Ruth Wishart’s column in The National is always a treat. By turns couthy as your granny and snell as bleak December’s winds, Ruth regularly serves up fine blend of sentiment and insight.laced with knowing humour. This week’s offering is very much in that mould as she casts a surprisingly unjaundiced eye over what we perforce must refer to as the Salmond/Sturgeon affair. The result is a very fair summary of the situation that avoids the mire of disputed detail to focus on the general impact of the affair on our nation’s public life and democratic institutions. The very institutions that are even as I write being assailed by the British state and its agents in a campaign which can no longer be called sleekit.
Ruth Wishart’s verdict is that the whole thing is a nightmare for pretty much everybody it touches. Other than the aforementioned British state and agents thereof who are drooling disgustingly in their porridge while reading each morning’s headlines. And who could possibly disagree with that verdict? Apart from Nicola Sturgeon, of course. Open questioning by Scotland’s First Minister of formal verdicts brought by a Scottish court of law is among the novel ‘features’ that have been introduced in the course of the seemingly interminable and intensely unseemly rammy twixt former and current First Ministers. See what I mean? Nightmare!
Back to Ruth Wishart who notes how the nightmare that has blighted Alex Salmond’s life now haunts social media and gnaws at the fabric of the Yes movement like ravenous carpet moth larvae.
A nightmare which has led to open warfare on social media with supporters of both camps running a high temperature. A profoundly depressing development. And a profoundly ironic one given that the dream which shall never die is almost within Scotland’s grasp.
It’s that last that I take issue with. The notion that the dream of restoring Scotland’s independence is “almost within Scotland’s grasp” is no less misguided for being all too common among Yes supporters. It’s one of those things that commentators trot out without thinking. The received wisdom.
Not everybody declines to consider this claim, however. And those who do find it more than somewhat wanting in substance. On due reflection, the representation of independence as being within reach is hardly less ridiculous than the self-evidently inane claim that we have “never been closer” to that dreamed of goal. The latter inanity necessarily implies that we are closer to having Scotland’s independence restored now than we were on the morning of Thursday 18 September 2014 when polls opened for what I still refuse to call the last independence referendum. Only an idiot would make such a claim. With irony as heavy as a coal train those idiots have self-identified.
It is illusion. And what is illusion used for in politics other than to make a situation look less bad than it actually is; or a political leader more successful than she would otherwise appear. With the scales from our eyes littered at our feet we see the reality of a project completely stalled. We see the empress only partially clothed – her modesty preserved only by the cover of Covid.
All of which is relevant to an understanding of the perceptions and attitudes which inform the two now firmly entrenched camps exchanging salvoes on social media. The the rapidly expanding space separating these two camps is the gulf between fantasy and reality. It is the difference between an image airbrushed and glossed by artful spin and a life laid bare by the scouring of public scrutiny. In Salmond we see the man behind the politician, exposed in a way that is almost excruciating to watch. In Sturgeon we see only the stage-strutting, lectern-hugging, selfie-taking, kiddie-cuddling, opposition-thrashing, pandemic-managing veneer concealing the beast beneath.
This is neither to elevate Salmond or do down Sturgeon. The former is flawed in ways we know well. The latter is almost certainly no less flawed but in ways we have yet to discover. So what? We celebrate political leaders for what they achieve despite their susceptibility to the failings and follies that beset us all. Sometimes we celebrate achievements only made possible by some manifestation of those human frailties. We each of use choose what weight we attach to the defects and deficiencies of others. The difference in this instance is that while Nicola Sturgeon can still benefit from doubts about her concealed character, Alex Salmond must carry the full burden of his less admirable characteristics.
These two giants of Scottish politics divide the independence movement because each is a repository of hope. Hope is the common factor here. Desperate hope. Quite possibly delusional hope. Hope that is no more than a dully glowing ember. Hope that still burns with a bright flame. Hope for the dream that will never die – but which can all to easily be thwarted by disunity, disharmony and despair.
Trying to play the disinterested observer; striving for dispassionate analysis, I cannot help but conclude that the hope invested in both these politicians is unfounded. I am reluctant to pin my hopes for Scotland’s future on either of them. For different reasons I cannot envisage either providing the leadership that Scotland’s cause so urgently requires. Sturgeon doesn’t want to and Salmond won’t be allowed to. A simplistic summary, but one which gets to the nub of the matter.
The danger is that while the Yes movement is looking to these two for leadership the individual with the potential to provide that leadership may go unnoticed.
Ruth Wishart ends here column with a bit of a cliffhanger. She writes that Nicola Sturgeon will have the last word “for the moment”. I fear the implied absence of closure may be apt. I worry that, contrary to intuition and logic, the Yes movement may be irretrievably riven by a common hope. I just hope I’m wrong.
16 thoughts on “Divided by hope”
Like you, I hope you are wrong but I strongly suspect you’ve got it right. If only some of the high heid yins in the SNP would step down from cloud cuckoo land and listen to people like you, Grousebeater, Wings etc and go back to what they were ‘designed for’, i.e. getting independence. Unfortunately I think we’re now in the position of ‘power corrupts’ and very specially in this case, the continuation ‘absolute power…….
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There certainly needs to be a break out of some sanity and realism in the movement.
For the SNP in particular there must be an end to cultism and an end to intolerance. Less about self-id and less selfies. There must be a return to core aims. Or aim: Self-determination must hold sway before it can carry the day.
There is no charity – whilst this state of affairs continues how can there be any faith or hope?
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I keep on coming back to the song No Gods and Precious few heroes
there is a verse which says
So don’t talk to me of Scotland the Brave
For if we don’t fight soon there’ll be nothing left to save
Or would you rather stand and watch them dig your grave
While you wait for the Tartan Messiah?
He’ll lead us to the Promised Land with laughter in his eye
We’ll all live on the oil and the whisky by and by
Free heavy beer! Pie suppers in the sky! –
Will we never have the sense to learn?
Both Salmond and Sturgeon have played at being the Messiah, and of course they are both very naughty people each in their own way.
The people of Scotland are going to have to grow up, and get over the fixation that someone will bring us our dream.
The Scots have always been a divisive people. In Discussion I’ve been arguing that if we look at the events 1642 – 1652 we getting into the mindset. The NEC disputes and the question of what the right Church for England is are actually on a par for irrelevance. I believe that there were similar problems in the Wars of Independence the 12/13th Century.
What is important is that the idea of Independence is now an acceptable idea. Not like the old days when to be an independista was to be eccentric, now it is almost main stream. This will not move, people will not move back to supporting Dependence.
At the minute we are stalled by the inappropriate behaviour of Salmond, and the Hubris of Sturgeon. The people of Scotland may have to learn the hard way after May 6th that Independence has to be the goal, despite what politicians see.
The danger of a “Strong Leader” is all to clear. It is like the danger of seeking to make people good by law. The Offensive Behaviour at Football act, Named persons, Trans, Hate Speech, all demonstrate this. It is like centralisation of the Police and the like. Good ideas but failing the people in reality.
The problem is that because of the organisational weakness of the Inner Party in 2014, blame the CE, the SNP could not cope with the what? 50,000+ people who joined. Certainly the local branches and the CAs couldn’t, the SNP lost touch with its membership – and the profile of the membership changed, so Nicola and her friends could change the organisation, and bring ideas to law wchih never really had support.
The Yes movement with NowScotland may be able to go for Independence, but how they will do it is going to be interesting.
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The song No Gods and Precious Few Heroes, sort of sums up 21st century Scotland.
The Yes Movement shall make a few marches down the Royal Mile. That probably won’t bring independence but it’s an excuse for a nice day out !
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I was taken by a short sentence near the end of her piece about party leaders being married to chief executives of the same party being not a good look and that this will have to change. Implying quite correctly that no matter the outcome, one of them must go.
This is obviously not a good time for the movement, which has been taken by some of the more idiotic members of the inner NS sect that AS is deliberately trying to scupper the chances of independence – as if he personally chose to speak now and that the committee of inquiry’s remit had nothing to do with it.
Seems to me that people of good conscience should actually refuse to call what is going on the Salmond/Sturgeon affair. It is not. It is an investigation by a committee of the Scottish Parliament into why the Scottish government introduced a Bill that would not stand up to legal scrutiny. It was a private citizen who pointed this out and began a judicial review, which ruled very quickly that the legislation was indeed flawed. The committee is asking questions of that same private citizen, but despite wishing to present documentary evidence in support of his answers, he is prevented from doing so by legal constraints and because it is being deliberately withheld. Maybe this is too complex to be reduced to headlines and soundbites, maybe it relies too much on knowledge of arcane laws and parliamentary procedures, maybe people simply do not want to know the truth, but calling it the Salmond/Sturgeon affair is clearly inaccurate and moreover plays into the hands of the massed forces of unionism. I know you made it clear to refer to the matter as “what is now being called the Salmond/Sturgeon affair”, thereby holding the phrase in suspension, so I do not level these remarks at you. The whole problem arises from he desire to see politics in terms of personalities with followers, rather than in terms of power relations.
Having said that, leaders are clearly important and Scotland has been graced with two of exceptional calibre over recent years, but it is clear now that the current leadership team must be replaced and that the NEC is a disgrace. So who might step in to heal the wounds and take the SNP further? Stephen Gethins is about the only person who comes to mind, but I don’t think he wants to come back to politics. I hope there are others.
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It wasn’t a bill Duncan, so it’s not an inquiry into the legislation, there wasn’t any, it was a procedure drawn up on which Salmond launched a judicial review on the fairness applied to him, and it’s the handling UNDER the process which is being investigated – or should be.
“To consider and report on the actions of the First Minister, Scottish Government officials and special advisers in dealing with complaints about Alex Salmond, former First Minister, considered under the Scottish Government’s “Handling of harassment complaints involving current or former ministers” procedure and actions in relation to the Scottish Ministerial Code.”
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Thank you for the clarification. I mistook internal procedures for legislation.
I’m glad to see you clarify what it actually is. The anti-Indy media first called it the Salmond inquiry, and then realised there was more anti-Indy mileage in calling it the Salmond v Sturgeon affair, and even the Sturgeon v Salmond affair (both different in terms of “who started it”). So getting it back to the reality of an inquiry into a process is a neccessary step forward into reclaiming reality and fact – whichever side of the two, people are on, or indeed neither of both.
I didn’t watch 6 hours on Friday, nor have I mostly read the submissions and evidence. What commentators from all angles have in common about Salmond’s submission on Friday is that it was dignified, and wasn’t explosive. I hope they are able to say the same about Sturgeon’s on Wednesday.
I think the thing that most of us can never forgive Sturgeon for. Is stabbing her former mentor in the back.
It’s not just Salmond. She has a history of disloyalty. Jo Cherry, Grouse, Kenny McAskill….
How can you trust a leader who is so disloyal. I have absolutely no time for the woman.
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We have to assume that this was a battle not chosen by Alex Salmond unless there are unknowns that happened to make Nicola Sturgeon use such a ferocious attack. Since then it has never been a level playing field. Alex Salmond tried to stop this way back when there were but 2 allegations against him from women who did not want to go to the Police, but Nicola Sturgeon was hell-bent on pressing ahead.
We are where we are not because of him but because of her. Yes, they both have flaws, we all do. However there the similarity ends as they are not equally bad, Nicola has proved publicly that she is much badder and keeps doing so.
Spare a thought for Moira Salmond in all of this, I doubt Nicola does. She is the same age as my mother and I can therefore well imagine the pain, stress and anxiety this is causing a lady who deserves to have peace and happiness in her later years. It is a pity she is not one of the ‘women’ that Nicola Sturgeon is so bothered about.
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I totally agree with you Lulu Bells when it comes to Moira Salmond. I’ve often thought of her and the pain, stress, anxiety, indignity and sheer embarrassment that she’s been subjected to in particular living in such a close community. The latter years of her life, which should have been peaceful and relaxing living in such an idyllic setting, traduced by no other than her own husband initially. That’s the reality. And yes I still admire Alex Salmond in so many ways, donated to his fundraiser and wish him and Moira well just as I admire Nicola Sturgeon and wish her well too. The “Establishment” became aware of his Achilles heel and have made a meal of it by trying to kill off two birds with one stone with the help of some toxic online players and the blatant ignorance of the usual blogging numpties. If this site wants to help to get us over the line the owner should think of trying to convert people to Yes by getting influential data out there and attacking the real oppostion instead of obsessing about the SNP, IMO.
I understand how you feel, it’s frustrating times. However, resulting to insults when someone has a different view to you achieves nothing other than further discord.
It is very disrespectful to suggest that the owner of this blog is ‘blatantly ignorant’ and a ‘numptie’ without backing those accusations up with hard facts and evidence.
You know very well that neither is true.
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We know Petra of old.
Aplogies, just managed to like my own comment. I must be turning into Annie Wells!
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”It is very disrespectful to suggest that the owner of this blog is ‘blatantly ignorant’ and a ‘numptie’ without backing those accusations up with hard facts and evidence.”
Where did I say that Peter Bell is blatantly ignorant and a numptie because I didn’t.