Fireproof feet

Mike Russell demands of Alex Salmond that he act in a way that best suits – or least inconveniences – the SNP. A faintly ridiculous demand but, hey-ho! this is Scottish politics. What Mike Russell doesn’t do is spend so much as a single fleeting moment reflecting on how the SNP has acted and is acting. At no point do we see him even hint at the possibility of the SNP responding flexibly to a changing situation. Nowhere in his column is there any sign that the SNP leadership is capable of looking at a fresh development – such as the launch of the Alba Party – and asking what this development says about and to his own party.

Nobody in the SNP leadership appears to be asking that most obvious of questions: Why is this happening? Or, if they are, they’re answering that question in the shallow, petty manner evidenced by Angus Robertson’s initial response. Nobody, so far as can be determined from public statements and private rumours, is asking that question in a serious, thoughtful way. Not even Mike Russell.

Which is singularly odd, when you come to think about it. If you step back from the rhetoric and the political posturing for a moment and look at what is happening as if seeing it for the first time, the very first thought to spring to mind must surely be to wonder how the hell this could be happening. How did it come to pass that the SNP – the previously undisputed party of independence – is being challenged for that tagline by a proliferation of new parties including one fronted by the man who as leader of the SNP brought the party and Scotland’s cause its greatest success to date? This is not normal. This is not to be expected. Surely one would feel irresistibly compelled to ask the question: Why is this happening?

Not merely to ask the question as a phatic token of one’s surprise at such surprising developments. A person of normal intelligence would surely have a genuine desire to seek meaningful answers. The best answers he or she could come up with. Surely they would want a credible, logical explanation that fits all the known facts. A full explanation. A satisfactory explanation; rather than one which is merely immediately gratifying.

Where is Mike Russell’s quest for such an explanation? His response to the launch of the Alba Party may be more mature than Angus Robertson’s – no great feat – but it is still suffused with the same sense of entitlement. It makes the SNP the sun and all else subject to its gravity. Which may be the reality. The SNP is by every relevant measure relatively gigantic in the firmament of Scottish politics. But that being the case only bids us wonder why the SNP is having this effect. Planetary systems are mechanical. They behave according to the dictates of immutable laws. Politics is organic. It is subject to the choices of all the players. The parts do not move in a mechanical and therefore predictable fashion. An observed effect – such as the emergence of these alternative independence parties – may have a multitude of causes interconnected in ways so complex as to be incomprehensible in its entirety. But it is generally possible to discover the more immediate and thus most relevant connections. This is what the inquiring mind would seek. You’d think.

The inquiring mind would ask why these alternative independence parties have come into existence. If the inquiry is genuine and serious it cannot possibly discount the SNP as a causal factor. The inquiring mind is bound to want to know what it is that the SNP has done which caused or contributed to the emergence of the Alba Party. Mike Russell and his colleagues should be asking what they did to make this happen. There is no sign that they are. Which is worrying. This is the party of government and, for the time being at least, the political arm of the independence movement. You’d like to suppose that those with a leadership role in the SNP were politically astute enough to recognise the importance of developing a good understanding of the political environment in which they operate. I’m seeing nothing that tells me this is the case.

I anticipate that well-worn retort from SNP loyalists and apologists which is commonly couched in terms replete with clichés such ‘playing cards close to their chest’. Like the ‘Great Secret Plan’ for independence that Nicola Sturgeon is said to have locked away somewhere. But if it’s important that our political leaders are astute and capable then it is just as important that they be seen to be astute and capable by those who they ask to entrust them with power. As a rule, politicians don’t try to look stupid. Some have to try not to look stupid. Many fail. But nobody puts looking stupid front and centre of their appeal to voters. George Galloway being a notable exception.

Now, I’m not saying Mike Russell looks stupid. I’m not sure he could if he wanted to. But at the same time he’s not looking particularly astute and capable if his column in the Sunday National is any evidence. From what we see there the reasoning seems to be either that the emergence of the Alba Party is ’nuffink to do wiv me, guv’, or that the sensible way to respond is by digging deeper trenches.

All of which tells us nothing flattering about the current SNP leadership. Which is unsurprising given that there has long been a dearth of flattering things to say about them. But it also hints at something significant relating to the Alba Party. As regular readers will be aware, one of the questions I’ve persistently asked about these self-styled alternative independence parties is what can they actually do to bring about the restoration of Scotland’s independence. I’ve never had a satisfactory answer to that question. Among the waffle I get by way of a response is yet another well-worn cliché about ‘holding the SNP’s feet to the fire’. Which, of course prompts further questions about how they might do this and if it is even possible. What we’re hearing from the SNP leadership so far is that they are not for turning. That they need do nothing. That their approach to the constitutional issue is right and effective and needs no revision in light of the fact that it has occasioned the emergence of contenders for the title ‘party of independence’.

It’s early days. But my sense of the SNP leadership is that their feet are fireproof. Or, more likely, that neither the Alba Party nor any of the other alternative independence parties has the power to hold those feet close enough to the fire to be anything other than comfortably cosy. Which, come to think of it, is quite an apt phrase to describe the attitude evinced by Mike Russell et al. It allows us to avoid words such as ‘complacent’ and ‘smug’.

Alex Salmond is looking to be a disruptive force in Scottish politics. We have to wonder what form that disruption might take.

35 thoughts on “Fireproof feet

  1. I have long argued there is no leadership in the SNP, at least not in the recognisable sense. There is no strategy; all energies are reactive, oriented towards holding the line, not advancing the position. So long have they been in the trench that they think the battle is the war.

    If there were leadership, many of the schisms that now exist over things like HCB, GRA and even Salmond – and the behaviour that comes with it – would have been nipped in the bud. A functioning leadership would have asked “does this advance our strategy?” and rapidly concluded “No”. People like Wishart, Morrison, Smith, Blackman et al would have been reigned in, told to (ironically) “Wheest for Indy” and reprimanded for their stupidity.

    It tells us there is no leadership and no plan beyond “What we have, we hold”. – the true goal is not Indy, but continued SNP government and what is brings to those involved. It tells us is there is no ‘strategy’ to gain Indy, just a nebulous excuse based on an unattainable S.30. The foot soldiers won’t complain, they’re fully paid up members of the St Nicola fan club; they’re not there for Indy, they’re there to dip their beaks for a few years and to claim to have been part of the great social experiment currently being conducted in Scotland.

    We have reached this state of affairs because the ‘leaders’ do not lead; they are focused on pursuing St Nicola’s career ambitions. She and her husband/merkin are focused on her next career move – almost certainly withing the next Holyrood parliament – where she heads for the UN, WHO or Gates Foundation. No doubt her move will be fuelled by another S. 30 refusal (“I tried my best”) and her long-nurtured global image as a social reformer.

    She will leave behind a cargo cult, who signed up, believing her self-serving BS and, an Ozymandias-like set of works;

    Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
    Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
    Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
    And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,

    Try holding those feet to the fire.

    Liked by 6 people

      1. Hollywood stars in the studio system who were gay were a potential (financial) liability – they used to be married off to willing females, who were known as ‘beards’, as they reinforced the perception of masculinity.

        For obvious reasons, ‘beard’ seemed inappropriate; merkin seemed a decent alternative

        Liked by 2 people

  2. What is particular worrying is she sees actually the power of leadership; hence she won’t delegate to someone else, in case they shine. However, she’s not smart enough to see the value of it. This, coupled with the unwillingness to delegate, compound the problem.

    She doesn’t know how to lead; she never had the personality or charisma to do so; projecting a (media-supported) aura of leadersip was enough.

    For her, the energy required for effective leadership will not help her; she and the merkin are focused on achieve HER ambition(s). She feels that if she loses and IndyRef (and I suspect her self-confessed impostor she fears she will), it will tarnish her brand. Best not to risk it – kick it into the long grass.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. If there is no alternative power play, if there is no holding to account, if the feet are made of asbestos and the fire is a damp box of swan vestas then what is the point of any of this. What is the point of this blog.
    May as well shut up shop and put the kettle on, starting with yourself.
    Something tells me though that there will be another piece tomorrow repeating the same line.
    Best of luck with that.


    1. It’s not that there’s nothng to be done. It’s that the right things haven’t been done. I have at least made an effort to identify what would be effective and urge people to pursue it. But it hasn’t happened. The independence movement has fragmented with lots of groups doing stuff that either has nothing to do with the constitutional issue at all or will contribute nothing to the fight to restore Scotland’s independence.

      I have earned the right to say ‘I told you so’! I will persist in asking the questions.

      Liked by 8 people

  4. Mike Russell, along with Angus Robertson and the First Minister herself, would do well to practise what he preaches.

    This would indicate that he understands the seriousness of the situation.

    Then he might be taken seriously.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. The feet of the SNP leadership may indeed be fireproof.

    But underneath the asbestos covering are feet of clay. They move like a boxer with the plodding style of a George Foreman, swinging huge haymakers but hitting nothing but air.

    What we need is a fighter with the style and guile of Muhammad Ali, floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I agree … but it will never be Nicola Sturgeon either, as you might agree if this and numerous other articles that you have posted would seem to testify to. The lady is not for turning.

        If/when she leaves it is not immediately obvious who that person might be.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Our last chance of retreiving the situation was to ‘persuade’ the SNP to adopt the Manifesto for Independence. If we had united in that effort we could have succeeded despite Nicola Sturgeon. It would have changed the game completely. There would be no Alba Party for a start. And we would know that giving the SNP every bit of support we might muster would give us a Scottish Government absolutely committed to specified action within a defined timeframe. THEN we could justifiably claim that independence is inevitable.

          But it didn’t happen. And now it’s too late.

          Liked by 1 person

      2. Not it won’t be Salmond; but I suspect even he knows that. Maybe that’s been factored in as a medium term goal?

        Perhaps Alba allows that next fighter to emerge and grow, whereas in the current SNP they’d be strangled at birth.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Was it the case that when you saw the three letters SNP it was 100% synonymous with the longer set of letters which spelled independence?

    One and the same, indivisible?

    Was it without question the raison d’être of the SNP? Its singular purpose above all else?

    Are we where we are because a growing number of independence supporters, and the passing of time, have created doubt over the wholly affirmative answers to such questions?


    1. The restoration of Scotland’s independence is the primary aim of the SNP. It says so in the constitution which defines the party. It is the party of independence. If there is doubt about that then it is as much due to those in the independence movement who don’t understand the need for and role of a political arm. The people whohabitually start every second sentence with the words “the SNP isn’t the whole independence movement” when nobody ever claimed it was. The people whose main contribution to the fight to restore Scotland’s independence has been the effort to sever the connection between the movement and the source effective power that is essential if that fight is to be won. For brevity’s sake we might refer to them as idiots.

      Granted, the SNP under Sturgeon has not helped. But if only the independence movement as a whole had appropriately valued its political arm then maybe it could have developed some influence there. Maybe it could have helped prevent the party going so disastrously off the tracks. Maybe it could have been instrumental in persuading the SNP to adopt the Manifesto for Independence.

      It’s not only the SNP that has missed opportunities and made catastrophic choices.

      And here we are! The idiots have won! They’ve got their way! We have an independence movement but no political arm. Thus that movement is going nowhere.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Why has she not advanced Indy?
    she doesn’t want it?
    or she’s not got the bottle?
    or she feels polls need to be better?
    Whatever the reason she has pretty much ignored the Yes Movement.
    She has not kept us enlightened.
    So disrespectful to us masses.
    No wonder pop-up parties appeared.
    The lack of dissent as well from those around her is disappointing.
    Russell Robertson Swinney etc?
    All in all a poor show.
    A tainted Alex Salmond hopefully will still be enough to give us the Super Majority and paint Nicola into an Indy corner she just can’t get out of. Kenny McAskill joining is good news. For now I’m optimistic but it’s taken something out with the SNP to get there. Roll on May 6th.


    1. You were doing so well before drifting into fantasy politics in the final paragraph. But I am weary of explaining why it’s fantasy. Use your own mind. Think it through.


  8. Please do not take the following too seriously.

    Maybe the SNP hierarchy is waiting for you finally to abandon it to the wokerati, which would be the clue that the wheels really have fallen off the wagon. You are one of the few advancing the perfectly reasonable argument that the SNP is the only party capable of bringing about independence. At the same time you are one of its fiercest critics for not doing this.

    Maybe your membership is a the canary in the coal mine; when you have finally had enough, they will see the light, by which point it would be far too late anyway.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Why do I always have a sense of déja vu every time I see and SNP response to legitimate points made by such as yourself?


  10. PAB, are you saying that the Murrells have perfected their control over the SNP and ScotGov machinery to such an extent (disempowerment of branch democracy, suppression of National Council, control of NEC, intimidation of opponents through use of COPFS, tame Lord Advocate etc…) that the SNP base can no longer dislodge them? At all? By any means?

    Because, in answer to the point made in your closing paragraph about Alba’s inability to wreak any change in the SNP, I would have thought Alec Salmond’s strategy is to promote an internal SNP rebellion against their leadership simply by standing at FMQs week after week and enunciating clearly what the vast majority of members want to hear and believe should be done. All the while wreathed in smiles of course, sans any ad hominen attacks, but busy mining away to weaken the leadership castle walls.


  11. I agree with your analysis, although not with your conclusion.
    Why aren’t the SNP leadership asking themselves these questions? At the moment they look like spoilt children stamping their feet.
    Which brings me to a question I asked elsewhere: How on earth is the launch of the Alba Party such a surprise to them? There have been rumours for over a month. In fact, there have been rumours for so long I was starting to think they were wishful thinking. So did no-one in the SNP hierarchy pay attention to them? Shouldn’t they have planned for such an eventuality? What are party members paying them for?
    Meanwhile, although the SNP leadership have closed down avenues for free thinkers to climb the ranks of the party, as we have seen this week, things change very quickly.
    I’m quite energised by the arrival of Alba, and the elections will be a lot more interesting than they looked on Monday!

    Liked by 3 people

  12. I’m reminded that Salmond himself stated that the SNP did not possess a monopoly of wisdom, when they ascended to government in 2007. But, particularly since he resigned as FM, it seems as if the same party has allowed itself to consider that it does indeed possess such a monopoly.

    Alba Party represents a threat to their perceived monopoly, hence the SNP’s defensiveness. We’ll see what happens, but if Alba’s existence forces the SNP to stop treating the movement with contempt, then Scotland will be all the better for it.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Agree with all comments here. Nicola Sturgeon is not an imaginative strategist. She is a competent manager of a managed devolved assembly. To be honest, not seeing what more can be expected from a devolved assembly.

    Interesting article in Scotland on Sunday, interview with Alex Neil, as he retires from politics, saying that all the Holyrood parties are the same. Candidates are chosen and controlled by the party machines and few have any life experience beyond politics. It breeds mediocrity. No new ideas or fresh perspectives are allowed to get in. The standard of debate, he says, has declined in his 22 years there. He was refused a Member’s debate by the Minister for Parliamentary Business, Graham Dey, because he didn’t agree with the party on ignoring the legal advice on the Salmond judicial review. Never heard of this geezer Graham Dey, nor a Minister for Parliamentary Business.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Using your planetary analogy Peter, I see the SNP more as a onetime Giant Star which has has become a Supernova and has morphed into a Black Hole. Now Captain Kirk, aka Alec in the Starship Alba has ordered Scotty to engage warpspeed to escape the gravitational pull that has been creating mind stultifying despondency and hopelessness. I don’t know what it means for the Black Hole/SNP but at least there’s a bit of hope on the horizon.


  15. “We have to wonder what form that disruption might take.” How about forcing a vote on independence. If they did that the SNP MSP’s will have to show their true colours.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.