The Course of Scottish Politics 197


The SNP triumphed in 2015 by outflanking Labour to the left. The Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn is now coming back by outflanking the SNP to the left. This was not hard as the SNP tends to talk left but not act it. Kezia Dugdale has resigned because she is unhappy with tacking to the left; indeed as a third rate machine politician she has never given any indication of philosophical conviction at all.

A large number of those voters returning to support Scottish Labour from the SNP have not abandoned their support for Independence, and having a significant Indy supporting section of its voter base is something which ultimately Labour will have to come to terms with. The shift of the left to support the SNP had left Scottish Labour as this strange rump of beached Blairites and Brownites, to the extent that even the (tiny number of) ordinary members were not supporters of Corbyn. That too will change. I have no doubt that Corbyn’s opposition to Independence was tactical and caused by the need to placate this Scottish Labour establishment. I can foresee Labour moving to become much more Independence friendly over the next few years – its Orangemen have already largely shifted to the Tories.

A number of people have suggested to me that I am myself moving towards joining Labour. The answer to which is, not until the last member of the GMB is led by the ears down Sauchiehall St with a Trident missile shoved up their arse. That is not as facetious as it sounds. For me the GMB characterises everything that is wrong with the entire founding principles of the Labour Party. If somebody announced a new WMD had been developed which only kills babies less than 10 months old, the GMB would say that was great, providing their members could build it. Before anybody argues, remember their members already build WMD which would inevitably incinerate millions of babies.

There is much concentration on Labour’s appalling Blairite MPs, and I could certainly never vote for a large majority of their people at Westminster. Until Corbyn manages a real purge there is no way I would even think of voting Labour. But people forget it has historically been the trades unions who have defeated all previous attempts to use the Labour Party to advance a left wing agenda, and who even now enforce support of Trident and of nuclear power. Middle class intellectuals tend to have a misty-eyed view of dignified, auto-didactic workers. I have seen too much of the world (and of the racist, xenophobic and significantly working class English Brexit voters) to harbour such fantasy, and too much contempt for political correctness to pretend that I do. It is extraordinary how many people feel the unions should be above criticism because they represent the working class. Increased union workplace power is now essential to help rebalance the economy; but they should not be fetishized.

That is more space about Labour than it currently deserves.

Meantime it is foolish to deny there is something of a crisis of confidence in the Independence movement.

Every three months or so, for almost the past three years, I have published that I am yet to hear one single post-referendum statement or speech by a senior SNP figure explaining the advantages of Independence. Well, I still haven’t. Having conclusively proven in a dismal Westminster campaign that not mentioning the benefits of Independence is a seat loser, the SNP is resolutely continuing not to mention the benefits of Independence.

There has however been a change. Before the Westminster election, the SNP would not talk about Independence but would talk about the tactics of achieving Independence, principally referendum timing. Now they have a new tactic of never mentioning Independence at all. Instead they concentrate exclusively on good governance within the Union.

Personally I have no interest at all in pretending that the glorified regional council at the bottom of Holyrood Road is a national parliament, when it is not even consulted on whether the nation goes to war, cannot stop forced deportations of valued residents from local communities, and cannot prevent extradition of citizens to face English courts (I am myself up in the English High Court on a libel charge soon). We do not really have a Scottish parliament or a Scottish government. We have a glorified council.

But there are many in the SNP who appear pretty well satisfied with the status quo, given a few extra powers handed down when we leave the EU. Brexit is being forced upon Scotland demonstrably against the will of the nation. It is an economically suicidal policy and yet the SNP appears meekly to be now discussing its implementation, rather than reaching for the national sovereignty that would prevent it.

That we are forced out of the EU against our will is the ultimate proof that the near useless institution in Holyrood is not a Parliament.

There are too many people within the SNP who are content with Scotland’s pretend national status and very real humiliating colonial status. There are too many people in the SNP who earn a fat living from being politicians within the UK system they are only pretending to oppose. The SNP is starting to look like the classical elite “native” ruling class the British ruled through in nearly all their colonies. The SNP, far too many of them, have cushy well-paid jobs within the devolution settlement and are not personally inclined to take risks.

The SNP begins to look like a controlled opposition. The unionist establishment is delighted with the SNP.

The SNP soaked up all the energy of the Yes movement, and diverted it into a cul de sac away from any agitation for Independence. Energies have been dissipated on elections within – and not challenging – the UK governance system and on a series of pointless consultation exercises. Opposition to Brexit has been corralled and dissipated. The SNP has effectively done the British Establishment’s job for it.

I so not exclude Nicola Sturgeon from this criticism. Indeed it is chiefly a criticism of Nicola Sturgeon.

In the course of the last referendum campaign the YES camp gained an astonishing 17%. The reason was that the actual arguments for Independence were heard. That has not happened since – those in a position to have the argument heard, have chosen in their own interest not to make it. Yet still I have no doubt that, if we only get the chance, the next campaign will see us sprint home in triumph. What the SNP are in danger of becoming is the gatekeepers who deny us that chance.

The SNP needs to recover its nerve, and needs to demonstrate it exists to achieve Independence, not to make personal careers. Another referendum needs to be called by this Holyrood parliament; it would be a brave man or woman who predicts the De Hondt system will deliver a pro-Independence majority in the next one. I urge everybody to stay with the SNP, as I see no practical alternative way forward. But we need to make plain to the leadership that we are starting to become not just disappointed by them, but angry with them.


197 thoughts on “The Course of Scottish Politics

1 2 3
  • Tony

    ” I have seen too much of the world (and of the racist, xenophobic and significantly working class English Brexit voters) …”

    From the Mash Report, BBC2:

    “What’s all this about Brexiteers being racist? I’m a racist and I voted remain!”

  • Republicofscotland

    Yes, it’s all very Assange-esque, if you can’t shut them up, then fit them up.

    One things for sure though the wannabe fake economist, the dogen of the doggie biscuit world, will never reach those giddy heights of revealing the union for what it is, and suffer, a attempted smear.

    He just not bright enough, now I see your attraction to him.

  • Tom O'Rourke

    Wow! That’s some complaint; “the snp are London colonial stooges, because they insist on good governance”. They are certainly not perfect, but that’s just stupid.
    The very good governance shown by the SNP has debunked the idea that we are too stupid to govern ourselves. If the SNP were as bad as the last labour SGs we would have been shown to be incompetent and therefore our self esteem based on efficacy would be unworthy to lead us to independence.
    You accuse them of being in it for the money 💰. That’s a croc too!

    • Alf Baird

      Tom, a simple majority of Scotland’s MP’s can give notice to end the so-called ‘union’ in the same way it began – that is theirs and Scotland’s constitutional and sovereign right, and always has been. However, the SNP decided, as Craig has said before, ‘to settle in rather than settle up’. Moreover, ongoing census data suggests the SNP’s differentiated policies at Holyrood (e.g. free public services) may be pivotal in attracting over half a million migrants from rest-UK (mainly England) each decade, the latter effectively replenishing the No vote; culturally, these people, to a very large degree, vote to maintain their Britishness/Englishness, which is understandable, if disrespectful to the right to self determination of the host nation (i.e. Scotland). So, the SNP’s ‘competent management’ of Holyrood (i.e. differentiated policies from England in particular) is itself helping to close the door on independence for good. If the SNP really wanted Scotland to be independent they would use their present democratic majorities of MPs and MSPs to give notice to end the ‘union’ charade now.

      • Rob Royston

        “The SNP’s differentiated policies effectively replenishing the NO vote.” This is very evident in Scotland’s coastal and island communities.
        Most of the local young were forced by high transport and living costs into moving away to find employment and their families homes were snapped up by housing-bubble wealthy retirees.
        The new residents get RET-subsidised ferry services along with all the other benefits of Scottish living. is it all just co-incidental or does someone organise it?

  • Murdo

    I think this is a win-win situation. Let the SNP be the party of “good government”. And they are.

    And let the YES movement campaign for indy…

    As for Corbyn, I lived for a time in his constituency. He has been its MP since 1983, for much of that time his party has been in power… and it is an absolute dump… I felt like I was back in Glasgow before 2014, when everyone woke up to the fact that they had been voting Labour for 50 years and getting SFA for it. Much of inner-city London constituencies have Labour majorities like we once had… and the Labour MPs know that the way to keep their meal ticket is to precisely do nothing for their constituencies, to keep people living in $hit…..

    Corbyn might be very au fait with Venezuelan politics or what is happening in Bolivia… but surely the job of an MP is to work for his constituents, improve their lot, attract some inner investment? And at least that is what the SNP is doing in Scotland… Acting like the government of a “normal” European country like Germany or Finland… Can you imagine what a wreck there would be if a unionist party/parties (and they are all the same) was in power all those years in Scotland? Asset stripping, closures, PFI, no new bridges, homes or roads….

    The YES movement needs the oxygen of autonomy to survive. Let it be separate from the SNP.

    Dinnae heid the SNP! Let’s git an wi the job oorselves!

    • Bill Marsh

      Let’s face it. The SNP historically has never been a left wing party. It has adopted this guise in the recent past to gain votes but will soon revert to its right wing origins.

      • reel guid

        The SNP has never been a right wing party. When the National Party of Scotland amalgamated with the smaller Scottish Party in 1934 to from the SNP it was generally considered that the NPS was to the left of the SP. The SNP has always been a broad church certainly, but the orientation has been for social justice as well as independence.

        • fred

          The 79 Group was a faction within the Scottish National Party (SNP), named after its year of formation, 1979. The group sought to persuade the SNP to take an active left-wing stance, arguing that it would win more support, and were highly critical of the established SNP leaders. Although it had a tiny membership, the group caused sufficient disquiet that it was expelled from the SNP in 1982, although its members were subsequently readmitted and many attained senior positions in the Scottish Government after 2007; former First Minister Alex Salmond (2007-2014) was a leading member of the group.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/79_Group

  • giyane

    Craig moaning about a trade union is the same as Mrs May moaning about business fat cats. She is leader of the party-for-fat-cats and therefore her job is to lie about it to the electorate. A trade union is a socialist phenomenon. Why on earth should it be expected to serve the interests of Scottish independence?
    Whose head is on the Trade Union coin? Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.

    I don’t expect the political organisation, the Muslim Brotherhood, loved by fascist politicians everywhere because it believes in forcing individuals to behave more subserviently, through terror, spying and removal of civil rights.. I don’t expect it to represent Islam. Islam is just a useful slogan to use in a democracy in order to catch votes from unsuspecting voters. Last week 600 fully armed Daesh were moved out of Iraq in coaches on the main highway. I wonder who told them to do that?

    The only way to achieve Scottish independence is to convince the electorate that there is something about Scottishness that is better than all other alternatives. We have a mature, responsible political class, unlike the UK, we care about the lives of all our citizens unlike the UK, we are not racist against foreigners unlike the UK and we are much stronger economically than the UK’s totally fucked up economics of Thatcherism which we never subscribed too anyway.

    Which is better- a war criminal who appears to have suffered an extreme sense of guilt at his mistakes, an economist who failed to change banking de-regulation while he was UK Chancellor of the Exchequer but then sorted the mess out, or, a war criminal like William Hague who denies all responsibility for destroying a country and a former Chancellor of the Exchequer whose only remedy for banster gambling was disability austerity?

    Concentrate on kicking out the Tories and red Tories, build bridges with the socialists, and work on what makes Scotland demonstrable better than the rest of the UK. Simples.

  • Duncan Strachan

    I was interested in your opinion piece and I have slowly been coming to the same one.
    The SNP since indy ref 1 are complacent
    and too comfortable, their election campaign deserved the result it got. Perhaps they should lose all Westminster seats. At least then no vested interests would be holding the independence movement back.

  • Gordon McShean

    Way back in the 1950s there were SNP elements that refused to support we ‘radicals’ when QEII notices got damaged. And when National Secretary Curran went into exile, concerned he might be implicated in the burial of guns that might have been used against Scottish demonstrators, they kept things quiet. They were even more quiet about knowing that ‘gun heisting’ folks like me also had to go abroad. And when I wrote about these things from exile (my memoir RADICAL TERRORIST had to be published in the US), the SNP joined with “chicken” publishers in ‘denying all knowledge of the matter. But I could forgive the SNP in recent years when they appeared to be the platform for the more serious nationalist Scots demanding independence. However, keeping their cushy posts now seems to have bought them off once more. Will they be reenacting the Highland Clearances?

  • giyane

    I don’t know why Tory Brexit negotiators like Liam Fox don’t know how to negotiate. Is it something about being a Tory that makes you go for the short-term, flash in the pan, gain of sounding tough while deliberately scuppering progress and wasting time. If businessmen and women behaved like this they would be sacked immediately.

    In any conversation that follows a row between 2 parties, nothing will be heard until apologies are exchanged.
    Hard Brexit is an utterly racist and unrepresentative interpretation of the UK referendum. Our expression of not liking being told what to do by Germany and France has been twisted by the Tories into a racist refusal to accept foreigners and it is extremely insulting to tell foreigners that you don’t like them. Totally unacceptable.

    I don’t know what he is a doctor of, but it sure as hell can’t be politics. M. Barnier is not going to barney until the Tory negotiators apologise. Not apologising wastes our time. their time, businesses’ time and immigrants’time and it also wastes money because negotiations not going anywhere is devaluing our currency like Thatcher ice-cream – a disgusting mixture of air, fat, water and flavouring.

    “we need to make plain to the leadership that we are starting to become not just disappointed by them, but angry with them”. What we desperately need to do is remove the Tories from government before they destroy the UK.

  • mickc

    Presumably you are not up on a libel “charge”, a criminal matter, but are being sued for libel, a civil matter.
    Who is the plaintiff, and what was the alleged libel?
    As you are not a wealthy man, it seems likely this is a gagging attempt rather than a serious action for compensation of a wrong suffered.

    • mickc

      Forgot to add, all the best to you with this, I hope you can get good representation.
      And just realised, it’s one of your former colleagues in the FO, isn’t it?!

  • Thomas Brotherston

    Agree! Every member needs to understand THE PARTY BELONGS TO YOU. The Scottish government will always play within the rules set for them by Britain’s ruling elite. That is why the SG needs to break those rules or at the very least challenge them sufficiently to force Westminster to crack the whip. For example the Scottish government could announce unilatterly that whatever the outcome of Brexit, EU nationals living in Scotland will remain in Scotland. We will not collude in their repatriation.We can’t win a fight that the Scottish government steadfastly refuse to get in to!
    SNP members can submit resolutions to conference, email and lobby their MPs and MSPs demanding more robust responses to the so very British humiliation of the Scots. If we don’t run they can’t chase us.

1 2 3

Comments are closed.