Bad advice

Is any of this so surprising? The Hope Not Hate survey merely highlights a trend which has been apparent for some time. It’s helpful to have that trend confirmed. But how helpful depends on how the information is used. How it feeds into the political thinking and strategies of the main players.

The bold thing to do is to try and catch the trend early and ride it to a preferred outcome. The cautious choice is to wait and see how the trend goes before doing anything.

No prizes for guessing which approach is favoured by the SNP. If caution doesn’t win the day in Scotland’s party of government and the de facto political arm of the Yes movement, it’s because hyper-caution has already done so. Rarely has any political party enjoyed so much reason to be confident. Never, I suspect, has cause for confidence had so little visible effect. The SNP behaves as if it is the one facing electoral obliteration and not the British parties.

The trend highlighted by the Hope Not Hate survey is exceptionally strong. Strong enough to be showing dramatic shifts in voter attitudes. This suggests it is unlikely to be a long-term trend. Dramatic swings tend to trigger powerful corrections. Catch the trend too late and you may get caught in the backwash. Wait too long and you miss it altogether.

The SNP seems unwilling to take any risks at all. Not even where there is the possibility of a massive pay-off and little downside. The party is tentatively edging along that fine line between risk aversion and total paralysis. Which is difficult to explain under the circumstances. This is a party which enjoys unprecedented levels of support. And support which has remained remarkably solid for an exceptional length of time. No party in history, I suspect, has seen its opponents in such a state of self-destructive disarray. The power differential between the SNP and the British parties in Scotland is massive.

But you’d never guess any of this from the way the party behaves.

All I’m looking for is a sense of urgency. Scotland’s predicament warrants it. Right now, watching the Scottish Government is like watching firefighters polishing their appliances while your house is ablaze. It’s no wonder that, within the Yes movement, enthusiasm is turning to impatience; impatience to frustration; and frustration to anger. All aggravated by the fact that, with a few notable exceptions, the SNP leadership acts as if the Yes movement doesn’t exist or isn’t worth bothering about.

As I do what little I can to promote the sense of urgency I feel the situation requires, I get a great many clichés thrown at me by people who find them a convenient substitute for thinking. Typical of these is the one about how you should never interrupt your enemy when they are making mistakes. Really?

What happens if you don’t interrupt your enemy while they’re making mistakes? They keep on making mistakes! And if those mistakes are hurting people, people keep on getting hurt. Meanwhile, you’re not taking advantage of those mistakes. Because the cliché says you mustn’t. So, just by thinking about it for a moment, we discover that this is just about the worst advice that could be given to any political campaign.

But it looks very much as if the SNP is heeding just such dreadful advice. The Hope Not Hate survey suggests the party’s opponents are making some whopping great mistakes. And the SNP is declining to take advantage.

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4 thoughts on “Bad advice

  1. At the risk of preciptitating outrage could it be that we are witnessing a more feminine focussed strategy within the SNP and could it also be that we are witnessing the first national liberation movement in history to succeed based upon such a strategy? Wouldn’t that be something? The polls suggest it is working. Discuss. [just in case my tone is not clear this is meant lightheartedly].

    Like you, I feel frustrated with what appears to be such a passive strategy but I do not believe there is no serious thought behind it. I wish more of this thinking could actually be shared, without betraying state secrets, otherwise this passivity could be infectious and we will end up catatonic. As it is, the more actively inclined of us just feel we are perpetually waiting.

    A futher question to consider is how to respond if you feel more actively inclined? No one in their right minds wants to fracture the movement for self-determination.

    Maybe a start would be for the active to associate and to, well, start to be active.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t see why your remarks about a “feminine focused strategy” should provoke outrage. After all, isn’t one of the most powerful arguments for gender balance in politics – aside from the obvious one of simple justice – that women bring something different to our politics. Different and at least potentially improving.

      I’m not sure to what extent the Scottish Government’s approach to the constitutional issue might appropriately be characterised as ‘female’. I’d estimate that something close to half of those who are critical of this approach are women. Which must mean something. But I tend to assess political strategies in terms of their effectiveness rather than they are informed more by a male or a female approach. And the fact is that the approach has not been successful to date. Contrary to what you say, polls relating to support for independence have barely moved at all since 2014. The changes we see are almost entirely declines in support for traditional British parties. Support for independence still hovers around 50%.

      The question of how to respond if you feel “more actively inclined” is easily answered. Wherever you are there is a Yes group and/or an SNP branch near you. They all need people who are “actively inclined”. Or their are things you can do as an individual. Such as buying extra copies of The National and leaving them in pubs and cafes or on buses etc. It all helps.

      In terms of speaking and writing, anything which challenges Unionists or urges the Scottish Government to act is fine. It’s OK to to put pressure on Nicola Sturgeon. Pressure from the public empowers her. But in applying that pressure we must always be mindful of the fact that the SNP is essential to the independence cause.

      Urging Nicola to act is good. Suggesting she should stand down most certainly is not.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. As a woman, I have to say that, yes, we do tend to adopt a different approach and look for alternatives to direct confrontation, but I’m not sure that that is not learned behaviour to some extent, having had to deal with large, stronger males all our lives who could be a threat to us. I would suspect that it has become a survival strategy. However, there comes a point when even the most conciliatory female has had enough, and the necessary escape strategy outweighs the potential risks, or no woman would ever leave an abusive husband or partner or try to put up a fight against an attacker.

      I think we have reached that point in Scottish politics, and, as Mr Bell says, where we are almost paralyzed by inertia and the seeming unwillingness to confront the bullying British State. There seems to be a belief, Micawber-like, that ‘something will turn up’. It did, in the end, for him, in Australia, and emigration might also become the only answer left to our younger generations in the longer term. I appreciate that Nicola Sturgeon and the leadership are laying the foundations of a Scottish political and social state, separate from that of the British State and the UK, but it is beginning to look as if Brexit will overtake even that cautious plan.

      It is this that infuriates so many of us: there was never, ever the slightest chance that English MPs would back down on Brexit and reverse the process. Anyone with any understanding of the English body politic would have understood that, which is why it is a total mystery that the SG’s advisers appeared to have missed that vital truth. You really need to understand what you are up against if you have any chance at all of keeping one step ahead. The SNP and the wider YES movement leaderships have failed signally to appreciate that fact, placing their faith in co-operating with the British State in order to break away from it. Fat chance. These people running their civil service and foreign office, etc, are the sons and daughters (mainly sons) of people who commanded these careers before them. There is no independence scenario in any part of the world that they have not tried to subvert. What is the moral of that story? You will never beat them at their own game. It is bred in their genes to regard everyone else as inferior in every area of political life, and that includes even the Americans to whom they genuflect these days. Get real, as the saying goes.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I am at the point now where I just don’t care anymore. Apathy!

    The SNP by ignoring their troops , are in very real danger of putting out the fire in the heart of the movement. Most people I speak to now are in a state of detachment from current affairs.

    It’s now too painfull to watch. So slowly we are all dying inside.


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