The art of losing

George Gunn’s article is too short. It ended before he got around to setting out his alternative. So all we are left with is some pointless carping about the SNP.

“The art of losing isn’t hard to master”

When I hear that line I am put in mind, not of the transformative events of the last decade in Scotland’s politics, but of the defining tendency of the left to prefer the simplicities of “honourable” defeat to the responsibilities of success. The true masters of the art of losing” are the posturing “radicals” who can talk endlessly of where they want to be without ever touching on the matter of how to get there.

It is vacuous to talk about Scotland being independent if you are not prepared to consider the process of becoming independent. Before anyone can even begin to appreciate this process of getting there, they must first understand where we are now. And George Gunn seems rather confused about that. He imagines that what we will be offered by the SNP in the coming election is “a defence of what we have got, constructed as an advance on what we had”. That is just plain wrong.

What we are being offered is an opportunity to construct and reinforce the platform from which will be launched the next stage in our progress towards independence. We are being asked to give the SNP the mandate that it needs if it is to be effective both as an administration and as the political arm of the independence movement operating within the British political system – from where independence must be won.

There is absolutely no suggestion of “settling”. If what we’ve got is “constructed as an advance on what we had” it is only in the sense that it is an advance of the campaign to restore our nation’s rightful constitutional status. For this to happen, we need a metamorphosis in which the campaign for independence is transformed into a plan for actually achieving the aims of that campaign.

We can’t get there from here. Neither in terms of independence or of a progressive policy agenda. This election is about putting us in a position from which we can get to where we want to go.

I hear voices urging a different way. A way which is never better than very vaguely defined. I hear talk of being independent that seems to assume we can choose to dispense with the process of becoming independent. I hear those voices and I can’t help but wonder whether they really want independence. I wonder whether they might not be more comfortable with honourable defeat.

I wonder if they do not already hear themselves saying, “Look how gloriously we fought! See how magnificently we failed! See how thoroughly we have mastered the art of losing!”.

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