The rot

There’s a rather strange piece in The National today which quotes at length two anonymous sources supposedly representing opposing perspectives on the peremptory demotion of Joanna Cherry after she was summarily sacked from her front bench role by SNP Westminster group leader Ian Blackford. I say this piece is strange not because it consists almost entirely of what might easily be dismissed as gossip, but because the gossip it reports seems so superficial. It presents the issue as if Ms Cherry’s treatment at the hands of the party were the main, if not the whole issue. Whereas even those of us who could never be described as ‘insiders’ know full well that the anger at her sacking is simply the eruption of a volcano that has been rumbling ominously for months – perhaps years.

One paragraph is given over to consideration of the deeper issues which have been the cause of this rumbling.

However she had been odds with the SNP leadership for some time, holding different views on the strategy to gain independence, on the Alex Salmond saga and on the debate around transgender rights and the reform of the Gender Recognition Act (designed to make it easier for transgender people to change their legally recognised gender).

The SNP has become a simmering broth of discontent, dissatisfaction, dissent, disappointment, disaffection, dismay and distrust that the party leadership has disregarded, dismissed or dealt with as indiscipline or disloyalty. That broth was going to come to the boil at some point. The sacking of Joanna Cherry looks like being that point. The paragraph above seems almost to trivialise these issues by rolling them all up in a simple spat between Joanna Cherry and Nicola Sturgeon. It’s much, much more than that.

Let me be clear about something before I continue. I am not a disinterested observer. I am not impartial. I have taken positions on all of these issues and I stand by those positions. Nonetheless, I attempt to analyse situations and developments as dispassionately as I am able. But I will not pretend an absence of bias. I would only look ridiculous if I tried. Look at BBC Scotland!

It’s not just a matter of “holding different views on the strategy to gain independence”. Joanna Cherry and I hold different views on that. What separates both of us from the leadership (and I apologise unreservedly if I misrepresent Joanna here) is that we have been concerned with finding a strategy that might actually work while the party leadership has been focused only on defending a strategy (if that’s not overburdening the word) which had been decided and which as far as they were concerned wasn’t even up for discussion. Although there was always the promise and occasionally the pretence of debate, the former were empty and the latter a mockery of democratic process.

Where Joanna Cherry and I differ is that while I am in a position to go further and condemn the Section 30 process for compromising the principle of popular sovereignty as well as being a process which could not possibly lead to the free and fair exercise of our right of self-determination, Joanna Cherry has stopped well short of that. Which is not to imply that she would go further if she could. I am not privy to whatever she might be holding back, if anything.

My point here is that this is more than just a dispute about strategy. It is a fundamental disagreement about something which is the very essence of Scotland’s claim. If the independence campaign could be distilled down to one thing that thing would be the principle that the people of Scotland are sovereign. If that principle is compromised then Scotland becomes a different nation. The very nature of the country is altered. There can be no ambivalence about something which underpins our distinctive political culture. I do not consent to my sovereignty being traded for worthless assurances from the British government that they will cooperate fully and honestly in a process to which threatens their ‘precious’ Union. A further request for a Section 30 order diminishes Scotland in ways that I find totally unacceptable.

The underlying issue here is not just different views on the strategy to gain independence. It is different views of what Scotland is and should be.

Neither are the divisions relating to the “Alex Salmond saga” a mere difference of opinion. If what is superficially a question of strategy in the fight to restore Scotland’s independence actually turns out to be about a matter of profound constitutional principle beyond even the question of the Union, then scratch the surface of the “Alex Salmond saga” and you find perturbing issues of basic justice and ethics.

There is just too much going on in the “Alex Salmond saga” for me to give an account of it here. Those who have defied the shrill, spittle-flecked effort to dissuade us from seeking out information to follow developments as reported by the likes of Stu Campbell (Wings Over Scotland) and Craig Murray will be aware of how the “saga” has descended into farce as crucial evidence is disappeared for the purposes of finding truth while remaining in plain view to any who care to defy the shrill, spittle-flecked effort to dissuade us from seeking out information. The people trying to perpetrate a blatant cover-up are behaving as if the curtain hasn’t been stripped away letting us all see them busily throwing spanners into the workings of justice.

The SNP has been left looking like the child protesting their innocence in the Great Cookie Jar Robbery while not merely having telltale traces of chocolate on their face but two fistfuls of looted confectionery. It’s embarrassing! And the people who own the party associated with this travesty are understably displeased. If they are not, this can only be because they remain ignorant of the facts.

Then there’s the “debate around transgender rights and the reform of the Gender Recognition Act”. This too is more than it may appear. And more than the policy debate suggested by the paragraph quoted. There is a policy issue here. But as anyone who has come anywhere near the ‘debate’ on this issue will be aware, it is as far beyond fractious as I am beyond being a woman just because a sign a form declaring myself female. There is a huge issue of women’s rights and everything relating thereto. If I don’t deal with that in any depth it’s not because I don’t consider it to be of huge importance not only to women but to everyone who values a fair and decent society. It’s only because others are making the case for those rights better than I ever could. And because it would take a lot of words to adequately set out my views on the matter. I am not glossing over anything. I just want to air another aspect of the ‘Gender Wars’ which is also worthy of consideration.

The “debate around transgender rights and the reform of the Gender Recognition Act” descended into the hyper-bilious ‘Gender Wars’ a while back. But at some point it also became a battle for ownership of the party. I don’t mean ownership in the property-holding sense – although that is involved. I mean ownership in the sense of belonging. The ideal – and what pertained in relation to the SNP until relatively recently – is that the members should feel that the party belongs to them and that they belong to the party. That the party is the right place for them to be as well as that they have a right to be there.

This doesn’t imply agreement with everything the party does, but satisfaction with the way decisions are reached. People reject, rather than merely dissent from, democratic decisions for one of two reasons. Either they just don’t believe in democracy, or they don’t believe what they have is democracy. Democracy functions well only to the extent that people have faith in it. A democratic system is healthy only to the extent that the losers in any choice or decision are content that they have been treated fairly.

The SNP is broken. It has succumbed to the cancer of factionalism. It is in the nature of factionalism that the growth of factional tumors is at least matched by a loss of healthy tissue. Thus facilitating further and more rapid expansion of the malignancy. The SNP is so badly broken that voices which take their cue from the party leadership are insisting that the healthy tissue is the problem – which they are doing all they can to excise.

A particular clique has come to have an inordinate amount of influence and power in the SNP. How this came about is not easy to explain. But certainly worthy of further investigation and analysis. The immediate concern, however, is how to prevent this clique imposing its mad, anti-science ideology on the whole party. And that means taking a closer look at the people whose job it is to prevent such cliques gaining influence beyond anything that can be justified.

I see this as a failure of management. Organisation tend towards disorder all the time. It’s management’s job to prevent that disorder. The management of the SNP has failed in this regard. Having failed to prevent the clique of crazies becoming too powerful the management feels threatened by it and so starts pandering to it. Thus allowing the clique even more power. And so it goes. There is a tipping point at which all collapses and descends into chaos. The SNP is on the cusp of that tipping point now.

This clique of crazies has absolutely no qualms about being the parasite which kills its host. It is mindless in pursuit of its ideological agenda. Only a strong leader can stop this happening once the cancer has taken hold in the way it now has. But a strong leader would never have allowed this to happen in the first place. In pandering to the clique of crazies the leaders and managers of the SNP have not only become relatively weak, they have become corrupted.

Some have tried to pass off Joanna Cherry’s sacking as no more than part of the normal process of moving personnel like chess pieces on a board. But as I have tried to convey, and as Ms Cherry herself maintains, there’s more to this than certain interested parties would have us believe. The SNP is in jeopardy. And this matters. It matters not just to the members who make up the remaining healthy tissue, many of whom are desperately trying to turn things around.

It matters to the people of Scotland because for all their recent problems the SNP remains the only viable party of government in Scotland. If you doubt me, try to imagine Douglas Ros as First Minister. The fact is that there is no other party standing ready to take over the reins of government. This is a far from ideal situation. But it is the reality with which we have to deal. And this being so, logic dictates that our best efforts should go into fixing what is broken.

It matters to Scotland’s cause because the SNP has a crucial role to play in the restoration of Scotland’s independence. At present, it is not fit for that purpose. There is no alternative party and no possibility of putting one in place soon enough to save Scotland from the British Nationalist scourge about to come.

We have to fix the SNP. We all have to fix the SNP. It won’t be easy. As Denise Findlay describes, the power centre of the party has developed a protective carapace over itself and the cancerous clique it is in thrall to. That carapace must be broken. If you want to understand why Joanna Cherry was humiliated by the SNP leadership then it’s necessary to be aware of all the underlying issues and realise that she is representative of the SNP members who want their party back. People who want the party restored to what it was. To stand for what it once did.

I will be condemned for writing this by those who suppose the reality of the situation can be concealed forever from the public. People who look no further ahead than the next election. People who, failing abysmally to comprehend what is happening, imagine it can all be sorted out later if we just keep schtum about it now. People without the sense to realise that what is afflicting the SNP is fatal if untreated.

Who will treat the affliction? Who will stop the rot?


40 thoughts on “The rot

  1. You’ve hit the nail fully square on the head there Peter but how do we go about it. A vote of no confidence in the current leadership ? a petition ?. I’m utterly scunnard with what’s going on in the party. We need a forum for discussion and a rapid action plan, and ideas and a plan for taking back control.

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  2. You’ve hit the nail fully square on the head there Peter but how do we go about it. A vote of no confidence in the current leadership ? a petition ?. I’m utterly scunnard with what’s going on in the party. We need a forum for discussion and a rapid action plan, and ideas and a route map for taking back control.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not sure exactly how we go about fixing the SNP. In more normal times I would have a few ideas. But the COVID-19 situation has made things extra difficult. I’m hearing that there are plans for a Spring conference. That may be the opportunity. But we can be sure it will be organised so as to stifle all dissenting voices. I’ll do some plotting and scheming behind the scenes and see what we can come up with.

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      1. I have a degree of faith, possibly unfounded, that James Hamilton QC might find that Ms Sturgeon has broken the ministerial code by misleading parliament, and as that code states she should resign as FM. If she does not then the unionists will circle like a pack of hyenas and if they can get the Greens come on side they will win a vote of no confidence. With any justice the FM falling would take Mr Murrell’s scalp as well, wake up the wheesht for indy army and be an be the opportunity we need to redefine the party constitution to something resembling the democracy and transparency we had pre 2018.

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      2. I think we have a chance with James Hamilton as he is not in thrall to the SNP and has a reputation to protect (whitewash would destroy it).

        The fall of Nicola Sturgeon would not be enough, John Swinney and many others are at least as compromised as she is.

        It is not going to be easy but it will show that our commitment to Independence is not dependent on personalities but is deeply committed to justice and probity

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      3. The new constitution which I and long serving members allowed to pass conference with a majority of inexperienced new members…means 3 folk…the Leader the Depute Leader and most importantly ..the Biz Convener are not up for re election at annual conference but can only be challenged by a determined strategy. So the oligarthy retains its hold….its the opposite of democratic. Btw..also the reason the Leader never supported any AUOB march..for fear of losing control. It also explains why rifts have taken place where a normal Leader would have swiftly healed wounds. Its her way…even to risk the very cause of our party.

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  3. “The SNP has become a simmering broth of discontent, dissatisfaction, dissent, disappointment, disaffection, dismay and distrust that the party leadership has disregarded, dismissed or dealt with as indiscipline or disloyalty.”

    Superb alliteration.

    I might add that the recent turn of events makes me despair, despondent, depressed and dejected in equal measure.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. This is the wrong time,cleaning house just before this election is clear message to Westminster and this Union of English convenience.For too long we have been ruled with self satisfied London Parties,and their perceived right to rule.This present ILLEGAL DiCTATORSHIP (RUSSIAN BILLIONS) are busy calling us a one party dictatorship, this government stands its ground,with its arms and legs tied up,if things continue along this path,forget freedom!! Laws being passed without scrutiny,the destruction of Scotland,a pandemic for the money loving criminals to hide behind,reducing the population,ruining this planet.We all aim flor perfection it gives a goal to aim for. I keep asking who does this benefit?? Alec and Nicola side show being pushed by the Union as the main event.Leslie Evans and David Mundell both worked together in the obsolete SCOTTISH OFFICE, does David Mundell really love Scotland and its people??. Keeping anonymity in mind why not question the complainers PRIVATELY?? In June the U.K. government are going to make our European voters NON existent.How many more years are Westminster going to be given to keep plundering our resources?? We up against a DESPOTIC LUNATIC RUNNING A DICTATORSHIP, smelling blood!!

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  4. Insightful analysis of the situation, Peter.
    It’s incumbent on us all to come to the aid of the Party, agreed!
    Is the NEC majority the route?
    It has to be now!
    To start the ball rolling.
    If this is the answer, then those MSP’s and MP’s must also act, stick their heads above the trench line.
    🐼🐼

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    1. I’m not going to pretend to have any solutions. But the NEC must be the body we look to in situations such as this. Particularly when conference is hobbled by COVID-19 precautions. I know various people are working on various plans. I just hope we come up with something in time. It is only a matter of time before stuff starts filtering through to the electorate. And what be the most important election since devolution is looming.

      Liked by 3 people

    2. Ambouche:

      The NEC elections took place, of course, in November of last year which seemingly cleansed that body of some of those less concerned with restoring Scotland’s self government. Seemingly, however, these elements have managed to re-assert themselves via ‘affiliate groups’ whereby they get to vote, even though they weren’t elected by the membership!

      As you may be aware this resulted in the gerrymandering of the vote at last weekend’s NEC meeting whereby BAME and disabled representatives get to occupy the ‘top spots’ in all of the 8 regions at the May elections. I am all for fairness and equality but this must not result in the grossly disproportionate over-representation of ANY group. (It should, of course, be based on the merits and demerits of individual candidates as per democracy – a seemingly old fashioned idea according to the current upper echelons of the SNP but there you go). It also leaves the lists open to manipulation by the unscrupulous as, in the case of disabled, any potential candidate can “self-identify”.

      Worse, the item was put on the agenda against QC recommendation which advised that the proposal was probably unlawful. In addition the Business Convener of the SNP, who chaired the meeting, used her casting vote (according to Wings) against all convention to carry the proposal for change.

      My own NEC representative has resigned in protest against passing an item against QC advice. My worry is that this will potentially make matters worse as this person may very well be replaced by someone who holds some of the more insane views alluded to in Peter A Bell’s article.

      We thought the NEC was returned to some normality last November but clearly this is not the case.

      Liked by 4 people

    3. There is no NEC majority, the representatives of the affiliate organisations ensure that. That’s why the vote on the list candidate stitch-up was passed by the casting vote of Kirsten Oswald. Effectively a rule change passed by one person.

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      1. But surely, if it was so invalid, (and it obviously was) SNP should cancel it?
        The First Minister can’t let this one continue.
        And actually, we would l prefer her to put a stop all of this.

        My concern, as with others, is voters, or just sufficient voters, not vote SNP at the Constituency votes, to deprive us of a majority of pro Independence MSP., just at the very time, SNP have been riding high in the polls, along with the desire for Independence, which we can say is clearly the will of the majority in Scotland.
        But wanting Independence, and wanting o vote SNP are 2 different things.
        On reading comments in forums in The National, I see an alarming degree of complacency from some, that SNP will definitely win that huge majority, and for anyone to dare wonder if it will, is tantamount to betrayal.
        Such complacency is dangerous.

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  5. Brilliant blog Peter, you have precisely analysed the existential threat to the restoration of Scotland to its rightful position as a self governing nation. I look forward to the pelters I get from SNP Blairgowrie & Rattray for posting this but this is an essential debate.
    And an entertaining alliteration to boot.

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  6. “Where Joanna Cherry and I differ is that while I am in a position to go further and condemn the Section 30 process”.

    If JC was merely sacked from the front bench of the WM group for ‘disloyalty to the leadership’ you would be semi-burned at the stake before being hung, drawn and quartered for that comment.

    As for the invasion by the body snatchers of the SNP I believe there are two reasons for this:

    1. The membership – that’s us of course – have tolerated the intolerant
    2. The leadership – by which I mean, in the main, Nicola Sturgeon – find them useful as a support base

    Regarding Salmond/Hirst/Murray you’re right it is embarrassing. But of course, much worse than that, it is utterly corrupt. Any reading from Stuart Campbell, Craig Murray, Iain Lawson, Gareth Wardell and Gordon Dangerfield makes this obvious. The dark hand of the British state may be in play here too but there is no doubt that the SNP, and therefore Yes/Independence, is in mortal danger.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Well done once again on an excellent piece of analysis. Hard to read, but hard to argue with, the fact that I and others who have posted agree with the position we are in at least gives me a thread of hope for change. The problem we have is to get the party loyalists to realise what a shit show it has all become and help to effect change before the voting public get wind of the problem in time for the May election. We can be sure the British establishment are well aware of the situation and have planned to capitalise on it for maximum effect. How much they are deeply involved in the whole thing is of course open to speculation.

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  8. Excellent analysis, Peter, and I agree with every word. Actually I more than agree as it has lanced a boil of massive frustration within me, and within the hearts and minds of many other members I know. The problem is that the party has been captured, and in a most non-Scottish way. As a nation we do not naturally subscribe to these unnatural manipulations in matters so fundamental as gender. Nationally we have always had great trust in the integrity and probity of our legal system and we’ve always believed in the honesty and honourable motivation of our elected representatives. It makes me believe that none of these deviances have emerged spontaneously from within – from those who see themselves as Jock Tamson’s bairns – but from an externally driven and insidious force focused upon demonising and fragmenting Scotland’s rightful march towards independence. Just because there are no reports in the media, we imagine Scotland is not under attack. Notice the lack of (or only minimal) comment on the Alex Salmond business from opposition ‘benches’ as presumably they have been instructed to keep their powder dry. Hopefully, there will be sufficient exposure in the next couple of weeks to lift the lid on the mess we have within the party, thereafter to ride out the storm and prepare for May. Simplistic, I hear you say, but the only alternative is to put off independence – as some of our NEC would like – and wait in false hope for Westminster’s next generation. In the interim, I agree that a spring conference would be crucial to bring together ‘normal’ members, but could be counter-productive if we allow a Zoom version to be manipulated by the so called ‘wokes’.

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  9. Once again you’ve echoed my feelings exactly. I was a member of the SNP over 50 years ago and left because of petty infighting. I’ve been wary of parties ever since but rejoined on the night of the 2015 GE in a moment of euphoria as the results came flooding in. It made up in a very very small way for the disappointment of the referendum. Unfortunately I have come to realise that the ‘hierarchy’ aren’t really interested in what we plebs have to say and don’t even bother to reply to legitimate (and not even critical) queries. Last week I again resigned and this time it would take something of a miracle to rejoin.
    By the way, I now notiice that there is a wee bit of a twitter pile-on developing against Angus McNeil by James Dornan no less!

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  10. Each and every MP & MSP, each and every SNP Councillor, all of the staff employed by the party and by us as publicly-funded support workers HAS TO be aware of the corruption which riddles the top echelon of the party, and of the entryism that protects and reinforces that corruption. Why has there been no mass revolt ? If they have not got the guts to stand up against the leadership and the entryists, maybe they are not the people to win independence. Maybe we need to start again, I really don’t see how it can be fixed now.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. “Why has there been no mass revolt ?”

      Nobody wants to risk their salary in Covid times!

      People could try asking friends, SNP MPs, MSPs and Councillors something along the lines of “Where would you draw the line? What could the SNP do to make you say “that’s too much, gone too far there?”

      Everybody might well draw the line in a different place.
      But at least they will be aware that a line can be drawn and where their own one is, even if they don’t answer the question

      Liked by 2 people

  11. I quit the SNP for 2 reasons, I moved to Wales and Joined Plaid Cymru. I moved here to be near my family who had moved here for work. I was swithering over retaining my membership I did not want to give it up but wondered how realistic it was to retain it. When Gareth Wardell was kicked out, that made up my mind. I did not want to be a member of a party with a gestapo-like disciplinary committee. I know anti-Semitism first hand. Gareth’s writing did not even have the appearance of anti-Semitism.

    Your reference, Peter, to the clique of crazies who have taken over the NEC; I think that Nicola Sturgeon is not pressured by that clique. I have the impression that she is the leader.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. The question requires to be asked of the serious political activists within the SNP, why at branch level, policy regarding matters of party constitution were not forensically examined and where necessary brought to conference for debate.

    It is inconceivable that within the grassroots membership there were no persons of legal standing who would have given guidance in formulating motions on the constitution to conference. This should have been done in order that the membership would have control of formulating policy in line with the founding objectives of the party in achieving an Independent Scotland rather than the apparently corrupt and unaccountable regime which now exists and which astonishingly was endorsed ? – by the membership at party conference.

    The appalling lack of integrity amongst the majority of elected SNP politicians in this potentially criminal political landscape renders their credibility as representatives of the Scottish people seeking Independence null and void in any future electoral role.

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  13. I’ve been struggling for some time trying to look at the SNP through rose-coloured spectacles. I’ve shrugged off criticism by the likes of Iain MacWhirter and Robin MacAlpine and others in the hope they are wrong and misguided but at the end of the day facts are chiels that winna ding!
    I’ve read as much as I’ve been able to about the Alex Salmond situation and, uncomfortable as it may be, I’ve come to the conclusion that either the FM or the civil service, or perhaps both, are culpable in attempting to throw Salmond to the dogs.
    I’ve become tired of hearing plans for independence that never appear and I’m utterly disgusted by the antics of those who would call me a transphobe because I agree with Joanna Cherry on women’s rights. I’ve experienced the vile outpouring of hate from these people and it is deeply offensive and upsetting. What indeed has happened to debate and mutual tolerance? Sadly they don’t appear to exist any more in the SNP.
    I’ve been swithering about cancelling my own membership but for the moment have been talked out of it. For the moment. I’m aware the general public is either not aware of these issues or are not prepared, as I was, to take it all on board for fear of losing our opportunity of a referendum, but I’d fed up being told to wheesht. If we do get a referendum in the coming months, and we do win independence, I hate the thought of a new Scotland starting off with a Government that is potentially corrupt. That’s not the start I want from a new Scotland.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. I see these issues as a stumbling block. A stumbling block in addition to all those being thrown under our feet by the british establishment. A stumbling block that wasn’t expected. We have to be prepared to overcome all stumbling blocks. Overcoming this one involves returning the SNP to the members. That won’t be easy. It’ll only be made more difficult if all the best people walk away rather than tackle to task.

      I wouldn’t worry about the government we get after independence. If the SNP isn’t won back by the members it will be unelectable.

      Liked by 2 people

  14. Peter,
    Your article is very forthright and says what many people have been thinking.
    Yes, the SNP needs to be rebuilt. However, is now the time to do it, in the full glare of publicity and just before the very important May election?
    The SNP is on course to gain a majority in the Scottish Parliament. Nicola Sturgeon, for all her faults, is the most popular leader in the UK. She is about to win us the election and gain us IndyRef2.
    Let’s win IndyRef2 before we rebuild the SNP, or create another party. Our energies should be channelled into converting Don’t Know voters into Yes voters. One organisation which is doing that is Believe in Scotland. Let’s not do the work of the Unionists by destroying Nicola Sturgeon. She is our biggest electoral asset at the moment.
    I have a lot of respect for both Alex Salmond and Joanna Cherry. The later is surely a future First Minister. However, both should hold back till after the elections.

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      1. 20 polls in a row will not be wrong. Let’s get on with winning a good majority in the May election before reforming the SNP. At this stage the electorate is not interested in feuds within the SNP.

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      2. Aye. Let’s just leave everything to come out in the final days and weeks of the election campaign. Brilliant idea. So brilliant we can be sure the British political elite has thought of it.

        Remember the MPs’ expenses scandal? What you probably didn’t notice was the way the Telegraph dragged the story out over weeks. Each day they’d take a really bad case and add a few lesser cases and some that weren’t cases at all. All to make the thing look worse than it was. All for the purpose of of undermining public confidence in the political system. All in the name of anti-parliamentarianism. Look up any list of the defining characteristics of Fascism and you’ll find anti-parliamentarianism somewhere on that list. Probably near the top.

        The British media can – and will – do something similar with the SNP’s internal issues. There are two reasons the British media aren’t hammering it now. Because they want to keep Sturgeon in place. And because they figure there’s more to came that can be used in the election cam[[paign.

        These issues have to be addressed now! There may be a cost to that. But the cost of letting things fester is far greater. The entire Yes movement can only (re)unite around a solid commitment to bold, decisive action on the constitutional issue. A #ManifestoForIndependence. This is the message we must hammer into the SNP leadership before spring conference. That’s why Now Scotland and SNP Members for Independence (Facebook) are so important. They are the hammer. Add your weight to that hammer.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Peter,

        Thank you for your prompt reply to my comments on your article. We are both on the same side in most of what you say. In particular, I totally agree the we must always state clearly that the Scottish people are sovereign within Scotland.

        I disagree with your suggestion that the SNP must take a very firm line on promoting a fast and direct route to independence. That I believe would scare off many people from voting for the SNP in May.

        I think that Nicola Sturgeon is right to put in her manifesto that the people of Scotland are sovereign and only they have the right to decide Scotland’s future. Voting SNP in May means that you agree with that proposition. The polls show clearly that over 60% of voters agree with that proposition.

        If the SNP put those propositions in their manifesto in May and win a majority in the Scottish Parliament, there is no way Boris Johnson will be able to stop IndyRef2 happening. Last time we went from 28% to 45% support for independence. Next time I think we shall be starting from around 60%.

        I agree that there are serious problems with the way the SNP is run. I think the person who should accept responsibility for that is the CEO, Peter Murrell.

        There have been many serious disputes within the SNP in the past, most notably when Alex Salmond and Kenny MacAskill were expelled. The way to resolve such disputes is to talk them through in private and arrive at compromises, not to fight them out online and in public.

        I notice that Mike Russell seems to argue along similar lines in The National today. When he and Angela Constance previously disagreed with the leadership they took it on the chin and in time were welcomed back into leadership positions. I think Joanna Cherry and Alex Salmond (who I greatly respect) should bide their time, not try to publicly damage the SNP, Nicola Sturgeon and the Movement.

        I agree with your thoughts that Transgender rights have been taken to extraordinary lengths at the cost of women’s rights. Again, those differences should be discussed behind closed doors, rather that vehemently attacking people in public.

        The polls show clearly that whatever criticisms we can level at Nicola Sturgeon, her strategy to increase support for independence is working.

        I believe that the cause of independence for Scotland is much more important than any individual or any faults within the SNP, or any other pro-independence organisations.

        Please let us expend our energy and our time on converting Don’t Knows to Yes voters and pointing out the numerous faults on the Unionist side, rather than attacking each other within the Independence Movement.

        As Sir John Curtice said this week, only those within the Independence Movement can stop us achieving independence.

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      4. “I disagree with your suggestion that the SNP must take a very firm line on promoting a fast and direct route to independence. That I believe would scare off many people from voting for the SNP in May.”

        It might put off a few. It might also attract some. If it has an effect at all then that effect is unlikely to be a simple as you seem to imagine. If it works one way for some people then its a near certainty that it will work the opposite way for others. Human nature virtually guarantees it.

        In fact, while I am suggesting the SNP makes a very firm statement of intent in its election manifesto I wouldn’t describe what I have in mind as a “fast and direct route to independence”. As I have stated repeatedly, I do not favour a plebiscitary election. I do not believe it could be as conclusive as we need it to be. If, however, there is to be a plebiscitary election then I maintain that it should not be on the questions of independence, but on the question of the status of the Scottish Parliament.

        I think it is imperative that the party renounce and repudiate the Section 30 process in its manifesto with a full explanation of the reasons for doing so. I don’t reckon people will take any commitment to a referendum seriously otherwise.

        The first move in the process that actually restores Scotland’s independence must be to assert the primacy in Scotland of the Scottish Parliament on the basis of its democratic legitimacy and the sovereignty of Scotland’s people. This is necessarily the first step as nothing further can be done without Holyrood having full powers over all constitutional matters. That power has to be taken. It has to be asserted. There is no other way it can be secured. If the British state wishes to challenge this by whatever means then we must be prepared to face that challenge.

        There is good reason to suppose a small majority might support independence in a plebiscitary election. There’s a better chance that many more would support a proposal that affirms the sovereignty of the Scottish people and asserts the competence of the Scottish Parliament.

        “I agree that there are serious problems with the way the SNP is run. I think the person who should accept responsibility for that is the CEO, Peter Murrell.”

        There is no way that Peter Murrell can avoid managerial responsibility. He is the CEO, as you say. Nicola Sturgeon is the party leader. There is no way she can escape political responsibility. It may also be that the NEC will be caught in the net. I am not entirely sure of the constitutional position. But I think the CEO may actually report to the NEC rather than the leader. But that’s one for the lawyers to sort out. What matters is that some approximation of the truth should come out sufficient that the whole matter can be put to rest and we can get on with the rest of our lives.

        “I think Joanna Cherry and Alex Salmond (who I greatly respect) should bide their time, not try to publicly damage the SNP, Nicola Sturgeon and the Movement.”

        But that is not what is happening. Neither Salmond nor Cherry did anything to create the situation. Salmond is not now nor was he ever going after Nicola Sturgeon. It was the other way around. Nobody is investigating Alex Salmond’s behaviour. Two separate inquiries are being conducted. Neither involve Salmond as anything other than a witness. One is investigating (supposedly investigating!) the conduct of the Scottish Government. The other is investigating the conduct of the First Minister. Neither inquiry is being conducted at Alex Salmond’s behest. Both inquiries were ordered by the Scottish Government and the First Minister.

        Joanna Cherry is doing her job as an MP. She is representing the interests of her constituents and country. If she finds something to be contrary to the interests of her constituents and/or country then she is duty-bound to oppose it. The problem isn’t what she is doing but what too many of our elected representatives aren’t doing.

        I am, as a matter of principle, uncomfortable with the idea of our politics being conducted behind closed doors. It would be impossible to keep all of this secret anyway. We are talking about party and government policy. Party policy is the province of National Conference and much (most?) of National Conference’s business is conducted in public. As it should be. Government policy is a matter for the Scottish Parliament, which also quite rightly is open to public scrutiny as its business is conducted both in the chamber and in the committee rooms. How can it all be kept under wraps? It can’t.

        Some matters at some stages are to be treated as confidential. Some matters are for internal discussion only either in back rooms at party HQ or behind closed doors at National Conference or in the private offices of the First Minister and her Cabinet. But there is selective leaking of information from supposedly private meetings and there is hardly any facility remaining for private internal debate within the party. Everything in this regard is either blocked or rigidly managed by the party leadership and senior managers.

        Joanna Cherry, like Alex Salmond is dealing as best she can with a situation that is not of her making. The situation has been created by Nicola Sturgeon, Peter Murrell and a clique of crazies which has insinuated itself into a position of influence far beyond what anybody outside that clique might consider appropriate.

        Bide their time? What does that even mean? You make it sound like they are involved in some sort of plot to seize power. No doubt both Salmond and Cherry have ambitions. But to whatever extent those ambitions relate to the matters under discussion what is most striking is the extraordinary lengths certain people are going to in their efforts to thwart those ambitions.

        Or maybe you think these issues will go away if we just don’t talk about them. They won’t. They obviously won’t because they are about things that have already happened in Salmond’s case, and things that are threatened in the case of Joanna Cherry. We can’t turn back the clock or erase the history of false, malicious accusations against Salmond. We can’t bide our time in the hope that the scheming of the clique of crazies will come to nothing.

        “The polls show clearly that whatever criticisms we can level at Nicola Sturgeon, her strategy to increase support for independence is working.”

        Do they? That support for independence has increased is undeniable. But where is the strategy to which you choose to attribute this increase? There is no strategy. Unless you think Nicola Sturgeon somehow contrived the pandemic so she could better show off her managerial and presentational skills. Or maybe the election of Boris Johnson and the whole Brexit mess was her doing. Because these are the things being cited as explanations for the bump in the polls by everybody who isn’t frantically trying to defend Nicola Sturgeon.

        Those of us less in thrall to Nicola Sturgeon are asking how much higher the polls would be if there actually had been a strategy. Where would the polls be now if Nicola Sturgeon hadn’t driven the independence campaign down a dead-end alley and parked it there for the past six years. We recognise how insecure the incidental poll increase. Because we see that it is not founded on increased support for independence but on the celebrity status of Nicola Sturgeon and external factors such as a deeply unpopular British government and the disaster of Scotland being dragged out of the EU against the democratically expressed will of the people.

        Celebrity fades. Heroes fall or get knocked off pedestals. Idols turn out to have feet of clay. The public grows numb under a barrage of reminders of how awful the British government is. Brexit gets to be less and less of a live issue as the public wearies of the shock horror headlines and British propaganda takes effect to convince people that it’s not as bad a s some are making out. What then of that poll increase? what happens to it when the things to which it is properly attributed are taken out of the equation?

        “I believe that the cause of independence for Scotland is much more important than any individual or any faults within the SNP, or any other pro-independence organisations.”

        I agree. That is why I am obliged to speak out about individuals or whatever is putting Scotland’s cause in jeopardy. It is why I cannot do other than speak out when an essential component part of the fight to restore Scotland’s independence is being damaged. It is because I recognise the importance and the urgency of restoring Scotland’s independence that I must protest when people or organisations fail to serve that end as they properly should. How could I not?

        Independence is not inevitable. It is not closer than it has ever been. It is not going to be delivered by Boris Johnson or Brexit. It is not going to just happen. It has to be made to happen. And that requires that we have people in positions of political power who are prepared to do whatever it takes to make it happen. That Nicola Sturgeon and her ‘team’ are not those people is becoming more evident by the day. There are those who chose not to see this. They opt to disregard the evidence. They turn a blind eye and cock a deaf ear and keep a still tongue and demand that others do likewise. That is not happening while there are people who recognise how important independence is.

        Like

    1. How exactly can they “hold back”? Both have been propelled into their present situations by the actions of others.

      Like

  15. Thanks for the diagnosis, Peter. Absolutely spot on .The silence of senior party members who are not obviously in thrall to the self destuctive madness is a huge concern. That may be a sign that the Party which is the only realistic escape vehicle is beyond repair.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Nothing I can disagree with.

    There is a cancer at the heart of the SNP. It’s not terminal yet, but it will be if ignored.

    Some heads need to roll, some policies need dropped, and there must be a guaranteed plan for independence.

    Like

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