Waiting for worse

What’s going on in the upper echelons of the SNP? What is the current thinking on Scotland’s predicament? Is there a plan, or even an intention, to address the constitutional issue? When is the First Minister going to act, and what is she going to do?

These are the questions preoccupying many, perhaps most, people in the Yes movement. We are all looking for clues. We scrutinise every statement made by Nicola Sturgeon and every article written by senior figures in the SNP seeking some indication of what the immediate future holds. As often as not this turns out to be a disappointing and even a depressing activity.

Pete Wishart’s latest musings and mutterings from Perthshire is a case in point. Anyone looking there for hints as to the SNP’s thinking would come away wondering if the party leadership is even aware of Scotland’s predicament. They might well suppose there is no constitutional issue at all for all the attention it gets. They would be in no doubt that, for Mr Wishart at least, the overriding concern is. not so much Scotland’s fate as the party’s – and his own – electoral fortunes.

Clues come early. The article is titled The total humiliation of Ruth Davidson. The very first sentence reads “the Scottish Tories are in trouble”. This sets the tone for the whole article. Now, I’m sure we all relish Ruth Davidson’s embarrassment. But the fact that Davidson’s abasement is now a commonplace of Scottish politics rather takes the edge off the schadenfreude. I’m equally sure that most people in Scotland are perfectly OK with the Scottish Tories being in trouble. But I suspect many will feel that, however delightful the turmoil it has provoked in the Scottish branch of the British Conservative & Unionist Party, the implications for Scotland of Boris Johnson’s elevation to the role of Prime Minister are of considerably greater importance.

There is passing mention of the fact that Johnson being PM means a majority of Scottish voters would vote for independence. But nothing at all about whether or when they might get the opportunity to vote for independence. It is clear that, for Pete Wishart, what matters is the fact that Johnson is an “electoral liability”

Of course, electoral success for the SNP is important. Indeed, it is crucial to Scotland’s cause. If only there were any indication that Pete Wishart sees Ruth Davidson’s woes in that context. But it seems that the constitutional context figures in his thinking hardly at all. The entire focus is on winning the next election.

Having read his article, I anticipate more than a few comments about Pete Wishart being overly concerned with keeping his seat. I would invite those contemplating such comments to grow up and have a wee think. Of course the man is concerned to keep his seat! Why wouldn’t he be? What is wrong with that? Pete Wishart is a career politician. It has been a very successful career. It stands to reason that he would not wish it to end in electoral defeat.

Winning Perth and North Perthshire for the SNP is Pete Wishart’s job. Of course it is important to him. He serves his constituents well. And, simply by holding that seat in the British parliament he makes a valuable contribution to the cause of restoring Scotland’s rightful constitutional status. Criticising him for wanting to win is just plain stupid.

What is troubling is the thought that this latest article from Pete Wishart might tell us something about the attitudes and priorities of the SNP leadership. It is one thing for individual elected members to give precedence to their electoral prospects. That, as has been noted, is their job. Getting elected is their immediate task. But the party as a whole has wider concerns and different priorities. We would hope that these concerns and priorities are shared by those who lead the party. Those who are also the nation’s political leaders.

I have frequently observed that the SNP is very good at winning elections. Perhaps not so good at single-issue political campaigns. It is only to be expected that they will play to their strengths. Which suggests that an electoral route to independence might well be their preference. That the ‘Plan B’ proposed by Angus MacNeil and Chris McEleny is actually the ‘Plan A’. It may well be that the SNP is pinning the hopes of the Yes movement on an early UK general election and a big win. And it’s not only Pete Wishart giving this impression. Angus Robertson also seems to think the mandate for a referendum needs yet more confirmation.

If this is the way the SNP leadership is thinking then it would certainly explain the present inaction. As ever, it seems to be a case of waiting for the British government to do something. Waiting for events to play out. Waiting for ‘clarity’. Waiting for the ‘right time’. Waiting.

In electoral terms, this may be a valid strategy. If your opponents are in disarray and making themselves unelectable it makes sense to let them get on with it. When the votes are counted in Perth and North Perthshire it makes no difference whether Pete Wishart has won or the Tories have lost. Pete returns to Westminster either way. In the context of the independence campaign, however, waiting for our opponents to lose just won’t work. Because the things that are an electoral liability for the Scottish Tories and causing Ruth Davidson great embarrassment are developments which strengthen the British Nationalism which is the real threat to Scotland.

My fear is that the SNP leadership may have come to confuse and conflate electoral success for the party with success for the independence cause. But beating the Tories is not enough. The Tories are not the problem. The Union is the problem. Even the total collapse and disintegration of the British Conservative & Unionist Party does not spell victory for Scotland’s cause. It means only the advent of an even greater threat to Scotland’s democracy. Defeating the Tories will only leave us facing an even more determined and more ruthless manifestation of British Nationalism.

Personally, I’d rather not wait for that.

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19 thoughts on “Waiting for worse

  1. As one of Pete’s constituents, I hope and hope that he will stand down at the next election, should we have one. His time has come and gone. He’s losing SNP support here with his wait-forever stance. We need someone with some energy and vision for Perthshire, who’s not so long a politician that they don’t see transferring over to an independent Scottish Parliament as a step down, as I think Pete does.


  2. “the SNP leadership may have come to confuse and conflate electoral success for the party with success for the independence cause.”

    The same trap set for the Labour Party with this anachronistic political system.


    1. When there is such a power imbalance, you can only win by being an insurgent campaign.
      However, the SNP appear to be wanting to be a Westminster party and win the parliamentary game. That is a fools errand by a group that is suffering “agency capture”.

      Even when the SNP had 56 seats (95% of Scotland’s seats), they were an irrelevance and sidelined…Worse, they accepted EVEL and any number of constitutional slights. HECK, Farage hasn’t even got an MP an he is driving the entire UK politics.

      History may show that this SNP when given people power, they were too scared to use it.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. There is a letter in the comments section of The Nation today (Sunday) that has a go at people like you and I, and others of like mind, Mr Bell, who are worried at the endless waiting. In the mid 1930s, Churchill, for whom I have little respect except for the part he played in WW II, warned that waiting till Germany had completed its re-armament programme would lead to an extended and more brutal conflict which had become unavoidable. I have always agreed with that analysis, as, as a very young school pupil, studying the Nazis, I would have understood the masterplan immediately, had I read ‘Mein Kampf’ when it was written, just as I have understood the masterplan of the Tory One Nation State whose blueprint and template has been every English/British monarchy/administration in history.

    We were not ready even in 1939 – but we had to face up to the fact that Hitler was going to provoke global conflict whatever we did – and Dunkirk proves that. What won the war, defeated the Nazis and saved Britain, finally, from invasion and occupation, leaving aside the fact that the invasion was called off after 1940 and the valiant Battle of Britain, was the fact that Britain had powerful allies: the Russians, the Americans and all the colonies. maybe they were not natural allies, but your enemy’s enemy is your friend. No doubt, all of the armed forces and even many civilians would have fought the Nazis to a standstill had they invaded, but occupation would have happened regardless.

    The sacrifice of many millions need not have happened at all had Hitler been prevented, in the early to mid 1930s, from arming to the point that he felt able to invade Poland, then Russia. Prevention is always, but always, better than cure and far less drastic. This is the crossroads we are now at; possibly we have already left it too late to prevent the carnage; and we need to find allies, and soon. If the Tory One Nation Staters manage to regroup, we are in for a long, brutal and excruciatingly painful fight that we might not win in the end, on our own. I would just ask those who put all their trust in the waiting-game, what happens if they go on saying, no, now is not the time; if they go on refusing to engage; if they continue to deny us our self-determination while we await the mythical cavalry charge of all those previous NO voters? That is the question that I and those who are accused of trying to split the party need to have answered. What are you going to do, waiters, when they say, NO again? How are you going to extricate us? How are you going to save us from what you have enabled by your prevarication? When I think of Churchill’s prescient words in the early to mid 1930s, I think of all those millions and millions who suffered, who died, who were injured, needlessly, because we waited too long. It isn’t Chamberlain’s ‘peace in our time’ bit of useless paper we need, however much time it give us, it is action – now – because the opposition have not the slightest intention of honouring anything, and mean to crush us.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Indeed, the assumption being that the Salmond and Sturgeon camps are at each other’s throats. I recall the vote for the partnership of the two, and they jointly and severally won by a country mile. There is no split. There is only those who have eyes to see and those who don’t. Just as most SNP Leavers would not vote against independence, neither would any of us, whatever strategy is followed. It is simply that we have a duty to press for action now. I would rather withdraw from the party than put it in danger of imploding, but I will not back away from what is staring us in the face either, and I only hope that Nicola Sturgeon does take on board that her strategy might not be working. Not might; isn’t. There is no shame in that; there is no shame in changing course and trying something different when you are in extremity. As an elected representative, as a statesman/woman, it is your bounden duty to do so on behalf of those whose welfare you hold in your hands.


  4. There is an assumption that Boris will need to go to a GE before Brexit.

    I think this is wrong. A no deal Brexit is on the cards unless the HoC can get organised and actively vote it down…. the way the HoC rolls its dice, I suspect the opportunity to do that has passed and is getting slimmer with every day.

    For 2 years now, I’ve been arguing that No Deal was always WM’s plan, the tax havens must be protected, all else, including Scotland’s vast wealth is small potatoes next to that, which is why they were prepared to risk it. From no deal, comes chaos, from chaos comes a State of Emergency, from that Holyrood gets closed. Bye bye IR2, bye bye SNP.

    If the SNP have not been infiltrated by the British Establishment, then the BE will not have been doing its job. It is not a case of if, its a case of now.

    We must not spend time attempting to prove who has been leaned on. We must go round them and ensure our elected reps MUST pin their colours to the mast with a PLAN, and then the ground must be covered.

    Even if a 2020 IR2 is the correct timing (and I’m open to the possibility that it might be) then why are we not in full campaign mode now? That aspect, on its own, is a complete dereliction of duty.

    If we fail to get an opportunity to stand up for ourselves in the face of Brexshit – the SNP will be toast for ever.


  5. Pete Wisharts desire to be Speaker of The House of Commons was the last straw for me and says all that needs to be said about Pete Wishart and his so called commitment to Scottish independence

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Peter, you’re an awful man for making me exercise the few neurons still available to me.

    Never mind any politician and his/her present motivations. At the end of the day their time will pass and their actions can be picked over by future historians. Strategy for the present time needs to be thought through.

    The ‘British Nationalism’ you refer to as presently manifested is indeed a dangerous concept for real democracy in Scotland but I feel it is the essential guiding principle of a comparatively small group of Anglo-Norman aristocrats. It is based on hard-nosed greed for the wealth of Scotland

    The numerically greater nationalism extant in these islands is English Nationalism. English people are really rather proud of being able to call themselves English (and why not?), so why don’t we encourage them in the belief that a proud England living in harmony with a separate and equally proud Scotland is in their best interest? I recall a recent opinion poll which suggested that a majority of English voters would be content for Scotland to leave the Union if that was what stood in the way of their achieving the goal of leaving the EU. All that’s needed is the restoration of democracy at Westminster and the good people of England might abolish the Union in the same way that they got rid of the Poll Tax years ago. The pirates who have recently hi-jacked the UK government are a small band after all.

    How to achieve that end? The peaceful way would be through an immediate general election supervised by the international community. Maybe, just maybe…..


      1. Peter
        Too many are behaving like the future is linear….just like now only with one thing different. That is a recipe for disaster.

        Any referendum will not be 2014 with the added benefit of Westminster on the ropes. Any election will not be SNP fighting a scarred tory party. Westminster has been clearly moving to pull the rug out from under YES’s feet. Sadly, the SNP waiting has allowed the Unionists to regroup.

        If there is an election, Unionist power brokers will replace Ruth D (hence the lack of real support by both MPs and Press at present). Tories will become the ERG on steroids and the SNP will be in a total media blackout apart from the SNP gaffs and smears which will run 24/7 on every station and newspaper.

        SNP must set the running and make Westminster catch up…otherwise they are doomed.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. That is an interesting comment in light of an exchange a had on Twitter last night with someone who is absolutely determined to repeat the same mistakes they made in the 2014 campaign. I have to say, it troubles me that so many seem to have learned so little from that campaign. And that they so woefully fail to take due account of the altered circumstances; considering only the things that they suppose have changed to their advantage.


      2. I’m alarmed at the speed with which the Johnson coup d’etat is entrenching its centralist structures and I can’t think of another peaceful way of putting the brakes on

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Peter

        YES have learnt all the wrong lessons from 2014.

        I can not believe YES /SNP are waisting time trying to re-answer the questions that skewered them last time…Its that sad version of a person who loses an argument only to remember a great retort 2 days later….

        Its worse because this time the issues and threats are different. This time, YES has the moral high ground, the compelling narrative, and the sense of stability….and they will give that all up if they let the Unionist set the agenda again. I’ll say it again, “when the house is on fire, you don’t get to fold your socks”.

        The only reason 2014 has any relevance to now is that is shows that every claim the Union made was false….hence it is not a Union that can be trusted. Westminster’s word is worthless and the Union is broken because the threat that to many thought was hypothetical has been shown to be real. THAT IS IT>>>NOTHING ELSE.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. A GE election will result in a Tory/Brexit party alliance.

    This will give them even more power to proceed with a hard right agenda.

    The SNP might win 50 seats. So what! We had 56 and nothing changed.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Agree, Big Jock. Some make the mistake of believing that the right-wing Tories are different from those in UKIP and the Brexit party. They are all right-wing Tories, and I believe they will ally, and become unstoppable – which is yet another reason for getting the middle digit out of the proverbial and start doing something towards achieving independence.


  8. Peter

    Any SNP who thinks Ruth D failing is a win for them is a fool.

    Ruth is nothing more than a hollow front propped up by the press. That is her role and their will be no qualms from Union powerbrokers if they have to replace her. She is not actually a strong politician – history has shown she can only thrive due to the press cover of her long list of miss steps and backflips

    SNP talking about the fall of RD are talking about the wrong question…and letting the Unionist set the agenda.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. What is the ‘pressure’ Angus Robertson thinks will be heaped upon Westminister? If they are not moved in the slightest by the existing mandate, where does he think the pressure will be coming from?
    Is it possible they think it will come from the EU?

    Do they have the hope that if the SNP have another resounding election win, the EU will make some kind of Brexit concession to the UK (longer transitional period?), the price of which is that London ‘permits’ an indyref2?

    ‘Jean-Claude, we tried to make them see sense, now we just need to get out ourselves. But they won’t let us go. We need your help.’

    I don’t think it is a good strategy, but it is the only one I can think of that explains the SNP’s leadership’s behaviour over the last three years.

    Liked by 1 person

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