So, Chris Deerin’s message is simple. We should ignore all the tangible, objective evidence – much of which he helpfully lists for us – and take his word for it that Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP are doing it all wrong. That she and her party are enjoying almost exclusively positive outcomes is irrelevant. The reality of their disastrous performance may be hidden to lesser mortals, but all has been revealed to Deerin.
That the fortunes of political parties and personalities wax and wane is a truism so banal that Deerin and his fellow British nationalist commentators cannot help but look extremely silly when they attempt to put a sheen of profundity on it. The notion that, in politics, success is no more than a harbinger of failure is too slickly facile to gain any purchase on the thoughtful mind, regardless of the fact there may be just the faintest whiff of truth about it. The all but unavoidable response to such vacuity is the thought that there really must be more to it than that.
And, of course, there is. But Deerin is so consumed by fantasies of the SNP’s downfall that he is blind to pretty much anything other than his own wishful thinking. He fails, for example, to see that the things he perceives – or seeks to portray – as folly on the part of the SNP administration are actually the strengths which underpin its success. Because he has bought entirely into the grotesque caricature of the SNP concocted by the British media, he expects the party to be doing the wild and crazy things that would surely be done by the cartoon characters cavorting in his head.
The SNP has failed only in that it hasn’t lived down to the ludicrously low expectations of its more fervent detractors. The SNP has let down Deerin and his like by being too ordinary. Where the British establishment’s slavering attack dogs had hoped for the haphazard pyrotechnics of a catastrophically mismanaged firework display, the SNP has delivered only the steady, reliable glow of street-lights. where the British nationalists eagerly anticipated administrative slapstick, the SNP has performed with quiet competence.
Deerin and the rest persist in referring to Scottish Government failure in the areas of education, health, policing etc. precisely because the anticipated failures have not materialised. Therefore, they have to be majicked into existence by the power of repetition in the British media. To the point where even otherwise perspicacious and honest journalists like Iain Macwhirter succumb to the propaganda.
The SNP has frustrated the British establishment by the very caution that Deerin complains about so piteously. They have deftly avoiding providing their opponents with ammunition, leaving them flailing around in ever more desperate and transparently obvious efforts to spin “SNP BAD!” material out of thin air.
People notice. The likes of Chris Deerin flatter themselves that they mould opinion. That they exercise significant control over the way the public perceive the world of politics. But, to whatever extent that may once have been the case, it no longer is. Certainly not in Scotland. People who were engaged and politicised by the referendum campaign see with their own eyes rather than through the distorting lens of mainstream media they long since learned to distrust. They notice the widening gulf between the breathless tales of endless crisis, incompetence and corruption peddled by the media and their actual experience of life in Scotland under an SNP administration.
The popular verdict on the SNP is that, “they’re no bad”. People actually rather like the quiet competence. They don’t want grand schemes. They just want things to be OK. Although they might not use the precise words, most people credit the SNP with principled pragmatism. An unspectacular capacity for management and a preparedness to consider possible solutions unconstrained by dogma.
People in general don’t object to the fact that the SNP is committed to seeking independence for Scotland. They are certainly not as horrified by the idea as British nationalists fearful about the consequences for the structures of power, privilege and patronage with which they are comfortably familiar.
People actually like the fact that the SNP is unified by a purpose other than partisan advantage and personal advancement. The idea of a political party with a positive aspiration has considerable appeal.
People find it easy to believe that the SNP will put the interests of Scotland and its people before all other considerations because they see evidence of this all the time. Just as importantly, they see nothing which strongly contradicts this belief.
Chris Deerin wants to tell all these people that they are wrong. And that is really all he has to say. As he suggests, it might sound bonkers. And there may be a very good reason for that.