I have always voted. I cannot recall any election over the last fifty years or so in which I have not voted. I’d like to be able to claim that this determination always to use my vote was motivated by a burning sense of civic duty. It is a civic duty, of course. But I can’t say that I ever thought of it in those terms. Not in the early days, at least. In fact, it’s difficult to say what the reason was that I felt driven to put my cross on a ballot paper at every opportunity. The best I can come up with is that it was fun. I enjoyed it. I enjoyed political activism. It was like a hobby, I suppose. Which seems a bit trivial. The temptation is to embellish the account with noble motives. But way back when I started blogging I vowed that I would always be honest. I might be wrong. But they would be honest errors. So I have to admit, voting was part of something I did mainly because I found it personally rewarding.
It’s not fun anymore. It stopped being fun a while ago. If the fun element of politics was charted on a graph there would be an upward trend rising markedly more steeply over the years leading to the referendum in 2014 and, perhaps counter-intuitively, continuing to rise for a couple of years after the tragedy of the No vote until sometime in the latter half of 2016 – after the EU referendum. From then, the fun has been in steady decline. Lately, even thinking about Scottish politics has become painful. Writing about it has become a chore. Observing what is happening in Scottish politics is heartbreaking and infuriating. People with whom I felt something akin to a sense of community have become like strangers. People I once admired and respected I now despair of. Connections have been severed as folk I once stood shoulder-to-shoulder with have gone mindlessly wandering or militantly marching in various directions – all of them away.
The constitutional issue was always at the heart of my politics. It is the heart of my politics. Again, I can’t say that my nationalism has always been such as it is now. As a child, I thought as a child. In the early stages it was a rather crude, primitive thing. Very much an ‘anti-English’ thing. It is not that now. I am no longer a child. I have put aside such childish notions. My nationalism today is bound up with lots of other stuff in a moderately complex ideology. But one thing hasn’t changed. What I recall most vividly of my earliest awareness of what I now call the constitutional issue issue is the powerful sense of injustice. For me it has never been about some ‘vision’ of a better Scotland. Such visions’ belong with the socialist aspect of my personal political philosophy.
Yes! I wanted Scotland’s independence restored in order to better achieve this and that political objective or social reform. What I latterly came to think of as correcting maliciously contrived or innocently unintended but always avoidable social imbalances. But mostly it was about righting a wrong. The Union is a dreadful wrong that was done to our country. A wrong which continues to have a deleterious effect – directly or indirectly – on every aspect of or national life. The Union is toxic. Scotland cannot begin to recover its health until the poison is purged. That reason alone makes the restoration of Scotland’s independence essential. It is a matter of the most basic justice and simple good sense. It needs to no ‘vision’ to make it a worthy cause. Rectifying injustice is always the worthiest of causes.
I look at Scotland’s politics today and I can barely discern that cause. I hear talk of independence. But always and only in the service of some agenda or in the context of partisan tribalism. The constitutional issue used to sit separate from and overarching all the rest of our politics. For those who recognised the injustice of Scotland’s predicament and weren’t prepared to accept it as a ‘price worth paying’ for something they value more highly than justice. The matter of ending the Union was the unifying aim because it was distinct and discrete. It was distinct and discrete not because it served as a unifying aim. It served as a unifying aim because it could exist alongside all and any other political ideals and objectives without modifying or qualifying those ideals and objectives or being modified by them. The nationalism I espouse is the same for everybody regardless of their other political persuasions. It can be a common, shared, universal thing because it is an uncomplicated thing. It has but one ingredient. It is made entirely of a desire for justice.
I no longer detect that in Scottish politics. The constitutional issue has been absorbed by ‘ordinary’ politics. It has been subsumed into the generality of political preoccupations – from the pathetically petty to the vitally important. Independence is now on a list along with health, education, housing, climate change and refuse collection. It is a variable priority. It is page 16 of the manifesto. If it’s in the manifesto at all. It is an item to be ticked off when writing speeches. And item which all too often is forgotten. It is something to be emphasised or played down according to the audience being addressed. If it is talked about at all it is hedged around with caveats and conditions and provisos and disclaimers and clichés and bromides and platitudes and carefully (or clumsily) crafted sound-bites – until it is barely visible and quite unrecognisable as the primary issue facing the people of Scotland. The issue which rightly should subsume all others, not be subsumed by them.
I have resigned my membership of the Scottish National Party, some 58 years after first joining what was then the party of independence. I shall not be joining Alba Party, which is no more the party of independence than the ‘New SNP’. I doubt I shall be missed by the former. I know I wouldn’t be welcomed by the latter. It’s of no consequence. Neither represents Scotland’s cause. The cause that is now as it always has been, the unfalteringly beating heart of my politics. The cause of ending the injustice of the Union. The cause of rectifying a grotesque constitutional anomaly. The cause of restoring Scotland’s status as an independent nation.
I have also cancelled subscriptions to blogs and am in the process of leaving a host of Facebook groups. I’m undecided as yet what to do about this site. I intend to continue writing. But I don’t want to write about Scottish politics anymore. There is nothing about Scottish politics that I can comment on without being overwhelmed by impotent anger and a despairing sense of the futility of protesting the betrayal of Scotland’s cause by Scotland’s political class. History doesn’t repeat itself. The present does harshly ironic impersonations of the past.
I am still engaged in a heated debate with myself about whether I shall vote in the coming election. Voting at all necessarily involves voting for a politician or party that has betrayed Scotland’s cause. I’m uncertain as to whether I can justify this to myself.
I stress that I am not abandoning the cause of restoring Scotland’s independence. It’s just that at the moment Scotland’s politics offers me no way to pursue that cause.