Nicola Sturgeon is Wrong: Let Unionists Vote for Unionists 91


I am at the SNP Conference in Aberdeen and you may not be surprised to learn that I find myself in immediate and fundamental disagreement with the party leadership.

Nicola Sturgeon in her opening address, as in media interviews yesterday, made a point of stating that she did not only want Independence supporters to vote SNP in the Holyrood elections, she wanted unionists to vote SNP too, on the grounds that the SNP were the most competent Holyrood government.

I disagree fundamentally. When we have the clear mandate for Independence of overwhelming election victories at Westminster and Holyrood elections, why muddy the waters and undermine the mandate for Independence by arguing that a vote for the SNP can also be a unionist vote? It is stupid tactics.

It is also nonsense. There is no significant unionist vote for the SNP. Ever since the referendum, opinion polls have without a single exception found support for the SNP and support for Independence to be almost identical, within the margin of statistical error. There is no well of unionist SNP supporters.

Furthermore, analysis of numerous Scottish council by-elections (see Scot Goes Pop passim) shows that unionist voters will happily transfer preferences between the unionist red, blue and orange tories but not to the SNP. Unionists will not vote SNP in significant numbers.

But assuming I am wrong and unionists flock to Sturgeon’s call and start to vote SNP, that raises major questions about the whole purpose of the SNP. If the SNP is a party which unionists can support, then plainly Independence must, by definition, no longer be the defining purpose of the SNP. That is the route Sturgeon is taking.

This is the danger of managerialism, about which I have written before. The SNP becomes so convinced by our own propaganda about the unique competence of our administration and the unique beneficence of our paternalism, that we come to believe that just having the SNP in charge in Holyrood and representing Scotland in Westminster is a good in itself. The fact that this also leaves the SNP establishment in very comfy high paid jobs with their feet well and truly under the UK establishment table is no disincentive to believe this.

Thus the motion after Sturgeon’s speech was about non-delivery of The Vow and called for the Smith Commission to be fully delivered in the Scotland Bill. I do not give tuppence for whether the Smith Commission is implemented in full, in part or not at all. It still leaves Scotland subservient to Westminster, without a voice in international organisations and subject to being dragged in to illegal war, not to mention the new cold war with Russia and renewed arms race which the UK establishment is preparing.

If Sturgeon gains more unionist votes, and in consequence the SNP had 55% rather than 51% of the Holyrood vote, and thus 65% rather than 60% of the Holyrood MPs, what precisely has been gained other than more jobs for the boys and more feet under the establishment table, at the price of abandoning a clear platform of Independence. A terrible trade-off.

If we abandon the idea of a referendum within the next five years, on the stupid grounds that we might lose, then the chance of Independence may vanish. At the moment we have a hated Tory government in Westminster, a Labour Party in utter disarray and SNP dominance in Scotland. There will never be a more favourable conjunction. Why mess it up by starting to spread doubt about the SNP’s commitment to Independence – which is suddenly less important that its commitment to Having Power.

It was the realisation that Scottish Labour cared more about Having Power than principles that put paid to that party. Sturgeon seems to want to replace Scottish Labour in every sense. The SNP may be dominant now, but if we put Power before Independence – as any analysis of Sturgeon’s speech today can only conclude she does – then we should not be surprised if many for whom Independence is the primary objective start to look at other vehicles to attain it.


91 thoughts on “Nicola Sturgeon is Wrong: Let Unionists Vote for Unionists

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  • Brian Mudie

    Much as I would like to see the SNP’s position Holyrood consolidated first, I am inclined to agree with this. The ideological absurdity of this ‘Fiscal Charter’, effectively locking the UK into the economic nonentity of ideological Austerity should be screaming out to people that we are now governed by a shower of sociopathic cretins with enough personal wealth to inflict irreparable damage to our economy without any personal hardship. The ONLY foreseeable route out of this is independence, sooner rather than later.

  • Andrew Hall

    Given the apparent absurdity of the SNP representing Unionists, I would imagine that Nicola is attempting to ensure that Nats remain relevant post-independence.

  • Mary

    I am very sorry that things are going this way.

    We in England saw the rise of the SNP as a sign of change in the whole rotten political system. I hope that we will not end up disappointed.

  • John Goss

    Perhaps the SNP is trying to avoid a challenge from a newly invigorated Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn. Politics is a dirty business.

  • Shibboleth

    Whilst I would welcome independence for many of the reasons you espouse, I also have to acknowledge and respect the views and opinions of many friends, who I would describe as traditional
    Scottish unionists – whose belief in the greater good of the British Establishment may still hold – albeit tenuously. Perhaps it is those voters Ms Sturgeon was reaching out to – and that should be applauded. Win the argument – but without alienating those you are trying to convince. I appreciate recent difficulties and disappointments, but please try and keep an even keel. The world’s I’ll-divided enough!

  • MBC

    You’re quite right that there’s a trap there in becoming a competent government – managerialism, as you say. There is political leadership and there is political management. Political management is what Scotland has been doing since 1707, trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, and doing so quite successfully to the point that Unionists/British imperialists might well ask, why have sovereignty when you in Scotland manage so well without it?

    What the SNP needs to keep doing is provide political leadership by arguing the case for the recovery of our sovereignty and nationhood at every turn, by trying to explain why managerialism is limiting and unionism destructive of Scotland.

  • Kempe

    ” The fact that this also leaves the SNP establishment in very comfy high paid jobs with their feet well and truly under the UK establishment table ”

    Was anyone expecting it to work out any differently? Seriously?

  • harry law

    Surely the SNP are an all class alliance dedicated to Scottish independence, It seems illogical to expect ‘Unionist’ voters to vote for the SNP unless as a protest vote [not many of those I suspect] In the event that the SNP win the next referendum and Scotland becomes an Independent Nation again, the SNP should no longer exist, then, left, right and centre political parties will take over. Or does Nicola envisage the SNP governing Scotland permanently after Independence?

  • Thomas Widmann

    While I tend to agree with Nicola Sturgeon and others that we shouldn’t call a new referendum until a significant number of No voters appear to have changed their minds, my worry is that the SNP leadership don’t seem to be doing much to change their minds. It’s like they think that No voters will turn to Yes if the SNP provides competent leadership, but where’s the evidence for that?

    There is a strong need for an organisation to work singleheartedly on converting voters from No to Yes.

    I’m starting to think that this organisation cannot be the SNP (because any political party will have many other objectives too) – it has to be a cross-political entity. Let’s call it Yes Scotland II (YS2).

    YS2 would work with the SNP, the Greens, RISE, Yes-leaning Labour members, Women for Independence, Business for Scotland etc. etc. It wouldn’t be directly involved in any elections, but simply work towards creating a clear majority for independence. And once Indyref2 is announced, YS2 can be transformed quickly into the designated Yes campaign.

  • John Robertson

    I think you are over-reacting a bit on this Craig. I suspect that the intention may be “normalise” unionists and get them more comfortable with supporting the SNP as a government (i.e Scotland is capable of governing itself). Once inside the fold they can be persuaded to take the next step – at the moment there is no way they will make that step and without that we will not win a 2nd ref.

  • Richard O'Neill

    Totally disagree, and fully support any attempt to win over those who voted no. Have witnessed first hand the effects, and they are good.
    The Indyref polarized opinion in Scotland with very little in-between in my opinion. Yes at one end, no at the other. We have to find a way to bring the two together. By offering a hand to those who voted no, you give them the chance to come over to the other side, or at least meet some way in the middle. It’s up to us to ensure it’s on our side of the middle ie the pro indy side.
    ‘Unionists’ as you call them won’t vote SNP, aye, true unionists. Someone voting SNP who voted no last year is no unionist. Unionists don’t represent the 55% who voted no anymore than ‘nationalists’ represent the 45% who voted yes. Scotland must be brought together, healed, and moved forward. Independence, We move a step closer every day….

  • Republicofscotland

    I agree Craig, the SNP might take their position for granted, and stopped pushing forward. They have a healthy representation at Westminster, and are well ahead in the polls in Scotland, but they must keep refreshing the well, a well that’s ultimate goal should be independence.

    I’m also rather disappointed in their handling of land reform in Scotland, they made at lot of noise over taxing, and the opening up of land to the people of Scotland. But the SNP’s attitude seems to have cooled towards this now after receiving letters from influencial land owners, who’ve brought their lawyers in.

    Also rather frustrating is the SNP haven’t completely put to bed (UCG) Underground Coal Gasification, something they must do or face losing a substantial amount of voters.

    I’m not entirely happy with their performance over the last six months or so, but the SNP are (Greens aside) miles ahead of any other political party in Scotland, for now.

  • Luigi

    Sorry Craig, I like much of your material, but I disagree on this matter. It’s worth bearing in mind that the Labour party in Scotland is down but not out. Unionist Labour are still deeply embedded in Scotland and the threat remains. The Labour party remains the biggest obstacle to independence and has to be taken out of the game completely. By that I mean Holyrood 2016 and the council elections 2017. By then, when hopefully Labour are left in control of absolutely nothing in Scotland, then we can start going all fundamental. Why over-reach when we have time to consolidate and win overwhelmingly? There are still important steps to take – enjoyable steps, so why not chill out a bity and enjoy the journey?

  • MJ

    “When we have the clear mandate for Independence of overwhelming election victories at Westminster and Holyrood elections, why muddy the waters and undermine the mandate for Independence by arguing that a vote for the SNP can also be a unionist vote?”

    It is you who are muddying the waters Craig by implying that the SNP’s success in the General Election was a mandate for independence, when independence wasn’t even in its manifesto.

    The only clear mandate for independence would have been victory in the referendum, in which every individual Scot was able to vote. You appear to need endlessly reminding that Scots voted decisively to remain in the UK.

  • Jon

    “You appear to need endlessly reminding that Scots voted decisively to remain in the UK.”

    55-45% is decisive? I wouldn’t have called that decisive even if the 55% were for indie. 65% either way might be a situation that could be called “decisive”.

  • tbd

    The fact that this also leaves the SNP establishment in very comfy high paid jobs

    As I think I pointed out several times before, Scotch Nationalism and Scottish independence is all about jobs for the boys (and girls).

    Truly astounding account by Adam Tompkins of Scotch Nationalist totalitarianism in this week’s Spectator: “Centralising, illiberal, catastrophic: the SNP’s one-party state.”

    http://new.spectator.co.uk/2015/10/centralising-illiberal-catastrophic-the-snps-one-party-state/

    Only thing to do, obviously, is for anti-Communist Scots to vote Conservative in future.

  • Robert Crawford

    It seems to me reading the comments posted here over this last year that many have issues that are unresolved. If you want to find out how good or bad the Scottish Government is, send an e-mail to Nicola Sturgeon stating what your problems are. That way you will soon find out who and what you are governed by.

    I want my Independence as much as anyone however, I will not be voting until it is for Indy2.

    I have never been afraid to write to P.M.s or any politician when I feel the need.

    Let me tell you this, if it is not praise, they don’t want to know. All of them bar none in my experience, are shite bags. Some more so than others.

    See if you can get a reply that is positive and not a lot of waffle. Don’t hold your breath.

  • MJ

    “55-45% is decisive?”

    Of course, clear blue water. 50.1/49.9 would not have been decisive.

  • lysias

    With the ruling on the Wilson Doctrine, communications with MPs and MSPs are now subject to interception by the security services.

  • Robert Crawford

    Further more, if the 45% who voted YES would stop buying the newspapers that scared the shit out of the gutless wonders who vote no, then we might be able to get a wee bit of “fair play”, mind you I doubt it.

    You see it is the 1% who own and manipulate nearly everything and everyone.

    Let me put it to you another way. If a stranger was trying to take your possessions from you, would you fight to hold onto them? Of course you would. That is exactly what the 1% are doing. You are their possessions that provides their wealth. Goose and golden egg,eh?

    Without your money and your work they are impotent.

    ________________________

    Mary, it is very heartening to read your support for my Independence. I am not used to that support from an English person. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I wish there was more like you.

    Well done.

  • muttley79

    @Republic of Scotland

    I’m also rather disappointed in their handling of land reform in Scotland, they made at lot of noise over taxing, and the opening up of land to the people of Scotland. But the SNP’s attitude seems to have cooled towards this now after receiving letters from influencial land owners, who’ve brought their lawyers in.

    I’m not entirely happy with their performance over the last six months or so, but the SNP are (Greens aside) miles ahead of any other political party in Scotland, for now.

    ^This, agree about fracking as well, and also this:

    @Luigi

    It’s worth bearing in mind that the Labour party in Scotland is down but not out. Unionist Labour are still deeply embedded in Scotland and the threat remains. The Labour party remains the biggest obstacle to independence and has to be taken out of the game completely. By that I mean Holyrood 2016 and the council elections 2017. By then, when hopefully Labour are left in control of absolutely nothing in Scotland, then we can start going all fundamental.

  • Robert Crawford

    With the tragic death of each person who has been sanctioned and each new poverty creating law, I feel the public response is reaching “critical mass”.

    This abuse I feel is about to cause unrest.

  • Jon

    MJ, either we disagree on the meaning of a commonplace word, or your staunch opposition to independence is affecting what you think this word means. As it stands, it is fair to say that “a bit more than half of the voting electorate were not persuaded of the need for change”. That is not a ringing endorsement of the union explicitly, and certainly not by a convincing percentage. (I personally think that there were enough people who do not care for the union but thought indie was riskier than devo-max, and that was what swung it for the No camp).

    Moreover, I recall that you were unhappy about a second referendum at all, many posts back, because you felt that the first one had settled the matter once and for all. However, when I put it to you that people change their minds in democracies, and that it is obviously more democratic for a change of mind to be reflected in a new poll, I don’t think I saw a response from you.

    Thus, I respectfully wonder if you are setting your views on unrelated matters to suit your opposition to independence, and I don’t think that’s the right way to decide these things. If and when you encounter a wholly undemocratic situation that could be resolved by re-running a referendum on some entirely different matter, you’d be rather stuck.

    (In fact it has been suggested in various quarters that the Scots have already changed their mind about independence, but I won’t reflexively agree with that just because it accords with my support for independence. I would like to see some grassroots effort campaigning for Yes again before running a referendum again, since I can’t see the enthusiasm in the indie movement lasting out after a second go).

  • nevermind

    Enjoy conference and keep working towards getting a majority at the next Indy2 vote, Craig, one that will work and not fail. Another quicky will not do,imho, be sure to endure.
    I like Thomas Widmans idea of a separate organisation as the vehicle of the Y2 debate, it leaves time for the various parties to campaign next to it. It must be an open organisation that is able to react to the media.

    Which brings me to a vital point, there must be better ties/relations with the media developed, early on, like yesterday… how about a radio/TV station IndyFM? A sophisticated online presence with real time communications, blogs and a street theater section, just thinking aloud. There have to be at least three newspapers who are not dragging the campaign into the mud.

    Are you speaking at any fringe events Craig?

  • Tom Platt

    The criticism of Nicola’s speech is expressed in language too strong for my comfort Craig, although I share some of the concerns over the issues. Perhaps my hope is at a higher level than yours though and I see no real cause for alarm. Nicola’s speech changes nothing.

    I look forward to Scotland becoming a normal country. Normal countries do not have large proportions of their population voting for political parties based in another country..and a country whose political leaders show such antagonism towards Scotland. The prefix “Scottish” often used before Labour, LibDems or Conservative needs to be universally recognised in our country as a disguise used by branch offices to mask the UKish agenda of their HQ’s at the expense of Scotland and Scots. After Holyrood elections in May 2016 and Council elections in 2017 we look as though we will can reasonably expect to be in a very different position than today. Independence should seem even more inevitable, particularly if there has been a rise in the representation of other Scottish parties supporting Indy.

    I will still be disappointed if IndyRef2 has not occurred before 2020. Nicola’s speech has changed nothing IMO.

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