Daily Archives: December 21, 2015


Independence When – A Riposte

I have been in Cruden Bay the last few days, where Nadira had been for some time shooting a film she has both written and produced. It is a short drama, a harrowing tale of torture victims who have applied for political asylum in the UK and are now in immigration detention on the “fast track”. The script is based on numerous interviews with genuine torture victims, refugees, lawyers, NGOs and policemen. One of the things the film does is highlight the work of Medical Justice, who do quite amazing work.

The film now enters post-production and I will keep you informed.

It was a bit weird to be in Peterhead in December enjoying the warm breeze. I recall some years ago wondering whether the effects of climate change would really become indisputable during my lifetime. I think I have my answer.

The last thread on the SNP caused a very interesting debate, before it eventually declined into the usual suspects banging on about Freemasons etc. I took from those comments this contribution from Peter A Bell, which is quite thoughtful, apart from the lazy device of starting by stating an argument I had not actually made and then attributing it to me and characterising it as ludicrous. The rest is worth engaging with though, and when I get recovered a bit I shall engage with it. Meantime, fill your boots.

Of all the ridiculous conspiracy theories that roil in the minds of those with a taste for such nonsense few are more ludicrous than the notion that the Scottish National Party is actively engaged in thwarting the aspirations of those who would see Scotland’s rightful constitutional status restored. A pleasing reverie might be one in which these conspiracy theorists are locked in a room with those who just as fervently insist that the SNP is obsessively focused on the constitutional question to the exclusion of all else – there to beat the folly out of one another with rolled-up copies of their comic-book version of the world.

Reality comprises the grey-scale vastness between these two simplistic extremes.

Here is the news! The campaign for independence can proceed in a variety of ways. Some of those ways are more subtle than a chant of, “What do we want? Independence! When do we want it? NOW!”. The independence campaign was undoubtedly much more fun when it was such a distant prospect that we didn’t have to concern ourselves to much about the niceties of the process of becoming independent. It was all so easy when independence was below a far horizon and it was sufficient that we were headed in the right general direction. It’s all got al lot more complicated now that we are close enough for small course correction to matter.

Almost as laughable as the notion of the SNP having abandoned its commitment to independence is the idea that, having successfully navigated to within sight of our destination, we should now start questioning the party’s suitability for the task of completing the journey. Not that anybody has any sensible suggestions as to who might take up the role at this late date. Apparently, we must doubt the SNP simply because we can.

It’s all too easy to imagine Craig Murray as part of a committee inspecting the almost completed artwork on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and debating whether Michelangelo is the right man to finish the job. After all, he doesn’t seem as excited about the job as he was four years ago, talking more now about the practicalities of the task rather than the grand vision. There’s bound to be some enthusiastic youngsters who are itching to have a go!

The practicalities of becoming independent matter. They matter in a way that they didn’t really when I first engaged with the independence campaign half a century ago. The world has moved on. Things have changed. Not the least of these changes is that the British establishment is now engaged with the campaign as well. We are no longer just fighting for something. We are fighting against a massively powerful force utterly determined to preserve its power and status.

The ground on which the constitutional battle is being fought has also changed. In many ways, to the advantage of the independence campaign. Tactics must be adjusted accordingly. Never losing sight of the fact that the battle has to be won within the territory of the British political system. We need to fight clever every bit as much as we need to fight hard.

That is what the SNP is doing. It is fighting clever. Within the context of the British political system, size matters. Electoral clout is important. A massive mandate is a mighty weapon. The SNP must work to gain and hold this mandate in both the Holyrood and the Westminster arenas. It has a dual role as both the party of government and the political arm of the independence movement. It has to succeed in both roles. More than that. It has to succeed on a grand scale. If it is to be the lever which prises the millstone of the British state off Scotland’s back, the SNP needs exceptional political power. The kind of power which, to be perfectly frank, we would be sensibly cautious about handing to any political party. Needs must when necessity drives.

We have to put our trust in the SNP for the simple reason that there is nobody else. The people of Scotland have, by the exercise of their democratic power, chosen the SNP as their agents. There is unprecedented agreement that the SNP is best placed to defend and advance Scotland’s interests. There is not the same consensus about what those interests are. The party must seek to satisfy both those who are committed to independence and those who are not yet persuaded, even though they are happy to accept the party in its administrative role. There is no other party in a position to do this. Quite simply, there is no path to independence on any reasonable time-scale which does not have the SNP taking a lead role.

Once we reconcile ourselves to this hard fact of realpolitik, we start to see the SNP’s manoeuvrings in a different light. If the SNP group at Westminster appears to be “settling in”, maybe it’s because that’s how they have to appear in order to be effective. Bear in mind that they are struggling against the Westminster elite’s quite blatant efforts to sideline and exclude them. Vociferous protests and flashmob-style walk-outs might be great theatre. But does this not simply play into the narrative that the unionist parties and their friends in the media want to create?

As the Scottish Parliament elections loom, is it not appropriate for the SNP to be talking about the reasons voters should continue to trust them to run the country, rather than conforming to the unionist caricature of a single-issue protest party?

If the SNP isn’t saying much about a second independence referendum is that not because that particular ball is now at our feet? Has Nicola Sturgeon not made it abundantly clear that she wants the campaign for another referendum to be lead by the people rather than the politicians?

There is more than a bit of intellectual posturing about sniping at the SNP for supposedly abandoning the fight for independence. The party may not be perfect. But there is no rational reason to doubt its commitment to bringing Scotland’s government home. The lack of any justification makes this look like criticism for its own sake. I have to ask, what’s the point?

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