The SNP group at Westminster has three choices. They could vote for the Brexit deal. They could vote against the deal. They could decline to participate in the vote, or abstain. Only one of these causes the party serious problems. And that is the one they have chosen. For no good reason. Professor Curtice may be correct that voting against will please some Remain voters. But not voting at all wouldn’t displease them. Which matters at least as much.
Even voting for the deal is a better option than voting against. At least it could be argued that this was consistent with the party’s position on no deal. I’m not sure to what extent consistency is important in politics these days. But if it was consistency the SNP was after then not voting or abstaining (they’re not quite the same) at Westminster would have been the most consistent with denial of a legislative consent motion at Holyrood. And it would have had the advantage of matching up with a decision supported by the whole Scottish Parliament with the exception of the Tories. The SNP Westminster group could be portrayed as as being as one with Holyrood on this issue.
Therein, I think, lies a clue to the ‘reasoning’ behind the puzzling decision to vote against the deal and open themselves up to accusations of favouring a no deal scenario which the party has said would be disastrous for Scotland. Or at least part of the explanation. I suspect the SNP’s priority in this was to differentiate themselves from British Labour to the greatest possible extent. The decision is, if not exactly a knee-jerk response to Starmer opting to vote for the deal, then evidently an ill-considered one.
Underlying this is the SNP’s obsession with winning elections. Of course, it would be strange if a political party was not thinking in terms of electoral success. But there really should be space for other considerations. I see in this decision to vote against the Brexit deal rather than taking the politically sensible course of not voting or abstaining echoes of the kind of restricted thinking behind so many of the British parties’ attacks on the SNP. Particularly in the case of British Labour in Scotland (BLiS) there has been a continuing failure to think things through. They think as far as the first anti-SNP sound-bite that comes to mind, then just stop thinking altogether. Gird your loins, grit your teeth and watch any of Richard Leonard’s performances at FMQ and you’ll see what I mean.
It looks to me very much as if the SNP thought things through only as far as the first point-scoring opportunity and failed to properly consider the implications.
I hate to say it but there’s also a definite whiff of the Bain Principle coming off the SNP’s decision to vote against the Brexit deal. That is to say, the ‘principle’ named for the former BLiS MP for Glasgow North East who first – or most explicitly – enunciated the ‘rule’ that BLiS would by default oppose anything proposed by the SNP regardless of the merits of the proposal. The other British parties squatting in Scotland’s Parliament operate under a similar stricture and there is often quite strenuous competition among them as to who who can be most virulent and vicious in expressing their hatred of the SNP.
Something a bit like the Bain Principle seems to have been involved in the SNP’s decision to vote against Johnson’s pathetic Brexit deal. It’s not just a matter of being on the opposite side from British Labour. The imperative is to be as much on the other side as possible. If British Labour is voting with the Tories on an issue then it is not enough for the SNP merely to not vote or abstain. That may be too subtle a distinction for voters to appreciate. They have to vote against so that nobody can miss the contrast.
It’s a bad decision taken for bad reasons. Or through bad reasoning.
What was the best option? What option might the SNP have gone with had they not been so intent on getting the biggest stick possible with which to beat BLiS in the Holyrood election next year? It has to be either absaining or not voting. By which I mean putting their abstention on record or declaring that they were declining to participate in the process even to the extent of ‘formally’ abstaining.
This is what was suggested by Dr Tim Rideout, convener of the Scottish Currency Group and one of the ‘new brooms’ recently elected to the SNP’s National Executive Committee. In a courteous and respectful email sent to the party’s MPs he argued that the best option would be simply to not attend for the vote – and perhaps organise some kind of event to happen simultaneously with the vote at Westminster so as to underline the group’s non-attendance. This eminently reasonable suggestion was rejected by Pete Wishart MP in an email response which was anything but courteous and respectful. In fact, it was downright rude in a sickeningly arrogant way. An absolutely shameful act by a politician clearly well past his use-by date.
Wishart’s condescending and contemptuous reply to Dr Rideout is further evidence of the paucity of political nous in the upper echelons of the SNP. Not to mention a pathological dearth of self-awareness in Pete Wishart as he channels his inner Jacob Rees-Mogg. Although I’m fairly sure the Tory would at least know when and how to use an apostrophe. Something that “doing this for about 20 years” hasn’t taught Mr Wishart.
All of this political ineptitude is very worrying given that the SNP remains the only viable party of government in Scotland and the only party capable of providing the independence cause with the effective political power that it needs. Something has gone very, very wrong with the party I first joined 58 years ago. Whoever can stop the incipient rot will be doing Scotland a great service.
15 thoughts on “Who will stop the rot?”
My view is that the only principled action would have been Dr Rideout’s proposal i.e. do not lend credibility to the Brexit ‘process’ by engaging with it.
As for Wishart comments they are contemptuous. He needs to find himself a new party that will accommodate his sarcastic arrogance. I reckon that Labour in Scotland would be a good fit for both.
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Reblogged this on New Scotland.
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The way I see this.
The so called “deal” , is actually a very hard Brexit!
Is a very hard Brexit better than a no deal? Only marginally. Scotland voted to remain. So how does the SNP party respect the wishes of the people of Scotland.
They should simply abstain , and take no sip from this toxic devils soup. Personally I think they should stop taking part in the Westminster votes and talking to empty chairs. The media are doing a good job of presenting this as a good deal. Out of the Single Market , no freedom of movement, no Erasmus , fishermen shafted, end of farmers EU subsidies, green cards to drive in the EU, customs duties on every Royal Mail parcel to the EU.
This is a reprehensible vandalism of the political, social and economic union with our fellow Europeans.
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The SNP is operating like a driverless car. The restraint of the MSM while the pile up of self destructive acts builds is ominous. They are thinking ahead while SNP, having sold our sovereignty play the Westminster game. Can’t wait for Wishart’s speech .He says it’s a “cracker”.
A ‘cracker’, eh? Hmmm! We’ll see.
I remember as a wee boy (a long, long time ago) playing a ball game called “chipped, cracked, broken”, when you were “chipped” if you were hit once, “cracked” if twice and “broken”, and out the game, if hit three times.
Does this remind you of Pathetic Pete? “Cracker”. Is that the same as “cracked”,? Because Wishart is at least cracked, but with every passing day is sounding more as if he’s broken and out the Indy game.
Wishart is full of his own self importance. Look at me, I’m parliamentary tweeter of the year, I write cracking speeches’. Oh and I’ve blocked the majority of my voters and the independence movement on twitter. Too many of the rest of them in WM are too spineless to either admit they agree with his opinion that they are so much better than the rest of us or to stand up and condemn his attitude. All too worried about hanging on to their cushy positions with its cushy pay.
Hi Peter at one level I agree. What worries me is that you have take a number of issues and put them together (and I can see why)
There is the issue of how to vote. I was for abstaining until all the Northern Ireland parties who sit at Westminster agreed to vote against – and given that it was also the Alliance and the SDLP for the long term it is as well to go with them. I think that probably the SNP are right in voting no. Given that the proceedings are on line and control of the comments in in the hands of the Unionists it is the only way really to make a mark.
Then there is the disgraceful episode of the letter of Wishart. This is too serious to be looked at in a post about the voting issue, but requires to be addressed as a separate issue. He really needs to at the least to apologise, and really needs some sanction take against him which will be lost on the question of the vote
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The point about the Pete Wishart letter and this vote, is that Dr.Rideout suggested SNP MPs do not attend today’s vote at Westminster.
The letter above was MP Wishart’s outrageous response. Thus the two things are connected.
I am with Dr.Rideout here. And in fact, I have been saying for years now, SNP MPs should stop going to Westminster altogether.
That would be one sure way to speed up Independence I’m sure.
But alas, the SNP seem unable to bring itself away from following Westminster rules.
We need a new political Party for Independence, as it is clear, SNP has betrayed us!
Now, it is clearly also the case, we will have little, or as it stands, no choice but to vote SNP for the constituency vote in May. It doesn’t change the fact they have still betrayed us on Brexit, in that they allowed us to be taken out of EU, despite insisting they would not let that to happen.
They made statement after statement they would give us another Independence vote before now, and yet we got nothing.
We really have to wonder about their thinking here, and what they are up to.
Getting us Independent seems not to be too high a priority.
It is unacceptable, and no longer can we continue to tolerate this inaction from SNP.
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Except one can disagree with the idea that Rideout is putting and it in itself deserves a discussion. The actual letter and behaviour of Wishart requires to be condemned completely. You are emphasising the political issue, and ignoring the disciplinary relationship issue.
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Well Peter, if as you suggest, the Bain principle might be at large within the political decision making processes of the SNP we are well and truly fucked. If the premise is that BLiS present a threat to SNP electoral success in the forthcoming Holyrood elections therefore SNP MPs at Westminster must vote in the opposite lobby to British Labour regardless of consequential damaging effect to the people of Scotland then the first sentence in this paragraph disnae start tae cover it.
Has no one within the SNP grasped the fact that it is British Establishment interests that are the greatest and most imminent threat to their continuing existence as a representative force in Scottish politics?
The SNP obsession with electoral success is like that of the Greenshield stamp collectors who thought that if only they could get another 2300 stamps they would be able to get the new lamp for the living room sideboard only to find that the item was no longer available and anyway the dug had chewed up the stamp books. Independence is going the same way if left in the hands of current leadership.
It is difficult to comprehend why Pete Wishart has been permitted to continue as an elected representative of the SNP for so long without censure by at the very least the constituency management committee. It is all very well for some to declare him a good constituency MP but that is possibly reflected best by the efforts of his administrative assistants who produce the results by which he is judged.
This morning I heard Ian Blackford again availing Boris Johnson of the opportunity to publicly humiliate Scotland on the floor of a Parliament not representative of our aspirations to Independent nationhood and which seeks to neuter our cause.
Somewhere, and very soon along the line, decision making needs to be wrested BY THE MEMBERSHIP from the current Think Tank ensconced within Bute House who if permitted to continue on this course are leaving the door wide ajar for that British Establishment to drive a stake through the heart of the Independence movement the consequences from which our Nation might never recover.
I didn’t suggest that “that BLiS present a threat to SNP electoral success”. I somewhat facetiously suggested that the SNP might be guilty of the habitual behaviour implied by the Bain Principle.
The trading stamp analogy is a bit strained. But I think I see what you’re getting at.
Your assessment of Pete Wishart isn’t far wide of the mark. I am one of those who have insisted that he is a good constituency MP. But I don’t see how that fits with addressing another party member in the way he did. I’m not sure he can be the person revealed by that email AND a good constituency MP.
“This morning I heard Ian Blackford…”
You’ve only yourself to blame for that.
I’m still hopeful that the AUOB initiative to create a Yes membership organisation might give us a lever big enough to prise the SNP out of the awful rut it’s in. Failing that, I’m at a loss. We have no option but to vote SNP next year. But if they fail to adopt a #ManifestoForIndependence before the campaign proper begins then they cease to be the political arm of the Yes movement as far as I’m concerned. I will then be looking to support the formation of a new party to fight the 2024 Westminster election on an anti-Union platform. I fear that will be too late, however. If we don’t get decisive action on the constitutional issue in the next parliament then the British will surely have neutered Holyrood and redefined the UK long before 2024.
If I survive that long I’ll be 74. I’ll be facing the prospect of dying not in the independent Scotland that has been my aspiration my entire life, but in a Scotland that barely exists other than as a region of Greater England. I just hope I’ll still have my anger.
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SNP MPs should never even have turned up in HoC today. Brexit was an English policy, finally supported by both Tory and Labour. Everyone knew what the stance of the Scottish electorate and the SNP had been for years. What opponents might or might not have said afterwards would be of very little consequence in the longer run. (They are already saying that voting against the deal offered was in effect voting for no deal (i.e., WTO terms). Absence, without a ‘grandstanding’ exit, would have underlined that Westminster was a complete irrelevance to Scottish interests and strengthened the fundamental reason for independence. It would also have hit the headlines and aided such momentum towards independence as there is (but dwindling rapidly through SNP inertia and subservience to the mirage of Westminster’s Section 30 ).
As a constituent of Pete Wishart I want to point out I gave him a mandate to advocate Scotland remaining in the EU as did most of his constituents. He has no mandate from his constituents to vote for or against the Brexit deal. If he chooses to vote then that is his personal choice and in doing so he legitimises the UK government and opens up the Independence movement to the cries of hypocrisy that are already developing from the Unionists. But then again I have regarded Pete as a quasi Nationalist since the Johnson putsch.
Unfortunately, the SNP at Westminster have shown that they are now a British, rather than a Scottish party.