The SNP needs a jolt of Yes energy

nicolaThat was all going swimmingly… until the final paragraph. Lesley Riddoch’s analysis of the BBC’s “problem of properly representing Scotland” is, as we would expect, accurate and insightful. Although I would suggest that, given the corporation’s remit to preserve the integrity of the UK, the question is, not so much whether senior BBC managers can personally accept the possibility of Scottish independence, but whether they can allow this possibility to be publicly acknowledged.

It is slightly curious, too, that Ms Riddoch neglects to mention the extent to which British Labour in Scotland (BLiS) is embedded in BBC Scotland. Perhaps she thought that, since her focus was the constitutional issue, it was acceptable and appropriate to gloss over the party political aspects of the BBC’s “problem of properly representing Scotland”. Or maybe she just considered it redundant to remind us of BBC Scotland’s tendency to look and sound like the broadcasting arm of BLiS.

These quibbles aside , Lesley Riddoch has it about right with regard to what I have referred to as the “jarring disconnect” between the BBC and Scotland’s politics.

In Scotland, the concept of independence has been normalised. In the BBC, it never can be. The big question, therefore, is this – how can the BBC possibly serve an audience in Scotland when it is so evidently inherently incapable of relating to that audience?

She’s not far off the mark in her criticism of the SNP either. Even someone like myself, who is often accused of ‘blind partisan loyalty’, can readily agree with Ms Riddoch’s conclusion that the party is failing to provide the leadership that the independence movement requires – and requires rather urgently.

Two things need further explanation hear. Firstly, the concept of leadership has to be understood in this context, not as the movement being led by the SNP, but as the movement taking its lead from the SNP. This is very much in keeping with what Lesley Riddoch sees as a “miss by the SNP”.

At the start of 2018, Nicola Sturgeon famously called for “a new spirit of Scottish assertiveness“. It has to be said that, while the “emboldened, more confident and more assertive nation” that she envisaged emerging in the course of this year has been increasingly evident on the streets and on the web, it has been noticeably less evident in the SNP’s rhetoric on the constitutional issue.

There is no doubt that the SNP could have done a great deal more to reflect the growing assertiveness of the grassroots independence campaign and help convey to a wider public the sense of anger and urgency which is now as much part of the spirit of the Yes movement as hope and determination.

Whether this would have influenced the output of BBC Scotland in any way is questionable. But the effort should be made – and be seen to be made.

The second thing that needs to be expanded upon is the facile accusation of ‘blind partisan loyalty’ levelled against those who are willing to run the gauntlet of such vacuous vilification in order to emphasise the crucial role that the SNP plays – as a party and as an administration – in providing the focus for the coming referendum campaign and the effective political power which that campaign requires. Stating that the SNP is essential to the independence cause is not evidence of blinkered loyalty to the party, but of commitment to the cause of restoring Scotland’s independence combined with a pragmatic appreciation of how this will be achieved.

Which brings us to where Lesley Riddoch goes wrong. The suggestion that even a “properly organised and funded Scottish Independence Convention” might be some kind of alternative to the SNP is fallacious. I wrote the following a year ago, and have found no reason to change my view since then.

I have great difficulty seeing how SIC can credibly speak for the grass-roots Yes movement when it is so predominantly given over to a relatively small but inordinately assertive faction founded on a simplistic belief that ‘radical’ is synonymous with ‘righteous’.

Most of all, I worry that SIC has no popular mandate; nor any means of acquiring one. I worry, too, that the SIC – and thereby the aforementioned faction of ‘righteous radicals’ – intends to ‘piggy-back’ on the electoral mandate of the SNP in a way that will be found unacceptable by the party’s membership and considered inappropriate by the general public.

In order to succeed, the independence movement needs effective political power. In order to be effective, that political power must have democratic legitimacy. It is not obvious how SIC might achieve this. It’s not even clear that the importance of democratic legitimacy is recognised by those in charge of SIC.

All of this remains true no matter how much the SNP is seen as failing – or inadequately serving – the cause of independence at any given moment. The party may occasionally disappoint. But that cannot be a justification for giving up on it and directing our energies elsewhere. Rather, when we feel that the SNP is flagging, we should be motivated to redouble our efforts to get it back on track.


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5 thoughts on “The SNP needs a jolt of Yes energy

  1. I know this is a very simplistic response, Peter, but I have nothing against a Scottish Independence Convention per se, just several of the people who are pushing it. I would exclude Lesley Riddoch and one or 2 others from that generalisation, but those of the ilk you yourself have no great love of – never, never, never. They have a different agenda.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I too have nothing against a Scottish Independence Convention per se. I was, however, very unhappy with the way the SIC sought to appoint itself the voice of the entire Yes movement. And I’m more than a little concerned and perplexed to see Lesley Riddoch apparently trying to revive an idea which I thought had been quite firmly rejected.

      Quite apart from the far from small matter of the SIC having no democratic mandate, I fail to see the sense in the Yes movement investing its energies in supporting the SIC only to be obliged to transfer all that effort to the SNP at the point where the independence project requires the effective political power which only the SNP is in a position to provide. It would be a bit like spending months campaigning for one candidate only to tell people on polling day that they should vote for another candidate.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Lets give the SNP the benefit of the doubt and see what proposals they make in October. If they put indy ref 2 on the backburner, then we can chuck our toys out. At the moment we have no real idea what Nicola is going to say on the matter.

    I hope she names a date regardless of what dithering takes place with WM and the EU. We need out of this cycle of wait and see, wait and see.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Yes movement is about political activism. It is about engaging with the democratic process and seeking to influence the course of events. It is not about sitting back and waiting to see what the politicians do.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t know Peter, but I do think it important all of us keep the pressure going, even if it may not be neccessary. I’m minded of Sturgeon’s speech 13th March last year

    https://www.snp.org/nicola_sturgeon_speech_scotland_s_referendum

    particualrly towards the end, including where she says this: “It will be decided by the people of Scotland”. Remember too it was Sturgeon introduced the Claim of RIght bill in January 2012 to Holyrood. Such as the marches are then extremely important, and though I missed the others I’m booked up for Edinburgh. It would be good if it could be an over 100,000 people march. The dilemma is that the SNP are not just some of the people of Scotland, they are also the Government, and have had to follow the painful path of trying all unlikely alternatives. Trying to please everybody and pleasing nobody, but such is good governance, and refreshing to see it actually happen for a change in the UK.

    As for SIC, I agree with the problem of the self-appointed nature of it, there are others with an equal claim, but then on the other hand, so are all of us who speak out for Indy one way or another – self-appointed. We all wend our path one way or another, to one destination – Independence.

    Which is exactly as it should be.

    Liked by 1 person

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