The ‘play nice’ preachers are heavy on the alliterated pontifications in The National today. Karen Adam MSP has an oozingly self-righteous piece under the headline “We must be composed and considerate for the good of the indy movement“. Gerry Hassan’s column, meanwhile, is titled “Confidence and candour are what’s needed to win the battle for indy“. So, if we collectively get our act together and commit to being composed, considerate, confident and candid, everything will be fine. However badly the independence movement’s opponents behave ─ and both of these writers allow that our opponents can be a bit naughty ─ we Yes activists must mind our Ps and Qs (and Cs?). We must be calm, courteous, caring, constant, cautious and of good character in order that in the battle to rescue Scotland from the British Nationalist threat we may claim the moral high ground. It may be all we have. But we’ll get to feel superior. So, that’s nice.
Actually, these lectures on etiquette have little to do with how we conduct ourselves in our dealings with Unionists or our interactions with voters. These homilies are aimed mainly at people such as myself. The dissident voices within the Yes movement who subject our political leaders to rigorous scrutiny rather than lavishing them with mindless sycophancy. The relatively small band of bloggers who presume to question the orthodoxies imposed by an SNP leadership which seeks exclusive ownership and control of every aspect of the Yes movement, not for the benefit of Scotland’s cause, but for mere personal advancement and partisan advantage. If, like myself, you are a proud malcontent, then it’s you these sermons are aimed at.
To be scrupulously fair, Gerry Hassan is not one for lavishing sycophancy on the SNP/Scottish Government, or Scotland’s professional political class in general.
We have to deal with the realities of present-day Scotland, 23 years of devolution and 15 years of the SNP. We cannot uncritically defend the state of modern Scotland, the SNP in office or the Scottish Parliament.
Who could disagree? Unfortunately, anything of potential use to the independence cause that might flow from this statement gets lost in the soft-focus fog of semi-utopian latte-sipping academic socialism. If only we all behaved like ideal social animals then we would have the ideal society. The restoration of Scotland’s independence is no more than a possible means to this unlikely end. When Gerry Hassan refers to the “realities of present-day Scotland” he has in mind the various ways in which those realities fail to live up to his socialist ideal. When a proud malcontent speaks of the realities of present-day Scotland we mean the continuing gross injustice of a grotesquely asymmetric political union. When he says we “cannot uncritically defend the state of modern Scotland, the SNP in office or the Scottish Parliament” I get no sense that he is commenting ─ as a proud malcontent would ─ on the serial failures of the SNP/Scottish Government to move any closer to a satisfactory resolution of the constitutional question. I get the very strong sense that he would rather we didn’t talk about independence at all, but focused instead on further developing and perfecting a vision of a socialist future Scotland. If we must talk about independence then we are urged to do so in language stripped of all potential for giving offence. Righteous radicalism has no fire in its belly. Just the warm glow of artisanal bio-fuel burning in a heater made from recycled carry-out curry containers.
Karen Adam is rather more open about her hope to prevent others being as open as they might wish to be. As you would expect, she is a big fan of the ‘code of conduct’ strategy by which the SNP seeks to extend its authority beyond the party membership and ultimately to the entire Yes movement. Don’t let anybody tell you the ‘code of conduct’ idea has any other purpose. The whole thing is being promoted by the party as well as groups and organisations affiliated with or sympathetic to the SNP. The aim is not so much to silence proud malcontents such as myself, but to exclude us from the Yes movement. Only those who sign up to and abide by the ‘code of conduct’ can possibly be ‘real’ Yes supporters. There is no division within a movement which excludes anyone who questions the orthodoxies decreed by leaders of the movement’s party political arm. The ‘code of conduct’ provides a means by which the politicians can formally disown the dissidents.
If you doubt that it’s all about turning the Yes movement into an exclusive club of SNP supporters, consider the fact that the party’s poodles voted at the October conference in favour of adopting a ‘code of conduct’ that they hadn’t seen because it hasn’t been written. The delegates at that conference didn’t vote for a particular set of rules that they had read and debated. Rather, they voted to give the SNP leadership the power to write and, presumably, revise and amend rules at will. Having learned none of the lessons of the recent past, the delegates decided to give Nicola Sturgeon further licence to do as she pleases. Why else would the party leadership arrange the rubber-stamping of an open-ended ‘initiative’ such as the invisible ‘code of conduct’ other than to allow them to dictate the terms of discourse across the entire Yes movement the way they have taken control of all discussion within the party?
Karen Adam admits that “there is plenty to be angry about”. But she insists that we don’t let our anger show. Why is that? In part, it is because like Pete Wishart she is too shallow-minded to differentiate between cold, calculating anger justified by facts and incoherent, undirected rage fuelled by dumb prejudice and blind hate. According to the Wisharts and the Adams of this world, anybody who strays from the party-approved script is a ranting zoomer who needs to be silenced and a traitor to the independence movement who must be condemned as a ‘Yoon’ agent and cast out. But it’s not the proud malcontents’ anger at the Union and all it implies that the Wisharts and the Adams are concerned about. It is our anger at them that they object to. It is anger at the SNP’s failure to progress Scotland’s cause that they want to suppress. That is the true purpose of the ‘code of conduct’. It is an instrument of suppression.
Readers will be familiar with Pete Wishart’s demented railing against anybody who offers the slightest and most constructive criticism of the SNP and/or Nicola Sturgeon. They will be aware also that a particular target of the SNP’s witchfinders was and remains Wings Over Scotland. The reasons are obvious. Wings Over Scotland is a journalistic phenomenon. The website is massively influential. It was made the most read Scottish political website mainly due to the superb forensic journalism of owner, Rev Stu Campbell. Wings Over Scotland has power. More importantly, from the SNP’s perspective, it has power that the party can’t control. Stu Campbell was among the first to lose faith in the SNP. He certainly was/is the most potent critic of the party’s abysmal failings in regard to Scotland’s cause as well as some of the questionable policies that Nicola Sturgeon has prioritised over the matter of restoring Scotland’s independence.
The smear campaign against Wings Over Scotland mounted by the SNP and its puppet organisations was more viscous and dishonest than anything Better Together did during the 2014 referendum campaign. It was appalling. And it continues. The return of Wings Over Scotland to Twitter is likely to spark a whole new frenzy of witchhuntery targeting the website and Campbell.
Indeed, the unblocking of the Wings Over Scotland Twitter account might be what inspired the latest offering from Karen Adam. I seem to recall her boasting of having been responsible for the account being suspended. Others claim a share of that ‘credit’. They too are bound to be irked that Wings is back on Twitter. It is unlikely that they will keep their anger at this in check. I strongly suspect there will be an exemption from the ‘code of conduct’ for those who vilify Stu Campbell.
I don’t know if Stu Campbell would call himself a #ProudMalcontent. He definitely qualifies. But it is not for me to hang labels on the man. He can speak for himself. He speaks for a large and growing body of independence activists who have been alienated by Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP. He is a disruptor, just as I would wish to be. Disruption is good. The political establishment in any country needs to be given a good shake from time to time. It goes without saying that they don’t like to be shaken. Hence the effort to suppress, silence and exclude the dissenting voices in the independence movement.
As I read the latest ‘play nice’ remonstrations from the Yes movement’s self-appointed gate-keepers and police, I was reminded of something Stu Campbell wrote a few weeks back.
I remain concerned that there’s little of worth to actually say about Scottish politics that hasn’t been said to death. The country’s voters are trapped in between two worthless options – the SNP and the opposition – in a stinking, stagnant pond desperately in need of having a massive rock thrown into it, and I’ll be very surprised if Wednesday’s judgement from the Supreme Court will provide the necessary disruption.For Karen and James
As a #ProudMalcontent and aspiring disruptor, I couldn’t agree more.
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