SCOT GOES POP POLL OF POLLS:
Should Scotland be an independent country?
That gives a much more meaningful sense of the state of play than a single poll from a firm that in recent times has been on the No-friendly end of the spectrum.
Nevertheless, the Yes lead has undoubtedly contracted somewhat. There are times when setbacks can prove to be blessings in disguise - for instance, the 2004 European election turned out to be a good election for the SNP to lose, because it shocked the party into a realisation that John Swinney's leadership wasn't working out, and led to a change at the top that paved the way for the Holyrood win in 2007. Hopefully the disappointment of a 50/50 poll will lead, not to a change of leader, but to an urgent reordering of priorities and to a greater focus on what is actually important.
Voters quite rightly want and expect the SNP to prioritise the pandemic over independence. They do not want or expect the SNP to be obsessing, especially at a time like this, over "transphobia", "misgendering" or "deadnaming". That is a fixation shared by only a tiny minority of the public, and to the extent that people know what's been going on, they must be utterly bewildered by it. So from now on, the pandemic, independence, and reversing the harm of Brexit must come before identity politics. I'm not remotely impressed by the suggestion from some quarters that the SNP must take a hardline pro-self-ID stance or risk losing the enthusiasm of young people. The idea that this is the number one priority for young voters is very much a social media 'bubble' illusion - in reality young people have a broad range of political passions, not least poverty, the climate emergency, and independence itself.
When harm has been done, the most important thing is to do no more harm. So no more divisive frontbench purges on the eve of a crucial election. No using the new definition of 'transphobia' to suspend or expel good people from the party. No more illegitimate uses of coronavirus briefings to try to tarnish the reputation of a former First Minister and SNP leader. Unfortunately we'll have to wait patiently for the ongoing inquiries to play out to their conclusion, but when they do conclude, the necessary corrective actions should be taken immediately so we can all wipe the slate clean and get on with winning an election that is make or break for this country's hopes of an independent future. That will mean the departure, at a minimum, of Leslie Evans and Peter Murrell. No more sticking of heads in sand and pretending that they somehow acted properly. Mr Murrell's defence for having tried to pressurise the police, ie. that it should be taken as a sign of how "upset" he was, is essentially the Cole-Hamilton defence of "look what you made me do", and cannot be taken seriously by anyone.
As for Alex Salmond himself, I suspect the plaudits he won for his evidence to the committee on Friday may embolden him to seriously consider some kind of involvement in the election. That's just speculation, but I think it might. I know people keep saying that any new party would be timed out by the Electoral Commission, but there are other options open to him - he could join forces with a party that is already registered, or he could stand as an independent in the north-east and endorse independent candidates in the other seven regions. It might be no bad thing if he does stand, because it will give a constructive focus for the energies of people who are disillusioned with the SNP leadership. We need all Yes supporters to spend the next two months enthusiastically campaigning and voting for their favourite pro-indy party - not spreading weariness and cynicism and urging abstention. One thing we can be sure of from past history is that any Salmond-led party will be relentlessly positive and will have a laser-like focus on maximising the number of pro-indy seats.