The term ‘Scottish National Party Member of Parliament’ is, like ‘caring British Conservativism’ and ‘British Labour socialism’, an oxymoron. Each pairing involves concepts which are incongruous or contradictory. It may be possible to be a Conservative and to care about people. It may be possible to be associated with British Labour and yet have a social conscience. But neither compassion nor a social conscience are generally associated with the main British political parties. Personal and social empathy are not the first qualities which come to mind when one thinks of Tory and Labour MPs. Even if individual MPs possess such qualities they are always at odds with the operating ethos of the party if not with its public ideological posture.
Similarly, being a member of the Scottish National Paty (SNP) is inconsistent, if not incompatible, with being a member of the British parliament. Or at least it should be. Political pragmatism dictates that the SNP must stand candidates for all elections in Scotland. But political pragmatism only avoids the callousness of British Tories or the deceitfulness of British Labour when it is combined with and informed by constant principle. The term ‘unprincipled British politician’ is tautologous rather than oxymoronic.
Back in the days when I thought of the SNP as being the exception among political parties in the UK, my answer when asked what made it different was its principled pragmatism. What mattered was not what was ideologically correct but what worked ─ so long as what worked did not clash with fundamental democratic principles. The party from which I resigned in 2020 nearly sixty years after first joining had lost both its pragmatism and it guiding principles. It had become hidebound by a chaotic ‘woke’ ideology and casually prepared to compromise even the keystone democratic principle of popular sovereignty. Principled pragmatism, no more!
Discussing ‘What should the SNP’s MPs do at Westminster?‘ as per Gerry Hassan’s column in The National today seems to miss the point. The question surely is not what are SNP MPs there for but why are they there at all. In answer to the question posed by the headline over Gerry’s article we can only suggest that they should be doing everything in their power to get themselves out of the British parliament, where they are so obviously out of place and unwelcome, while still being mindful of their duty to their constituents.
When deciding how to vote, I ask myself only how my vote might best serve Scotland’s cause. When deciding what they should be doing at Westminster, SNP MPs should be asking themselves only which course of action best serves the fight to restore Scotland’s independence. What can we do to get Scotland out of the accursed Union and ourselves out of this benighted place? I tend to agree with Gerry Hassan that standing on a Sinn Fein-style abstentionist ticket at the next UK general election is probably not appropriate. His point about the characteristics of SNP voters is very persuasive. But I see the possibility of a form of abstentionism other than just not turning up for work. Suppose that instead of abstaining from Westminster, the SNP abstained from Westminster-style politics.
Gerry Hassan raises the matter of the relationship between the SNP and British Labour should the latter perform sufficiently well in the election to oust the Tories. Sir Keir Starmer ─ arguably the ideal leader for a faux-socialist party ─ has very emphatically ruled out any kind of deal with the SNP. Rather more emphatically, I think. than other British Labour leaders before him.
We are not doing a deal with the SNP, I’ll say that in capitals, I’ll say it bold.Keir Starmer ALREADY blaming Nicola Sturgeon in case Labour lose next election
No ambivalence there! No scope for interpretation. No get-out clause in case of the need to do a U-turn. Gerry seems to suppose this preemptive rebuff from Starmer still leaves room for some kind of informal working relationship and that the political rhetoric is all about scaring former British Labour in Scotland (BLiS) voters back into the fold by threatening them with the mythical wolf of the SNP allegedly letting Thatcher take power in 1979 by supposedly bringing down the already doomed Callaghan government an so causing an election that the Tories were always going to win because British Labour had made a total arse of things.
They [British Labour] currently say they will, as a minority government, put down their King’s Speech and programme and invite other parties to support or oppose it.
This is meant to call the SNP’s bluff. For if they dared to pull the plug on Labour in office it would invoke shades of 1979, when SNP MPs backed a vote of no confidence in the then Labour government of Jim Callaghan, which was lost by a single vote with Margaret Thatcher winning the resulting election.
Yet in between a formal agreement between parties is a spectrum of different kinds of cooperation – from day-to-day votes to wider agreement on specific areas.What should the SNP’s MPs do at Westminster?
This is what I mean when I refer to Westminster-style politics. The kind of politics which, while never exemplary, has in recent years been tarnished beyond restoration by never-ending scandal. The kind of politics from which the SNP can only benefit by dissociation in terms even more emphatic than Starmer’s. Nicola Sturgeon should say it in capitals and bold and underlined that SNP MPs will not cooperate in any way with any party which seeks to deny the people of Scotland the opportunity to exercise our right of self-determination. She should emphasise the point that there is no distinction here between or among the British parties. SNP MPs will not assist any of them in any way at any time for any price or in any circumstances other than life-threatening emergency.
Abstaining from Westminster-style politics in this way will gain the respect of voters. Those who might strongly disapprove of Sinn Fein-style abstentionism will surely have no problem with the SNP saying its MPs will shun toxic Westminster politicking while turning up on behalf of their constituents. Sturgeon would be seen as having done something bold, at least by comparison with her usually wishy-washy approach of being open to discussions about this and not closing the door on that and not taking anything off the table. And it would do no harm at all for all those who vote in UK general elections to be aware that British Labour has to win the election on its own merits. And that should they fail to oust the Tories, then the responsibility is entirely theirs.
The term ‘Scottish National Party MP’ will always be oxymoronic. But the opportunity is there for Sturgeon to restore some principle to the pragmatism which demands that the party maintains a presence for Scotland in the British parliament for the time being.
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