Reading the room?

I wonder if Keith Brown is as nostalgic as I am for the days when speeches such as the one he’s reportedly addressing to the SNP conference-like-thing sparked enthusiasm rather than soporific ennui. I wonder if he’s even aware of the negative effect the “rallying cry” now has on those who were once positively affected. Does he not sense the rancid irony his words hold for those less susceptible to rousing rhetoric? Does he realise that when he says ‘We will not allow Scotland’s future to be limited” by Unionist parties, large numbers of those who would once have responded with the “Damn right!” roar he’s obviously hoping for now bitterly reflect that this would be Scotland’s future minus the seven years and counting during which Scotland’s cause has been allowed to languish in the doldrums.

I’d rather be a cheerer than a churl, as Simon & Garfunkel didn’t sing. I’d rather be feeling bright enthusiasm than dull, dismissive scepticism. I pine for the days when oratory such as Keith Brown’s worked on me. Or, more correctly, I miss the days when that oratory had something to work on. The rhetoric doesn’t produce the emotion in the response, it merely triggers whatever is there. If what is there is not what the speaker supposes or hopes is there then what is triggered may be decidedly different from what they anticipate. Many a speaker has stood on a platform nonplussed that the speech which sounded so inspirational in their head has been met with only baffled silence or angry disagreement by the audience.

We might hope that our elected representatives would read the room, so to speak. We’d hope they were able to detect undercurrents of dissent and discontent. We’d hope they would take heed of the murmurings and what is being murmured. It seems right that we should expect our elected representatives to take an interest in what electors are thinking and saying. The concept of democracy implies that politicians will really listen and actually learn. Policy is supposed to be guided, if not directed, by the needs, priorities and aspirations of the people. It’s meant to be us telling them what those needs, priorities and aspirations are.

I ask you, is there the smallest indication that the SNP leadership is taking any account whatever of voices other than those which respond to the “rallying cry” with dutiful applause or deluded cheering?

People, apparently in growing numbers, are entertaining and expressing concerns about the SNP+SGP/Scottish Government’s approach to the constitutional issue. Keith Brown is regrettably typical in that he doesn’t offer reassurance to those people but rather tells them to be reassured. Which is a bit like telling someone not to be thirsty when they’re parched. Or urging them to disregard their hunger when they’re starved.

Keith Brown says,

We will not allow Scotland’s future to be limited by the relentless negativity, the can’t-do attitude and the complete lack of vision from the Unionist parties.

As he speaks these words – or even as he writes them – is there not somewhere in the recesses of his politician’s mind a acerbic wee voice uttering the inevitable retort about how they were not going to allow Scotland to be dragged out of the EU against the will of the Scottish people?

I’m sorry, Keith, but when I am prompted to reflect on our nation’s future being limited by relentless negativity and a can’t-do attitude and a woeful paucity of vision, it’s no longer only the Unionist parties which come to mind.



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24 thoughts on “Reading the room?

  1. Not to worry, the new South Africa covid varient has come along just in time to give the selfie queen a reason to postpone any referendum on Scot’s independence.
    Whew! near thing eh Nicola.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Oddly, Keith Brown is one of those politicians who can’t lie to himself. Like Oor Wullie’s wee divil sitting on his shoulder and sticking out its tongue to his wee angel sitting on the other shoulder, a wee voice keeps reminding him about what’s really what. Isn’t his partner a big GRA fan? Doubt he is, although he might pretend to be, of course, for peace at home and career prospects at work.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Absolutely – it’s like Blackford’s Rhetoric down at Westminster “Scotland will not accept this blah blah blah blah”.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Keith Brown: ““Friends, I can tell you this: That independence campaign is well underway.

    Damn. I must have blinked and missed it.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. If only there was a new emergent independence party which means what it says about independence and a clear vision of a better independent Scotland. I’ve often had this “fantasy” – never mind, I’ll just climb back in my box.

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    1. If only such a party was in government and actually able to do something. If only this party had so much as a presence in the Scottish Parliament. If only this party didn’t sell itself as a viable alternative to the SNP when a glance at the reality of Scotland’s predicament reveals the nonsense of such a claim. If only this party’s principal selling point was something more positive than the fact that it’s not the SNP. If only this didn’t create an imperative to make the SNP look as bad as possible so that this party looks better by comparison. If only this party hadn’t adopted the strategy of telling voters they’re stupid if they don’t recognise how wonderful it is. If only this party hadn’t sought votes on a ludicrously false prospectus that voters either accepted without question or were subjected to ridicule and abuse.
      If only this party were not a pointless, useless exercise in fantasy politics.

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      1. You need to do some homework Peter, right now your views are both inaccurate and dated. You have never replied to this quetion , maybe the 3rd time I’ve asked you now – would you prefer that this party did not exist at the moment ?

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      2. You tell me my views are inaccurate and outdated but you do nothing about correcting or updating them. Typically, you divert with a pointless question which I’m pretty sure I answered already. I reckon I’ve made it clear enough that I consider Alba Party an irrelevance at best and a distraction at worst. At this moment I really don’t care whether it exists or not. That’s what irrelevant means.
        I know better than to suppose that Alba devotees will respond meaningfully to my criticisms. It just isn’t going to happen. Which leads me to suppose the party hasn’t changed as much as you seem to expect me to believe without any evidence whatever.

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  6. I think you do ALBA a disservice, Peter. I do think its whole point is to try and push the SNP to actually do something about independence and to drop the GRA reform. Yes, it is doing that by setting up in opposition to the SNP – but with a view to a merging or an alliance in the near future. If the SNP leadership is too stupid to lay aside personal grudges and start looking at how we attain our independence together – all of us – we re going nowhere. Sometimes, you have to sup with the Devil, even with a long spoon, but sup you must or stagnate. Yes, I agree that it has been a tragedy for the SNP, of which I was a member when it was in a politically embryonic state like ALBA now, that its leadership is of the gradualist persuasion and trans persuasion alliance, but it has brought that on itself. It has nothing to do with ALBA. Disaffected members, most of them very long-term, lost hope and they wanted to try and force the SNP to use the several mandates it has already to make the SE a plebiscitary one and return to the old, but strong, SNP principles. Mixed in with my rage at what has happened to the party I joined at a tender age, is a deep regret and sadness for its present form – a husk of itself, taken over by anti science and anti biology people who care so little about our country that they would oversee its final demise and taking over by the British State in order to appease an insane minority who are wedded to totalitarianism/fascism, and who would remove even free speech from us. I don’t want to see the SNP die – I don’t actually believe it will – but something is going to give, Peter. ALBA, if it is to make any difference at all, has to become more radical, more willing to try new ways, and it cannot, ultimately, be nothing more than a vehicle for any one person’s agenda. Isn’t that what the SNP has become?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Al total fantasy. You disappoint me. You fall at the first hurdle with the stuff about pushing the SNP when here in the real world Alba has no capacity to push anyone or anything. If they could do this pushing at least one Alba devotees would by now have explained the how of it.

      It gets worse with the delusional notion of a merger or alliance between a party led by Nicola Sturgeon and a party led by Alex Salmond. And before you start with the straw man bluster about how Sturgeon won’t be SNP leader forever, stop for a moment and contemplate the fact that nobody has made any such claim. But what is certain is that she will be leader for all of the period of time that matters. That is certain in the sense of having such a high level of probability that we are obliged to proceed as if it was an absolute certainty. That was me preempting the trite cliché about nothing being certain in this world.

      One more then I’m away to read some Harry Potter because it’s considerably less fantastical than the push we get from either SNP loyalists or Alba devotees.

      The hypocrisy of the stuff about the SNP leadership laying aside grudges genuinely made my jaw drop. Alba is founded on grudges against the SNP. A fact which it’s devotees demonstrate with just about every comment they make.

      I weigh Alba and the SNP on the scales of rational thinking and find them evenly balanced. The one is as deluded as the other. A pox on both their houses. The SNP may have been fucking up Scotland’s cause. But Alba just made it easier for them to do so.

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  7. Oh dear, sorry to disappoint, Peter. So, what do we do? I agree that we appear to be in a cul de sac. If another party takes thousands of your supporters, yes, I’d say that is pressuring you because you’ve lost those thousands. I wouldn’t call myself a devotee, but I am open to a different approach, to getting us out of the stagnancy we are in with the SNP. Personally, unless the party is purged of the parasites and the foot-draggers, there is little choice for people like me. I, personally, have been saying since early 2015 that we needed to adopt a whole new approach and it always fell on deaf ears. Others have done the same.

    Things are so bad now that I bitterly regret having not emigrated years ago, not just because my life might have been better, but because I stayed to see an independent Scotland and the sense of betrayal is almost unbearable. I really don’t see how ALBA could have made things any worse for the SNP. It’s not the SNP per se, is it? It’s the barstewards who have taken it over who have put the brakes on: the people who never had any intention of fighting for independence, for whom independence has always been a distraction from their insane agenda; the foot-draggers whom we have had to combat before. In the end, yes, we will all have to move forward or sink, or we will tumble into conflict by default. What other options are there?

    I doubt whether I have seen a more totalitarian/fascist mindset at Westminster as the mien being displayed by the SNP leadership now. It is almost – but not quite – beyond belief. It isn’t beyond belief because the same mindset destroyed Labour, albeit from a different angle. Everything has been tried to change Nicola Sturgeon’s direction. There is no changing the SNP without internecine bloodletting. Maybe ALBA is not powerful enough to take back the party of independence, but, either way, there is no independence, is there? The most unforgivable thing is that this SNP administration has taken its members and those who support it to the cleaners. This new Covid variant will grant the SNP yet another reprieve and they will grasp the opportunity to delay and haver for another couple of years until they think up the next evasion, and so on. Do you have the answers, Peter?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. But Alba isn’t attracting the kind of support you imagine. Nor anywhere near it. Last poll I saw Alba was still barely registering. That is the reality. And here’s the rub! Alba CANNOT get to the point where it is putting the SNP under pressure without the risk of splitting the pro-independence vote in such a way as to allow the British parties an opening. In this context we must think of the British parties as a single entity. Because we know that they will set aside all partisan differences to defend their precious Union.

      I too am open to a different approach. But it has to be one that will actually work. I’m not about to latch onto something just because it’s different. This is Alba’s big failure. It is why the party is making no impression on the polls. It just isn’t convincing anything like enough people. From the outset, the attitude has been on of easy entitlement. As if they genuinely believed they only had to start a new independence party and people were bound to vote for it. Worse than that, they either seriously supposed the SNP was going to help them take ‘their’ votes or they knew damned fine this could not happen in the real world and they just wanted a stick with which to beat Sturgeon’s mob. Either way, I’m left asking what’s so different about Alba.

      Alba didn’t create the divisions in the Yes movement. But it aggravated the situation by providing a place for the disaffected to go. It was Sturgeon and the SNP that alienated them, for sure. The cracks were there. Alba simply made it easier for those cracks to become yawning gaps. It was obvious from the outset that a party which was attracting almost exclusively the disaffected supporters of another party would give rise to a certain mutual antipathy. It was the responsibility of the leadership of both parties to ensure that this antipathy didn’t manifest as open enmity. Mainly, this responsibility fell to Alba as it was the newcomer and the ‘little guy’. It had most to lose from open warfare with the SNP. The SNP didn’t try very hard to prevent the relationship deteriorating. But they had no real motivation to do that. The Alba leadership handled things even more atrociously. By demanding that the SNP do things that no political party was ever going to do – things which the SNP’s own constitution forbade it from doing – the Alba leadership set the scene for the SNP to be even more bitterly resented by the disaffected than previously. As well as triggering defensive reactions from SNP supporters which were then labelled abuse and so the downward spiral is set in motion.

      All of this was visible from miles off. But the supposed big brains of our own political elite appeared oblivious to what was approaching. The outcome is something which so perfectly serves the purposes of the British state that many people fall into the trap of conspiracy theory. Which is nonsense, of course. But it nonetheless generates more unease with the SNP and hence more defensiveness on their part.

      The other option was to fix what was broken instead of trying to create a replacement. In fact, that wasn’t the other option it was the only option. All logic and all understanding of how politics works and all awareness of the realities of the situation screamed in our faces that we should all be focused on fixing the SNP because as far as Scotland’s cause is concerned the SNP really is the only game in town. That harsh reality doesn’t change just because we don’t like it. But that’s where much of the fantasy politics comes in. The tendency to wishful thinking and the reaching for general-purpose ‘solutions’ that are part of human nature. Wittingly or otherwise, Alba played on this. Personally, I don’t think it was intentional. Not wholly, anyway. But Alba exploited the naivety of the naïve and the desperation of the desperate and the frustration of the frustrated by peddling their ‘supermajority’ > dissolve parliament > force plebiscitary election snake-oil. Which was a pile of pish. But a pile of pish that appeared as a heap of honey to those who really, really wanted to see a heap of honey.

      The comparisons with British Labour in Scotland (BLiS) are interesting. Because both the SNP and Alba come poorly out of such comparisons. The high-handed self-righteousness of the former and the monumental sense of entitlement of the latter are all very reminiscent of characteristics long associated with BLiS. Leading me to speculate that these are traits towards which all parties might tend absent the effective management to prevent such drift.

      Everything has NOT been tried to change Nicola Sturgeon’s direction. That is precisely the point. The party membership (and I was among them) put too much faith in personalities. We trusted too much. We let go of control of the party. Sturgeon and the clique didn’t wrest control from a membership putting up a concerted resistance. There was almost no resistance. So THAT wasn’t tried. The SNP membership didn’t try – or didn’t try hard enough – to prevent something that was always likely to happen.

      It then devolved into a situation where only the strength of a united Yes movement could possibly rectify the failure of the SNP membership. The May election was the democratic event that cried out for just such an intervention. It really was a situation in which the best course of action was obvious because there was only one course of action that could possibly produce the desired outcome. But instead of taking that course of action half or more of the Yes movement was either so pissed-off by Sturgeon and the ‘Clique of Crazies’ that they’d withdrawn from active engagement, or they were off pursuing a variety of different ‘magic bullet’ solutions. Or ‘herding unicorns’ as I have termed this pursuit of fantasy. I lost count of the number of ‘ideas’ that were being floated and are still being floated. Ill-thought court cases and impossible UN intervention are just a couple of them.

      Alba threw itself into this mix at precisely the moment when doing so was bound to be most effective in splitting the Yes movement when it desperately needed to come together. Hence the silly talk of Alba being a British front. This was not British devious genius at work. This was Scottish stupidity writ large.

      I share your pessimism for Scotland’s cause. But it is in my nature to always seek a ‘solution’. To always ask the meaningful questions. What is it we want/need? How far is what we have from what we want/need? Is there a route from where we really are to where we want/need to be? I demand answers to these questions – from myself and others – which are at least credible. What I see all around me are people who aren’t even asking the right questions. They go straight to the ‘solution’ that appeals to them most without any consideration of where we are or any thought of where we need to be or the slightest idea of a route between the two. Perhaps the best example of the unthought ‘solution’ is the ‘supermajority’. There was “Wouldn’t it be great if…” to “That’s the solution!” with nothing in between. It was possible and feasible and effective because that’s the only way it fitted the narrative. Whether it actually was any of these things didn’t enter into the ‘thinking’.

      I still think it is possible to turn things around. What is NOT possible is to unite the Yes movement by healing all the divisions. That is NOT a realistic prospect in any useful time-frame. So let’s not waste resources pursuing it. We have to work with what we have in the Yes movement. Just as we have to work with what we have as the political arm of the movement. That, in small part, is where we are. Where we want/need to be is with the Scottish Parliament in charge – to put it rather simplistically. How do we get from where we are to where we need to be? There is no other way that by a massive, concerted, orchestrated, focused effort by the people – the Yes movement.

      We shouldn’t be trying to unite the Yes movement in the sense of restoring it to what it once was. But we don’t need to. What we need to do is get all the parties, organisations, groups and individuals which make up the Yes movement to prioritise the one thing they all have in common – ending the Union. Or asserting the primacy of the Scottish Parliament. Which is just different ways of saying the same thing. At present, there is no party or organisation which is entirely devoted to the core constitutional issue with none of the appurtenances that have come to burden the Yes movement. Now Scotland was supposed to be it. It lost it’s focus very early on. There’s White Rose Rising. But that’s little more than a one-man (me) operation. It was only ever intended to serve as a model for the kind of entity that’s required. I say that meaning no disrespect to the people who have given their support to the group. But I cannot be the figurehead for this campaign. I anticipate no argument when I say I’m just not suited to that role. And I am not able or willing to take on the responsibilities and workload that would be involved if White Rose Rising were to grow. But if I involve others then there is the danger of losing the focus that’s essential as those other bring their own agendas.

      It’s all very frustrating.

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      1. “… It was obvious from the outset that a party which was attracting almost exclusively the disaffected supporters of another party would give rise to a certain mutual antipathy… ”

        That’s how the problems began with far left infiltrators from Labour bringing in the ‘woke’ agenda and alienating many of the women in the party, and ensuring that independence was put on the back burner until their agenda was fulfilled. To give in to that, for the women who left the SNP, would have been like someone from the SNP giving in to the Tories and scrapping independence.

        “… things which the SNP’s own constitution forbade it from doing… ”

        It has had little trouble with bending the rules to suit its own agenda, Peter, breaking them at times.

        “… All logic and all understanding of how politics works and all awareness of the realities of the situation screamed in our faces that we should all be focused on fixing the SNP because as far as Scotland’s cause is concerned the SNP really is the only game in town…”

        That, Peter, will require the complete uprooting of the infection that has infected the SNP: pseudo ‘wokerati’ (it’s virtue-signalling nonsense) and the drawing of the teeth of the gradualists yet again. Look hard at what has happened: all of it is down to these two elements; the appointments of people who are anything but sympathetic to independence; and a leadership that is entrenched and as stubborn as a mule. Nothing you suggest will move that party. Nothing. I take on board what you say about ALBA, but there is also ISP. If neither can break through soon, we really are finished, at least for another generation, but I don’t think that, next time, our successors, those of us who truly want independence, will be asking. I also agree that the Scots and women are their own worst enemies: the Scots who validate an exploitative Union; and the women who validate exploitative men. There is more than just a shade of similarity going on there.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I know EXACTLY what has happened. But I despair that after all that has been said you are still looking to an ‘alternative’ party to come to the rescue. Perhaps if you try to explain how they might do this in the next three months then you’ll realise what nonsense it is.

        Whatever happened before; whatever the problems have been and regardless of what the cause was or who was most blameworthy, the hard political reality is that the SNP is the only game in town. I am totally baffled by the generalised inability to get heads around what is an inescapable fact. There is only one Scottish Government. There is only one (effective) party of government. That party is the SNP and it is going to continue to be the SNP for as long as it matters. No other party can possibly become the party of government until 2026 at the earliest. That would require nothing short of a miracle. More likely it would take 20 or 30 years minimum if it ever happened at all.

        What really does my head in is that people will agree with every word of the above and then still insist that they’re putting their faith in Alba or the Tooth Fairy or whatever. It’s like mass doublethink. Which I suppose is the only kind of doublethink that matters.

        Now I’m watching folk on social media creaming their panties because Nicola mentioned the word ‘referendum’. Nobody bothering about the massive Covid get-out clause attached to that not-quite-a-promise. Nobody asking what kind of campaign is being proposed. Nobody wanting to know what kind of referendum is intended. Nicola said ‘referendum’ so the circus seals clap on cue.

        I want to weep.

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      3. I’m not putting my faith in anyone, Peter. Been stung too many times. I can only speak for me, but I don’t really care any more what the SNP does or even if it survives intact, and I hope that ALBA can do something, although, as I said, I’m pinning my faith on no one. I don’t believe the SNP will die, but it will not achieve independence alone.

        The betrayal by the SNP has been too great, on both counts for me – as an independence supporter and as a woman. I just don’t want independence to die, or rather, to go into a state of suspended animation until a new generation finally goes for broke. I think the worst thing is that – and I’m speaking again only for me – I always expect too much of people, expect them to see what to me is obvious, and I rather think you are the same, but it rarely is. Probably, that’s my own fault, a character flaw. It always has the added sting of knowing that my expectations will be dashed. Just as you say, this new Covid wave will hand Nicola the opportunity to delay yet again. I want to know what the campaign is, will be, etc. I want a date and I expect all the groundwork to have been done by that date, or as near as possible. My pragmatic and realist side knows it ain’t going to happen. Thank you, Peter.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Thank you and congratulations for writing what I’d have been happy to have written… these are very troubling times, and I’ve ended my long time membership of the SNP, which had been an honourable and meretricious political party; here’s hoping that such merit can return to Scottish politics again!

      Liked by 1 person

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