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.
Progressive politics is a package deal. It is a political set menu with cult-like or at least communitarian characteristics. It is a tribal political identity rather than a series of beliefs and policy ideas people can weigh up and decide on based on their individual merits. Defending the rights of racial and ethnic minorities is both progressive and objectively right. The same is true of cutting carbon emissions and seeking greater economic justice for the poorest people in society, but the same cannot necessarily be said of other complex legal and social issues.
There is every reason to assume Russia ‘undertook influence campaigns in relation to the Scottish independence referendum (paragraph 41),’ but then, thanks to Joe Pike’s tell-all exposé of Project Fear, we know the British government was interfering in Scotland’s democracy. It may not always be comforting to think about it, but Scotland was a pawn in a bigger game in 2014 and the outcome of our referendum was going to have far-reaching consequences for the global balance of power.
Scotland is Britain’s grand strategy, and let’s make no bones about that. Our oil – still the world’s most important strategic and geopolitical resource – is the breadbasket of their little empire. In a world such as this, with Britain playing the game with phantom limb syndrome with regard to its lost global empire, Scotland’s oil is its golden ticket – and no blundering buffoon of a Prime Minister is going to be allowed jeopardise that again. Chip away at Britain all you please, what lies behind that velvet glove of soft moronic weakness is an iron fist.
Other than depriving unionist voters of political representation in the Scottish parliament, many in the movement are asking, what will a manœuvre like this achieve? Certainly, this is the most intelligent question being asked of the plan. It doesn’t deny that it will work, of course it will work. Rather, this question is about the point of doing it. Yes, capitalising on this vulnerability will deprive about a million Scots of their political representation, sure, but we needn’t lose much sleep over this – unionists are happy with the status quo...
The conditions that prevailed in 2011 are no more. The 2014 referendum and the ongoing constitutional war of attrition have fundamentally changed the dynamics of how we do politics, of how we think politics. Unionist support is continuing to rally behind the Conservatives, and this, along with the continued success of the SNP in the constituency vote, will now always work against the SNP. Yet, Stewart McDonald is right. The SNP strategy in 2011 has been the only one that has worked, and it has won an SNP majority. It can win that majority again – theoretically, at least.
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...
Yet, the SNP campaign of 2012-14 was itself the product of change. On the eve of devolution, in the 1997 general election, Salmond’s SNP won a paltry six seats. It made no impact on the major population centres of the central belt, had no appeal to the socialist heart of Scotland, and failed to attract meaningful numbers from the country’s minority populations. At that election the SNP felt the full force of a New Labour landslide that swept across the whole of the United Kingdom and brought us the painful disappointment that was Tony Blair.