Sage advices

then_whatHaving dealt with the matter of the relationship between the Yes movement and the SNP in an earlier article, I should probably address Carolyn Leckie’s ‘sage advices’ on the matter of when the new referendum should be held. At least this gives me the opportunity to heartily agree with one point that she makes.

I suspect the main reason why Ruth Davidson, Richard Leonard and Willie Rennie are so hostile to a referendum during this parliamentary term is because they fear defeat. They rate their chances of ousting the SNP from power at Holyrood higher than their chances of winning a second No vote.

Absolutely correct! And one of the reasons I find the position taken by Pete (Wishart) and the Postponers so unacceptable. The idea of indefinitely delaying the referendum feeds all too neatly into the British parties’ anti-democratic campaign to deny Scotland’s right of self-determination.

Of course, they would never admit that they want to deny the people of Scotland a right guaranteed by no less than the Charter of the United Nations. The British parties don’t do that kind of honesty. Instead, they will simply keep on insisting that “now is not the time”. An assertion for which the very determined could find expedient justification at any time. Which means that it is effectively identical to the argument for indefinite delay being peddled so vigorously by Pete and the Postponers.

The difference – and pretty much the only difference – between the anti-democratic British Nationalists and Pete Wishart is that, while he still supposes there might be a new referendum at some undefined time in the future, Ruth Davidson, Richard Leonard and Willie Rennie) are determined that the referendum be postponed until such time as the British government, to which they give total allegiance, has implemented measures to ensure that a new referendum is impossible and/or unwinnable.

On this matter, uniquely, I am prepared to ‘trust’ the British parties. I have not the slightest doubt that, given the time and space Pete and the Postponers wish to afford them, the British political elite will introduce new impediments to the exercise of our democratic rights. They will,over the period between now and the next Holyrood elections, take action to eliminate the threat of democratic dissent and eradicate Scotland’s distinctive political identity.

Like Pete Wishart, Carolyn Leckie seems to be prepared to gamble that they won’t. She seems ready to bet Scotland’s future on the hope that the British state will turn out to be more benign than all its history and Scotland’s experience suggests. She’s content to delay the referendum trusting that the British state will play nice and forego the opportunity offered by Brexit to unilaterally rewrite the devolution settlement redefining Scotland’s status within a political union ‘reformed’ without any reference to the people of Scotland or our elected representatives. She’s prepared to take the chance that maybe the British state won’t seek to satisfy its long-standing imperative to lock Scotland into the Union.

A British army tank in Trongate, Glasgow, in 1919The British parties in Scotland don’t just rate their chances of seizing control of Holyrood in 2021, they regard it as a racing certainty. It is what they are planning for. They know that they only have to erode a relatively tiny part of the SNP vote to be in a position to oust them – even if this involves forming a ‘Grand Coalition’ of Unionist parties in order to do so. They know that they can rely on help from the British media and the rest of the British establishment. They know that, in addition to the delegitimising and disempowering of the Scottish Parliament that has already begun, there will be a campaign of smears, distortions, scaremongering and lies such as to make Project Fear look honest and principled by comparison.

They don’t just hope to oust the SNP in 2021, they aim to do so by whatever means they deem necessary. They expect to put an end to Scotland’s dream well before then. But the next Scottish Parliament elections are intended to be the ultimate subordination of Scotland. The final solution to the Scottish problem. The realisation of a ‘One Nation’ British state that will last a thousand years. Greater England at last!

Either Postponers such as Carolyn Leckie and Pete Wishart are unaware of the threat to Scotland’s democratic institutions, political culture and public services; or they are in denial about the jeopardy in which our nation finds itself; or they are naive enough to imagine the British state will now, all of a sudden, start to show Scotland the respect that it never has shown in all the centuries since this benighted Union was foisted upon us. Whichever it is, we heed their ‘sage advices’ at our peril.


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Politics meets physics

pushedCarolyn Leckie informs us that she finds it tiresome to be told that, regardless of their standing in the Yes movement, non-members of the SNP do not enjoy the same status within the party as those who actually pay their dues as members. It irks her, apparently, that SNP activists have the gall to insist that she has less right to influence party policy than those who devote their time and resources to working through the SNP’s democratic internal procedures.

Imagine my dismay.

I don’t suppose Ms Leckie is much interested in the actual views of an actual SNP member; preferring her own grotesque caricature of blind party loyalty, bigoted intolerance and political sectarianism. But what I find tiresome are the entirely redundant reminders that the SNP is not the independence movement. What irks me is the notion that it’s frightfully clever and a sign of great political sophistication to contradict a claim that nobody has ever made.

What irritates me is high-minded lecturing about the vital importance of “broad alliances” when I am aware that it was the SNP which, prior to the first independence referendum, set up Yes Scotland precisely to facilitate such alliances. I surely won’t be the only SNP member to find this supercilious scolding all the more annoying when I recall so vividly the hours spent on streets and doorsteps and on campaign buses and in meeting halls the length and breadth of the country in the company of similarly motivated people from across every divide in Scottish society bar the one that separates those who aspire to a better, fairer, more prosperous nation from those devoted to the preservation of an anachronistic and dysfunctional political union at whatever cost to Scotland.

I wonder at the lack of self-awareness which allows Carolyn Leckie to recognise that the Scottish Government is being pounded daily by the media while rebuking those who seek to defend against this propaganda onslaught for supposedly succumbing to the temptation to denounce anyone who criticises the Scottish Government or deviates from SNP policy. To point out the folly of those within the Yes camp who thoughtlessly parrot the British Nationalist narrative of the mainstream media is in no way equivalent to branding them “some kind of traitor to the Yes movement”; and to suggest that it is seems no more than an attempt to silence those who condemn pointless sniping at the SNP administration.

Nobody is suggesting, or ever has suggested, that the SNP administration should be immune from criticism. But those who have sense enough to recognise how essential the SNP is to the independence project should also be sensible enough to avoid the temptation to denounce the Scottish Government or the party on the basis of smears, distortions and downright lies promulgated by media they know to be massively prejudiced. And those who dont have the wits to avoid this temptation fully deserve whatever condemnation comes their way.

Which brings me to another thing that I find tiresome. Namely, those whose eagerness to flaunt their non-SNP credentials overwhelms their intellectual appreciation of realpolitik. I am irked by someone who can acknowledge that the SNP is by far the “largest chunk [of the independence movement] , in terms of both activists and voters” but then insist that it is the SNP which must accommodate the minority who have “no strong affinity with the party”.

To put it bluntly, what is being suggested is that the leadership of the SNP should disregard the membership and the policies and positions developed by the party as whole to do the bidding of that part of the Yes movement which chooses not to participate in the process of developing those policies and positions.
Stripped of all the fine rhetoric about broad alliances this can be seen for the totally unrealistic nonsense that it is.

Carolyn Leckie is so intent on delivering her three lessons that need to be taken on board by both the SNP leadership and the party’s activist base that she remains woefully oblivious to even the possibility that it might be she and others who opt for waggy-fingered lecturing over open-minded listening who have lessons to learn.

Let’s not get side-tracked by puzzling over an appropriate way of responding to the haughty presumption that bids such people think they have the right and the authority to dictate to the SNP leadership and party activists. Let us, instead, remain focused on a rational consideration of the lessons that might usefully be taken on board by those who prefer to pontificate from the giddy heights of the moral and intellectual superiority they supposedly gain by standing proudly aloof from the hot, sweaty, noisy engine-room of democratic politics.

The SNP is the de facto political arm of Scotland’s independence movement. The Yes movement needs to learn, not just to acknowledge this incontrovertible fact, but to embrace it. The Yes movement needs to learn to celebrate the fact that the independence project at last has access to effective political power. Most crucially, the Yes movement needs to learn how this effective political power can be used most effectively. And, just as importantly, how the SNP cannot be used.

The SNP cannot possibly be a vehicle for every pressure group, political faction and policy agenda in Scotland. It can only ever be a vehicle for the policies and positions determined and/or approved by the membership. These constraints cannot simply be ignored. The party cannot realistically be expected to bend to the whim of any or every part of a Yes movement which is so extraordinarily diverse.

The SNP not only isn’t the independence movement, it cannot possibly be the independence movement. It is, by any reasoned analysis, impossible for the SNP to be the independence movement. Which only makes the incessant reminders that it isn’t the independence movement all the more irritatingly, irksomely, tiresomely superfluous.

Next lesson! The SNP is absolutely essential to the independence movement. It is the de facto political arm of the independence movement. It has taken decades to grow that political arm. The independence movement will not quickly grow another political arm should this one be lost or crippled. So the Yes movement needs to learn to look after it. It doesn’t matter a **** whether or not you like the SNP, it’s all you’ve got. Its all you’re going to get in anything remotely close to the time-frame within which we must act if Scotland is to be saved from the ravages of a rampant One Nation British Nationalist ideology.

The Yes movement needs to learn, if not to love the SNP, then at least to accept the vital role that the party plays in achieving the aims of the Yes movement. (I might add that political progressives also need to learn that, whatever their opinion of the SNP, it represents their best and almost certainly their only hope of maintaining a political environment in which progressive politics can at least survive.)

Let’s now put these two lessons together and see where that takes us. We know two things. We know that the SNP is absolutely vital to the independence project in that effective political power is required and only the SNP is in a position to provide that effective political power. We know that the SNP cannot be the independence movement in that it cannot accommodate within itself all the diversity of the independence movement. What conclusion do we arrive at when we put these two pieces of knowledge together?

The obvious conclusion is that it must be the wider independence movement which accommodates the SNP. There is no other way that it can work. The error made by Carolyn Leckie and all too many others is to start from the conclusion that the SNP must do all the work needed to facilitate those “broad alliances” and work backwards from that shaping their arguments to serve this preconception.

The Yes movement must learn that, to succeed, there is no alternative but to accept the SNP as it is. Because, even if the party was as susceptible to external pressure as some want it to be, not even internal influence is going to change the SNP into something that accords with every facet of the Yes movement. I repeat! The SNP cannot possibly be the independence movement. It can only be a tool of the Yes movement. And the Yes movement better learn how to use that tool both thoroughly and quickly.

The analogy (recently adapted slightly) which seems to find most favour with those who have appreciated the realpolitik goes like this –

  • The SNP is the lever by which Scotland will be extricated from the Union.
  • The Scottish Government, and particularly the First Minister, represents the fulcrum on which that lever moves.
  • The Scottish Parliament is the solid ground on which the fulcrum rests.
  • The Yes movement is the force which must be applied to the lever in order to make it work.

Remove, disable or weaken any part of this arrangement, and the entire effort fails. Perhaps the best lesson a non-SNP member can learn is some basic Newtonian physics.

NOTE: It was necessary to edit this blog as, when I started writing it, the article appeared under a different by-line.


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The ‘sweet spot’ of catastrophe

pw_holdThat was hard work! I just read Pete Wishart’s latest ‘contribution’ to the ongoing debate about the timing of Scotland’s new independence referendum. Actually, I’ve read it three times now. And I’m still no clearer about the reasoning behind his determination to indefinitely postpone the vote. I find lots of things in the veteran SNP MP’s most recent blog. Reasoning is conspicuous only by its absence.

I find contradiction and inconsistency. As when, towards the end of the article, he claims he wants to “rescue our nation from a disastrous Brexit and a UK determined to erode out [sic] national Parliament”, but only after “Brexit impacts and people actively want out of an isolated, desolated UK”. And only after giving the British political elite all the time it needs to pursue the ‘One Nation’ project that is already in progress.

At least he acknowledges the British Nationalist threat to the Scottish Parliament; even if only in a casual aside, complete with clumsy spelling error, which suggests he doesn’t take that threat very seriously. It is possible, I suppose, to see this as progress – given that he previously appeared totally oblivious to the jeopardy facing Scotland’s democratic institutions. But I’m still finding absolutely no sense of urgency. As with Brexit, the impression is that Pete Wishart is content to let the damage be done in the hope that this will provoke a reaction which favours the independence cause.

It seems that the ‘optimum conditions’ Pete Wishart is seeking involve Scotland suffering massive economic harm and imposed constitutional ‘reform’ that may well be irreversible. As a political strategy, this leaves something to be desired.

Some will doubtless protest my mentioning one of several spelling errors. They will say that it is petty to point out things like ‘countries’ instead of ‘country’s’. They will insist that these are trivialities. That they are meaningless. But consider the context. Pete Wishart himself acknowledges how critical the issue of timing of the new referendum is and the importance of the debate. His interventions suggest he believes he brings something significant to this debate. So you’d think he’d at least do a basic spell-check. Perhaps get somebody to take a look over his text prior to publication.

Even if you’re prepared to shrug off the spelling errors, you surely must have cringed as mightily as myself at Pete Wishart’s use of the term “sweet spot” in relation to the impact of Brexit on Scotland. Words matter! Especially in politics. We have to seriously question the political judgement of somebody who uses such inappropriate language when referring to potentially catastrophic impact of Scotland being dragged out of the EU against the wishes of the Scottish people and without even the semblance of a plan.

“Sweet spot”!? Really? Get a grip, Pete!

The failure to address criticism of his argument for indefinite postponement is, perhaps, explained by the way Pete Wishart chooses to frame the discussion. He says,

The debate seems to centre round whether we should proceed with a referendum simply because we currently posses [sic] a mandate or whether we hold one when there is good evidence it can be won.

This is one of those occasions when the word ‘disingenuous’ comes in very handy. It serves us well if the aim is to avoid the bluntness of terms such as ‘self-serving’ and ‘dishonest’. We might also reach for phrases such as ‘unfortunate misapprehension’ in euphemistic preference to ‘wilful misrepresentation’. Or ‘regrettable oversimplification’ rather than ‘deliberate distortion’.

I have been closely following the debate about timing of the new referendum. I have never seen anybody suggest that “we should proceed with a referendum simply because we currently posses a mandate”. Certainly, the fact that the Scottish Government has a mandate is among the arguments against indefinite postponement. But it is just as certainly not the sole argument.

By framing the debate as “simply” a matter of possessing a mandate, Pete Wishart obviously hopes to evade the more complex issues and the awkward questions being asked. Such as how he proposes to justify failure to act on the mandate. In future, when the SNP goes to the people of Scotland asking for a mandate, how does he suggest party campaigners and supporters respond to those who point to evidence that the SNP cannot be trusted to use that mandate?

Pete Wishart seems perfectly prepared to treat the existing mandate with a disdain barely distinguishable from that exhibited by British Nationalists. But he is evidently not prepared to deal with the consequences. For all he has to say on the topic, we could be forgiven for thinking he doesn’t even recognise that there shall surely be consequences.

His framing of the debate sets this fallaciously simplistic portrayal of the mandate issue in opposition to the very rational-sounding proposition that the referendum should be held “when there is good evidence it can be won”. Excitement mounts as we anticipate long-awaited answers to questions about how those ‘optimum conditions’ are defined and how they are to be predicted an unspecified length of time in advance.

In what appears to be a stab at a literary device to build tension, Pete then proceeds to describe, at considerable length, what does not define ‘optimum conditions’. Or is it what defines what ‘optimum conditions’ are not? It’s difficult to tell. And, frankly, by the time we’ve waded through this section it’s hard to care.

Pete Wishart devotes well over 300 words to the matter of what ‘optimum conditions’ are not. It would be interesting if we could compare this directly with the attention he gives to explaining what ‘optimum conditions’ actually are. But I’ve searched in vain for anything resembling a clear and explicit definition.

If I was asked to summarise Pete Wishart’s argument it would go something like this –

OBEY THE POLLS!

That’s it! That’s really all there is to it. Don’t do anything while the polls are saying the ‘optimum conditions’ don’t exist. Wait until the polls offer “good evidence” that those still undefined ‘optimum conditions’ are going to exist at some undefined – and almost certainly undefinable – time in the future.

To be fair, Pete does offer some advice on “what we need to do to start to move towards ‘optimal conditions’”. At which point, those conscious of the urgency of Scotland’s situation will probably be sitting with their head in their hands sobbing in frustration and despair. I know I was.

What then follows does nothing to alleviate that frustration and despair. Pete’s advice is to make a “new case” for independence. But what he goes on to describe is nothing more than a rerun of the first referendum campaign. There is absolutely nothing “new” in what he proposes. His great idea is to revisit the narrative dictated by Project Fear. He’s not talking about fighting a new referendum campaign. He’s talking about resuming the old one. Which probably stands to reason as he doesn’t want a new referendum.

If we follow Pete Wishart’s advice we will engage in a campaign for a referendum, that isn’t happening because the ‘optimum conditions’ don’t exist, using the tactics and arguments that all too evidently failed to create the ‘optimum conditions’ in 2014.

And still there is not a word about how he intends to address what the ‘One Nation’ project implies for Scotland. Not a word about how the British state is to be prevented from unilaterally ripping up the devolution settlement; emasculating the Scottish Parliament; eradicating our distinctive political culture and decimating our public services while we dither and waver at the insistence of Pete and the Postponers.

Again, and again, and again! The consequences of attempting to save Scotland from the British Nationalist ‘One Nation’ project and failing are no different from the consequences that flow from failing to try. Pete Wishart flatly refuses to address or consider or even acknowledge the consequences of indefinitely postponing our new independence referendum.

If I come across as exasperated and angry it’s because I am not deceived. I know that the British state is not benign. It is because I am not complacent. I know what the British state intends. It is because I am seriously afraid for what will happen to Scotland if we do not make a stand now!


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The shadow

scotland_officeThis stuff about the Scotland Office’s spending on propaganda is all very interesting. But we can get to the nub of the issue by asking a very simple question. The most fundamental of which is in respect of which best reflects and represents Scotland’s choices, priorities and aspirations. Is it the government that is actually elected by the people of Scotland and accountable to them? Or is it a department of the British government which has been consistently and decisively rejected by Scotland’s voters?

Even Unionists, were they capable of being honest, would acknowledge that the Scottish Government has the better claim. It’s a fairly straightforward matter of democratic legitimacy. There really isn’t much of a grey area here. Only the Scottish Parliament can credibly lay claim to democratic legitimacy in Scotland. For the Scotland Office to claim democratic legitimacy is ridiculous and rather offensive.

The point is that Unionists, without any exception that I am aware of, don’t care. They don’t care that the Scotland Office lacks any democratic legitimacy in Scotland. They still insist that it should have political authority on a par with and even superior to that of the Scottish Government. They are content to have the British state develop the Scotland Office as an unelected and democratically unaccountable shadow government.

British Nationalists are prepared to set aside considerations of democratic legitimacy in the name of ideological expediency. That makes them dangerous.

It is not totally accurate to say that the Scotland Office is spending public money for party political purposes. Not unless one considers all the British parties as a single British Nationalists entity. What they are undeniably doing is spending public money for ideological purposes. They are using Scottish taxpayers’ cash to fund British Nationalist propaganda.

It is a fine distinction. The real and significant contrast is between those who find this partisan politicking objectionable, and those who are prepared to shrug it off along with any pretence to democratic principles.


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Not settling for less

bbc_union_at_any_costIt’s like being promised a new house only to find that what you’re actually getting is a garden shed. Not a top-of-the-range garden shed, but the smallest, cheapest, flimsiest, most low-spec garden shed on the market. It looks great in the brochure. But the one you’re getting isn’t painted. And, if you look closely just below that image in microscopic lettering are the words “Not shown actual size”. The attractive young lady in the bikini pictured gazing up in delighted wonder at the imposing edifice is actually only four foot three inches tall. You feel disappointed. You feel cheated. You feel Scottish.

Even if you don’t fully comprehend all the stuff about budgets and production costs and all the jargon of the TV industry, it’s easy to understand the difference between standard definition (SD) and high definition (HD). Anybody who has a fairly modern TV can appreciate the fact that HD is very much better than SD. For most of us, I suspect, HD is now the standard. It’s what we expect. SD actually stands for sub-standard definition. What the BBC is offering us is sub-standard. That crappy wee garden shed isn’t even made out of real wood.

But there’s more! Belatedly realising that the uppityness of the Jocks has now reached such a level that the ingrates decline to be fobbed-off with factory rejects, the BBC amended its offer. On 14 March 2018, Chris Roswell (Head of Regulation & Economics – a BBC title if ever I heard one) wrote to Ofcom (PDF) advising that the new BBC Scotland channel would only be broadcast in sub-standard definition part of the time. The great news was that the BBC had graciously deigned to provide the quality of picture viewers in Scotland pay for a few hours in the evening. The letter was (not really) signed, yours in anticipation of some grateful forelock-tugging from those pestilential provincials.

It has to be said that Mr Roswell (HoRE) took some of the shine off this grand new offering when he gleefully proclaimed that it didn’t involve spending any more of Scottish licence fee-payers’ money in Scotland. Due to “recent technology changes” the shabby little garden shed could be equipped with the luxury of a fourth wall (part-time only) at no additional cost.

We’re told nothing about the nature of those “technology changes”, and whether they are anything to do with the fact that the HD for the new BBC Scotland channel is being provided by taking it from the children’s channel, CBBC (in Scotland only). Will we, I wonder, be able to truly enjoy that glorious HD knowing it’s been stolen from our own bairns?

Am I the only one struck by the apparent effort the BBC puts into avoiding viewers in Scotland with the services we pay for? It’s almost as in there was something in the corporation’s charter about ensuring Scotland is always relatively worse off. The attitude seems to be that the BBC may grudgingly make some kind of gesture if we make a big enough fuss, but on no account must this amount to anything approximating the kind of public service broadcasting provision a real nation might enjoy.

It’s not about the money. We know that licence fee revenues raised in Scotland are sufficient to pay for a full broadcasting service. It’s as if the service provided by the British state broadcaster is being purposefully curtailed and diminished. It’s as if we are being deliberately short-changed. And not necessarily or entirely for financial reasons.

We swim in a media sea. We are immersed in it. There is no part of our lives that is not touched by the media. We view the world and ourselves through a media lens. Increasingly, we interact with others only through media. Our culture evolves in and is conveyed by the media. Our political discourse conforms to the demands of the media. It is baffling that people scoff at the idea of media studies as a ‘serious’ academic subject when the media looms so massively in all our lives. We live in a world made of media. So it stands to reason that established power will seek to control the media. And to use the media as a means of control.

Whether anyone in the BBC would admit it, or even be aware of it, that is what lies behind the extraordinary effort to detract from broadcasting in Scotland – even as they try to look as if they’re providing shiny new services. The British state requires that Scotland must be less than it might be. Therefore, the media in Scotland must be less than it might be. It is not a question of resources. The BBC’s stranglehold on Scotland’s media is both practical and symbolic. In practical terms, it prevents Scotland from either perceiving or presenting itself in they way we would choose were we permitted to do so. Symbolically, the BBC’s dominance of Scotland’s media represents the supremacy of the British state; while the paucity of the service provided by the BBC reinforces Scotland’s subordinate status within the UK.

Some in Scotland are content to settle for a dilapidated garden shed, so long as it has a Union flag flying above it. Others want the house we’re paying for.


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Vive la difference!

jackie_baillieThe deal to save BiFab is, of course, wonderful news for the communities that would have been severely affected by closure. It is also a bright day for Scottish politics. There is no doubt at all that this deal would not have happened without the intervention by the Scottish Government. And every reason to suppose that it would not have been achieved, or even attempted, by the British parties. The Tories would have shrugged off the suffering of people and families, insisting that their lives were a necessary sacrifice on the altar of ‘market forces’.

British Labour in Scotland (BLiS) would have been paralysed with indecision and riven by internal squabbling. One faction would want to throw taxpayers’ money at the problem. Another faction would quietly relish the closures and ensuing devastation of communities as a useful example of capitalist failure. They’d have held lots of meetings and marches and rallies at which career politicians would jostle for media attention. Once the media lost interest, so would BLiS. The yards would have closed. livelihoods would have been lost. BBC Scotland would find a way to blame the SNP.

So, what is it that allows the SNP to succeed in these situations where the British parties have a record of inaction or failure? I would suggest that it largely comes down to a question of attitude. Where Tories would look at the BiFab situation and see it in terms of economics and BLiS would see it only as a political difficulty (or opportunity), the SNP tends to see a problem affecting people that needs a practical solution.

Where Tories ask how the situation can be rationalised and BLiS ask how the situation can be exploited, the SNP ask only how it can be sorted.

In an article for the January issue of iScot Magazine I wrote,

“What is significant is that the SNP administration seems to have been intent on finding the measures which might be effective regardless of dogma or popularity. No ‘focus groups’. Just expert panels. And no ‘Big Fix!” hype. No suggestion of simple solutions. No suggestions of solutions at all. Just the idea of progressive change – over time-scales that pay scant regard to the kind of electoral imperatives that drive other parties.”

I get annoyed at people who make facile generalisations about politicians and political parties being ‘all the same’. Clearly, they aren’t. Quite evidently, there is something different about the way successive SNP administrations go about the job of running Scotland’s affairs. Something that allows them to achieve things that British parties couldn’t.

In that iScot Magazine article I put this difference down to Scotland’s electoral system and the way it has facilitated the emergence of a distinctive political culture. I argue that the SNP is different because it was better placed to adapt to, and take advantage of, the new political climate in a way that the ‘old’ parties aren’t.

“The SNP has enjoyed electoral success – winning every election for ten years – because, as a party new to government, it is open to a new political culture in a way that the British parties cannot be – due to historical factors and the intrinsic nature of the British political system within which they are embedded.”

The SNP is attuned to Scotland’s political culture in a way the the British parties are not. The party is embedded in that political culture in a way the British parties can’t be. We see the evidence of this, not only in major achievements such as saving BiFab, but also in relatively small things that nonetheless represent a more progressive politics than we’d previously been accustomed to. Baby boxes are one example. And the changes to the tax system which, while small in terms of their impact on people’s pockets, are highly significant in that they are a break with the old ways.

Not that Scotland’s politics has totally rid itself of the old ways. Difference is relative. As much as we see the difference between the SNP and the British parties in the actions of the former, that difference is also evident in the way the latter behave.

Look at the reactions from the British parties to the news announcement of the deal to rescue BiFab that was so skillfully brokered by the SNP administration. Neither Willie Rennie nor Jackie Baillie so much as acknowledge the efforts of the Scottish Government.

But that kind of bitter, partisan pettiness is the old politics. Now is a time to celebrate Scotland’s new politics. Just don’t expect that any of the British politicians squatting in Scotland’s Parliament will join in the celebration.


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Doubts are traitors

doubts_traitorsHow gratifying it is to hear Carolyn Leckie speak out for a new referendum “sooner rather than later”. It’s a pity she regards “sooner” as fully a year away. It’s perplexing that she doesn’t seem to think a two-year delay is “later”. But at least she’s showing some of the sense of urgency that has been so pitifully lacking in others.

Of course, Carolyn doesn’t identify the reasons for urgency. She writes of the need to “get the show back on the road”. Which is fine, as far as it goes. But there is no mention of the threat to Scotland from ‘One Nation’ British Nationalism which is what actually makes “sooner rather than later” an absolute and pressing necessity, rather than merely a personal preference.

It is possible, I suppose, that she is oblivious to this threat. After all, most SNP politicians who have offered their views on the timing of our new referendum give the impression of being blissfully unaware that moves are already being made to strip powers from the Scottish Parliament and roll back devolution. Carolyn Leckie would be in exalted company if she failed to recognise what is implied by talk of ‘UK-wide common frameworks’ or warnings that ‘discrepancies’ would not be tolerated in this new ‘One Nation’ British state.

Alternatively, it may be that Carolyn is fully aware of this threat but, again like all those SNP politicians, reluctant to address the issue of how the threat might be dealt with during the two years she is prepared to allow the British political elite to go about locking Scotland into their ‘precious, precious Union’. By not acknowledging the jeopardy facing Scotland, she avoids the need to explain how she would defend against the threat.

Some might be a bit perplexed by this blinkered attitude. And, if they are somewhat concerned that Carolyn Leckie is content to disregard the threat to Scotland’s democracy, then they will surely be profoundly disturbed to find this lackadaisical approach shared by prominent figures in the party which is the de facto political arm of the Yes movement and which is supposed to provide the effective political power that the independence project requires.

But we have to wonder whether Carolyn actually understands the SNP or the role it plays. She’s still talking about providing a “guarantee that voters will be given a post-independence multi-option referendum on our relationship with Europe”. So, either she thinks that the SNP leadership might nonchalantly ignore party policy repeatedly and decisively endorsed by the membership and approved by the electorate, or she imagines some unidentified agency other than the SNP is going to be providing the effective political power for the independence campaign.

Time for a bit of realpolitik. There is no alternative to the SNP. If we don’t have an SNP administration at Holyrood, there will be no referendum and no progress for the independence campaign. It is Nicola Sturgeon who will be sitting across the table from the British Prime Minister when it comes to negotiating the dissolution of the Union. It is politically impossible for the SNP to campaign and negotiate on the basis of a position that is the antithesis of the position adopted by the party by way of its democratic internal processes.

If Carolyn Leckie wants to change the SNP’s position on EU membership then she is free to join the party and work through those same internal democratic processes. What she doesn’t get to do is stand outside the party demanding the same rights as members to participate in policy formulation.

In practical terms, of course, there is no time to do this. Because there is a real and imminent threat to Scotland’s democracy which must be addressed.

Gratifying as it may be to hear Carolyn Leckie speak out for a new referendum “sooner rather than later”, it is desperately unfortunate that she then chooses to turn a blind eye to the political realities of Scotland’s situation.


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