Again! The ‘recruiting sergeant’ myth trotted out with casual disregard for the facts.
There is no measurable recruiting sergeant effect. We have gone through a period since the 2014 referendum when those supposed recruiting sergeants for Scotland’s cause have been working very hard indeed. Quite remarkably hard, in fact. And what has been the product of this diligence? Nothing! Polling evidence tells us that not a single soul has been recruited to the Yes cause.
What purpose is served by continuing to promulgate this patently false notion? The independence campaign has often been compared to a journey. In order to plan a journey, it is necessary to know both the destination and the starting point with a high degree of accuracy. Peddling myths such as the notion that support for Yes is ‘soaring’ (one of The National’s favourite terms) due to people being driven to the Yes side by factors such as Boris Johnson and Brexit deceives people into thinking we are closer to that destination than we really are.
The ‘recruiting sergeant’ myth is far from being the only deception being practised. Another is that the Union is crumbling. It isn’t! That independence is ‘inevitable’. It isn’t! Yet another is that starting from 50% makes the onward journey less difficult. It doesn’t! And, of course, there is perhaps the biggest myth of them all – that Nicola Sturgeon is doing a brilliant job for Scotland’s cause and that all we need do is have faith in her brilliance and all will be well. She isn’t and it won’t!
To demonstrate how poorly Sturgeon has served as de facto leader of Scotland’s independence movement we need only look at that mythical ‘recruiting sergeant’ effect. We need only realise that it needn’t have been merely a myth. Factors such as Brexit and Boris Johnson had the potential to increase support for independence. Or rather, to weaken support for the Union. They could have been exploited for the benefit of Scotland’s cause. They haven’t been exploited for Scotland’s cause. That potential has been squandered. We know this because the polls have barely twitched in favour of Yes for eight years and because every twitch towards Yes has been a fleeting improvement explained by factors at best tangentially or tenuously related to the constitutional issue.
The awfulness of this British government as exemplified by Brexit has not been fleeting. It has been a constant presence. It has been an unbroken succession of scandal and corruption and incompetence. So why has there not been a steady increase in support for Yes? Why has there been no ‘recruiting sergeant’ effect? Because Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP failed to properly exploit the situation.
Not for the first time, they got the thing the wrong way round. They were thinking in terms of people being driven towards Yes instead of them being driven away from the Union. The essence of the opportunity which was presented to them was the chance to work on nascent doubts in the minds of Unionists. To prod and poke those doubts until the grip of the Union was loosened enough for those former No voters to at least open their minds to alternatives. It is another demonstration of the failure to learn the lessons of the first referendum and the failure to reframe the constitutional issue. A deplorable failure of strategic thinking.
What makes it worse is that these failures aren’t even acknowledged. So they can’t be rectified. The failures aren’t recognised largely because people like Richard Walker and Lesley Riddoch and many, many more persist in peddling all manner of myths rather than presenting the true picture.
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6 thoughts on “Blurring the picture”
Where once they were insightful and effective assets for Yes would be opinion formers such as Richard Walker and Lesley Riddoch are now content to regurgitate the complacent view of the SNP leadership. At best it is naive and lazy. At worst it is lying and deceitful.
These are not stupid people so I’m betting it is the latter.
The only question I have in my mind is “Why?”
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The Union can only be weakened when there are pro-independence parties from all parts of the political spectrum. Only then will it be clear that an independent Scotland would likely serve people’s interests better than remaining in the Union.
It’s literally impossible for the SNP to do this.They will never acknowledge this and never take any steps to promote a plurality of pro-independence parties. Consequently, unless there is severe political turmoil in the UK, the proportion of the population in favour of the SNP’s vision of an independent Scotland will remain stuck at 45% forever.
The SNP leadership know this. It’s their ticket to a comfy life.
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If the SNP wasn’t attracting votes from “all parts of the political spectrum” they wouldn’t have won all those elections. That was always the party’s strength. It was a ‘broad church’ bound together by a single common objective. It has come unstuck.
Nonetheless, the SNP is our only option. The party of independence must be the party of government. The party of government must work for independence from within the British political system. That system does not favour coalitions or ‘broad churches’. It is crude. Winner takes all and everybody else can get tae fuck! The British political system eats ‘rainbow alliances’ for breakfast. Only brute political force is respected. Single parties and massive majorities.
I have often remarked that in the 2014 referendum campaign the Yes movement took a pillow to a knife fight. That lesson has yet to get through to some. The Yes movement has no power. The people have no power. People and movements have strength. But however much strength they possess they cannot have effective political power unless and until that strength is channelled through a political party and that party is afforded a mandate by the electorate.
If the goal of the movement is relatively small and specific, only a particular party will serve as an effective channel and its power will be limited, but may yet be sufficient to win the desired reform. If the goal of the movement is big – and they don’t come much more massive than breaking the British state – then all that strength has to be focused on a party capable of handling it and translating it into effective political power. It must be a single party. The strength of the movement must not be divided. If it is divided it is broken. The British state will exploit the weakness.
The problem in our case is that we lost the knowledge of combination. We never succeeded in wedding the movement in its entirety to the only party capable of turning its strength into power. It is not all the fault of the SNP. The party is what it now is because too many in the Yes movement were unable or unwilling to use the SNP as it needed to be used. We now have a movement with strength that is waning for the want of power and a party that is failing to use its power for the purposes of the movement because it wants to control the movement’s strength and use it for partisan purposes.
There is no trust. There is no combination. It is very doubtful therefore if there can be adequate effective political power.
Reblogged this on Ramblings of a now 60+ Female.
It is, indeed, a broad church and some who vote SNP will never vote for independence.
“… We never succeeded in wedding the movement in its entirety to the only party capable of turning its strength into power… ”
Neither did they in Ireland, Peter until Sinn Fein wrested power from the Irish party of Redmond. He behaved exactly as Nicola Sturgeon is behaving – power forever and comfy slippers. It is precisely the people in the ruling party who are the problem because it’s a case of ‘I’m all right, Jack”. Exactly Labour’s problem. They SNP is a nice, middle-class party where men (and women) in managerial suits run things, and most of them as as ‘woke’ as it is possible to be (or pretend to be) and put older voters off. As a youngster, the SNP I remember had all ages, all abilities, all classes, was slightly left of centre and its core principles, apart from independence, were the betterment of Scotland for all and courage in adversity. The Labour party of Keir Hardie is also unrecognisable today: it, too, is a middle-class enclave for careerists. The middle-class has become the new political elite, so we should not be surprised when middle-class values a la Thatcher/John Major predominate. So long as they are doing well, the middle-class will not stir their stumps; they need to be squeezed till the pips squeak before they will lift a hand against the status quo. It must be douce mythology all the way until then.
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