What do you see? What do you hear?

A photograph (above) posted on Twitter by Alex Salmond and shared by Joanna Cherry has prompted some speculation about the latter making a move to join the former in the Alba Party. The photograph shows a smiling Joanna Cherry standing between former First Minister Alex Salmond and senior Alba member Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh. As one individual puts it when commenting on a report in The National, “What point is Joanna making unless she joins Alba?”. What point, indeed? Defection seems rather a lot to read into a photograph of three old friends together. But such is the nature of political speculation. But this speculation may be a bit superficial. Rather than being seen as suggesting a possible move from the SNP to Alba, Joanna Cherry’s words can be interpreted as hinting at something much more interesting.

Let’s take a look at what Joanna Cherry actually said and place it in the context of other things that we know.

Great to meet up with old friends last night. Important to keep cross party lines of communication open. Particularly within the #Yes movement. As we take forward a campaign toward the next referendum we will need cross-party working and co-operation

There are a few things we know – as in accept as fact with a high degree of confidence – which seem particularly relevant One thing we know from simple observation is that a large and growing number of people in the wider independence movement have grown seriously weary of the incessant, repetitive, vacuous tribal warfare between online supporters of the SNP and Alba. This puerile squabbling is representative of the corrosive factionalism which has taken root in a Yes movement cast adrift for more than seven years with no leadership and no campaign to which activists might apply themselves. There is much talk of “unity” on both sides of the SNP/Alba tribal divide. And even more such talk amongst those determined to steer clear of the bone-headed bickering. But factions being what factions are, and behaving as it seems factions must, each faction wants unity on its own terms. No faction is prepared to compromise with all other factions. Which is unsurprising given that factions define themselves by the disagreements they hold to be irreconcilable.

Another thing we know is that the rocks will melt in the sun before there is even the frostiest of rapprochement between Alex Salmond and his successor, Nicola Sturgeon. You won’t be seeing that pair photographed together any time soon unless World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. pull off a remarkable coup. Who wouldn’t pay to watch that on Amazon Prime?

In sharing the photograph posted by Alex Salmond, Joanna Cherry is saying that some – perhaps sufficient – degree of unity in the independence movement can only be achieved if the SNP and Alba are able to talk to one another and that she is the one who is maintaining lines of communication. There’s the photographic evidence to prove it. Exhibiting appropriate caution, she doesn’t refer to a form of unity which might be over-ambitious but to “cross-party working and co-operation” – a familiar and comforting term for something generally regarded as positive.

There is meaning – and appropriate caution – in the image as well. Being pictured next to the leader of Alba Party suggests communication at party leader level. Having Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh in the picture, however, suggests the possibility of communication at a lower level. Either way, Joanna is there for the SNP.

If communication is to be at the highest level then it can’t happen while Nicola Sturgeon is leader of the SNP. Nicola Sturgeon can’t talk to Alex Salmond and she is the SNP leader. Joanna Cherry can talk to Alex Salmond but she is not the party leader. Do the math! This could readily be interpreted as the subtlest of leadership challenges – with plenty space for plausible deniability.

Nicola Sturgeon says she’s going nowhere. There is little appetite for a leadership challenge either in the SNP or the wider Yes movement. But Sturgeon is sitting on a box of grenades any one of which might blow her off her throne. So far, she has managed to managed to keep all the pins in. But there’s a fair bit of tugging at the pins going on. So it does no harm to have your hat if not actually in the ring, then at least hovering at the edge. Few things will end a political career as effectively as a failed leadership challenge. It’s best to be able to say you were never intending to throw that hat.

The presence of Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh says there’s a role for Joanna Cherry even if she isn’t SNP leader but the engagement between the two parties is at a less senior level. She is keeping options open.

Whether Joanna Cherry is nudging herself forward as a potential leader of the SNP or simply nominating herself to be the go-between in talks with Alba she has very effectively made her presence felt and raised what is already a high profile. Whatever else it may be the episode is certainly a big fuckyou to the gender Fascists trying to drive her out of the SNP, while also serving to let it be known that should they succeed she has the option of a position within Alba from which she could be a thorn in the side Nicola Sturgeon really doesn’t need at the moment.

All of which is just speculation, of course. It might just be a photograph of three old friends having a get not too close together.

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15 thoughts on “What do you see? What do you hear?

  1. Cue doubling down on bone-headed bickering at least from one side. If a rapprochement between Alba and the SNP ever blossomed into something more then there’s going to be a mass extinction of the wokeosaurs and they’ll squeam and squeam and squeam and squeam some more to stop that.

    All the same very interesting to see the photo and what it might entail. It’s all to easy to get caught up in the sniping and forget that it’s confined to tiny factions. In spite of the speculation of what it might mean, at a basic level it says that everything is still working and getting to a position of moving forward once more is not that far away.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If Joanna Cherry doesn’t jump soon, she will be pushed, Stuart, as the last convulsion of the pseudo ‘wokerati’ who are like the rescuers who came to rescue of the crucified in ‘Life of Brian’. Self-destruction is their forte. I think you are right that they have to at the very least have their teeth drawn, but I don’t really think that Nicola Sturgeon and Alec Salmond can come together again. I also think that, if Nicola Sturgeon thought that Joanna Cherry was to try and claim the leadership, she would quickly step aside in favour of another of her coterie, and blood would flow.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Perhaps she is now waiting to be pushed, challenging them to do so. Perhaps she knows, now that so much media scrutiny is being poured upon the woowoo, that if she is pushed then many others will jump off with her. I think she is in a rather strong position now because, unless the strategists in the SNP are complete morons, they will see that kicking her out now would not look good. Add this to NS saying recently that she is going nowhere (ie that she may well be going somewhere) then perhaps there is hope still for the SNP to disentangle itself from the woowoo, let the grown ups take over and forge alliances with other independence parties. All speculation of course.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. It is always good to keep the door slightly ajar for communications. After all, sworn enemies like the British and German governments did so during the war years. I don’t expect there will be a capitulation on the side of the SNP or a coup on the side of ALBA. What I would expect now is that the SNP will lose so many to ALBA and ISP that, eventually, all three will more or less merge – very like the pre 1916 Irish parties. The party of Parnell and Redmond was unable (or unwilling) to make the necessary mental leap to enable them to move forward and were stuck in inertia and stasis, much as the SNP is now, and Sinn Fein grew out of that frustration. Whatever happens, all independence factions will have to come together to achieve independence because no one faction can do it alone, but what is required is a very different approach. The referendum route is closed and has been since 2014. Seven years have been wasted, seven years when more and more pro Union elements have entered Scotland, making the task even greater than it needed to be had the initiative been seized in any of the years following 2014.

    I’m not advocating force of arms – God Forbid! – but we need to start to work out what we can do and can’t do now. There is a great deal that we can do if we are willing to risk it. We can make the net GE a plebiscitary election for Scotland on the understanding that a vote for any of the independence parties – which, if they have any sense, will have allied themselves to each other – will allow us to declare independence. Simultaneously, we need to have a case ready to go at the UN, a case based on the flouting of the Treaty by England-as-the-UK. Professors (the late) David Walker and Ian Campbell are two men who have done all the hard work and their essays on the Treaty are the best interpretations, from a Scottish viewpoint, that I have ever read. The election would give us immediacy, while the Treaty breaching will give us a longer-term, international solution, albeit it should not take too long either if our case is powerful enough. Do I think we can win the election? Yes, I do. Leave it till the next SE, and we time will have run out. If we do not act soon, the alternative can only be a reflection of Ireland’s – and who wants that? If the UK government has even a modicum of pragmatic realism, it will accept that we are going and that it is not in its interests to try and impede us.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Lorna – do you have references to the works on breaches of the T of U ? SSRG working on constructing a time line of these.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No, I’m afraid I don’t, bushgeoff, but, if they read the Law Society of Scotland Journal with the essays of the late Professor David Walker and Professor Ian Campbell, they will be able to work from there. They both maintain that the Treaty was mistakenly (deliberately?) misinterpreted by the English jurists of the immediate post 1707 era, and they show how that happened. For example, nothing could be undertaken without the express consent of the Scots. Any close reading of the Treaty shows, to my mind, that it was a partnership and intended to be so. The actings around the Treaty and the words of the Queen Anne herself show conclusively that it was never intended to be an English takeover, but that is how the English politicians behaved – as if it was. A watertight case could be built on the basis of the Treaty being a proper international agreement and partnership. The Acts of Union merely translated the international Treaty into domestic law; they did not and could not supersede it. English and Scottish Unionist interests want us to believe the opposite. Devolution for Scotland was illegal under the Treaty terms unless England was also devolved simultaneously, for example. Brexit could also be argued to be illegal, as the Scots did not consent to it, and the referendum is no excuse: the English outnumber us 10-1, so hardly a partnership gesture! I do have a lot of stuff on this, but I’ve archived it and would have to hunt it out. I approached the same topic – that of the Treaty and its fundamental nature – from a political viewpoint, and came to precisely the same conclusions as the two Professors of Law. We wuz roabbed! Seriously, it does bear a very close scrutiny. Crawford and Boyle are also a good read to show how accepting a mistaken premise can lead to the wrong conclusion. Their Report also indicates just how important the English-as-the-UK establishment consider it to be in the event of post independence negotiations. Cameron needed us to have been subsumed in order to inherit the mass of the assets – maritime, terrestrial and moveable and intellectual. Scotland has most of the first two lots of assets by dint of its pre 1707 independent state – it entered the Union, kept its nationhood and pre Union integrity, according to international law. The Trade Articles of the Treaty are particularly interesting, too, and on the little matter of that ‘forever’ Union, it was not democratic at the time. However, I would think that if the Treaty were to be lodged with the UN and international court, a plebiscitary election would also be necessary to adhere to priciples of democracy. Having the Treaty ‘sound’ in law and then resiled might take a wee while, but a declaration of independence could follow immediately after an election win. We have to learn to play the game and stop being ‘nice’. That means using every ace in our pack.

        Liked by 3 people

  3. There is already (fairly) polite and tolerant communicatons in progress between about 1200 SNP & ALBA members who are members of the FB site “SNP & ALBA Members For Independence”, OK some folks take the huff, and some get chucked out for breaching site rules but was ever thus. One admin is an SNP member and the other is an ALBA member. We agree on stuff maybe 95% of the time.

    Strategically the SNP”s attempt to strangle ALBA at birth has clearly failed, and the day to day inter-party dialogue will surely improve as ALBA continues to grow and thrive, the SNP will adapt to the existence of ALBA and welcome (well maybe “tolerate”) the new party.

    The picture ? If it wasn’t for all the Christmas stuff it would be really good.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s so cute when you talk about Alba as if it was relevant. No power. No influence. No leverage. No relevance. That’s politics outside the realm of Facebook. The SNP didn’t have to strangle Alba at birth. Alba choked itself with its truly horrendous election campaign. Alba’s vote share suggests I was far from the only one to see through the deceit. I’ve no idea how long it’ll take them to rehabilitate the party after that crapfest. But it hardly matters. To be relevant Alba would have to be in government in the next 10 to 15 weeks. It’d take a miracle for them to be in government in that many years.

      I realise I keep repeating this. But somebody has to. Because the pretence continues. And people are falling for it. So long as folk believe there’s a viable alternative to the SNP they won’t do the work necessary to get the SNP back on track. So we’re fucked. Alba will blame the SNP. The SNP will blame Alba. They’ll get to feel righteous. We’ll still be fucked.


    2. I would hesitate to describe that Facebook group as much more than a Facebook group. But I think you are right that there are many in the SNP who are perfectly willing to engage with ALBA, which, however irrelevant it may seem right now, acts as a a kind of buffer in the independence movement, or a place holder.

      G Dangerfield made the remark in a response to a response to his recent blog about the woowoo, that it has much in common with McCarthyism, which rose and fell very quickly in historical terms. (I hope he or somebody else does some work to expand upon this.) The point though for the optimists is that the woowoo is going to fail and when it does, there will be ample space perhaps beyond the crippling dialectic created by the woowoo for grown ups to talk to each other in a more nuanced way.


  4. This was also my interpretation of the Twitter photo.

    I was going to suggest that you had omitted an elephant in the room but then I read your last paragraph. Now that the gender woowoo is receiving much greater public critical scrutiny, JC perhaps feels more able to stand up for the hundreds of thousands of folks who feel they cannot speak against the woowoo, many of whom may be SNP members.

    She is very astute and I think she is now in an extremely strong position to act exactly when she sees the opportunity arise.

    Liked by 1 person

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