There is a fallacy underlying all that Ruth Wishart says in her column in the Sunday National which means that while she may get pretty much everything else right in her analysis, she cannot quite get to the logical conclusion. It is the fallacy which informs the entire #WheeshtForIndy effort – to which Ruth has recently added her own not inconsiderable influence. It is the fallacy that the SNP under Nicola Sturgeon is fit for purpose.
Note the risibly simplistic notions concerning those who try to point out just how unfit for the purposes of Scotland’s cause Sturgeon’s SNP is. According to the #WheeshForIndy mob we are all either too stupid to recognise the realities which make an SNP victory in May essential or we are all fake independence supporters who are wittingly or otherwise aiding and abetting some kind of Unionist plot to undermine Scotland’s independence movement by destabilising the SNP.
Question! Why would the British need to conspire thus when Nicola Sturgeon is already doing such a bang-up job – presumably without any assistance from the British?
The Unionists didn’t destroy the internal democracy of the SNP which was crucial to party unity. Nicola Sturgeon and the senior management of the party did that. They did it to protect Sturgeon from a threat that didn’t exist. Nobody was trying to depose her. Nobody stood a chance of doing so. Sturgeon was as secure as party leaders normally only dream of being. Yet she behaved as if under siege.
Alex Salmond didn’t go hunting for Nicola Sturgeon’s political scalp and bring all of Scottish politics into disrepute with a toxic mix of incompetence, dissembling and bungled arse-covering. Salmond may not have behaved impeccably while in office. But nothing he is known to have done could possibly justify the gargantuan effort mounted against him, or excuse the dreadful consequences. From the outset he has sought to introduce a sense of proportion into proceedings. He is the one who has shown concern for the impact of the whole sorry business on the party and on the independence movement. Sturgeon and her accomplices have exhibited no such concern.
Yes activists – including SNP members – didn’t remove Nicola Sturgeon from her role as the de facto leader of the independence movement. She never showed any sign of wanting that role other than for the purposes of helping win elections. She never gave the slightest indication of wanting to pursue Scotland’s cause. She allowed that cause to languish for nearly seven years giving rise to the frustration among Yes activists which is now becoming anger.
Ruth Wishart, like many other commentators, can rattle off a list of symptoms now manifest in Scotland’s politics describing each in a way that is powerful as well as accurate. But she fails to identify the cause. She determinedly ignores the common factor in all the maladies she catalogues. In every case it is what Nicola Sturgeon has done or failed to prevent which is the cause of the sickness that is jeopardising all the gains made since the first pro-independence Scottish Parliament in 2007.
The fight to restore Scotland’s independence was set fair for victory when Nicola Sturgeon took over as leader of the SNP and First Minister of Scotland. Seven years later the party is in disarray and the best of our fighters have been disarmed and left dispirited and despairing. All of this has happened on Sturgeon’s watch. And yet we are told we mustn’t blame or criticise her!
We are told that all we need to do to fix all the problems is vote SNP. The thing is, most of the people Ruth Wishart is addressing already know full well that we must vote SNP. We are perfectly well aware of the potentially catastrophic consequences of failure to ensure another term for Nicola Sturgeon. The difference is that we are not deceived into imagining that this alone will resolve any of the problems.
I don’t need Ruth Wishart or anybody else to lecture me on how irresponsible it would be to withdraw electoral support from the SNP at this time. But the ‘mainstream’ view represents another SNP victory as both necessary and sufficient. It confuses and conflates necessity and sufficiency. In common with most of those being condemned as political illiterates and/or Unionist dupes I recognise the reality that necessary does not necessarily imply sufficient. I see the big picture. And in that big picture an SNP victory in May is absolutely necessary. But it is absolutely not sufficient.
Being a realist I urge everyone to vote in such a way as to ensure an SNP majority government. But I do not pretend that this will be anything more than a holding action against the tide of British Nationalism threatening Scotland’s democracy and our very identity as a nation. If defeating the British Nationalist project is our priority – which it bloody well should be! – something more is needed. The SNP must not only be made the governing party it must also be restored to its role as the party of independence. A role which Nicola Sturgeon has diminished so woefully.
The question then becomes one of whether Sturgeon is the best person to effect this restoration. Can the SNP be again the extraordinarily united and willingly disciplined and impressively democratic party it once was under the leadership of the person responsible for causing the rifts and replacing willing discipline with autocratic control and dismantling or disabling all the checks and balances which safeguarded the party’s internal democracy? Can the independence movement be inspired and motivated by the individual who drove it up the blind alley of Section 30 and abandoned it there for seven years?
Of course we must vote SNP in May! Anybody who has even a modicum of political awareness knows that however bad they may perceive the SNP to be it cannot possibly be worse than the most likely alternative – a ‘Grand Alliance’ of British Parties eager to deliver Scotland trussed and tied to their masters in London.
Of course we must vote SNP in May! But we must do so in full awareness that what matters most is not the party but it’s commitment to Scotland’s cause. What matters is that we get a Scottish Government elected with an incontestable popular mandate on a manifesto which commits it to the actions necessary to initiate the process of restoring Scotland’s independence.
If Nicola Sturgeon is prepared to give such an undertaking then she may yet redeem herself and maybe even be the person who leads us to independence. If she refuses then the best we can hope for is another five years of cowardly inaction or a referendum that is as far from free and fair as it must be when British influence is licensed by a Section 30 order.
Nicola Sturgeon’s critics know that we must vote SNP. But we also care about what will be the effect of this vote. We will vote SNP. But we will not do so blindly. SNP is the only choice. But that doesn’t have to mean it can’t be an informed choice. Isn’t that what democracy requires?