You have to admire Chris Hanlon’s commitment and dedication. But I fear he has painted a target on his back with his statement promising to continue the fight to reform the SNP from within. With other high-profile reformers lost to resignation or defection and some of the hijackers’ most effective (vicious?) operators returned to the National Executive Committee (NEC) by way of jiggery-pokery, Chris is likely to find things getting very uncomfortable. Furiously peddling the party line on indefinitely delaying a new referendum will not be enough to placate the leadership cabal or the clique of crazies which once again dominates the NEC. He’s a marked man.
Two thoughts occur to me as I read the headline over Chris’s column – which on this occasion quite accurately reflects the content. The first is rueful amusement at the notion of grievances being abandoned because they’re petty when, generally and human nature being as it surely is, the pettiness of a grievance may be measured by the tenacity and ferocity with which it is pursued by both or all parties. The idea that healing may be achieved by telling all concerned that they are being petty is naive in the extreme in part because this is a very shallow diagnosis which discounts the complexity of the dynamic, and also because the allegation itself becomes yet more fuel for the sense of grievance. Nobody likes to be told that their concerns are trivial. The more trivial the concerns, the less they like it.
My second thought was irritation – not to say annoyance – that Chris should opine thus. Given that, as he is at some pains to point out, he and others from SNPCWG were elected to the NEC by last November’s conference specifically to address the causes for concern relating to the party’s internal democracy, policy development procedures and woefully inadequate – not to say lackadaisical – approach to the constitutional issue, it ill behoves him to be so dismissive of those concerns.
Of course. I do not for one moment suppose Chris intends the disdain his remarks imply. I know how seriously he takes these issues. It is doubly unfortunate, therefore, to find him slipping into language so similar to the rejective rhetoric of the SNP leadership. If I want to be told to move along and mind my own business when I complain about the lack of action to restore Scotland’s independence and condemn the commitment to the Section 30 process then I’ll read the bitterly entitled diatribes of Alyn Smith or the dementedly angry rants of Pete Wishart. I don’t expect to be told by a leading proponent of reform that my differences with the SNP leadership on matters of crucial importance are “minor disagreements”. That makes me very uncomfortable.
Chris himself might plead that these were not the grievances to which he was referring in such a dismissive manner. But as he offers no clue as to which of the many grievances roiling within the Yes movement he is talking about, he manages to offend everyone who has any kind of grievance at all. It may well be that he had in mind not such as Nicola Sturgeon’s declared intention to compromise the sovereignty of Scotland’s people by pursuing a Section 30 order, but the “petty personal squabbles” between the increasingly entrenched Salmond/Alba and Sturgeon/SNP camps which unquestionably represent the most significant and most intractable rift in the independence movement. If so, the superficially dismissive tone is arguably even more inappropriate. Tribalism is self-reinforcing and self-perpetuating. No such tribal conflict was ever resolved by telling all involved to calm down and stop being unreasonable. This is what’s meant by the term ‘putting out fires with gasoline’.
If the Yes movement is to regain something of the unity of purpose it once had in extraordinary measure then this will not be achieved by imploring people to set aside their grievances. Such conflicts may only be resolved to any significant extent by addressing those grievances. Grievances aren’t abandoned. They persist so long as the cause of the grievance remains. To ‘set aside’ a grievance is merely to allow it time to fester until it flares again and again. There is no surer way of inflaming passions than to insist that the passion is unwarranted and counter-productive. Anger is not quieted by being declared wrongful and unhelpful while the reasons for that anger are ignored.
Neither the Yes movement nor the SNP will be healed by covering the wounds with sticking plasters. It will require surgery. Labelling genuine grievances petty and demanding that they be unconditionally abandoned is the stupidly futile approach adopted by apologists for the current SNP leadership. I hope for better from Chris Hanlon.
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