At this point, the outlook for the Scottish independence cause is bleak. We have had a number of clear opportunities to set political divisions aside and put independence first. But we have failed to take these opportunities. The Scottish National Party has committed itself to the project of becoming a self congratulation society for the polite and mild-mannered, while the rest of the movement has been left to fester and stew in its own juices after getting absolutely nothing of what it wanted.
Yesterday I received a message from an amazing women, 'A.,' who reached out to me, concerned that my recent battles on social media were maybe getting me down. She is perceptive. Yes, this past few weeks have taken their toll on me - and I can only imagine this comes as good news to those who made it their mission to make things tough for me. I have taken a position on the so-called gender debate many people really do not like. While I have my reservations about some of the content of gender theory, I am unwilling to stay quiet while perfectly innocent transgender people are subjected to the most appalling abuse from people who believe they are defending women's rights.
‘Someone on the internet said something mean about me,’ joked Paul Kavanagh a couple of years ago as he recounted to me his experience of negative comments online. And this is true; no matter what we do or say, there will always be someone lurking somewhere online — invariably hiding behind an anonymous profile — who will go out of their way to say something biting and nasty. Here we’re not talking about trolls. We have come to expect them and when we realise this is what they are up to we can dismiss them without much thought.
Yes, there are serious issues affecting the independence movement, and independence politics is a passionate politics touching so many of us right at the heart of our identities. In an instant, arguments and insults are accelerated to accusations of treason and unionism. It was when I saw one prominent antagonist describe his fellow independentistas as ‘former indy supports’ that it really struck me that things have gone too far. We cannot continue to be this rigid and unforgiving. Independence demands the hard work and dedication of hundreds of thousands of people.
Any Assembly representing the entire spectrum of pro-independence sentiment – the majority opinion in Scotland today – is sovereign by its very nature. Its establishment furnishes us immediately with a powerful instrument with which we can challenge both the British administration in Scotland qua the Scottish government and the British colonial hegemon in London. Without reference to Westminster and unencumbered by any obligation to negotiate with the British government, a truly independent Scottish National Assembly representing all...
If the Scottish National Party succumbs to this crisis – as it may well do – then we are looking at independence being cast a considerable distance into the future. Either the SNP will have to rebuild and regain trust or – having untangled independence from this one party – we will have to start afresh from the beginning with a new party or parties and work ourselves back up to the level we are now at. During all this time the British state will be constantly at work against us.
Our heretofore trust in the idiom ‘Cometh the hour, cometh the man’ has done us no service. Charismatic leadership is rare in the real world, and my regular readers will by now be aware of my negative opinion of messianic thinking in the movement. We have to a large extent hitched our wagon to the SNP and so have been frustrated at the SNP’s lack of movement, its endless carrot dangling, and its constant lip service to the independence cause. But this frustration is our own fault. The SNP is not the political wing of the movement.
Division is an essential component of every healthy democracy, and efforts to end division and contention in political discussion invariably produce the same two cancers in the body politic. In the leadership it fosters an authoritarian attitude which tends towards autocracy and even totalitarianism, and in the mass movement it creates a sheepish dogmatism by which the individual abdicates his or her responsibility to think and reason for his or herself and fuels the impulse to reject every contradiction as heresy. Every so often we get glimpses of these things...