The point of it all

Factionalism! The reef upon which radical politics so frequently founders. My ism is better than your ism! Only I represent the One True Way! You are failing The Cause! Therefore I must start my own Faction in order to follow the One True Way and further The Cause!

And let us draw a discreet veil over the fact that The Cause can hardly be furthered by splitting its support. Make that a heavy tarpaulin, because this is a fact so blindingly obvious that the standard discreet veil will hardly suffice to conceal it.

While you’re about it, you’d best ensure the tarpaulin is big enough to cover something else The Splitters would much rather not draw attention to. Namely, that the battle to restore Scotland’s rightful constitutional status must, perforce, be fought from within the British state. Because that is where Scotland is. Duh! The campaign must be conducted according to the rules, procedures, conventions and practices of the archaic and little more than nominally democratic British political system. (At least up to the point where those rules etc. must be broken. But that’s another matter.)

The British political system is profoundly and inexorably adversarial. It operates on a ‘rule of twos’. Thus, the two-party system. Thus also, winners and losers. One winner takes all. All losers cease to be of any consequence bar the one loser chosen to be representative. Government and Official Opposition. Another binary. It is a system which, by design and evolution, excludes factions – and, thereby, excludes radical politics.

The constitutional battle is no exception. It, too, must be binary. Not least for the purposes of propaganda, there must be an ‘Us’ and a ‘Them’. Good guys and bad guys. Colonists and indigenous peoples unjustly contesting the colonists’ claim to ’empty lands’. Unionists and nationalists. Because the British ruling elite controls the media, as well as for more prosaic reasons of electoral reality, the ‘Them’ to their ‘Us’ is and will be for as long as matters to any of us, the Scottish National Party. It is the political arm of the independence movement. Any ‘alternatives’ might as well not exist for all the impact they will have on the British state.

Bear in mind, also, that this is a British state which recognises only brute power. It is a near-impregnable object. It may only be breached by a massive force focused on a single point.

The Splitters will, of course deny the very thing that gives them their name. They will insist that they are not splitting support for The Cause as they are still supporting The Cause – but in their own manner and under their own banner. Remaining stubbornly blind to the inescapable logic that having their own manner and banner definitively implies a split.

The factions proliferate. The forces for reform are scattered. Diversity becomes division becomes diffusion becomes disadvantage becomes defeat.

It has taken decades to get the SNP in a position to be the effective political force that the independence cause absolutely requires. It would be an act beyond political madness to discard that tool at this crucial time in the hope of being able to fashion a new one. Or, even worse, an entire tool shed full of new and untested devices.

I criticise the SNP. Not because I want to replace it with something better, but because I want to make it something better, I want it to be the effective political force the independence cause needs. I want it to be the political arm of the Yes movement. And I recognise that it is not doing particularly well in this regard.

But I don’t only blame the SNP for this. The Yes movement has made great strides towards accepting, if not exactly embracing, the SNP as its political arm. This effort has not been adequately reciprocated by the party. It all to often appears as if the effort is being rebuffed. This is a tragic mistake. There are good reason why the SNP, as a political party, must be wary of close association with external bodies. Especially when those bodies are as powerful as the Yes movement. But it is up to the party to find a way. It is up to the SNP to be different from other political parties. That is what the people of Scotland, and certainly those in the independence movement, have come to expect.

But many in the Yes movement expect too much of the SNP. They expect it to mirror the Yes movement in ways that are quite impossible for a political party. And, if the SNP stops being a (successful) political party, it stops being the tool that the Yes movement needs.

An accommodation must be found. Factionalism is most certainly not any kind of solution. It is, in fact, a way of avoiding the difficult task of finding that accommodation between the SNP and the Yes movement – and among all the elements of the independence cause – which will allow each and all to be effective.

In the Yes movement, we have come almost to worship diversity as the greatest of virtues. For a movement, this may be true, But for a campaign, the greatest virtue is solidarity. In celebrating our diversity, we have fallen into the habit of talking about our differences, rather than that which we hold in common. Recognition that “we all want the same thing” tends to come as an afterthought to lengthy discussion of distinctive policy platforms – if it comes at all. We talk about our respective visions for Scotland’s future, relegating consideration of the key to that future to somewhere lower down the agenda.

The single point at which all the elements of the independence cause meet is the Union. The thing that everybody in the independence movement agrees on is that the Union must end. It cannot even be said that all agree on independence. Because there are differing ideas about what independence means. There is no ambiguity whatever about the imperative to end the Union.

It is a happy coincidence that the point at which all the elements of the independence campaign come together also happens to be the British state’s weakest point. So, let’s not talk of factions. No faction is going to prise Scotland out of its entanglement in the British state. This will only be achieved by the four constituent parts of the independence campaign acting in accord. The SNP as the lever. The Scottish Government (Nicola Sturgeon) as the fulcrum. The Scottish Parliament as the base. The Yes movement as the force.

And let us all agree that the object we are acting against is the Union.

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9 thoughts on “The point of it all

  1. Spot on, Peter. An excellent piece – as usual! Timely and absolutely needed at this point in time, thank you! We are so close to achieving what Scotland wants and needs. It would be devastating to see the driving force disintegrate now, just when the extra force is needed to get what all our hearts desire – independence.

    The SNP have been pretty good at accepting what the majority of Scotland want, through debating & voting & passing policies at Conference. When things like OBFA became something the majority of Scots seemed to want lifted, Scotgov voted to do just that, against their better judgement because it WAS just that – what the majority wanted. So why would indy supporters not believe that the same politicos will come together & debate the policies that bother them? I’m sure Scotgov WILL – at the appropriate time! So to hold back on their commitment to INDY till that is sorted, seems counter-productive.

    Scotland is reaching the crossroads! We are almost at that point where we have to turn our feet toward a specific road. The signboards for our destinations are now readable, thus we really must make our decision which way we’re headed. That is our priority at the moment. The signpost for unionism/loss of devolution/No NHS or Education/Michael Gove’s ‘region’ re-structure is clearly & visibly written in DARK RED. If that isn’t a warning about prioritising, I’m not sure what is! If we intend to take the road marked ‘Independence’, then we need to focus on that sign and get headed there! When we get to the end of that journey, then we focus on policy. One road at a time…

    SNP aren’t perfect. And we ALL have issues that are tremendously important to us and we want sorted. And which will dictate how we vote. But I think some really good folks are forgetting that if we don’t get independence, unionism IS NOT going to focus on the policies we hold dear or do ANYTHING positive about them! Let’s face it – unionism is doing Sweet Fanny Adams about rights for ‘British’ subjects. Does anyone SERIOUSLY believe that when we’re all lovely unionists again, WM will tackle ‘Trans’ questions? I don’t. I don’t believe that FOR A SECOND. But I know SNP will. But unless we win independence. ‘Trans’ issues and ANY OTHER issues we want sorted, are a moot point because we’ll have NO SCOTGOV to speak of or to decide on that policy on our behalf! With unionism, we take what we get. That’s the bottom line.

    Unionism with nothing – or independence with it all. It’s OUR choice. It’s THAT SIMPLE.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well put Peter.

    However having a go at the SNP , is really not the same as having a go at the tactics employed by the leaders of the party. These are very different issues. The body of the SNP is made up of members, Mp’s ,Msps and leaders. If the body becomes sick , it usually starts with the leaders because they ignore the members of the party or even their own elected members.

    Something needs to change at the top of the SNP tree. Can anyone honestly say that they are happy with the current tactics or suggestions being made by the leaders of the party? We don’t solve it by running away and abandoning the ship. We steer the ship back on course, and sometimes that requires some of our leaders to change or move over.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thus bold, independent, unconquer’d, and free,
    Her bright course of glory for ever shall run :
    For brave Caledonia immortal must be;
    I’ll prove it from Euclid as clear as the sun :
    Rectangle-triangle, the figure we’ll chuse :
    The upright is Chance, and old Time is the base;
    But brave Caledonia’s the hypothenuse;
    Then, ergo, she’ll match them, and match them always.

    Caledonia – A Ballad – last verse. We are writing the next one now.

    Won’t be long now.


  4. Peter
    This only holds true if the SNP is still what you think it is.

    Beware of belief inertia…the real ground moving leaves you stranded.


      1. Peter we all have it. We trust things continue from our memory or previous experiences.
        Its funny how that inertia blinds us to evidence of change.

        Normally this inertia is a positive…except when things turn negative. That inertia actually traps us because we don’t want to believe the worst will happen. (Brexit is a real and live example….so many think the worst will not happen…it can’t happen…my neighbours wouldn’t do that… However, the forces pushing Brexit have already told us what they intend)


        1. It’s not clear what any of this has to do with the suggestion that the SNP might not be what I think it is. Do you even know what I think the SNP is?

          The stuff about trusting things will continue as we remember them is just nonsense. I truly would be deceived about the nature of the SNP if I were to “trust” that it HADN’T changed from the party I first joined almost 60 years ago. I am fully aware of what the party is because I have closely followed its evolution.

          The ones who are most horribly mistaken are those who imagine the SNP has somehow ceased to be the party of independence simply because it has become other things besides. Most notably, a party of government; a significant presence on the international stage; and the de facto political arm of the Yes movement.


      2. Peter

        You are correct, I can not know for sure how you see the SNP. I am just a reader of your writings so my suggestions are only meant to further the conversation and hone ideas. However, if those thoughts are unhelpful I apologise.

        Agreed, SNP is (has been) the political mechanism for YES. However, for over a year you have been writing powerful and well argued warnings about the dangers for Scotland wrapped up in Westminster’s Brexit and people being blind to those real dangers. You have also noted the lack of action and preparation for what must surely becoming down the pipeline from Westminster.

        I would just note that a mechanism that fails to function is just a paper weight.
        If the SNP–which has a mandate + a majority in Holyrood–fails to use it….is it really the political arm for independence?
        If the SNP opts for a comfortable message to placate NO voters and Union supporting media – at the expense of Independence supporters. How far can it bend to Westminster’s game and still be the political mechanism for YES?

        I have often commented that: if the SNP is hesitant, it is up to YES to drive SNP action. At some point YES will need to make the political/social space for SNP to act. I am just worried the SNP may leave people out to dry (as it appears to be increasingly doing on an individual level).


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