.

Whatever the response, it is clear the SNP is stepping up their independence campaign just as the impact of Brexit starts to be felt.