Less than fifteen minutes in I was too dejected to listen any more. The social media feed was telling me I wasn’t alone. Another over-hyped empty announcement from ‘the only person who can win our independence,’ another dead-end from ‘the only show in town,’ and another painful frustration from ‘the only party that can do it.’ Of course, I bought none of this. Reason and the experience of the past six years warned me to expect nothing, but hope – that twisted trick the psyche plays on us – had me thinking there was a chance; slim and unlikely, but a chance.
Wings Over Scotland has 53,000 followers on Twitter. That is a phenomenal social media reach, made all the more important in the context of a bitter ideological and constitutional struggle in which we still do not have a pro-independence media a fraction of the size of the BBC and with a fraction of its reach and influence. Taking down the largest and most popular pro-independence website from Twitter is a monumental tactical blunder, and it will cost the next independence referendum campaign dearly online.
There is a nagging suspicion in my mind that the impetus to abandon our grievances came from these nefarious sources. I can’t prove it – no one can, but I am suspicious. Scotland has some pretty fantastic grievances, some pretty emotive and powerful grievances. It just strikes me that not to deploy them in an independence debate – that had absolutely everything to do with history – was such a monstrous tactical blunder that it couldn’t have originated with a real independence supporter.
Now, I am not suggesting that Plan A is not a good idea. As I have said, like Chris McEleny and other so-called rebels, I quite like the idea. But to make it the only way is outrageously short-sighted and dangerously innocent of the behaviour of the British state towards Ireland and India in the past. It is not my suggestion that we should have Plan B rather than Plan A. My suggestion is that we must have both. One plan is not necessarily better than another in a situation where the point is to achieve a goal. In this case, the end justifies the means.
Given that Westminster is not in Scotland’s bests interests and that devolution, as it is, is not fit for purpose – things even Murdo Fraser has conceded, Nicola Sturgeon has proposed an open process of dialogue with the British unionist parties seeking to gain something short of independence but better than what we have. In a world running short on statesmen, this was a splendid – even Bismarckian – act of statesmanship, and kudos to her for it. Some may see this as a sell-out, but I will argue the case that it is not. This is a smart move.
When faced with the powerful self-destructive drive of England, especially when we are so completely powerless to help, we are forced to adopt the calm reasoning of Fr. Anthony De Mello: “Maybe they should suffer a little more. Maybe they ought to touch rock bottom…” Of course, what some need is to suffer less, and those we must help, but there are others – like the alcoholic and the drug addict – who need to hit rock bottom first, who need to suffer a little more.
We cannot win independence now without the SNP. All our efforts are in vain, whether radical or alternative, if those efforts are not working in accord with the efforts of the whole movement; moving in the same direction as all the people and groups now on the march. So, allow me to be clear: I pledge my commitment to support the SNP in the job that it is doing. I will not engage myself in any activism aimed at harming or undermining the work it is doing. I will not make one single elected representative of the SNP my personal or political enemy.
Realpolitik is the business of practical politics, based on the ever-changing conditions of the political weather than on idealised notions and ideas based on ideology. We may have independence as our immediate political goal, but the weather systems in which we must navigate a course to that end are in a constant state of flux – meaning, quite simply, that grand strategies and masterplans seldom, if ever, actually exist. So, we are left to deal with day-to-day contingencies, and, when it comes to the current state of Brexit, those are coming at us thick and fast.