Discussion of a ‘Wings Party’ standing for regional seats in the 2021 Scottish Parliament election is, of course, entirely an academic exercise. And a bit of a distraction. There are far more pressing concerns; such as whether there will actually be any Scottish Parliament elections in 2021. Losing the pro-independence majority at Holyrood is a worrying prospect. But it pales into insignificance next to the possibility (probability?) that we may have lost the entire Scottish Parliament by 2021.
On first reading Stuart Campbell’s article outline his thinking, I thought it sounded very plausible. But long experience has taught me to be wary of plausible-sounding schemes. The whole RISE/’rainbow parliament’ thing that so nearly lost us the pro-independence majority in 2016 was dangerous mainly because it was made to sound so plausible. The difference – and it is an important one – is that RISE had no support base at all, while a Wings Party would, on paper at least, come with a substantial level of support built in.
There’s also the fact that RISE was promoted by persons of what we shall generously term ‘limited credibility’. Certainly far less credibility than Stuart Campbell has acquired over years of offering analysis which manages to be coldly forensic despite his evident passion for Scotland’s cause.
That passion is evident in causes other than independence. Some of which are bitterly controversial within the independence movement. I don’t see this as detracting from Stuart Campbell’s credibility in any way. Whether or not one agrees with his views, there can be no doubt that they are sincerely held, and strongly argued. Many focus, not on those views or his arguments in defence of them, but on the manner in which he expresses himself. This is a familiar evasive tactic commonly deployed by those who have come to the debate ill-equipped to deal with the content of opposing arguments and are, therefore reduced to attacking the superficial aspects of presentation.
As much as I will say about the Wings Party proposal at this time is that it is somewhat more persuasive than the RISE fantasy. What we must bear in mind is that you cannot game the voting system for the Scottish Parliament elections. All you can do is gamble with it. The RISE thing asked us to take a ridiculous gamble where we stood to lose something of incalculable worth with a chance of winning that was as close to zero as makes no difference. Many took that gamble because they were so dazzled by the magnificence of the prize as to be unable to see how unattainable it was.
The best that can be said of Stuart Campbell’s idea is that it constitutes less of a gamble than the RISE folly. How much less nobody can say as there are too many factors which cannot be clearly discerned at this distance from the 2021 Holyrood election. And, in any case, there are matters which demand our immediate attention. Matters of vastly greater importance than some tactical voting ploy in an election that is more than 18 months away for a Parliament this may well have been ‘suspended’ by the British state as the ‘One Nation’ project is rolled out.
Which brings me to a concern that has been growing in my mind since the publication of Stuart Campbell’s interview in The Times. Being ever mindful of the real and imminent threat to Scotland posed by juggernaut of rabid British Nationalism, I am ever watchful for signs of the British political elite’s devious doings. They no longer try to conceal their efforts to delegitimise the Scottish Parliament; marginalise the Scottish Government and demonise the SNP. It is no longer possible to sensibly deny the British state’s intention to dismantle Scotland’s democratic institutions and destroy Scotland’s distinctive political culture. Although some seem intent on dumbly disregarding this purpose.
I have always considered the fourth component of the independence campaign – the Yes movement – to be impervious to attack by the forces of anti-democratic British Nationalism. There is no formal structure; no hierarchy, no leadership that can be targeted. But suppose a target could be created. Suppose the power of the British media could be deployed to associate a particular personality with the Yes movement. Suppose an association between some ‘celebrity’ figure and the Yes movement could be contrived that was so strong as to make it possible to implant in the public consciousness the notion of this figure being the ‘official’ representative of the Yes movement.
When I see Stuart Campbell being interviewed by The Times and making appearances on British TV and radio, I ask myself why. Why is this happening? Why him? Why now? And I don’t like the answers I come up with.
I do not for one second suppose that Stuart Campbell thinks of himself as the figurehead of the entire Yes movement. I don’t think he seeks such greatness. But he may well have this greatness thrust upon him.
I rather think Stuart Campbell may not be the sort of person who welcomes advice. I recognise, too, that he is not a stupid man and that the advice may be entirely redundant. Nonetheless, I would counsel him to beware Brits bearing the gift of recognition. They will use you if they can. They will set you up as the ‘poster-boy’ of the Yes movement in the hope that, when they bring you down in a welter of vicious smear stories, the Yes movement will also be damaged.
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