I have questions. I always have questions. I hope I will always have questions. Questions are important. Questioning is important. It is important to question everything. It is import to persist with questioning even when you have found an answer that fits. Because it is only by persisting that you may arrive at the right question. And only when you ask the right question will you get the right answer. Only when you have asked all possible questions can you be sure that you’ve asked the right question. Truth lies at the end of an infinite chain of questions.
Of course, in real life few of us enjoy the luxury of the undistracted time it would take to ask all possible questions about everything. Nor are we blessed with the omniscience to always know the right answer when we encounter it. We use our judgement. We assess both questions and answers on the basis of our knowledge and experience and intuition – the latter being simply knowledge and experience operating at a lower level of consciousness. We are only human. Our judgement is flawed. Which is why the first, last and most crucial questioning we must undertake is a rigorous interrogation of our own assumptions, preconceptions and prejudices. The aim is to get as far along that chain of questions as possible taking account of the significance of the matter and the resources at our disposal.
The 2021 Scottish Parliament election is quite significant. In fact, it is crucial. To an extraordinary degree, the future of nations will be decided in that election. Scotland’s future will be determined by the outcome. So we should really should give very serious thought to the question of what outcome would be best for Scotland and how we might go about achieving that outcome. Seeking the wrong outcome and seeking the right outcome in the wrong way would be similarly disastrous. The AltIndy parties manage to do both.
By ‘AltIndy’ I mean the alternative pro-independence parties that have sprouted around the 2021 Holyrood election. The ‘list parties’ as they are sometimes referred to, along with as a few more pejorative terms. The groups making bold claims and glittering promises about what they may achieve in that election. Claims that are flawed and promises that are undeliverable because the wrong questions have been asked. Or, more precisely, the right questions haven’t been asked. By ‘right’ I mean the questions that lie some way further along the chain that would lead us to perfect truth were it not infinite and our lives a lot less so.
Considering the coming election from the perspective of Scotland’s cause – the fight to restore our nation’s independence – the first question we might ask is what would be the ideal outcome? What outcome would best serve our cause? But it is not really the first question. Because that chain of questions is infinite in both directions. There is always a preceding question. In order to sensibly address the question of the ideal outcome we need to understand the nature of the problem for which a solution is being sought and the type of difficulties we are likely to encounter.
The problem is the Union. The solution is to end it. The difficulty is that very powerful forces are determined to preserve the Union. They are determined to prevent us ending the Union. And they are prepared to do absolutely anything to achieve this.
There are many more questions which must be asked to arrive at a satisfactory definition of the ideal outcome in next year’s from the perspective of Scotland’s independence movement. A potentially infinite number, in fact. I have asked a lot of them. The AltIndy groups evidently haven’t. That is why we have come to such differing conclusions. It is because their questioning process has been deficient and mine is less so that they are wrong and I am less so. We know what questions they have asked because we can see where those questions have led them. We know that it has led them to the wrong place because further questions reveal that the outcome they are aiming for does not serve Scotland’s cause. Whether the means to achieving this end is viable doesn’t really matter given that the end is wrong. But when the means is as dubious as the end is misguided then the entire project begins to look farcical.
At this point it occurs to me that the AltIndy project has much in common with the Brexit project. Both can be seen as the product of a seriously flawed process of questioning. The farcical nature of Brexit is beyond doubt. The AltIndy project is fated to be just as farcical and potentially even more deleterious to Scotland’s interests. We might well explore the similarities at another time.
For the moment, let’s return to the question of our ideal outcome. The outcome that best serves the cause of ending the Union and thereby restoring Scotland’s status as an independent nation. This is a constitutional issue. Therefore, it is definitively a political issue. As such, it belongs in the realm of politics. It is an issue that must be resolved democratically and so it must be addressed in the place where Scotland’s democracy resides – the Scottish Parliament. This in turn requires that there be a Scottish Government which is prepared to address the issue. And to address it with such urgency as our predicament demands and by whatever means may be at its disposal – allowing only that those means must be respectful of democratic principles.
At present – and for our purposes there not only is no time like the present but no time other than the present – the only party capable of forming this pro-independence government is the Scottish National Party (SNP). That is a fact so far beyond doubt as to render questioning pointless. Even if there was a different or better answer further along the chain there is no time to get to that answer never mind implement the new solution. It’s the SNP or nothing. So, regardless of any other consideration, shouldn’t that be where all our efforts and resources are directed?
Our ideal outcome is defined in part by there being an SNP government in office after the election. There are no circumstances in which this is not true. Regardless of any and all other factors, our ideal outcome is the same – and SNP administration. To make it ideal in the context of Scotland’s cause it must be an SNP administration absolutely committed to taking that cause forward with appropriate urgency and by effective means. It must be an SNP administration committed to a Manifesto for Independence.
How we ensure this commitment is a question best dealt with separately. For our present purpose let us assume that it has been dealt with successfully. We are, after all, considering our perfect outcome. But it must be noted that the SNP government is essential regardless of any such commitment. Because the alternative is a prospect so unthinkable that nobody who cares about Scotland would risk it. There is nothing that the SNP has done or failed to do or might do or might fail to do which could possibly justify allowing the British parties to seize control. Nothing!
We are close to our ideal outcome having an SNP government armed with a mandate to implement the Manifesto for Independence. To add the final polish we need to stipulate that it is a majority government. A government with a working majority. An overall majority. Somewhere in the region of 66 to 70 seats. If a working majority is the icing on the cake then let’s add the cherry – over 50% of the popular vote! And since we’re working on our ultimate dream outcome, how about some sprinkles? How about we give the SNP in excess of 50% of the regional vote as well!
Now we have a hammer capable of cracking the British nut! A lever with the potential to prise Scotland out of the accursed Union!
This may be our dream outcome but it is achievable. It is at least possible to get some way towards it. It is massively ambitious, but not fantastical. It is what we should be working for even if we can get only half way there. We must aim high. We must aim highest.
There is no such thing as magic. Even with this dream outcome there would still be work to be done. Independence is not going to fall into our laps. Anyone who imagines independence automatically ensues from even such a decisive out come as has just been described is deluded. They are failing to take account of the nature of the British state and the existential imperative to preserve the Union. There is a reason the Union is ‘precious’ to British Nationalists. And that reason means that they will not easily relent in their effort to maintain Britannia’s grip on Scotland. But with something close to the ideal outcome described we will at least be properly equipped for the task of restoring Scotland’s independence.
Surely that is worth working for? Surely it is worth fighting for? Surely it is something for which we all should be prepared to set aside personal or partisan agendas and unite?
Which brings us to the AltIndy groups. Groups which represent the antithesis of unity – factionalism. It is hard to imagine anything that might serve Scotland’s cause less well – particularly given our present predicament – than to introduce the cancer of factionalism to the Yes movement. Any loss of focus might be fatal. anything that detracts or distract from the effort to get as close as we might to our ideal outcome should be anathema to those who truly believe in Scotland’s cause. Yet here we are, embroiled in an increasingly ‘tense’ debate, not about how to achieve the unity which best serves our cause, but about which brand of factionalism is the most appealing and which faction the most attractive. We have a choice of deadly cancers. Aren’t we lucky!
How did this happen? How did people who I know to be as dedicated to Scotland’s cause as I am end up going down this path? How could they be so misguided? By asking the wrong questions!
There is no single reason. There almost never is. People are complex. Simple explanation tend to be a poor fit. Some do not accept independence as an end in itself – to rectify an injustice and restore normality – but as means to realise some policy agenda. Their support for Scotland’s cause is conditional on getting the Scotland they want. Some hate the SNP so much they refuse to acknowledge the party’s critical role in providing the effective political power Scotland’s cause requires. They desperately want there to be another way. They want this so much they are prepared to entertain some truly fantastical ideas.
I heard one the other day talking in all seriousness about his favoured faction getting the two-thirds majority required to (possibly) force a new election. This put the ones now claiming 24 seats is possible right in the shade. It seems but weeks ago eyebrows were being raised in quizzical incredulity at the idea of any pop-up party getting one or two seats. Once you cast off from the moorings of rationality to drift on the sea of fantasy then you can end up supposing any mirage to be real.
I have no doubt that for some of those jumping on the AltIndy bandwagon personal ambition is the principle motivation. Which is fine. We might wish for a more worthy motive. But we should not condemn a person for pursuing their own goals. Particularly if independence is some kind of consideration. But the things this has in common with all other explanations is that the motivation leads to asking the wrong questions.
With all the usual caveats about generalisation, non of those involved with the AltIndy groups has asked the question addressed earlier. What is the ideal outcome for Scotland’s cause in the 2021 Scottish Parliament election? Had they asked that question they would almost certainly have come to the same conclusion. They would quite certainly have come to the same conclusion had they shared my assessment of Scotland’s predicament. The ideal outcome has to be as described or so similar as to make the difference insignificant. Because nothing else will work. Nothing other than the outcome described will put Scotland in a position to confront the British state in the way that the British state must be confronted if Scotland’s independence is to be restored.
The person who is motivated by personal ambition will tend to ask what best serves that ambition rather than what best serves Scotland’s cause. They will also tend to put Scotland’s cause in front of their personal ambition when presenting themselves to the public. Some will do this less effectively than others. Some will fail utterly to conceal their desire for personal advancement. I can think of one such right away. But no names! Let’s not make this personal.
Taking the AltIndy phenomenon as a homogeneous whole just for the sake of concision we might identify some commonalities in the defective questioning process which has taken them down this dead-end. Almost universally they will acknowledge the need to ensure there is an SNP government after the election. They will do so with different degrees of enthusiasm and sincerity. And the will typically seek to move on with unseemly haste from that aspect of things to talk with fervour bordering on zeal about their own ‘answers’. To the question of what best serves Scotland’s cause they are convinced that maximising the number of pro-independence MSPs in the Scottish Parliament is what will do the trick. They like this answer. They like it so much they thought it a pity to risk blemishing its shiny magnificence with further questioning.
I intend to by-pass the matter of whether this is actually achievable. The psephology is being dealt with by other better qualified than myself. And the permutations are so immense and complex even the real experts tend to be reduced to simplifications and abstractions which distort the presentation or confuse the perception. The IndyAlt mob have some stock answers – very much like the politicians they claim to abhor – and are extremely fond of proclaiming that the numbers don’t lie. To which my stock response is, GERS!
Also, I am dubious about anyone who claims to have a wondrous ‘solution’. This dubiety becomes outright scepticism when they further claim that their super-powerful solution does does its super-powerful thing with absolutely no ‘unfortunate’ side-effects or consequences. A bit like claiming their industrial-strength gunk will instantly unblock any drain while presenting no danger to the environment or curious toddlers taking advantage of lax supervision to top up the levels of chlorine in their system.
Others have discussed to potentially adverse consequences of the AltIndy groups taking a significant part of the vote. I also recognise the possible deleterious impact od a campaign effectively telling independence supporters it’s OK not to vote SNP. But my main issue with this whole this is its total pointlessness.
When these people evangelise about how we must ‘Max the Yes’ and how flooding the Scottish Parliament with pro-independence MSPs will bring independence as the morning brings the sun, I have questions. ‘Max the Yes’ is a good slogan. In fact, as political slogans go, it is quite excellent. It sounds so obviously desirable and advisable. It seems intuitively right. That’s because there is a sense in which it is right. Of course we want to ‘Max the Yes’! Maximising support for independence and Yes votes in a referendum is self-evidently a Good Thing. But what the slogan does is steal the trueness of the phrase in relation to these things and apply it to something else entirely. It implies that because maxing the Yes in terms of support/votes is a Good Thing, maximising the number of pro-independence MSPs in Holyrood must also be a Good Thing. I am not fooled by such slogans I have questions.
I ask the face-slappingly obvious question that apparently hasn’t occurred to any of the AltIndy mob. Or if it has they didn’t like the answer so choose to pretend it isn’t there. I don’t pretend. I ask the question and am bound to accept the most truthful answer. More pro-independence MSPs is not better. More makes absolutely no difference. There is nothing that can be done with a majority of 20 that cannot be done with a majority of 2. There is nothing that can be done better with a majority of 20 than can be done with a majority 2. In terms of Scotland’s cause, these additional pro-independence MSPs serve no purpose whatever. They are entirely redundant.
They say it must be a Good Thing to reduce the number of British MSPs squatting in the Scottish Parliament. I query that. It may be a desirable thing, But is it a Good Thing? Does it benefit the cause of restoring Scotland’s independence? No! It doesn’t! Because those British MSPs can do nothing to stop the kind of SNP government I have described. They can bitch and moan and snipe from the side-lines and table wrecking amendments and feed lying soundbites to their pals at the BBC – but they can’t actually do anything.
The same can be said of the AltIndy MSPs. There is either nothing for them to do or nothing they can do. There is no credible scenario in which 3, 30 or 90 AltIndy MSPs can actually do anything practical to progress Scotland’s cause. Consider the scenarios for yourself and you’ll see that I’m right. Ask the questions. Attend to the answers. You will find that even if the AltIndy phenomenon does no real harm to Scotland’s cause – which is far from certain – it can do absolutely no good. And who’s to say that these AltIndy MSPs won’t end up sniping and moaning and bitching just like those British MSPs if it is the only way they can get the attention they seek?
Let’s not forget why those British MSPs are there. They are in the Scottish Parliament because of the way the people of Scotland have voted. Whatever else may be said about our voting system it does produce proportional representation. The AltIndy groups want to break that. They want to make the system less proportional. It may, with considerable justification, be argued that the circumstances are extraordinary and that extraordinary measures are necessary. But we can’t make that argument without also making it available to our opponents. And I hate to think what they might consider justifiable extraordinary measures! Also. we can be sure that the British will cry foul. They’ll use the situation the AltIndy mob want to engineer as a stick with which to beat our democratic institutions. We have little need to be making their job easier for them.
They say they will “hold the SNP government’s feet to the fire. I ask, how? How if not by behaving in a way that is indistinguishable from the way the British MSPs do? More importantly, why? It’ll be too late! The SNP’s feet need to be held to the fire before the election. So that they adopt the Manifesto for Independence before the election. So that they can be elected on the basis of that manifesto. So that they will have a mandate for that manifesto. A mandate totally unlike any of the others they have been given. The putative AltIndy MSPs would have no way to force the SNP government to adopt a Manifesto for Independence other than by threatening to withhold their support – thereby going against what they have said to gain votes. And even if they could force the SNP government to belatedly adopt the Manifesto for Independence it would be pointless because there would be no electoral mandate.
I challenge anyone to describe a credible post-election scenario in which any number of AltIndy MSPs serves any purpose whatever with regard to the fight to restore Scotland’s independence. Answer the question the spoksepersons for the AltIndy groups refuse to answer. What will you actually do for Scotland’s cause?
Here’s another question to finish with. Probably the best one of the lot. Why? Why bother with this AltIndy thing at all? Why?
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12 thoughts on “Are you asking the right question?”
Reblogged this on Ramblings of a now 60+ Female.
The question I want to address Peter is this, Given the 80 MP majority at Westminster and the fact that as of 01/01/2021 the UK Government will be completely untrammeled by European Law and International Law: Will we get the chance to have an election in May 2021? It is quite possible that devolution will be abolished by a New Scotland Act as soon as D Cummings can arrange it and as the 7 Senior Civil Servants are gone and the two Law Officers also there will be no one to stand against the totalitarian tide.
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We must plan for that eventuality. But we must not plan to ‘tightly’. Flexibility will be key. We have to be able to respond appropriately and effectively to whatever arises. That requires that we keep open as many options as possible. Define goals rather than being prescriptive about how we achieve them.
That is what the Manifesto for Independence attempts to do.
Manifesto for Independence
Renounce Section 30 process
Assert competence of Scottish Parliament in constitutional matters
Recall MPs to join with MSPs in a National Convention
Propose dissolution of Union subject to referendum
Call referendum entirely made and managed in Scotland
#NoSection30 #ScottishUDI #UnionNoMore
Originally I envisage a full document with considerable detail. It was only once I’d started by listing the bullet points that I realised this was all that was required. A more detailed statement can be built around this according to need and taste.
As far as your specific point is concerned, that is where the third bullet point comes in. If, or more likely when, we are obliged to disengage from the British political system there must be an alternative in place. Always democratic legitimacy is the primary consideration. A National Convention would have democratic legitimacy. The Scottish Parliament will always have the greatest democratic legitimacy. But it can be augmented by a National Convention comprising all Scotland’s nationally elected politicians and such other organisations representing civic Scotland as Parliament may deem appropriate.
When we get to this point there are a lot of ‘what ifs’. The answer to most is that we will have to deal with each of them as best we can. No nation is handed a ‘plan’ that sets in stone everything that will happen for the next 20 or 50 or 100 years. It is ludicrous that Scotland should be expected to have such a plan and offensive that we should be considered unfit to resume nationhood if we don’t.
My expectation is that there will come a point where England-as-British has more to lose by persisting with its anti-democratic project to lock Scotland into a new Union with no way out than by negotiating the best deal it can get. The more determined we are, the sooner that point will be reached. If the Brits get the faintest whiff of hesitation or trepidation from the Scottish Government, the will keep fighting.
There is nothing new or novel in having alternative proponents of Independence to the SNP. We have had various Independence party options other than the SNP, in theory at least, since the reconvening of the Scottish Parliament in 1999. Some of them are still around today in the shape of the Scottish Green Party, the Scottish Socialist Party and Solidarity. We have even had Independent Independence candidates and members, most memorably the sadly departed Margo MacDonald.
In 2016 we had the RISE (and fail) amalgamation which succeeded only in blowing the SNP majority at Holyrood. All that’s happening now is that these new(er) parties, alliances and fronts are attempting to displace British members of the Parliament and take their salaries.
In the past the representatives of the British Parties have given their ‘ok’ for a referendum when a majority in the Parliament has been achieved (2011) but not when it wasn’t achieved by a single party (2016).
More recently British lackeys such as Mundell and Jack have said that an SNP majority in 2021 would suffice but, as this outcome has grown more likely, this has been rowed back on by the sleazy Rifkind and lickspittle Ross. Now it will take a majority plus the elapse of a ‘generation’, suitable undefined by these democracy deniers. I believe there have also been informal references made to 50% thresholds of the ‘popular vote’ having to be achieved for even this to be a legitimate ‘mandate’, although again this is suitably undefined (i.e. is it constituency plus regional list, or both?)
So far so perfidious. That is to be expected, we’re dealing with the British state and their useful idiots after all.
Even if the AltIndy parties were to achieve their stated aim – questionable, I know – and knockout a significant number of the British state representatives from the Regional List so what? The British will simply move the goalposts claiming the total number of pro-Independence candidates returned does not constitute a ‘super-majority’, the latter which they of course define. That definition will always be what pro-Independence parties haven’t got.
So, to minimise ambiguity of what casting your ballot means and to avoid splitting of support (thus allowing greater representation for the British than they would otherwise achieve), the only logical and rational action for Independence-minded folk is to:
Vote SNP 1 & 2 to ‘Max the Unity’.
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I agree Peter that flexibility is the only way to respond, I just wanted to highlight the immediate danger that we may face in a few months’ time. The Italian and German parliaments in the 1920s and 30s were overtaken by a bunch of reprobates in similar fashion by being tripped up by events, Our leaders should be reminded that urgency is required.
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Thank you Peter this exposition. This gives me a useful response to inevitable, expected AltIndy declarations or queries.
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What the AltIndy parties really want is the same as what the Green’s want, the SNP short of a majority and themselves holding the balance of power. Of course it is fantasy, they cannot force a policy of a referendum on the SNP if they don’t want to go there, who else are they going to get onboard. And I’m convinced the SNP are not going there until they are 100% certain of winning it (I know nothing in politics can ever be a 100% certainty but as certain as possible).
They are in a weaker position than the Green’s, as independence is merely a side issue for the Green’s and forcing the SNP on other policies is more important to them. They have had some success here on budget votes.
So this article is right on the money, they are trying to manipulate what was supposed to be a proportional system in the same way they do in Westminster, whilst trying to claim the higher moral ground. If it goes wrong it is a recipe for disaster for Scotland.
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Oh dear me. Firstly there is only the ISP, only the ISP is registered with the Electoral Commission. Go look on their website if you don’t believe me. Any other lot are just blowhards at the moment.
The fact of the matter is that 950,000 SNP List votes in 2016 elected NOBODY because of D’Hont divisors. Here in the NE there are NO SNP List members, no Greens, just unionists. With the SNP polling at 55% this time that will be true pretty much everywhere.
The Greens this time are no good, both because GRA and because it is clear lots of folk won’t vote for them.
Without the ISP I would be disenfranchised on the List. Unable to vote SNP because Woke, stupid to waste my vote as well since I understand D’Hont and you don’t seem to. Greens who I habitually voted for are no good because Woke and can’t get elected in the NE anyway. Won’t vote Unionist so have no home. Along come the ISP, give me someone to vote for.
What pray tell is wrong with that? There is no point standing in a constituency with the SNP polling at 55% that wins no argument. 49% wins multi party FPTP elections. So does 40%. The SNP will walk the constituencies which is why NOBODY is bidding for List places, the bun fights are all about constituencies in the SNP. You are ignoring that.
The clear electoral calculus is that unless you vote ISP on the List next year the Unionists win by default. Remember they won’t have any constituencies this time so all with start with divisors of 1. So will the ISP.
Yes or Unionist, that is the option we have on the List and that Yes can’t be SNP and shouldn’t be Green because Women’s rights matter so it has to be ISP2.
Or do you fancy your SNP List vote being utterly wasted and pointless?
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Another snake-oil pedlar heard from. Totally failing to address any of the points made in the article. And as further evidence of stupidity there’s the clearly daft notion that because there’s only one snake-oil party registered now that’s all there will be come polling day. The reality that is obscured from these fantasists by their delusions is that there could very easily be half a dozen snake-oil parties trying to lose us the pro-independence majority.
Are you seriously telling the INDEPENDENCE for Scotland Party is not pro-independence? Have you taken leave of your senses? or is party allegiance causing you to deny reality?
I profess myself disappointed both in this article and your response to my comment. That you had done no research to determine who was actually registered by the Electoral Commission before you threw around the tired accusation that there are many when there is only one, the ISP is also disappointing. No mea culpa on that point I see.
Latest poll shows 60% SNP support. That takes ALL constituencies meaning a unionist free for all except for a few Greens who you also fail to note are all List MSPs and who ensured there was a Pro Indy majority in THIS parliament. Because those of us who are not mathematically illiterate and ignorant of how D’Hont works campaigned for more Green votes on the List to ensure it happened and damn good job we did so.
Now we are here again with SNP support well above what it was in 2016.
Please outline to me how the SNP are going to win seats on the Lists after winning all the constituencies like they didn’t here in the NE last time. It was not for lack of wasted SNP List votes. There are ONLY Unionists on the List in this region. That situation will be repeated without the ISP.
If you really want to ensure a ‘pro-independence majority’ you will recognise this fact. But if you are under the obviously mistaken impression that only the SNP are pro-independence then I have a lovely bridge over the river Tay to sell you.
Yours Muscleguy BSc PhD
I don’t do party allegiance. You’re the one obsessing about your party. My allegiance is to Scotland’s cause. I ask what best served that cause. You ask what best advantages your partisan interests. And the fact remains that there is no post-election parliamentary scenario in which the snake-oil parties can do anything practical for Scotland’s cause. It matters nothing what you FEEL about the SNP it is a fact as sure as the dawn that ONLY the SNP can actually DO what needs to be done. I detest factionalism. It is the cancer that destroys movements.
Unfortunately for the Independence movement the Cancer of Factionalism is deeply embedded within the organs of the Scottish National Party as is all to obvious from recent events played out in the Court of Session and subsequently the High Court at Edinburgh
Further to this it is coming to light that elements within the NEC of the party are attempting to manipulate the process and criteria for candidate selection in order to promote their own agenda and proposed career path within the party and furthermore on the backs of the Independence seeking populace. Alarm bells should be ringing in light of this.
Members of the SNP genuinely seeking Independence regardless of status within that party must now at every opportunity openly challenge Nicola Sturgeon regarding her intransigence in pursuing Independence. It might well be claimed that the party seeks to create a broad church but it is patently obvious from recent events that narrow vested interests decree the priority by which policy is dictated and implemented.
The fact that so many seasoned SNP MSPs are standing down should give some cause for concern particularly as Robertson, Wishart, Smith et al tell us we have never been closer to Independence. New blood coming to represent the SNP at Holyrood may be no bad thing providing it is not tainted through screening in the selection process. Radicalism will win the day, Cronyism and subservience will ultimately destroy the dream.