By now you will all be familiar with Pete Wishart’s vacuous and fantastical take on the way to restore Scotland’s independence and Alyn Smith’s pompous and self-aggrandising opinions on what the SNP is and should be – whether the majority of members agree or not. If not, steel yourself for wading through the sludge of the former’s stupidity and/or the ooze of the latter’s smugness and read their latest offerings. You have been warned.
I have been critical of Alyn Smith for a while now. Partly because of his irksomely idiotic insistence that we are closer to independence now than we were on Thursday 18 September 2014. Mostly on account of his increasingly hateful intolerance of those who not part of his personal clique and show no sign of wanting to be.
I have been critical of Pete Wishart for much longer. But only because I found him out before I got the true measure of Alyn Smith. I considered Smith to be very effective as an MEP. I now realise that this was mainly because he was rarely under the spotlight. But I thought he did some excellent work for the Remain campaign and represented Scotland well in the European Parliament while working to reform that flawed institution.
Pete Wishart is an acquaintance of long-standing and someone who I would have been happy to consider a friend in former times. Even when I observed some troubling traits during the campaign for the 2014 referendum I was inclined to make allowances because I have never been one to expect our elected representatives to be some superior form of life. I just hope they’re not so inferior as to be a problem. Although in recent years I was unable for reasons of ill health to do the leafleting and canvassing that Pete Wishart considers the only form of campaigning that counts, I always voted for him and urged others to do likewise. I couldn’t hit the streets as I did in the past. But I supported his election campaigns in every way I could – and stood ready to help in whatever way I was able if only I had been asked.
Even when I began to be critical of Pete Wishart’s nonsensically complacent attitude to the constitutional issue I continued to insist that he was an excellent constituency MP and a very effective parliamentarian even when others offered more sweeping condemnation of the man on the sole basis of his inane utterances on the subject of restoring Scotland’s independence.
Although, as regular readers will be aware, I have not the slightest compunction about getting ‘robust’ with those who deserve it, I always tried to avoid personalising my criticisms of both Wishart and Smith. It is only relatively recently that I have come to think of the person as being as flawed as their attitudes and positions. I know I can be nasty. But I’m never wantonly nasty. The nastiness is a not infrequently exhibited by-product of my honesty. I comment on things and people as I find them. For the most part I deal with views and positions expressed rather than the individual expressing them. Even when I call somebody stupid it is only by way of pointing out the stupidity of what they are saying.
What we are now seeing from Wishart and Smith is the wanton nastiness that I try to avoid. Each in their own way is set on denigrated and defaming anybody who doesn’t conform to their idea of what an SNP member and/or an independence supporter should be. To my mind, this is evidence of serious character deficiencies. Only a badly flawed person would have written that article by Alyn Smith. Only a disordered personality would applaud that article in the manner that Pete Wishart does (see image at top of page).
As I said earlier, I don’t expect our elected representatives to be perfect. In fact, I think a person has to possess some quite distasteful traits in order to succeed in the realm of British politics – where we are currently trapped. But there sometimes comes a point where the traits take over. Mere foibles can grow into harmless eccentricity. But when aspects of character and personality considered regrettable in most contexts but essential in an effective political operator take over then what results is not oddity but monstrousness.
Both Wishart and Smith are engaged in a campaign of othering SNP members and Yes activists. Their purpose is to silence voices expressing legitimate concerns and exclude those who oppose their agenda. They barely make the effort to conceal this purpose. It is dangerous. It threatens both party and movement. It therefore puts Scotland’s cause in jeopardy. It has to be called out.
For all their protestations about the divisiveness of people expressing honestly held views and highlighting essential facts, it is they who promote division – Smith by the exclusivity of his clique and Wishart by the rigidity of his facile dogma. Smith epitomises intolerance of difference. Wishart exemplifies intolerance of dissent.
Together they reveal the cancerous forces within the SNP which delegates to this weekend’s SNP Conference must address. They represent the judgemental cliquishness of those who have come to regard the party as their own personal fiefdom and the iron dogmatism of those who imagine they own the independence movement. Unlike them, I am not calling for anybody to be expelled or excluded. All I’m saying is that the forces which have come to be associated with Pete Wishart and Alyn Smith must not be allowed to dominate either party or movement.
My sole concern is the restoration of Scotland’s independence. If sanity or even simple good sense prevailed then the forces represented by Wishart and Smith would be relegated to the political fringe. Sanity must be restored to the SNP. The party must be restored to its members. The Yes movement’s unity of purpose must be restored. Otherwise, Scotland’s rightful constitutional status will not be restored.