Tweet Follow @RPJblog
By Jason Michael
TALK OF THE FORMATION of new pro-independence parties in Scotland for the purposes of challenging the hegemony of the Scottish National Party and representing other political interests in the country has caused something of a stir. Stu Campbell of Wings Over Scotland fame and Lesley Riddoch have suggested setting up parties and I haven’t shied away from discussing the need for another party myself. The reaction to these suggestions has been varied, to say the least. There are those who accept Campbell’s analysis that another popular party in Holyrood, playing a tactical game, stands a decent chance of securing a pro-independence super majority – which, given the calculus of the system used in Scotland, makes perfect sense. Then there are those who think other parties will do little but “split the vote” and weaken support for independence in Edinburgh.
Firstly, before delving deeper into this discussion, it is important to address the question of the SNP – the dominant pro-independence party in Scotland. The desire for a new party, much like support for the already existing pro-independence parties (the Scottish Green Party and the Scottish Socialist Party), does not imply hostility towards the SNP or a ploy to undermine the campaign for independence. What we have, rather, is a distinction between unicity and unity of purpose. People in favour of the entire movement backing the SNP so as not to split the vote are describing political unicity – a one-party movement with all social, economic, and political opinion hedged into the corral of single parliamentary representation. Supporting another pro-independence party or seeking to establish another is to adopt a unity approach – it acknowledges variety in social, economic, and political thinking across the nation and seeks to represent that difference in parliament while remaining united on the question of independence.
Seeing is believing. Affordable housing, available land, green heating, local power not centralisation - SNP hasn't… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…—
Lesley Riddoch (@LesleyRiddoch) October 17, 2019
This author has moved in the past few years from unicity – supporting a one-party strategy – to unity – seeking a political party that better suits my particular political opinion. The SNP is in the main a pro-business party which backs a broadly capitalist mode of economic thinking. Its social policies are markedly centrist, in some quarters verging on the radical centre. There is nothing wrong with this (well, that’s a discussion for another time). It represents a wide – and reasonably wealthy – constituency of political opinion. In late 2014, fully realising the nature of the SNP, I made the decision to accommodate myself to the party, thinking independence was imminent and that my support for the SNP would be a short-term strategic option for the sake of securing independence – after which we would be free to become a multi-party independent democratic nation-state. That was over five years ago.
It really shouldn’t have to be explained to people that there is more going on in Scotland than independence. There are other economic, social, and political issues which require our attention. All of these live issues and questions are being addressed by a centrist party in government. The leadership and party apparatchiks of the SNP are setting the agenda on these issues and moving the country in a particular direction, and this is happening because – for the sake of independence – the overwhelming majority of the independence movement has put politics on ice. When we remove the question of independence from the equation, it is clear that many independentistas are voting against their best interests by supporting the SNP; the only reason they have for doing so is independence.
So, anyone interested in whether anybody might vote for a Wings list party? wingsoverscotland.com/with-the-bomb-…—
Wings Over Scotland (@WingsScotland) October 11, 2019
We don’t have independence right now. What we have is the word of the First Minister that she will be seeking a Section 30 order from the British government in the coming weeks, and – thanks to a decision made at the recent Aberdeen conference – if that is rejected the process will simply go on as it is. Perhaps the Scottish government will take the British government to court, perhaps it will try something else, but there will be no quick – no radical – solution to the problem. It could be another year, another five years even, before we have the chance to go to the polls in another independence referendum. This means that for however long it takes those of us in the movement who do not support the economic and social policies of the SNP, and this is no small number, are stuck for the foreseeable future – for the sake of independence – without real and meaningful political representation. This is the cost of unity.
It has become clear to me and many others that the wait has become too long, and, with no end as yet in sight, it is time we started normalising politics in the country for the sake of regaining political representation for our politics – other than independence. This is by no means a suggestion that we move away from the cause for independence. This is still at the forefront of our minds. What this is about is the creation of other political parties which, while still supporting independence, represent the other political opinions of the independence movement. Nor does this mean that the vote for independence will be split. The arithmetic of the Holyrood voting system allows for the SNP to remain dominant in constituency seats at the same time as other pro-independence parties can both represent other political opinion and increase the pro-independence majority in the chamber.
Am Pàrtaidh Poblachdach na h-Alba The Scottish Republican Party—
Jason Michael (@Jeggit) October 14, 2019
There is no real reason to think this a bad thing. It may even speed up the process of winning independence. But it is unfair in the extreme that all the variety of the politics of the independence movement be silenced until independence – a day that may still be years down the road. Why should Scottish socialists and economic conservatives, for example, allow their country to be dominated by the extreme centre – not to mention the growing insanity of the identity politics dominating much the SNP – for the next five, ten, fifteen years “for the sake of independence?” There are tons of SNP policies and agendas the majority of the movement is losing patience with. What, have we to just grin and bear it because “independence is closer than ever?”
Look, there is nothing wrong with supporting and voting for the Scottish National Party. If – other than independence – the SNP represents your particular politics, then support the SNP. If that’s the Greens, vote Green. If that’s the SSP, then vote SSP. But if none of these quite fit where we are politically, then it is quite undemocratic for others to expect us to shut up and sit back down for the sake of independence. Politics in real life isn’t an either/or. We can have a party that represents our opinions in run of the mill concerns and acts in unity with other pro-independence parties for independence. Unicity no longer suits me. It no longer suits many others in the movement. We are not a one-party state, so why should anyone expect us to be a one-party movement? It’s bonkers. It is time that we opened up to the idea of normal democratic politics in the independence movement.
Party Systems: Crash Course Government and Politics