Is the SNP Campaigning for Independence? 302

I was watching This Week on the BBC last night, and Andrew Neil teased John Nicolson that the SNP had given up campaigning for Independence, and never mentioned it any more. I have known John since student days, and much respect him. He is a very professional man and put in a very professional performance on the show. He can be relied on, despite his arch asides, to follow a party line.

How did John reply to the charge that the SNP had stopped campaigning for Independence? Did he reply, “No Andrew, we remain fully committed to the goal of Independence and that is our number one priority.”?


He said “we have to respect the decision of the electorate”, a line taken straight from Nicola Sturgeon.

The problem with this is that it is exactly the Blairite line. Liz Kendall argued in effect that the electorate voted Tory, so Labour have to be Red Tories to respect the electorate.

It is a trite phrase. Nobody would argue you should disrespect the electorate. But it then elides into a distortion. To respect the verdict of the electorate means to accept your loss on this occasion and the processes of the state proceed on that basis, without any attempt to subvert the democratic decision. It does NOT mean the losing side had to change its beliefs, go quiet, or stop campaigning ready for the next time.

Since the referendum I have spoken on many stages in favour of Independence across Scotland, under the aegis of a whole variety of organisations only a minority of which are anathema to the SNP. Yet it occurs to me that of all the distinguished people I have shared platforms with, I have not witnessed a single one of the SNP’s MPs argue for Independence. To my certain knowledge they have declined many invitations to do so.

The SNP instead is setting out its stall as a kinder and more efficient manager of the governmental institutions of Scotland within the UK. It is elevating managerialism into a cult. Forget Independence and admire John Swinney’s figures. This is reinforced by another managerialist subtext, “the only organised opposition at Westminster.” Opposing the Tories is undoubtedly a good thing. But all this is symptomatic of the SNP becoming over-comfortable within the governmental institutions of the United Kingdom. All the energy expended pointlessly on the glorified local council powers of the Scotland Act while our country is dragged into yet another neo-con war against the will of the Scottish people.

When the media were promoting a narrative of potential ill-behaviour by new SNP MP’s, Tommy Sheppard famously declared “We have not come to act up, but to settle up!” What precisely have the SNP MP’s done that showed a scintilla of desire to “settle up” and end the Union? Where are the Parnellite tactics? A more honest declaration would be:

“We have not come to settle up, but to settle in!”

John Nicolson was led on to discussing his prospects of re-election last night, in response to a joke about Michael Portillo’s defeat. Andrew Neil gently reminded him he was not meant to want to be in Westminster long term. I am willing to bet a million pounds with anybody that the SNP structure is already giving more thought to defending its Westminster seats than to ending the union before the next Westminster election. I think deep down everybody reading this will find they believe that too.

Leadership loyalists will respond with a) more managerialism – we run the country better blah blah blah – and b), the argument that the SNP has to entrench in power before trying again for independence and win trust by – more managerialism. Oh OK, that’s actually the same argument. They don’t have another one.

The problem with this is gravity. In politics no party remains at the heights of popularity forever. Events take their toll. I suspect that what Nicola agreed with Dave this week about extending the extreme surveillance state to Scotland will be a little wave of erosion once we get told of it. The SNP will, regardless of anything I think or write, sweep the Holyrood elections. But that will likely be the high point of their absolute dominance of Scottish politics.

Let me put it this way. It is definitely a possibility that the coming real domination of both MPs and MSPs will never happen again. If the SNP do not even try to use that dominance to deliver Independence, then what is the point of the SNP?

Oh sorry, I forgot. They manage the institutions better, and are an effective opposition at Westminster. That apparently is the point. But not what I joined for.

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302 thoughts on “Is the SNP Campaigning for Independence?

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  • Sandra

    I don’t think anyone claimed the SNP would try to get independence before the next WM election. Nicola Sturgeon has made it clear there would need to be a ‘material change’ to trigger another referendum. The alternative is a frantic rush for Indyref2 without any certainty of winning, which would be disastrous for the cause and certainly put it back for a long time. In the meantime the new SNP MPs are doing a very good job shouting Scotland’s corner, certainly much better than the unionists they replaced.

  • craig Post author


    Except that the plan you propose is dependent on the SNP getting a Holyrood majority AGAIN in 2020. The odds against that are much higher than the chances of losing a second referendum. A really, really stupid strategy.

  • craig Post author


    Sorry the “really, really stupid strategy” remark was intended as a comment on Nicola Sturgeon not on you!!

  • Sandra

    Why do you think the SNP can’t hold onto their majority, Craig? Labour are scarcely a viable alternative and the Tory UK government’s stubborn refusal to honour the Vow can only stoke nationalist sentiment.

  • Neil McKenzie

    This blog has been my thoughts of late too. I was against UDI for the sake of the establishment partitioning Scotland, but now I think it’s the only way rather than remain as a battered wife to an abusive hubby.

  • BrianPowell

    It is an important point, and has a parallel in an interesting article by Derek Bateman on the Christmas party for MSM journalists hosted by the FM, but no ‘alternative media’ journalists were included.
    It can be appreciated that there is an official Holyrood press pack, but they spend all their time attacking the SNP SG, or distorting or playing down good news about Scotland.
    When I was campaigning during the Referendum, then for my MP, now for my MSP in the SGE, I used the information from WoS, Newsnet Scotland, Bella, Common Space, Radical Independence, and blogs such as this. Plus a great deal of research myself. None of the positive info came from MSM or BBC. Though the Sunday Herald came out directly, then the The National. However the background and in-depth analysis came from the on-line media. I couldn’t really have done the same work otherwise.
    They were not recognised by a Christmas invitation, not even as a separate occasion. Extremely disappointing.

  • Blair paterson

    The S.N.P .are to soft to ever bring independence to Scotland I mean look at their record at fighting back against the media and all the lies they tell about them it is non existent they seem to take all that is thrown at them I am no lawyer but I believe Nicola could easily have sued over frenchgate and really hurt the establishment but no ,. And their have been countless other times as well thank god Wallace and Bruce wre made of sterner stuff I say to the S.N.P. For goodness sake start fighting for in dependence again and stop holding back

  • Gill Williams

    In my opinion SNP are not pursuing independence. They are happy with swelled ranks in their party and seats at Westminster 54 now and dominance at Holyrood. Only time a second referendum is threatened is when their record is challenged. Nicola Sturgeon agrèed to a UK wide water deal with Cameron a few weeks before the referendum behind our backs. To me were SNP really wanting independence when this was arranged a few weeks before a possible split from rest of Uk. She and Alex are members of privy council extremely unlikely they will ever split from Uk as they swore to protect Crown . Snp have also advised someone by email they cannot deliver independence a referendum is only an opinion poll and that the people of Scotland are sovereign …which begs the question why if they cant deliver independence do they pretend to supporters ref 2 could bring it. ?

  • Davide Simonetti

    I think that when the EU referendum gets closer we’ll hear the SNP talk more about independence.

  • Tony M

    I don’t see how post-May will be any different, they already have a fair majority in Holyrood. Though the opposition there are almost without exception, truly apalling and mediocre, vision-less, inept, and getting rid of the whole lot of them will be satisfying and thoroughly well-deserved. They do and have done far more harm these parties, Labour, Lib-Dem, and Tories that just having them still around is offensive.

    If by Parnell-ite you mean, and I’m just guessing, convening away from Westminster, where their presence is anomalous, ineffectual numerically, though they are infact the only opposition while the Labour party is riven by infighting and the absolute contradictions at the heart of Labour, its serial failures, betrayals, spell its ultimate demise south of the border too, as already is apace in Scotland, we don’t need two or even three Tory parties, lets have the organ-grinder running the show brought before us instead of the delegate monkeys jumping on our heads.

    They, the SNP really ought to decline to indulge the loathsome lying press, more than already, to limit co-operation, where previous and ongoing bad-faith overflows, drowning reason. The population at large are so repulsed by and indignant at the BBC in particular, for its undue and malicious power, their sheer bloody-minded awfulness, that engagement with them, should be limited and instead of on their terms, should be on ours. I’m sure they’ll get along fine without input from the SNP and Scottish Government, they’ll have no problem making up or inventing news, ignoring real events and all sense of context, as they do already, but without SNP Aunt Sallys to pelt with rocks and balls of spittle, they’ll look even more stupid, desperate and irrelevant. Their love-in with the new Labour dregs will look even more peculiar and disturbing.

    After the May elections the BBC will have no excuse to give massive and partisan fawning coverage to Labour’s non-entities and their hare-brained stunts, as they do -as their electoral and membership base in Scotland does not, cannot justify it, Labour are already nothing more than a fringe group, but we see already of-course that Tories and Lib-Dems too receive and have far more coverage than their negligible support could ever justify, and have done since Thatcher’s evil reign, you could even say confidently the media built the SDP/Lib-Dems out of nothing, to prove they could do it, and now doesn’t know what to with this other darling zombie party, so shallow, false and ineffectual are they, as are Labour.

    We can’t confront the decaying depraved UK state all at once and score a knockout of the whole stinking mass, but we can go after individual parts and score a series of smaller victories. Starting with their low-hanging media cheerleaders and apologists.

    Infestations of rats at BBC outposts threaten public sanity and safety.

  • Grant Buttars

    Couldn’t agree more, Craig. There is a major disconnect going on as the SNP are absorbed further into the political establishment. This is manifesting itself in either uncritical support of the SNP by some of its supporters or disillusionment, both amongst new SNP members or longer term members who were invigorated by the diversity and plurality of the wider Yes movement and can’t fit (back) into a SNP-shaped box. We might have hoped that the SNP would have learned a lesson from what happened to Scottish Labour.

  • Alex

    In my opinion they are doing exactly the right thing. Proving capability at Westminster the same as they have done at Holyrood. A second IndyRef would not go down well at the moment. Instead they need to look into the problems that may have lost them the vote. For example more time should be spent quietly looking into a new currency (

    Whilst I agree what goes up must come down, the SNPs rise has been partly due to the inexorable churn of post devolution elections, where the Scotland-only parties have a natural advantage.

    Saying that I would like to see more come out of September 2014 than a thin newspaper and some untested new powers. I want to see a strong new independence supporting party challenge the SNP. (RISE?) I want our politics changed for good.

    I have a dream where the left/right dialectic in Scotland is represented by two opposing parties both dedicated to independence. Where the Unionist parties become the ‘wacky outsiders’, marginalised for their extreme views. I am happy for Labour, Con and LibDems to take on that role – fortunately they seem quite happy about it too.

  • bjsalba

    The minute the Scottish Government hosts a Christmas do for or including the Alternative Media the MSM or BUM (British Unionist Media) will be all over SNP and the Bloggers with screams of outrage.

    The event is one of those things they Government has to do whether it wants to or not. If the Government cancelled it (in the name of austerity), can you imagine the screams of outrage?

    Part of the intense hatred of the Media Pack is that the Government does not show them the deference and influence they think they are due. Murdoch had (and possibly still has) lots of private meetings with the PM. The FM doesn’t.

  • Donny Campbell

    There’s a lot I agree with here Craig but am reminded about just how small ‘c’ conservative, much of Scotland is. I’m sure NS and her team agonise over how popular the idea of independence really is, and they view building Scotland’s self-confidence through first establishing confidence in its devolved administration, as a vital step in the process. Given the weight of hostility in the mainstream media, this is indeed risky but in the meantime, I’m sure they’re relying heavily on the UK institutions to further damn the Union themselves by their actions allowing the SNP to fulfil the role of repeatedly pointing this out.

  • yesindyref2

    The SNP won 56 MPs at Westminster on the back of their pledge to push the Smith Commission report into the Scotland Bill, it’s almost there but then there’s the “fiscal framework” to be completed. Once all that’s in place the electorate will be able to judge it. They’re fighting Holyrood on the basis of good governance.

    That’s attracted not just YES voters, but NO voters too. The Ashcroft poll showed 14% of SNP voters voted NO. Well, I can believe that, I’ve seen them posting online.

    Thing is they’re relying on Indy supporters to “keep the faith”, help them get the MPs, help them get the MSPs, even if they / we aren’t particularly party politically inclined, we support the SNP a they’re the party of Independence, without them we’d have had no Referendum, nor will we get Indy Ref 2.

    If they let us down by sticking their noses deep into the trough of preservation of their power,, we will turn on them like piranha fish, wolves, vultures, lions, take your pick, and shred them back to the political representation they had in 1980 at both Westminster and Holyrood.

    I imagine they realise this simple fact.

  • Ken

    5% vote NO. 15% didn’t vote. Stop blaming the SNP for the electorate choices. Until the next Referendum. Scotland was promised FFA, Home Rule, Federalism. Where is it?

    The SNP aren’t responsible for Unionist lies. Tax raising powers to pay for Trident/illegal Wars, tax evasion, banking fraud, 50% take of production + 25% tax on the Oil sector. Losing thousands of jobs. Scotland paying £4Bilion debt repayments for money it doesn’t borrow or spend. Until the next Referendum

    People were warned vote NO, you get nothing.

    Constantly criticising the SNP for electorate choice will not help the Independence cause. An own goal.

  • Ken

    Stop watching the BBC, fueling the fire. Anyone not happy with SNP membership can leave. Just sit on the sidelines carping.

  • Tony_0pmoc

    It was always illogical for the SNP to campaign for Scottish Independence, yet also want to keep The British Pound, and remain a part of The EU.

    Craig is close enough to discover that the SNP are probably even more “Globalist” than he is, but too close to the ground of local political campaigning to realise that Democracy is already an illusion. We in The West live in a Fascist Dictatorship which is determined to take complete control of the World, even if it means destroying the human race in a Nuclear war with Russia.

    RIP Dave McGowan of the Center for an Informed America. One of the cleverest and nicest people I have ever come across on the Internet. He understood 9/11 the day it happened and wrote about it and published it the next day. Some people think he was assassinated for his exposure of what really happened during The Boston Bombing, but such a thing is unprovable, and I think it unlikely.

    He was perfectly healthy until May this year – and then was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of cancer. He died a few weeks ago at the age of 55. I only found out yesterday.

    It was probably natural. Such things are very common even in people who believe everything “Authority” tells them.

    I am afraid most of this is true. Ordinary people are being deliberately terrorised by Authority – and many either switch off completely or go mad.


  • yesindyref2

    Well, Derek Bateman, WOS, Craig, Bella, James Kelly, all have their position and “job” to do. As “maverick” bloggers, they can really work effrectively, they don’t have to follow party lines, they can analyse the media, be controversial, work behind the scenes. Official recognition by the SNP (or the old YES campaign) is, however, impossible. That would endorse all their views and leave them totally open to criticism over a point of view expressed by someone outside the official ranks.

    It would also have the SNP giving recognition only to Indy supporters, whereas their voter base is more than that. It would antagonise the supporters and NO voters who would not only withdraw their support, but remain closed to chaning to a YES.

    Meanwhile, without direct effort, but because of the efforts of the bloggers, and an increasing awareness of what is going on rather than what the media report as going on, there seems to be a steady drift to YES.

    If I was the SNP media spin doctor / guru / whatever it’s called, I would woo the MSM, not with spin, well, just a little bit, and not to try to get them on my / our side, but to try to get them to be more impartial, more neutral or more balanced.

    The MSM used to have 40 Labour MPs to quote and give material for their articles, now they have 1. The’re stuck with the likes of the (fortunately) inimitable Brian Wilson. It looks like they will have less Labour MSPs for their material after May. So they’re less Labour oriented now I’ve noticed, they’re already moving a bit to Ruth Davidson and the Conservatives.

    MSM needs material and “sources”, and if there’s few from any other partry, well, perhaps they might just print / digitise more from the SNP in future.

  • yesindyref2

    As another little point about the MSM, it really does need direct talk with whatever is the Government of the day. Perhaps half of its material and stories comes from that. The MSM hasn’t recognised the SNP, it doesn’t really talk to the SNP and hence it doesn’t really talk to the Government, nor the third largest political representation in the House of Commons.

    As a reault its content level has severely degraded, and it’s not just Indy / SNP supporters have commented on that, it’s the NO lot, the anti-SNP lot. Basically speaking, if the MSM wants to up its game, it has to talk to Government and in Scotland, that’s the SNP. Otherwise MSM will accelerate its own death.

  • giyane

    The SNP are using the political finger in the mouth of sweet innocence, about independence.

    Cameron is using the ( British-made ) Muslim Brotherhood ideology of jihad against Muslims to stir up hatred and degrade the political infrastructure, in order to colonise Syria for USUKIS with Islamic Militants.
    End reward – power for some vile stooge of theirs.

    So he poses quaintly with his finger in his mouth like a five year old girl:
    Muslim Brotherhood are possible extremists.

  • Tony M

    Someone send Derek Bateman a party hat and a balloon, he’s feeling left out, might even succumb to flirtatious advances from the dark side.

  • Peter A Bell

    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?

  • MJ

    “I have not witnessed a single one of the SNP’s MPs argue for Independence”

    Nor me. They didn’t during the referendum campaign either because they failed to grasp the currency issue. No independent currency, no independence. It’s as simple as that.

  • crisiscult

    very much agree with Peter’s post.

    I think the worst action we as independence supporters can take right now is something like this:

    the only people we hate more than the Romans are the fucking Judean People’s Front.

    P.F.J.: Yeah…

    JUDITH: Splitters.

    P.F.J.: Splitters…

    FRANCIS: And the Judean Popular People’s Front.

    P.F.J.: Yeah. Oh, yeah. Splitters. Splitters…

    LORETTA: And the People’s Front of Judea.

    P.F.J.: Yeah. Splitters. Splitters…

    REG: What?

    LORETTA: The People’s Front of Judea. Splitters.

    REG: We’re the People’s Front of Judea!

    LORETTA: Oh. I thought we were the Popular Front.

    REG: People’s Front! C-huh.

    FRANCIS: Whatever happened to the Popular Front, Reg?

    REG: He’s over there.

    P.F.J.: Splitter!

  • MerkinScot

    I hope Craig is wrong and that the SNP is playing a longer game than many would like.
    However, sometime I have to bite my tongue at the tv and question why the SNP is not just a little bit more combative in answering the smears without necessarily getting into a mire.
    For example last night on QT Ms Hallam was asked a direct question about Donald Trump. She could have given “Lord McConnell” as the answer. Instead, she allowed Piers Morgan to answer for her “Alex Salmond”.
    Either she didn’t know (shocking?) or she simply allowed the Bogeyfication of Salmond for a reason (equally shocking!).

  • jkick

    It’s not behond the realm of the imagination to concur that the SNP was set up by the economic elite as a cloaked tool to steer folk away or block the path to indepedence. Much the same as the industrialists set up the Fabian society and the Labour party to promote faux socialism, only in this instance we have the doctrine of faux independentism.

  • Ba'al Zevul

    Once we reconcile ourselves to this hard fact of realpolitik…

    Some find comfort in fantasies. But we need our bastards to be bigger bastards than the other bastards, and that’s the reality. Good comment, Peter.

  • Fredi

    “No independent currency, no independence. It’s as simple as that.”

    Indeed, the ANC made the same mistake in South Africa, they left the Central Bank alone and their economic woes never left them.

    EU membership is the antithesis to ‘independence’. The upcoming referendum is the most important vote we will get in a lifetime.

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