Divergent concerns

Given some of then things I’ve had to say about his views in the past, some might be surprised to find me agreeing with Pete “The Postponer” Wishart. They might be even more perplexed to find that I am perfectly comfortable agreeing with what he says about the new pro-independence ‘list’ parties that are starting to proliferate. They shouldn’t be. My criticisms of Pete Wishart have never been personal. It’s his attitudes and the manner in which he tends to express them which I object to. I have always allowed that he is generally an excellent constituency MP – so long as you don’t question him at all about anything – and an asset to the SNP Westminster Group – when he isn’t embarrassing them by talking about applying for the job of Speaker of the British House of Commons.

Wishart is much like Nicola Sturgeon in this regard. Probably like all politicians. He’s neither all good nor all bad. Even the most apparently simple individual can be a rather complex mix of characteristics and attributes and attitudes. Nicola Sturgeon is a fine First Minister. Pete Wishart has served Scotland well as chair of the Scottish Affairs Committee. Nicola Sturgeon’s handling of the constitutional issue has been abysmal. Pete Wishart’s thoughtlets on the scheduling of a new independence referendum are jaw-droppingly delusional. Even the worst of the British politicians squatting in the Scottish Parliament like bloated cuckoos surely have some redeeming qualities. I am open to that possibility. I do not discount it completely. Anyone?

There is nothing to disagree with in what Pete Wishart says about these new parties that are springing up promising to game Scotland’s ungameable electoral system in ways that even the founders of some of the parties have previously insisted are impossible. At best, these list parties are not a good idea. At worst, they are the worst idea imaginable. They are being sold on the basis of what they promise to achieve – a slew of additional pro-independence MSPs – without any explanation as to how this might actually be achieved. The promise to rid our Parliament of parasites the likes of Murdo Fraser and buffoons such as James Kelly and fatuous nonentities of Willie Rennies ilk holds such powerful appeal that many are accepting the claims of these new parties with a naive eagerness which might be endearing were it not for the serious implications of such folly.

If a promise is too good to be true then it almost certainly isn’t. The sensible individual embraces a healthy cynicism when approached by wannabe political leaders bearing uncommon gifts. Especially when all you are ever shown is the packaging.

Pete Wishart comes to the correct conclusions about these list parties even if he gets there by a process which is rather less forensic than we might wish. He could, for example, have highlighted the illogicality of the assurances such as that the new party will only stand candidates on the regional lists so long as the SNP is ‘guaranteed’ a Holyrood majority from the constituency vote. Firstly, there can be no such guarantee. Secondly, if there could be such a guarantee it would totally negate the claimed purpose of these list parties.

Or how about the insistence that the new parties will not be standing against the SNP and endangering an SNP administration? The only occasion when the SNP has won an overall majority was in 2011. Achieving this remarkable feat involved winning seats in almost every region (7/8). How then can these new parties put up candidates for list seats without standing against SNP candidates and thereby increasing the risk of the Scottish Parliament falling back into the hands of the British parties – a catastrophe none of us who care for Scotland want to even contemplate. And let us not forget that the only time the electoral system has been ‘broken’ it wasn’t by the gaming activities of alternative parties but by the sheer force of the electorate concentrating votes on the SNP.

I wouldn’t expect Pete Wishart to get into psephology which shows how unlikely it is that any of these alternative parties will actually win seats or the arithmetic which illustrates how easy it is for them to do massive harm while trying to win seats. There is an effective 5% threshold for being awarded seats. There is a very real risk that the alternative parties could get near enough this approximate threshold to knock out the SNP but not enough to win a seat. Thereby doing the opposite of what they proclaim as their intention. The more of these parties there are, the greater the risk of the votes that go to them being not merely wasted but, from the perspective of the independence campaign, severely counter-productive. None of them admit to this risk or if they do then they do so well away from the public eye. I consider that to be deceit of the kind that would disqualify any party from getting my vote. Deceit not dissimilar to that of pretending there is a Scottish Labour Party.

What forensic analysis shows – and there’s an abundance of it available – is that these alternative parties represent a huge gamble. A gamble, moreover, in which it is impossible to calculate the odds. We know those odds are stacked against the list parties doing what they’ve scribbled in chalk on the tin, but we have no way of working out even roughly how remote are their chances of success in their own terms. What we can discover with ease are the stakes. If these parties fail to deliver on their promises – which they all but certainly must – then all is lost. The British parties seizing back control of the Scottish Parliament is a prospect which haunts the darkest nightmares of every politically aware person in Scotland. It would be a massive, perhaps fatal blow to the campaign to restore Scotland’s independence.

But what if they succeed? What do we stand to gain? What is the prize? Nothing! No more than what we already have. There is no gain in achieving a pro-independence majority when we already have a pro-independence majority. It makes to sense whatever to put that pro-independence majority in jeopardy for the vanishingly remote possibility of maybe by some electoral fluke getting a slightly bigger majority. There is nothing that can be achieved by a majority of two which cannot be achieved by a majority of one. So why would you gamble your majority of one in the vague hope of getting something that is by any objective measure no better?

Pete Wishart sees this. Do you really want to admit to being less perspicacious than the guy who came up with the inane notion of an ‘optimum time’ for holding a new referendum? Do you really want to claim less political acuity than someone who continues to look at the Section 30 process as the “gold standard” even after it has failed so spectacularly? Do you?

What Pete Wishart fails to see are the underlying reasons for these alternative parties coming into existence in the first place. Actually, it’s worse. He recognises the cause(s) but then flatly refuses to address it/them. This is starting to sound more like the Pete Wishart we’ve come to know and observe with weary despair. Failing or refusing to address issues is something of a trademark. He acknowledges that the Gender Recognition Act was ‘problematic’. But it has been shelved so no need to think about it at all. Please don’t question Mr Wishart on social media about why the legislation was ‘problematic’ or why it was allowed to become ‘problematic’ or why it continues to be ‘problematic’, or he’ll block you. For reasons which may be understandable even if hardly admirable he is not going to allow that the GRA was a mistake. Or even that mistakes were made in the handling and presentation of GRA.

I happen to agree that the constitutional issue takes precedence and must be abstracted for the realm of public policy. But even if only for the reason that it is prompting the massive gamble of the list parties I cannot be so dismissive of what are undoubtedly genuinely held concerns about self-ID proposals and the potential impact on women – even if that impact is exaggerated for legitimate campaigning reasons. It is this discounting of the concerns of Scotland’s citizens which I find incomprehensible and reprehensible. I found it so when Pete Wishart and others were dismissing valid concerns about the First Minister’s inexplicable commitment to the patently nonviable Section 30 process. In the name of consistency and principle I must object just as strongly to the anti-GRA lobby being treated with disdain bordering on contempt – even if I do find their lobbying to be way too shrill and frenetic to have any hope of being effective.

What really irks me, however, is Pete Wishart’s profound indifference to the other dissatisfaction which he acknowledges as a motivating factor in the formation of the alternative pro-independence list parties. He recognises the disquiet, not to say distress, with which many view the SNP’s somewhat lackadaisical approach to the constitutional issue and the Scottish Governments decidedly lacklustre performance in the handling of that issue.

To put it simply, Pete Wishart is worried about how these parties will affect the SNP’s chances in the next Holyrood election. I am fearful of how they will affect the cause of restoring Scotland’s independence. We both consider these list parties a very bad idea. But for quite different reasons.



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17 thoughts on “Divergent concerns

  1. Women form 51-52% of the Scottish population – and of the world’s population – and to take their concerns lightly is to dismiss that majority as being of no consequence. The fact is that women voted NO by around 57-58% in 2014, and for the main party of independence to dismiss their concerns with such contempt says something much deeper than that women’s concerns are of little consequence. It says that women, in this new Scotland that is emerging, will have around the same kind of influence that we have now – practically none – even though we have a female FM, and members of her cabinet are female.

    Women do things differently: we are more cautious because we have to be in real life; we are less belligerent because we have to be in real life; and we tend to stand back and let things happen to us, as we tend to do in real life. That, too, is the way of most trans people I have come across: they do not want to put their heads above the parapet too much in case it gets blown off, just as born-women tend not to, for the same reasons. Slowly, though, that is changing. Many of those who want to see independence soon are women, so there is no doubting the commitment of pro independence women to the cause. What is deplorable is that the rights of a tiny minority are about to trample over the rights of the majority. It is the legal ramifications of self-ID – which simply have not had time to come to light yet – that are so objectionable, and the misogynistic approach to any dissent by the trans lobby is so masculine and arrogant and belligerent that it ought to make people stop and wonder what is going on. I have to say that the SNP has only itself to blame for this situation now.

    Having said that, I can see problems with a split vote in the List if there is no co-operation and some self-sacrifice, commonplace now with the Unionist parties, who happily send their activists out to tell voters to vote interchangeably as the situation develops in favour of one of their parties or another, all being the same when it comes to their anti independence stance. That is what we have to challenge at source, and a party dedicated to independence on the List might be the way forward when almost all List votes for the SNP are wasted votes for independence.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Perhaps it does, Mr Bell. Whatever, if this party sticks to the List, it will not affect the FPP votes and seats. The real problem that would arise would be if a party arose to challenge the SNP on the main ballot. Let’s all pray that the SNP starts to show some humility and sense before is too late, and everything is at risk. This is a very real warning that many are not happy.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. No impact beyond the list, eh? This is where the magic comes in. The list parties – however many of them there turns out to be – will mount a campaign urging people not to vote SNP and they will somehow prevent that massage spilling over onto the constituency vote. I have asked how it is proposed to achieve this miracle. Needless to say, nobody has explained it.

        Instead of blithely assuming these ‘cunning plans’ will have absolutely no ‘unfortunate’ side-effects would it not be more sensible to ask what the ‘unfortunate’ side-effects might be? Or am I the foolish one for questioning the received wisdom?

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  2. It seems to me that the SNP never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity to press home their advantage.

    Therefore, as you have been opining for some time, there is little or no prospect of progress towards independence with a “do nothing” strategy and simply accumulate run-away victory upon run-away victory, what is to be lost?

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      1. If the SNP aren’t going to do anything apart from waiting for the British Government to turn out to be nice, decent democrats after all, what is to be lost in the quest for independence by implementing an alternative strategy?

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  3. Lots of excellent issues raised. However there’s no real idea of whether this is a bad thing or not. When you say we’d be no better off with a successful set of list parties you’re making the assumption that everybody who is pro-independence is already voting for the SNP. That’s reasonable, but it’s still just an assumption.

    Nobody is openly acknowledging the clear and present danger that the GRA and to a lesser extent the anti-hate legislation represents. If a significant percentage of voters abandon the SNP then it’s game over for all the same reasons you put up against voting for list parties.

    The second point that’s not addressed fully is that the list parties are a stick to beat the SNP with. We already have a pro-independence majority so why aren’t we independent already?

    Clearly the list parties are a gamble but given nothing has happened in the past five years then blowing an election term or two to experiment with list parties might just be worth it. The current situation is not moving us forward and internal change in the SNP seems to be a very long term task. In any case, if the SNP continues to fail to deliver we’ll need a replacement.

    If the country was going to be able to leave the Union in the next five years then I’d say that list parties were utter madness but right now, I don’t think we are and a lot of other people seem to think that too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “blowing an election term or two to experiment with list parties might just be worth it”

      You appear to have discovered a previously unknown form of super-stupidity.

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  4. The new Independence for Scotland Party is entirely born from ex SNP members. It is therefore quite different from the fringe socialist parties, who barely gather 1% of the vote between them.

    Pete is in a panic because this new party has more chance of success. than e.g. the various vehicles for Tommy Sheridan’s ego. It is extremely difficult for any new party to get established but it can be done. Much depends on the quality of the candidates of course, but the early indications that the ISP is open to routes to Independence other than via the S30, that we all know will never be granted, is an interesting angle

    Pete can untwist his panties. A genuine Independence Party standing on the list offers voters a receptacle for their list vote which is potentially more constructive in terms of progressing independence than a list vote for the Greens. The stats say that the Greens have benefited from the list votes of SNP constituency voters. Yet the Greens vote with the unionist parties as often as not and their budget time histrionics and blackmail are deeply tiresome.

    If the Independence for Scotland Party can rid us of The Greens then they will perform a valuable service.

    I am an SNP member and it saddens me that the Party as somewhat lost it’s way, with cliques being allowed to gaily ignore the Code of Conduct, and attack sitting MSPs and MPs, while others are expelled for much less The Chief Executive has some responsibility there, alas.

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  5. The Unionists parties have always said: look, you might have gained the majority of seats but people are still voting for us. In other words, the List allows the Unionist parties, more than any others, to ‘game the system’ because it hands them a huge advantage and literally throws away hundreds if thousands of SNP votes. Two things require to be done: the List parties need to give an undertaking that, in areas where one of them has a better chance, independence voters give their votes to that party, and so on. This is precisely what the Unionists do, and they have gotten away with it. It cannot be a formal alliance as the EC would stamp down on that; the second thing would be that the SNP would be willing to forego at least the majority of its List votes in areas where it cannot benefit. That would mean not standing candidates in the List in those areas where the FPTP seat was very winnable, but that should not be undertaken unless it is shown that the SNP has consistently done badly in the List, but very well in the FPTP. The SNP will have that kind of analysis at its fingertips. The other half of the second equation is that the SNP cannot be allowed to enter the 2021 ballot without a policy statement in its manifesto that it will move immediately towards independence if it wins a majority of the FPTP seats outright or if it and other independence parties win an overall majority in a combination of FPTP and List seats. Yes, it might be risky, but where exactly are we going right now? Nowhere. What will a huge majority achieve in 2021 if the SNP prevaricates once again and insists on a S30 Order?

    We have to understand that many people vote SNP for the freebies – which, let’s face it, are going to be in short supply when the full effects of the pandemic and Brexit together hit home – but will never vote for independence. As things get tighter and the freebies become fewer, as the powers of Holyrood dwindle and we are caught in the garrotte of the aftermath of Brexit and the pandemic, the chances are far greater of people cleaving to what they know rather than trying to break free. Those who are opposed to independence and those who are wary, will return to the old solidity of the UK, as they perceive it, and the SNP will lose votes exponentially. We have to take the risk that it will all blow up in our faces, but we, emphatically, cannot take that risk in the domestic arena because every constitutional weapon will be marshalled against us. This time will never come again quite like this. We have spurned opportunity after opportunity in order to pander to those who will never recognize our right to our independence. We owe them nothing. They are the ones acting illegally according to international law and the UN Charter. They have made our lives immeasurably harder than they needed to be through their selfishness, fear and, yes, sheer stupidity. We have the right to resile the Treaty and hold a confirmatory referendum; we have the right to declare UDI, if we choose; and we have the right to hold a referendum under the mandate, if we choose. The second two options could see us crushed with no help from the international community because the UKG and courts will rule them illegal and unconstitutional. We are not going to get a S30 Order/Edinburgh Agreement. We are very nearly at the tipping point now. We will either take our chances or leave it up to a future generation to rise up and rebel against the oppression of a Brexit UK – but they won’t be able to do it peacefully because that chance will not come again.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I would disagree that many vote SNP “for the freebies”.
      That is not why many vote SNP, and a lot of those freebies were introduced by the former Labour-Lib Dem regime. True, SNP added a few of their own, mostly supported by Labour and Lib Dems.
      It is clear, many voted SNP because they were the most competent group on offer, and of course, they do make an effort to stand up for Scotland.
      But it is also true, many who want Independence are getting restless with SNP, and have been, a long while now.
      Hence, these various ideas for List Parties, and so on.
      I just cannot see many Labour voters who now opt for SNP going back to Labour, and precious few anywhere, will be looking at a wider UK “solidity”… Not after this utter chaos coming from London.
      If anything, that is driving up support for Independence.
      As for Scotland Declaring Independence by itself not being recognized by a UK Court…. won’t matter what any UK Court has to say on it, It will be totally out of their hands.
      The simplest way to have Independence, is to Dissolve the Union, and declare the Treaty of Union over.
      If as you say, we won’t get any Section30, and can’t end the Union, otherwise, what do we do?
      Go the Irish route?
      I don’t see the UK Govt wanting to go there,.Nor anyone else.
      It is for Scotland to end the Union, and the only reason it hasn’t been done just now, is down to the lack of political will amongst the elected representatives of Scotland we have at the present time.
      We have relied on SNP too long, and we have been let down too long.
      Something has to give.
      I also recognize there are dangers with a List only Party, but the Greens have more or less had that role in recent years, and not proven very trustworthy, in the view of many of us.
      I think it is the Greens who have more to fear, and to lose, rather than SNP.
      Whether this new group who emerged over the weekend fits the bill, remains to be seen.

      Liked by 1 person

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