Being ineffectual

No doubt the SNP, and many in the Yes movement, will be celebrating the Times poll which confirms that the party is on course to secure significant gains at both Westminster and Holyrood. No doubt Professor John Curtice will be widely quoted, having stated that “it can no longer be presumed that Scotland would vote No again in an independence ballot”. No doubt the implications of the poll’s findings on support for independence will be quietly swept under the carpet.

After five tumultuous years culminating in a far-right British government led by Boris Johnson pursuing a potentially catastrophic agenda, support for independence remains static. At 49% Yes versus 51% No it only just avoids being within margin of error of the 2014 result. What does this say about the SNP’s strategy over this five year period? I suggest it says nothing at all flattering.

Looking back over those five years it seems that pretty much everything that has happened – and everything that has been done by the British political elite – should have benefitted the independence cause massively. If the polls are to be believed, the cause has benefited not at all. We are entitled to ask why. We are entitled to wonder how it is possible that so many opportunities could have been missed and so many openings left unexploited and so much time squandered.

And still, despite this and other evidence that its approach has been totally ineffective, the SNP leadership stubbornly insists on sticking to the same strategy. Although the term ‘strategy’ is used here only in the loosest of senses as there is no clearly identifiable plan. To all appearances, the SNP administration has simply been dragged along in the wake of a British state accelerating towards a political, diplomatic and economic black hole of its own making.

Were this scenario part of a movie script the plot-line would be discarded as too implausible. It is simply not credible that the events of the past five years could have had no impact whatsoever on the constitutional issue. The writers would have been told to go back to their keyboards and think again. Unless, of course, this was a dramatic device intended to convey monumental failure on the part of the SNP.

Maybe the polls are wrong. I’m sure that claim is already permeating social media. Perhaps all the polls are wrong. Perhaps the implausible hasn’t happened at all and the events of the past five years have had an impact on public attitudes which isn’t being reflected in the polls. Aye! Maybe that’s it! Maybe all the polls have been rigged!

Or maybe not.

Deploy Occam’s often inconvenient razor and we are left with but one explanation for the lack of movement in the polls – nothing has been done that would make them move. One their own, political developments do not necessarily have a direct effect on public opinion. It very much depends on the nature of the development and, perhaps more crucially, the perception of it once the facts have been filtered and manipulated by the media. Ensuring a desired impact requires purposeful action every bit as much as ensuring little or no impact. Somebody has to make something of it or others can easily make nothing of it.

In all of the five years since the 2014 election I can think of only one occasion when the SNP has purposefully and effectively exploited a situation. That was when the Westminster group staged a walkout in protest at the British government’s seizure of powers returning from the EU which rightfully should have gone to the devolved administrations.

That’s it! There’s been nothing else. Lots of speeches condemning this and that. Countless Tweets ‘slamming’ one thing or another. But no concerted, coordinated, coherent strategy to exploit the myriad instances in which the British political elite rendered itself vulnerable. Nothing to grab the public’s attention, never mind its sympathy.

I don’t say all this in a spirit of condemnation. Although I realise that it will almost inevitably be received that way – if only because a condemnatory tone is all but impossible to avoid in the circumstances. What I intend is constructive criticism. What I hope is that the SNP leadership will, even at this late stage, accept that ‘playing nice’ is not working. What I hope is that they will at last start listening to those who are urging a change of tactics.

What I hope for from the Scottish Government is less accommodation and more confrontation. Less compliance and more defiance. Less complacency and more urgency. Less talk and more action.

What I anticipate, regretfully, is more of the evidently ineffectual same.



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7 thoughts on “Being ineffectual

  1. Yes should be at 60/70%. Mind you most of that will come from a direct campaign for independence. So far the SNP have not spent one day campaigning for independence. They seem to hope that doing nothing will make people vote yes.

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  2. Perhaps the SNP ‘strategy’ has been to play for as much time as possible in the Brexit chaos before the next Indy vote.
    The ‘strategy’ could simply be waiting on older voters, mostly No, to be replaced by new young voters that voted mostly Yes.

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      1. I’m in my 80s now and would add “We’re no’ deid yet !”

        And besides that I can remember life in Scotland from the really austere 1940s to the, to me, curious austerity of today (which is not the ‘real deal’ I can assure everyone). Over that time the biggest factor in changing – and ‘dumbing-down’ the nature of society has been the development of television.

        Without that medium people have the incentive to look outside their homes to take an interest in human affairs all around them. With the fascinating presence of television it is so easy to just settle down and absorb whatever the pretty picture presents – morning, noon and night. It is ubiquitous and so seemingly natural and inoffensive that our natural guard of scepticism is completely lowered.

        Whoever controls the content of TV programmes has mastery over the minds of ordinary people whose common decency can delude them into a belief that what they are watching comes from ordinary, decent humans just like themselves.

        Over my life I have become aware that the medium of television has been perverted to produce social changes desired by the rulers of our existence, whoever they may be. As a boy from the industrial west of Scotland I travelled in the Gaelic north and the rural east and south of the country and was absolutely stunned at the range of different societies and cultures that were to be found. The range of tongues, above all, was remarkable. Over the past sixty or so years that diversity has very much decreased and in its place are value systems and language which is much more like those of the English south-east. This I can only put down to the pervasive influence of television which projects into our consciousness the outlooks and values of the peoples of that particular corner of Britain.

        So, where am I going with this?

        It is possible to criticise the SNP for their apparent failure to capitalise politically on the horrors of the past few years of alien rule, but let us also acknowledge the opposition they face from decades long finessing of the means of population control that is the ever-present TV set. The challenge, as I see it, is to find effective means of countering this pernicious invasion of our most intimate lives.

        Personally, some years ago I made a conscious decision to stop watching. It has produced a most refreshing freedom of thought and of opinion. Maybe it could do so for others?

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  3. To add to PHil McGlass’s post on the pernicious influence of television, A number of my Scottish, Brit-nat relatives continually post on their FB pages the BBC’s attacks on the SNP Government, the Scottish, National Health Service, Scottish education, etc.. They are completely unreceptive to exposures of the distortions and lies of the BBC. I think that they are representative of the gullibility of many people with minimal education.

    It seems to me that the SNP do not, in fact, want independence. Their cries of independence seem to be just a ploy to keep independentistas on their side. I think they have settled for devolution; it allows them to do the good things they do for Scotland and the Scots, even though what they can do is limited by not having all the powers independence would give, and the SNP MPs personally benefit from sitting in the English Parliament of the UK. I can’t think of what benefit the Scottish Government Ministers get from the Union and I’m at a loss to find a reason why they are so committed to getting a Section 30 Order rather than going the route of International Law.

    By their inaction, even devolution is being diminished and will probably be taken away. Why would Mike Russell say that if the Scottish Parliament is closed then the Scottish Government will continue to function even if it’s crouching behind a bush? Why doesn’t he say that they would act for independence? The lack of vision troubles me.

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  4. I have always wondered that should Independence come what would happen to the 59 (35) Westminster SNP MPs and the 32 or so Holyrood MSPs…….a stack would have to go. Turkeys do not vote for Christmas.

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