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By Jason Michael
EVERYWHERE WE LOOK on Scottish social media we see the same tired old refrain, ‘I Trust Nicola.’ I do not trust Nicola Sturgeon, and this should come as a surprise to absolutely no one. But my inability to trust the current leader of the Scottish National Party does not mean that I have given up all hope in the party. Thankfully, as a socialist and a republican, I have never been a member of the SNP. Thus, I have managed to keep myself reasonably detached from the Byzantine and stormy internal politics of this less-than revolutionary political party, yet involved enough in the politics of independence to see in it, from time to time, a useful ally in the wider campaign for our nation’s independence. Still, given its size and influence, it has all the potential to strengthen or destabilise the entirety of the movement and the cause — and this is precisely what has happened.
Whether readers are prepared to accept reality or not, the facts speak for themselves. The First Minister has misled the Scottish parliament, she has acted with other senior members of the SNP in a conspiracy involving the unholy trinity of the British establishment in Scotland — the crown, the British civil service, and the unionist media — in a potentially criminal project designed to imprison Alex Salmond. Irrespective of the dubious legality of this behaviour, the fact that she has colluded with the instruments of the British state, as the de facto leader of the independence movement, makes her position and her continued leadership of the SNP wholly untenable.
Rather than accept the validity of the case being made by a number of pro-independence bloggers and other activists, the leadership of the SNP has mounted a campaign to both vilify and marginalise those who have worked tirelessly over the past decade to make the case for independence and build up the movement in a hostile media environment dominated by British government-aligned outlets.
The fallout caused by these events, from the chaotic mishandling of the party’s internal complaints procedures to the First Minister’s present refusal to accept the fact she has been caught red-handed, has driven a wedge right through the heart of the independence movement. Rather than accept the validity of the case being made by a number of pro-independence bloggers and other activists, the leadership of the SNP has mounted a campaign to both vilify and marginalise those who have worked tirelessly over the past decade to make the case for independence and build up the movement in a hostile media environment dominated by British government-aligned outlets. This monstrous behaviour — a profound betrayal of our greatest democratic values — has resulted in a situation in which a growing number of people now feel alienated from their political leadership. It has affected a break in the solidarity of the movement; turning pro-independence activists and campaigners against one another. It has endangered all of the political achievements we have made since devolution and threatens to undermine the entire campaign for independence.
Yet, as things continue to deteriorate for the leadership of the SNP, what we are witnessing both within the party and across that fraction of the independence movement still fiercely loyal to the person of Nicola Sturgeon, is a frantic and desperate effort to regroup and circle the wagons. And we can understand why this is happening. Both the political careerists within the party apparatus and the pro-independence culturati who depend on the patronage of the National Party rightly intuit that their incomes and fortunes depend on their subaltern and hegemonic relationship to the political elite of the new Scottish establishment. Across the movement, among those whose connection to the party is purely a matter of loyalty and emotion, support for the current leadership of the party continues due to ignorance and fear.
While no one can doubt the passion and commitment of the grassroots independence movement in Scotland, the frustrating reality is that this movement has been left without political leadership since the end of 2014. Unlike the situation in Ireland, where Sinn Féin and the broader Republican movement has engaged the people of Ireland and provided necessary political leadership and ideological education for over a century, the independence movement in Scotland has been left entirely to its own devices and so has been reduced to what the Italian theorist Antonio Gramsci described as a ‘generic loyalty, of a military kind:’
The mass following is simply for ‘manoeuvre,’ and is kept happy by means of moralising sermons, emotional stimuli, and messianic myths of an awaited golden age, in which all present contradictions and miseries will be automatically resolved and made well.
Without any real or meaningful grasp on the realities of real world politics, without any training in political theory, and with no clearly definable ideology of independence, the great majority of pro-independence supporters in Scotland have been kept on a tight leash. The extent of their political involvement has been limited to the position of a chorus or audience hyped-up by sloganistic rhetoric and vague promises of jam tomorrow, and their vision of independence has been narrowly defined as something manifest in one political party and more particularly in the messianic adulation of the leader of that party. It is therefore perfectly understandable why so many in such a movement would place a quasi-religious trust in the party and the leader. Furthermore, it is perfectly understandable why to such a movement any difficulties in the party or any challenges to the party would equate to a potential problem for the future of the cause of independence. This, then, explains why we are seeing such uncritical support for Nicola Sturgeon and the leadership of the SNP despite the irrefutable and damning evidence against them. It also explains, in large part, why the imaginations of so many in the movement have been limited to a point at which the SNP and its current leadership are seen as the only and last chance for the people of Scotland to regain their independence.
It is therefore perfectly understandable why so many in such a movement would place a quasi-religious trust in the party and the leader.
This is not clever politics, and, as has been pointed out a number of times, contains within it all the potential for the creation of a totalitarian style of Scottish politics in the future. That the SNP, under the leadership of Nicola Sturgeon, has allowed such a situation to arise is reason enough to have her ousted from her position and for the rank-and-file membership of the party to act without delay to remove and replace those at the top responsible for this unmitigated mess. It is simply a fiction to imagine that this or anytime is a last chance for the politics of independence.
The cause for Scottish independence is as old as the union, and it will continue for as long as our union with England exists. And while we all hope it will not last for much longer, the politics of a nation do not depend on the immediate and present requirements or desires of any individual. Many Scots hoping for independence and who have worked for independence have lived and died over the past three-hundred years – and yet, without their efforts and sacrifices, we would not be where we are now. independence may not be tomorrow or the next day but the work we do now, the sacrifices we make, will continue to progress the cause of independence and make it easier to achieve in the future. That so many people in Scotland are struggling to come to terms with this idea is a terrible indictment of the SNP’s failure to engage and educate the independence movement. So, whatever happens, this is the work we must begin. We must become a more educated and mature movement, and only then will we have the tools we need to prepare us to weather whatever storms may come.
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Sadly, the people who most need to read this, won’t.
Sad that the Nicola Supporters Club fail to recognise that she has turned SNP into the NSP which is toxic to the majority
And while I don’t agree with every point you made,it is undeniable that there’s a crying need to educate politically,and no more evident than in,with very few exceptions,our MPs and MSPs.
I despair when I look at the calibre of Scots,from all parties, in 1997 Parliament, and what we have today
From an embarrassment of riches to an embarrassment in a generation
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You mourn the lack of any real or meaningful grasp on the realities of real world politics, training in political theory, and no clearly definable ideology of independence.
I think the problem is more basic than that. The majority of electors have no way of knowing the truth about any situation, and therefore make their own judgements based on what little they know, what they are told, and what they observe.
It’s easy to see why people support Nicola Sturgeon. In many areas she is competent, methodical and she prepares well, and she was Alex Salmond’s number two and heir. In addition, the SNP is making a reasonably good job of running Scotland. Compare and contrast with #BlunderingBoris and the situation in England.
When bloggers begin to suggest all is not well in the SNP, and Nicola Sturgeon may be a liar, many who support her find it very hard to accept, especially when the evidence is being slowly teased out, and may never amount to verifiable facts.
In this blog you say, “the facts speak for themselves.” While it might be the case that eventually we will know the truth, and what you and others say is correct, right now can you really talk about facts?
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Absolutely agree that the wider Indy movement has lacked clear leadership since 2014. There are leaders, big players but it needs one or two figureheads for everyone to rally round. These figureheads, these real leaders would instil respect and discipline in the Indy movement – again sadly lacking in some of the Indy movement at present. Until the wider Indy movement produces and demands positive and responsible leadership the movement will be vulnerable to the destructive divisiveness, narrow-mindedness and hatefulness swirling around at present. These facts really do shear for themselves.
Very well said Bill. You say a lot about ‘knowing your audience’. Some of the Indy movement are increasingly talking to themselves and shouting angrily at the rest of us to listen and agree because they are ‘right’. Regardless of the ‘facts’ it’s perhaps not the best way to try to influence folk. ‘It’s not what you say, it’s how you leave them feeling’ that matters.
It truly is troubling, the naivety of so many Scots into the true nature of our political class.
As you correctly state, we really do need to buck our ideas up. I personally don’t have any trust in any kind of authority in the modern West; I want independence to be a chance to break away from the ideological dogma of Neoliberalism.
Once, the SNP offered a glimpse of possibilities there but I have watched as the party has succumbed to Atlantic Fascism.
I believe the independence movement has to urgently learn to transcend parties in order to evade this kind of capture again.
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YES became stagnant both in action and honing its indy framework. Once you fail to cut a bow wave, no movement can hold itself together. There is no larger force or ideals that bring everyone’s actions together allowing them to all be pointing in the same direction. Heck, most YES’s rhetorical framework is a sad half-remembered pre 2014 jingoism yet this is a different world altogether and needs different tools.
People have been shouting warnings since 2016 only to be ostracised and vilified. So lets not be naive, multiple parties vs one party is still outsourcing YES’s own responsibility in taking their eye off the ball and leaves the same risks. Post 2015 election, YES sunk into a weird stupor, thinking normal party politics will give them indy as if this was some opposite world where it wasn’t struggling for Indy tied to the centuries old past masters of colonialism. YES has never demanded politicians act and only waited for results…so why would they. YES never brought any political leverage to the table and politicians never needed to do anything to earn your vote.
Lets be honest, the majority of YES took the safe ‘comfy slippers’ route they charge some of their elected officials with. They never wanted to do the hard work of indy (and it is really hard and often messy so I get that). However…
As long as YES continue to politic like its a church fete, this will always be the outcome.
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Peter, you accuse Jason of offering “jam tomorrow” but, in my view, your continuing support for both the SNP & the Scottish Parliament as the only route to Independence look like actions of a man convinced that the Titanic is unsinkable & refusing to get into a lifeboat even though a space is available to him. If you can excuse the mixed metaphors, those who abandon ship get a chance to fight another day.
In the past you quite rightly pointed out that the SNP should offer a referendum & provided dates when this should occur. You were ignored. You said we should #dissolvetheunion. And were ignored. Now you advocate for a #manifestoforindependence. And still you are ignored. What will it take to make you realise that the SNP are not going to deliver the Independence we all want? I’m left unsure whether you are simply being a good lobbyists by staying resolutely ‘on message’ or whether you are clutching at straws & genuinely believe in the SNP actually, maybe, delivering the goods at the end of the day.
And that’s before we get into the horrendous financial & legal corruption among the leadership of the party, the gender woo-woo that is set to deny Scottish women (& men) their hard-won rights and the anti-democratic system now in place within that party that appears to block the ability of the decent members, such as yourself, doing anything about it. What is the mechanism by which members can reclaim control of the party? It seems to be missing in action.
Holyrood was set up as an extension of Westminster. We Scots could have taken the tools they blithely handed us & used them to build for a better future but the chief engineer – the SNP – decided on another course of action. If Westminster takes back some of those tools Scots we might have to learn to do things the hard way – like the Irish, the Indians, the Maltese before us – instead of getting a head start with a Scottish parliament ready & waiting for us. So be it.
All this squabbling over how to make best use of the votes of roughly 50% of the Scottish public who want Independence is missing out the real issue: turning that 50% into 70, 80 or 90% as you would find in any country that genuinely wanted its political freedom.
This is like trying to convince ourselves that because we have enough eggs & sugar we can bake a great cake even though we have no flour to add to the mix. At best we might get an overly sweet omelette but most likely we just get egg in the face.
The biggest mistake the SNP made, PAB, was taking that negative result of 2014 as its base line for all other action and thought, from September 18 onwards. People were just too scared to face up to what that result told us: a) that native Scots were very much in favour of independence; b) that mainly rUK voters were not in favour of independence; c) we had to find a way to regain our independence that was achievable, democratic and legal.
What actually happened was that the first was ignored; the second was taken as the be all and end all (and whoever heard of handing the opposition, both Westminster and the English/British Nationalists, the right to decide your future?); and the third was not even attempted. For any country determined to succeed at independence, this was a sham. The first indyref was a risk worth taking, but it was also a move away from plebiscitary elections as the constitutional determinant of independence (the SNP position for the whole of its existence almost). The leap of cognitive dissonance to then setting a referendum as the sole arbiter of independence – and you, Peter, although an opponent of a S30 Order, were, nonetheless, still in favour of a PRE independence referendum – when every ounce of evidence shows that it is not only supremely unnecessary, but also, in a mature democracy, a majority for independence is almost impossible to achieve.
So, what exactly are we doing, who are we trying to achieve independence for and from, and how do we do that? If we wanted independence after 2014, the only way to do that was via a plebiscitary election, followed by an appeal to the UN, via the result + the evidence of persistent, constant and adverse (to Scotland) breaching of the Treaty by England aka The UK. By 2015, this would have been eminently possible and should have been embarked upon. It was not. Then along came Brexit and the SNPG’s ludicrous decision to fight Brexit on behalf of the whole UK, when England, in particular, had voted for it in numbers.
Independence is a right in international law. No right to thwart it exists. rUK NO voters should have been made very aware of that in 2014, instead of being pandered to, as they have been. So, why the concentration on what rUK voters wanted (which dovetailed, strangely enough, with what Westminster wanted)? Is that being anti English? No, we needed to be cold-bloodedly practical. We were not. Why? To avoid another NI? In what way? Colonial, Protestant Scots and English settlers have been in NI for about 400 years, rUK residents considerably fewer in Scotland, so scarcely an indigenous population as defined by the UN Charter and international law.
Well, bingo. Instead of another NI, we are going to have a civil war instead – between competing factions of Scots, most of who are independence supporters in some shape or form. What a coup. Time was never on our side; it was always on Westminster’s and the Unionists’. Give us enough time, they reckoned, and we’d hang ourselves and save them the job. How right they were. We never learn. Jeggit is so right about our non-grasp of reality politics which necessitate the use of cold, hard reasoning. Seldom have Scots actually understood the reality of the British State and its agents, which come in all shapes.
There were several other points when independence could have been at least attempted, but, no, always something else stood in the way of sense. This SNPG has shown itself in the international/constitutional arena to be worse than useless, throwing away opportunity after opportunity. Personally, I am willing to place a strong peg on my nose and still vote for them, at least in the Constituency, but my anger knows no bounds at how it has torn the party apart for no reason that I can see except self aggrandisement, through stupidity on the constitutional level that has been shown by very few administrations ever, anywhere, and the wholesale swallowing of a form of identity politics that few understand or want, without the slightest comprehension of its real, underling layers of agenda. Like teenagers, they were suckered into believing the earth is flat cos…
I am willing to give this SNPG one last chance – although, deep down, I know it will betray its raison d’être yet again – because, at the domestic level, it has been less cretinous. However, I cannot forgive its misreading of what independence will take and the betrayal of its supporters, I cannot forgive its tortuous illegality in the Salmond affair to ensure that he could never lead an independence campaign again, and I cannot forgive its championing of a cause with so little coherence that it has torn the party asunder and will continue to destroy it from within. This will be the last time I ever vote SNP – either in a devolved Scotland or an independent one, and it is with the sole purpose of trying to keep the Unionists out because I have no expectation of independence now.
Of course, people my age are entirely dispensable, and the young are all that matter, hence the insanity of identity politics and queer theory. The party has been riven before, but never like this. In the end, I think, the party, and Scotland, will tear itself apart and we will descend into an internecine struggle for the soul of our country before we ever come to independence.
There is no mechanism for removing a leader within the membership. Power was concentrated around the parliamentary group (to use the words of the man himself) in the terms immediately PRIOR to the rank traitor and general lying shitehawk Sturgeon’s time. It was wide open for a “person of ill will” – in this case a true nutcase – devoted completely to themselves to cut all democracy out of the party. With hindsight and this is hindsight as I myself was behind this SNP leader until late 2016 when we got the Wilson long grass commission instead of that which is contained in the beautifully written article above. I continued to give the benefit of the doubt as to whether she was actually an Independence supporter or not until summertime last year when the reality of the Alec Salmond fit up hit home.
We’ve been had. Obviously, and by a person of piss poor character at that. If she doesn’t go now and a clean out take place immediately then the SNP will be used by the opponents of Independence against Scotland.
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The SNP as you said have failed to grow as a political Party, when it comes to the real world, they are simply clueless. The problem is that of a cult and its leadership which maintains power via the carrot, string and stick. The cult of the SNP has lost its purpose as it’s purpose has become Nicola Sturgeon, and only Nicola Sturgeon. Hence the silence within the ranks.
I was relieved to read this article, as I reached very similar conclusions myself. Whenever I try to tell the Independence Movement, which is now a zombie epidemic of Sturgeonism, I get accused of being “a unionist troll”.
Sturgeonism, which has become a veritable zombie epidemic of unthink, is focusing all of its hatred on Salmond and “his ego”, (his lack of devotion to Saint Nicola). One of the very few things I can say to them and be heard, is that, on the contrary, under Salmond, Independence was about Scotland, while under Sturgeon, it’s all about Sturgeon. I do wonder whether Sturgeon is able to be objective about her status and I suspect she is bewitched by it herself.