Logic often appears in short supply in politics. This is because great decisions of state are not taken on the merits of the ostensible subject matter, but according to what best advances the career interest of the politicians with the power to decide.
Scotland has left the European Union against the will of a large majority of its voters, expressed in a referendum. The ridiculously “hard” Brexit has caused real economic damage to virtually everybody in Scotland.
Yet Brexit was not sufficient to motivate the SNP leadership to make any genuine move for Independence. Because any genuine move for Independence brings real risk to the political careers of the SNP leadership.
By contrast to Brexit, which affects everybody, gender reassignment affects only a very, very small proportion of the Scottish population. Unlike the EU, which remains very popular in Scotland, the measure to reform gender reassignment lately passed by the Scottish parliament is distinctly unpopular.
One sure sign of how unpopular gender self-ID is, is that Keir Starmer is rowing away from it at the speed of light. Starmer believes in nothing but power and wealth for himself. Having been told self-ID is not popular, Starmer has absolutely no care about throwing Anas Sarwar and Scottish Labour under a bus, and opposing a Scottish law that Scottish Labour voted for in Holyrood.
Starmer is simply following Starmer’s career interest.
My personal view, for what it is worth, is that the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill passed by the Scottish parliament is still better than the status quo ante, though I would have preferred some of the safeguarding amendments to have been passed.
But I realise I am not on the popular side of the argument.
So how can it be possible that, having failed to move for Independence over EU membership, which is popular and affects everybody, the SNP may move for Independence over self-ID, which is unpopular and affects a tiny number of people?
The answer is astonishing and, if you are not a very close follower of Scottish politics, I understand it may be difficult to believe.
The first and crucial point is that Nicola Sturgeon has always been much more interested in identity politics than in Scottish Independence.
I think that is generally accepted now. I claim the Cassandra Prize for reading the entrails way back in March 2015.
I had a counterbalancing doubt at the back of my mind about this enthusiasm for – as Nicola Sturgeon put it – “Improving” the UK. I don’t want to improve the Union, I want to end it. Power has a fatal attraction to politicians, and I think I detected that exercising power in the United Kingdom is today gleaming brighter in the dreams of some professional SNP politicians than is independence for Scotland.
The other thing I did not like was the machine politics and management of it all. The entire first day there was not a motion that was passed other than by acclaim, and there was not a single speech against anything, though there were a couple of attempts at referral back. The only item permitted on to the conference agenda, in closed session on day 2, that was in the least likely to cause controversy was the adoption of all women shortlists – and the only reason that was on the agenda was that the leader made it abundantly plain she wanted it. I incline to the view that as a short term measure it is justified, but I abstained because I did not like what I saw of the way it was managed.
It was the only debate the leader sat through, and it was very plain she was watching carefully how people were voting. There was a definite claque of paid party apparatchiks and organised feminists occupying front centre of the hall. There was a strong suspicion, voiced by Christine Graham, that deliberately weak and left field speakers had been chosen against women shortlists. And for the vote, party functionaries including Angus Robertson and Ian McCann stood at the side of the hall very ostensibly noting who voted which way and making sure that the payroll vote performed. I was right next to where Angus Robertson stood as he did this. He moved into position just before the vote, made it very obvious indeed what he was doing, and left immediately after. I found myself regarding the prospect of a whole raft of new MPs, their research assistants and secretaries providing 200 more payroll votes, as depressing.
All women shortlists of course became permanent, and other manifestations of identity politics followed. We have the SNP National Executive dominated by representatives of identity groups.
We also have the “gender balanced” cabinet, which is the only explanation for the idiot Shirley-Anne Somerville being a minister.
Actually I take that back, there is no possible explanation of Shirley-Anne Somerville being a minister. She would fail the interview for Deputy Manager of a branch of Superdry.
We have the appointment of a Lord Advocate on the basis that being the first female in this key role outweighs being a diehard unionist.
This deserves greater consideration in this discussion of politics and logicality.
It is a fascinating fact that Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain was prepared to certify the Gender Recognition Reform Bill as not in conflict with UK legislation and thus the Scotland Act, when it obviously is in conflict.
Yet Bain refused to certify a referendum bill.
The Lord Advocate was appointed by Sturgeon and sits in her cabinet. What is plain is that what is and what is not certified by Bain is, by happy coincidence, in line with Sturgeon’s political priorities.
Bain helped Sturgeon avoid the referendum she has been “promising” for seven years, and enabled the GRR legislation which is so very close to Sturgeon’s heart.
Is it not lucky that Bain’s entirely independent and sincere legal opinion always falls just as Nicola Sturgeon would wish?
Bain is also key to Sturgeon’s next gender identity moves which, together with GRR, Sturgeon believes will cement her legacy. They are the abolition of jury trials in sexual assault cases, openly pursued to increase the conviction rate rather than the just verdict rate, and the establishment of misogyny as a “hate crime”.
There have been many other defining “identity politics” features of Sturgeon’s rule, particularly “cutting edge” early age teaching on sexuality and gender in schools.
But the identity politics initiative which caused most publicity was of course the conspiracy of lies and liars, orchestrated from Nicola Sturgeon’s office, to harness the #MeToo movement to jail her heterosexual male predecessor, an inexorable proponent of Independence.
When that plot was foiled by an honest Edinburgh jury, the abolition of juries moved high up on Sturgeon’s agenda.
In using her position as First Minister to advance the identity politics agenda, the one thing causing stress to Sturgeon has been the existence of members of her own party who believed the party should rather be achieving Independence.
Sturgeon has famously kept party members following her for over eight years by continuing dangling the carrot of a referendum before them – a referendum she has never had the slightest intention of holding, and never will hold.
This extremely skilful feat of party management has been achieved by driving out of the SNP those members who were primarily interested in Independence. The tens of thousands who have left were the long serving backbone of the party.
For some reason I have never understood, there has been a peculiar alignment in Scottish Independence politics.
Those Independence supporters who support trans rights are strongly correlated with “gradualists”, those who are happy with devolution and see Independence as a distant aspiration.
Those Independence supporters who oppose self-ID on gender are strongly correlated with those who see Independence as an urgent need now. Hence the Alba Party.
By making support for trans rights, in the most uncompromising and ideological form, a flagship policy of the SNP, Nicola Sturgeon drove out almost all the hardline Independence supporters from the SNP.
The remaining membership who are driven by anything resembling a belief, are driven by identity politics. But as the SNP has become firmly established as the font of political power and paid position in Scotland, it has also attracted a new membership, often ex-Labour, who are interested in money and career.
I have never understood why there was this correlation between trans rights and gradualism. I was one of the very few individuals you could point to who both supported trans rights and supported urgent Independence now.
Suddenly Nicola’s shock troops, the trans activists who have dominated the SNP and Green parties, see Independence as urgent, following Westminster’s veto of Gender Recognition Reform.
In two months, the SNP will hold a special conference designed by Sturgeon and Murrell to vote to kick down the road for a few more years Nicola’s promise to hold a plebiscitary election should Westminster not allow the Independence referendum.
But since that conference was called, Nicola’s gender identity troops, who were happy with the devolution system that they believed had delivered what they wanted, suddenly find Independence is needed after the Westminster veto.
That fundamentally changes the equation. By a delicious irony, those people Nicola weaponised to get rid of the supporters of Independence, are now the ones pushing her to move on Independence.
This is hilarious.
Sturgeon is attempting to stave them off by her old trusty method of taking court action against Westminster; which as always she will lose when it finally reaches the Supreme Court in London.
Sturgeon held off parliamentary action on Gender Recognition Reform for years, while she used it as a wedge issue inside the party.
Now the legislation has finally passed, I very much doubt the committed activists into whose hands she placed her political future, will be prepared to wait for another couple of years while a doomed court case plays out.
The end for Roman Emperors generally came when their Praetorian Guards turned against them.
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