Just as the SNP sweeps to utter domination of the Scottish presence at Westminster, the future of Scottish nationalism must move to a rejection of Westminster rule as illegitimate. That is the victory paradox.
There is no doubt that this is the best possible election result for achieving Scottish independence in the near term. The one thing that I believe might have postponed independence for decades, was a Labour Party government of the UK with SNP support, governing as Tory Lite but making the dreadful repressive UK state that little bit less openly vicious, the abuse a little bit more disguised, the wealthy corporate elite less openly triumphalist.
I know that Tory rule is going to be dreadful for many decent people who are struggling to make ends meet, that the heartlessness of benefits sanctions will cause despair and suicide, that asylum seekers will be detained and abused. But Scotland has absolutely rejected the entire Tory system, and the scene is now set for the kind of extra-parliamentary resistance that we saw to Thatcher’s poll tax. We have to refuse to let Westminster do this to people. In this circumstance, those SNP MPs are relevant insofar as they use their platform to help build the popular resistance, not in terms of anything they do in that appalling haw-haw club.
Labour would have lost and we would have a Tory government even if Labour had won every seat in Scotland. Labour’s abject failure was in no sense caused by the SNP, whatever the appalling journalists of BBC Scotland may say or imply. And Labour is now going to underline, still more than the Tories, the urgent need for Scotland to be independent. The airwaves are already buzzing with London comment that Labour’s problem was that it was not right wing enough for English opinion. The next Labour leader must be more Blairite, they say. Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper or Chuka Umunna are touted to fit the bill, they suggest. This is completely a false analysis. If England were given a chance to vote for an SNP style, more left wing, offering then very many of the English would vote for it. But it will not happen. Labour will lurch ever further to the right and it will become undeniable that the Scottish people can only express their political aspirations through independence.
Even the best people are still human, and I have to confess that I am absolutely delighted that the SNP leadership have been neatly removed by this election result from any temptation. Exercising power within the United Kingdom state can be heady and addictive. An insidious agenda was quite blatantly propagated by Alex Bell in Bella Caledonia, a man who has been very close to the party leadership, and who actually celebrated the idea that:
The fascinating story of this election is how the SNP is ‘Britishing’ itself, gently playing down the big constitutional stuff in favour of real power over the austerity agenda.
Mr Bell goes on to make the ludicrous proposition that to support the creation of a small state is in itself a conservative agenda. He is profoundly wrong. To dismantle an aggressive imperialist state is not a remotely conservative agenda. I have frequently expressed the fear that there is a careerist core in the SNP who are more concerned with troughing in the political class and being big-wigs in the UK than with achieving independence. Bell’s insidious unionism – very lightly disguised as support for “utilitarian nationalism” – had the potential to be much more corrosive to the cause of independence than anything which the Tories can do. Fortunately Bell’s thesis is totally stuffed by the election result, and his pseudo-intellectual rationalisations of the status quo can now be safely confined to the dustbin of irrelevance. The SNP has no “real power over the austerity agenda” and has zero chance of gaining any within the United Kingdom.
There is now no course to take but root and branch opposition to the consequences of a Tory rule which Scotland has just declared anathema. The only way forward is now independence and the only route is through a mounting extra-parliamentary opposition over the next few years. I am absolutely delighted for all those SNP MPs, of whom a large number are personal friends. But if you want to remain relevant, you have to forget about Angus Robertson telling you what suits to wear or how to put an approved knot in your tie (yes, that really happened), and you have to inspire the street in the way so many of you did during the referendum campaign.