When I write about politics I do so from the perspective of history, philosophy or psychology rather than as an activist or campaigner.
My recent contributions to political debates have been motivated not by defence of any ideology or party manifesto, but by my belief that Scotland can and should be an independent country, capable of running its own affairs without any interference from Westminster.
My support for the ALBA strategy was based on straightforward mathematics and assumptions consistent with current historical conditions. I saw a perfect opportunity for the independence supporting electorate to use the system to its advantage, collectively to fill the chamber with independence supporting members. I was aware that it was a provocative strategy, dependent on people working together in good faith; I had no idea it would be so viciously attacked and marginalised, nor that it would prove impossible for the people of Scotland to work together for a common cause.
I was also aware, as Mr Bell of Perth continues to point out, that simply filling the chamber with independence supporting members does not represent a coherent strategy, least of all when personality cults infect political discourse or when the sole focus of strategic thinking is grovelling to Westminster for a section 30 order in order to repeat the same mistakes of seven years ago. I simply believed that filling the Scottish parliament with as many independence supporting members as possible would throw a spanner in the works, grab the attention of Westminster and remind the SNP of why it exists.
One of the reasons I joined in so enthusiastically with the ALBA strategy was that it was expressly not dependent on supporting either personality or party, but motivated only by the larger goal of Scottish independence. Naively, I believed that it would be possible for reasonable people to follow the argument and to think the matter through for themselves; on the assumption that opinion polls were broadly accurate and the SNP was guaranteed a huge majority of constituency seats, it would be utter madness, knowing how the d’Hondt voting system works, to vote SNP on the regional list; much better to vote for a different independence supporting party, many members of which were recent members of the SNP, which would augment the government, empty the chamber of whingeing unionists and instead to use parliamentary time to unchain the unicorn.
Never has the shiteness of being Scottish been so visceral as it is in the aftermath of this election. This is the second time that the SNP under the leadership of Nicola Sturgeon has failed to take advantage of a clear historical opportunity. The first was when, after the failure of the first referendum and the resignation of Alex Salmond, over a hundred thousand people joined the party, and instead of utilising the energy of the Yes Movement from which they had arrived, expected them to fall in line with party protocols while gradually restricting all debate about policy to a central executive. The second was when the SNP refused to engage with the ALBA strategy and instead attacked individual members of the new party and all those critical of the SNP mantra about both votes SNP, accusing them of being in cahoots with unionists, of sewing division, of being homophobic, transphobic, racist, bigoted and a lot worse. Never has it been so obvious that the people of Scotland are simply incapable of working together for a common cause, utterly unaware that it might be possible to talk about issues without recourse to ideology, party allegiance or personality cults.
For a while after I returned to live in Scotland I thought I might live to see real movement towards Scottish independence. No longer. I also doubt whether all these years of SNP government have done much more than establish further the same systems of power, sinecure and patronage that comprise the British state.
Politics begins with conduct; what people believe or purport to believe is irrelevant to their politics, how they behave towards others is what matters. I have seen now in the behaviour of many SNP people exactly where their politics lies. And I am not talking here about uneducated and inadequate keyboard warriors throwing insults and sweary words about – all “sides” have these. No, the abuse was sanctioned by the First Minister herself, who at a press conference dedicated to the latest COVID news, went out of her way personally to attack Alex Salmond, regurgitating the charges laid against him at his trial. This is frankly appalling behaviour. It diminishes not only the person of Ms Sturgeon but also the office of First Minister. With this as an example, there was little chance the party faithful would not toe the line and join in with the pile on against any defector. Under such circumstances, reason has no foothold and tribal loyalties take over. It is indeed shite being Scottish.
Opinions are largely determined by the circumstances in which they arise or are expressed, more like habits of mind than rationally founded ideas, an effect of power. For generations it was said that in many Scottish constituencies a donkey wearing a red rosette would win for the Labour Party. Swathes of rural and suburban England vote Tory without a thought. Political parties like to find a natural constituency and hold onto it by perpetuating their own narratives, versions of events and of what is politically acceptable or morally repugnant.
The SNP has successfully captured the Scottish political narrative. The recent election has reestablished its hegemony and we can expect another five years of more of the same. There will be prevarication and tunnel vision in relation to what is euphemistically described as the constitutional question; the Scottish government, or as Westminster calls it, the devolved administration in Scotland, will continue to establish and consolidate its power over Scottish culture and life, to introduce policies it says it believes will attenuate the worst effects of neoliberalism, while legislating in favour of what it believes to be more enlightened notions of human identity. It will likely also do absolutely nothing about the condition of the Scottish landscape, make no effort whatever to reform or revolutionise the ancient systems of management that have denatured the country and denuded the mountains of forest for the sake of the bloodlust of the upper classes.
In the eyes of the faithful, the SNP will do no wrong. How could it? It supports independence and has promised another referendum. Any criticism of the SNP must come from its enemies who must therefore be opponents of independence. This is the moronic, binary mindset that now infests the SNP. Were this simply an internal party affair, it would not matter that much, but the SNP is the party of government and has a certain degree of control over the institutions of state. It is fairly obvious to anybody with a functioning brain that there was something very dodgy about efforts made by the Scottish Government to fit up Alex Salmond. Craig Murray’s conviction for contempt of court (which he is the process of appealing) would be laughable were it not likely to land the man in the big house for eight months. Many dissident bloggers are discovering that their work is on an SNP list of banned sources, which in practice adjusts the algorithms of social media sites. All for perfectly legitimate criticism of the SNP in government or for the temerity of leaving the SNP for another independence supporting party. Craig Murray puts it thus:
These are very dangerous times indeed to be any kind of dissident writer or campaigner in Scotland. The interesting thing, of course, is that the political orthodoxy being enforced is superficially liberal-left; a set of right-on beliefs whose exponents are so convinced of their own morality, they are happy to jail anybody who differs.https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2021/05/chilling-not-in-a-good-way/
I have deliberately referred above to the ALBA strategy without further elaboration. As fas as I was concerned the existence of the party was necessary only for as long as it stood candidates at the election. It has however become more than a strategy. Already it is a destination for disaffected and disillusioned former members of the SNP as well as those who never had any faith in the SNP in the first place. It will no doubt become a platform from which to attack the government for its crass refusal to advance the cause of independence, for its Neo Stalinist attitude to critics, dissidents and defectors, for its wholesale adoption of the politics of identity without any intellectual scrutiny or thought for the consequences, and for lying to the electorate at elections. The sectarian shite will continue.
Under these circumstances I have nothing to contribute.
I have already written about discovering my opinions to be anathema to the generation of alleged radicals that has taken over political discourse. When the question “what is a woman” is described in a public debate by one of the leaders of the Scottish Green Party as a trigger question asked by transphobes, I know my time has come. Just as Ms Slater is unwilling to engage with a genuine question that is open for discussion, I have no desire to spend the rest of what little remains of this life engaging at any level with reactions like hers, lest my words become pulled into some ridiculous dialectic or disappear into a spiral of negativity. Likewise I have no interest in arguing the toss with idiots who think that by criticising the SNP government, I am somehow betraying the movement or have become dangerous. Least of all when their opinions are based not on reason but on the banality of power, on blind, obedient, unreflective habit.
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Thank you for reading. Never give up.
Love and peace.