Why “if Boris Johnson blocks new vote”? If you are saying the Scottish Parliament has the competence to authorise a referendum then why would you ask for Boris Johnson’s approval? I hear it argued that it’s not a case of asking for approval or permission but of securing cooperation. An argument which is convincing only to the extent that you manage to forget that this is the British state we’re talking about. Even if it wasn’t a rogue state with a reputation for flouting international law and reneging on agreements, how sensible is it to hope for honest cooperation from those most rabidly opposed to what it is you’re trying to achieve?
The Section 30 process makes no sense. Nicola Sturgeon’s commitment to the Section 30 process makes no sense. The zealous fervour of those issuing spittle-flecked denunciations of anyone held to be guilty of the heresy of questioning this commitment to the Section 30 process makes no more sense than the demented ranting of religious fundamentalists. None of it makes any sense.
How did it come to this? More to the point, how do we get some sense back into the fight to restore Scotland’s independence? Not by way of the SNP Conference starting today, that’s for sure. The entire event is stitched up tight to ensure that not the merest whimper of dissent from the official party line is heard. They call it a conference but extraordinary effort has been put into ensuring that there will be no actual conferring. It used to be that the SNP was a party that valued input from members. comments were encouraged and listened to. Criticism was taken on board. Or at least there was a polite pretence of taking it on board. Concerns were attended to. Sometimes, those concerns were even addressed.
Most importantly, members were regard as a resource. Not merely as labour for election campaigns. Members were valued a source of ideas. Members’ participation in the policy development process was so essential as to be taken for granted. It was a good way of running a political party. It was a sensible way of running a political party. Looking at this conference set-up it is difficult to find any trace of that sense.
The cry goes up, “COVID! COVID! COVID!”, and the meek of spirit and shallow of thought respond with nodding heads and unquestioning acceptance. But why should the pandemic and the need for a virtual conference necessarily and inevitably mean that internal democracy must be sacrifice as totally as it evidently has been? In reality, modern online facilities should enhance democracy. They should enable greater participation. They should allow wider engagement. In order to make these facilities less than they are designed to be the organisers have to disable a whole range of features. Why would anybody do that? Why pay for a state-of-the-art platform and then dump most of what you’ve paid for? It makes no sense!
Yesterday, while involved in various online exchanges something happened which is more common than one might imagine. I typed a thought only to realise afterwards that what I had written was a small, not particularly profound but certainly quite illuminating insight. I casually remarked that for Nicola Sturgeon the prize is a Section 30 order while for the Yes movement the prize is a free and fair referendum leading to the restoration of Scotland’s independence. This helps to explain the dearth of sense in the SNP’s approach to the constitutional issue. It helps to explain why the conference has been gutted and filleted as it has. It helps to explain the insanely furious reaction to questions being asked or concerns voiced about the way the SNP leadership has been handling the constitutional issue over the past six years.
If a Section 30 order is regarded as the prize then those who are intent on restoring Scotland’s independence will be perceived as standing between the SNP and that prize. If British approval is accepted as essential then it becomes difficult if not impossible to think beyond a Section 30 order. If the need for and desirability of a Section 30 order is never questioned then this will intrude into the thinking of even the most astute politician and dedicated advocate of restoring Scotland’s independence.
All of a sudden Joanna Cherry’s qualifying clause – “if Boris Johnson blocks new vote” – makes sense. All of a sudden the frantic efforts to prevent scrutiny of the SNP’s commitment to the Section 30 process makes sense. Suddenly, it all makes sense! Of a kind.