For some reason Angela Haggerty seemed to be going out of her way to wind up supporters of the SNP yesterday with a number of goading tweets. Most obviously, there was her jubilation at the repeal of the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act. Now, she's absolutely entitled to her view that the Act was harmful, although I suspect the majority of people feel that the decision to repeal it, especially just days after ugly scenes in Glasgow associated with an Old Firm game, sends out a truly appalling signal that football-related sectarianism isn't really such a big deal. But what was so provocative was Angela's eagerness to stress that a big part of the reason for her excitement was specifically that the repeal constituted a defeat for the SNP government.
"Today is an absolutely stunning victory for @FACKilltheBill, it's huge. I can't really stress it enough. Nobody expected a group of football fans to take on the government and win. And not only that, but this is the Scottish Government's first massive defeat since devolution. Wow."
That's a bogus narrative in at least three ways. Firstly, this is not a story of a bunch of ordinary football fans defying massive odds and defeating the government. This is a story of four ideologically disparate opposition parties zeroing in on pretty much the only issue on which they all agree with each other and disagree with the SNP, and using it to score a morale-boosting victory. Secondly, in no sense was the repeal a surprise. All of the opposition parties voted against the OBFA when it was first passed, so it was obvious to anyone who could count that repeal was firmly on the cards as soon as those parties won a narrow majority between them at the 2016 election. And thirdly, is this really the first "massive defeat" for any Scottish Government since devolution? It's certainly not the first defeat, so how are we defining "massive"? Is it more significant than the defeat the SNP government suffered on the Edinburgh trams soon after taking office, for example?
It's also worth noting that cases where the government backs down minutes or seconds before a vote it knows it's going to lose are functionally identical to defeats, so I would argue that by far the biggest reverse for any government since the start of devolution was when the Labour-led administration was forced to accept free personal care for the elderly in 2001. (Tom McCabe dramatically announced the change in policy to buy off Liberal Democrat MSPs who were just about to vote with the SNP and the Tories on the issue.)
Later in the day, Angela made another extraordinary comment while watching the BBC's Question Time -
"Brian Cox has just demonstrated the inconsistency between nationalists wanting indy but also being pro-EU, and the SNP hasn't clarified this well enough. What does it mean to be in a union? What does it mean to be independent? Where are the lines? Do voters know?"
That's essentially a Farage-esque observation. To the extent that UKIP have ever bothered to campaign in Scotland, their favourite line has always been that "you can't be serious about independence if you want to be ruled from Brussels". (The obvious retort being that it therefore follows that you can't be serious about independence if you want to be ruled from London, as "UKIP Scotland" apparently do.)
Of course, anyone who has followed Scottish politics over the years knows that Angela is just plain wrong about this - the SNP have spent vast amounts of time explaining the difference between the straitjacketed union of the UK, and the much looser, participative union of the EU. They've done that both in terms of specifics, and also by using rhetorical points that tap into people's intuitive understanding of how sovereignty works - eg. "would anyone seriously say that France isn't an independent country?"
But there's another important point here as well. The pro-indy radical left have always been incredibly touchy about the SNP claiming ownership of the independence cause. So why on earth is Angela singling out the SNP and "nationalists" in general as being culpable for the supposed lack of "clarification"? If she sees herself as being part of the pro-independence movement, and I gather she does, shouldn't she regard this as being her own failing as much as anyone else's?