Sword at the throat

The SNP Depute Leader election is showing signs of being sucked into the unseemly sink of media hype, ill-informed speculation and malicious rumour-mongering that commonly characterises such contests in the cesspit of British party politics. Which would be a great pity.

One of the strategies adopted by the British state’s propaganda machine is to portray the SNP as no better than the rest. This is perfectly understandable. When it is all but impossible to find anything positive to say about any of the British parties, it becomes necessary to blur the distinction between them and the SNP. It fits perfectly with the ‘no other way’ narrative which discourages the idea that there’s an alternative to the status quo. And, of course, it is a fundamental tenet of ‘One Nation’ British Nationalist ideology that difference must be strenuously denied.

It would be surprising if the Depute Leader election wasn’t subjected to this homogenising process. Mainstream political journalists in the UK have never been comfortable with thinking outside the box of traditional British politics. They long for the simple, well-defined rivalries of the British two-party system. Either they try to shoe-horn the SNP into their existing frame of reference – substituting it for British Labour or Tories as expedient – or they treat the party as a passing aberration which needn’t be accommodated at all because people will soon see sense and get back to voting the way they’re supposed to.

It’s getting a bit difficult to maintain the notion that the SNP is just a blip on the British political radar. Somewhat inconveniently for those who desperately want to get back to business as usual, the people of Scotland persist in voting for the upstart Nats. All but the most obdurate commentators must now accept that the SNP is here to stay. But that risks admitting that Scotland has a distinctive political culture. Which, in turn, could lead to heretical suggestions that the old Westminster-centric perspective may no longer be appropriate. Journalists who have spent their entire careers immersed in the soap opera of British politics might be required to think about things in a new way. And that would never do!

The British establishment has two main ways of dealing with the challenges of political interlopers and democratic dissent. If the challengers cannot be crushed, they are absorbed. If the agency threatening to disrupt the system cannot be eliminated, then it is made part of the system.

According to the rules of British politics, the SNP should have been destroyed in 2014. Losing the first independence referendum was supposed to be a fatal blow. But the party defied all expectations. Unionists still haven’t got over the fact that, having enjoyed a glorious victory on behalf of the divinely ordained British state, they then had to watch as the SNP walked away with all the prizes.

The British establishment got the result it wanted in September. But it didn’t get the outcome it was depending on. There was no closure for Unionists. Which explains why they’re still fighting that first referendum campaign. For them, it never ended. Project Fear wasn’t shut down. It merely transferred it’s toxic attentions to the Scottish Government, the Scottish Parliament and any institutions that are distinctly Scottish. The unprincipled methods of the anti-independence campaign are now directed towards the delegitimisation of Scotland’s democratic institutions and denigration of our public services. All in the name of bringing Scotland back into line. All for the purpose of eliminating difference. All for the sake of a project to impose a ‘One Nation’ British state.

Everything the British establishment does must be appreciated in the context of this ‘One Nation’ British Nationalist project. Such a critique is not ‘one dimensional’, as some have suggested. It is merely realistic. We have to recognise that, for some, the Union is an all-consuming obsession. We must be cognisant of the fact that the British ruling elites regard Scotland’s distinctive post-devolution political culture as nothing short of an existential threat to the structures of power, privilege and patronage which define the British state.

It is no exaggeration whatever to say that the SNP is seen as the tip of a sword at the British state’s throat. In those circumstances, being complacent about anything the British state does would be the utmost folly. And that means being highly suspicious of the way the British media frames the narrative around events and processes such as the election of a new SNP Depute Leader. That narrative cannot be immune to the influence of the British Nationalist imperative. Whether intentionally or incidentally, reporting will coloured by the overarching ‘One Nation’ project.

It would be good if people were aware of this. The Depute Leadership contest will run for weeks. It will involve personalities and their supporters and much internal debate on some very hot topics. It is a near-perfect opportunity for propaganda. The more people are aware of it, the more the power of that malicious propaganda is diminished.

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