All the pieces

Scottish National Party leadership contender Ash Regan is among the latest people to deplore the divisions besetting the independence movement and issue a plea for unity. Nothing very surprising there. Everybody says the same thing. They all say we need solidarity. Which poses a bit of a conundrum. If everybody deplores the division and wants solidarity, why doesn’t it happen? I do mean everybody. Although I have suggested that the divisions may be irreparable and we’ll have to find a workaround, nobody is saying factionalism in a movement with a common purpose is a good thing and we need more of it. Everybody wants the movement healed. So why isn’t it healing?

The will is obviously there. Or at least, the words denoting the will. Assuming those words are said with some sincerity, there is a general desire to have the factions stop squabbling and rediscover the unity of purpose which in an earlier time overcame all but the starkest differences. If unity is what everybody wants, why isn’t it happening? Whatever it is that is preventing unity, it must be a massively powerful force to resist this universal desire. Perhaps the Yes movement might benefit from some time spent reflecting on the nature of this divisive force. Although, perhaps not if that reflection gets no further or deeper than each and every faction blaming one or more of the other factions. This is not to identify the force causing the division but only to enumerate those affected by that force. Which is everybody in the independence movement. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be any division in need of explanation.

The culture of blame is surely part of that explanation. Blame not in the sense of finding causal factors, but in the sense of shifting responsibility. Blame that is less about saying this or that is the cause of division and more about saying I am not culpable. It’s not me! It’s them! Thus, sets in the tribalism that is a cancer on any movement.

Dogmatism is another part of the explanation. This is politics – the art, science and practice of managing power relationships. Compromise is crucial. Absent a readiness to compromise, politics simply cannot function as it must if the machinery of human civilisation is to run at all, never mind smoothly. A preparedness to give and take is notable for its absence from much (most?) of the independence movement’s internal discourse. Again, everybody recognises the need for compromise, but nobody is prepared to make any of the concessions that might make compromise a possibility. Everybody wants unity. But all demand unity on their own terms while condemning the dogmatic intransigence of others. Where purism reigns, a spirit of compromise cannot arise or long survive if it does.

Tribalism persists, and may be ineradicable, largely because everyone is blind to their own tribalism. They see only the tribalism of others. It doesn’t end because the only ones who can end it aren’t even conscious of doing it. Even if there is a moment of self-awareness allowing them to see their own role in perpetuating the tribalism, this is rationalised as nothing more than an inevitable reaction to the tribalism of others. Everybody is guilty. Nobody is culpable. Everybody participates. Nobody accepts responsibility.

In democratic countries, knowledge of how to combine is the mother of all other forms of knowledge; on its progress depends that of all the others.

Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

The Yes movement has lost the knowledge of how to combine. It is commonly remarked by those calling for unity that we all want the same thing. Yet again, we have the conundrum that everybody wants the same thing yet there is no unity of purpose. It is a truly perplexing contradiction. How might this puzzle be resolved? Perhaps the explanation is that we don’t all want the same thing at all. It is assumed that we all want the same thing because we all profess to want independence. But the aim of the independence movement has never been well defined. The term ‘independence’ is imprecise and ambiguous. It can mean different things to different people. Being only vaguely defined, the term is ripe for picking up assorted baggage as various agendas seek to piggy-back on a cause with mass support such as those agendas could never attract in their own right. Over time, the differentiation solidifies over time into factions. The factions become aggressive and defensive. Tribalism emerges.

A ‘solution’ presents itself. If the purportedly unwanted division in the Yes movement is occasioned by want of a precisely defined common purpose, then the ‘solution’ would seem to be to supply that purpose. To date, the focus has been on a self-evidently forlorn effort to eradicate the differences which divide the Yes movement. The SNP’s chosen method of ensuring everybody in the Yes movement is on the same page ─ their page! ─ has been to exclude and sideline all those who are not singing from their hymn-sheet. The party is able to claim the Yes movement is united by deeming dissenters to be outside of and excluded from the Yes movement. Everybody in the SNP’s Yes movement agrees because anybody who disagrees isn’t part of the Yes movement. The problem with this is that such an exclusive movement must always be shrinking as the line dividing dissent from orthodoxy is drawn every more closely to the centre.

Rather evidently, a different approach is required. The SNP has defined the purpose in ‘unity of purpose’ as the interests of the party. Clearly, that is not a purpose around which the independence movement can coalesce. If we seek unity of purpose, we must identify a purpose which is common to the entire movement and tightly enough defined to prevent differentiation of the kind that has made ‘independence’ a less than ideal purpose. I have suggested that the true common purpose of the independence movement is to be found by reframing the constitutional issue as a determination to end the Union. This has the advantage of being so precise as to mean the same thing no matter who is talking about it. #DissolveTheUnion cannot mean anything other than what it says. However much our ideas of independence and how to achieve it may differ, nobody can deny that restoring Scotland’s independence necessarily means we must #DissolveTheUnion. Is that not therefore, the common purpose that might unite the Yes movement?

All of this has been said before. But it is worth repeating now because the SNP leadership contest provides an unexpected opportunity to reframe the constitutional issue. Also unexpectedly, there is a candidate who just might be ready to offer to take advantage of this opportunity. I refer, of course, to Ash Regan MSP. She is the only one of the three candidates who has so much as hinted at a willingness to break from the orthodoxy which has held Scotland’s cause in a paralysing grip for the best part of a decade.

Ash Regan is regarded as an outsider in the leadership race. To whatever extent this is true, it offers her an edge denied to the other candidates. She can afford to be bold. Rather than trying to catch the frontrunners by being like them, she can seize attention and imaginations by accentuating the difference. There are already two ‘continuity’ candidates. The contest needs a candidate for change. Ash Regan is well placed to be that candidate. She has made a good start. She needs to go further. If being bold is what you’ve got, then make the most of it by being decidedly bold. If you are the candidate for change, be emphatic about that fact. Leave no doubt in anyone’s mind that you are the candidate for change.

Standing outside the internecine bickering that is rife within the independence movement affords one a perspective that is profoundly frustrating. Looking at Scotland’s cause from this perspective what we see is all the elements necessary for success but none of the potential being realised. It is like all the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle are laid out, each in its correct position relative to the others, but none of them connected. If only we could put those pieces together, we would have the united Yes movement Scotland’s cause required.

I don’t know if you’ve ever encountered one of those virtual jigsaw puzzles sometimes used as a Captcha-type verification. If you have, you’ll know how the pieces snap into place once they are close to the right position. Th jigsaw puzzle I imagine is like that. All it needs is for someone to push/pull all the pieces a bit closer to one another, and the whole thing will suddenly snap together. Ash Regan is the only one of the SNP leadership candidates who looks even remotely like she might be able to put the puzzle together. I wish her success.

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15 thoughts on “All the pieces

  1. Humza Yousaf describes himself as the ‘stability’ and ‘continuity’ candidate … precisely what is NOT required. He is the devolutionist’s devolutionist. The SNP is a revolutionary candidate as its founding aim is to return Scotland to full self-government thus breaking the British Union. Mr Yousaf should familiarise himself with article 2a of the SNP’s constitution.

    Kate Forbes has admirable qualities but defining how to achieve the party’s raison d’etre is not one of them. On re-establishing Scottish statehood she has been vague and woolly ….= that doesn’t inspire confidence that she is truly committed to it as a top and urgent priority.

    Only Ash Regan has talked about ‘change’ … and then defined it to some extent at least in her opening pitch which, to my mind, was pretty good. In summary:

    Unify broken YES movement across country
    Establish Independence Convention on day 1 after election as leader
    Team of the talented to replace the sycophants and place-persons
    SNP Independence manifesto at every Scottish and British general election
    going forward
    Declare Independence on day 1 after a majority of ALL pro-Indy votes and
    seats is first achieved

    She can build on this platform.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Questions remain regarding Ash Regan’s offer. She most assuredly has not said “Declare Independence on day 1 after a majority of ALL pro-Indy votes and seats is first achieved”. She has talked only of “negotiations”. And I want to be sure the independence manifesto to which she refers is a genuine #ManifestoForIndependence. I will no settle for glittering generalities. I insist on substance.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. That’s true regarding ‘begin Independence negotiations’ rather than “Declare Independence” on day 1. My error.

        However, that remains my interpretation of what it means – an invitation to England/rUK representatives to discuss and agree arrangements trade, borders, nuclear and all the rest.

        I may well be wrong.

        That clarity should be sought as the campaign goes forward in the next few weeks.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. Agreed. It still makes independence dependent on negotiations instead of the other way round. Granted, we would have to negotiate, but we would be negotiating from a position of already being independent in the eyes of the world.

        Liked by 3 people

  2. A rather obvious feature in all of this is that NONE of the three candidates have seen fit to pronounce publicly hitherto their thoughts and aspirations on the question of Scotland’s route to Independence.

    Regan in delivering her electoral address possibly hints at her dissatisfaction in the lack of progress by the SNP and has scripted her program to the effect that a radical change of strategy is required and that the vision she wishes to embrace be shared by the voting membership of the SNP and the wider Scottish electorate.

    The distinct lack of candour on the subject of Independence from the other two candidates suggests to me it has never been high enough up their list of priorities for them to have ever exercised any positive thought on the matter which to my mind leaves them exposed as the jobbing politicians they are.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. The two major problems that have brought division is the blatant non-action on independence itself, the core policy of the party, with several of the MPs and MSPs being perfectly happy to state that there should be non-action, and the GRRB (combined with the Hate Crime legislation).

    On the non-action and the blissful position taken by a number of our elected representatives that this state of affairs should continue unimpeded, while their pension pots accumulate on a parallel, there can be no healing until the core policy takes centre stage again, and that is going to take a clear-out, Peter, of the dead wood.

    On the GRRB (and Hate Crime Bill), there can be no healing until these are scrapped because 50%+ of the Scottish population are not going to trust anyone to take us into an independent Scotland while these are ditched. I’m sorry, but that is the truth of it. If there is a statement of intent from Holyrood and the SNP/Greens to ditch the GRRB and repeal the HCA, then we can move forward.

    All this makes me so angry. I have been saying since 2014 that we needed to regroup and make independence centre stage again because I, and I am sure, many others, could see that the foot-draggers were back in force after Salmond’s step-down, and I never trusted Nicola Sturgeon to carry on Salmond’s work. By early to mid 2015, it became obvious that something was happening in the rank and file, with hundreds of new members, many of who were genuinely wanting independence because they had had enough. Most came from the New Labour ranks, but, with them came the hard left, who always want to turn society on its head, and, by so doing, let in the right. Always. Like clockwork. Every era of Labour history proves this. They never, ever learn.

    The SNP should have been wise to what was happening and, in hindsight, they should never have allied with the Greens. A minority government would have been preferable to what we have now. If any of the candidates for the leadership has sense, he or she will ditch the Greens immediately, or encourage them to disengage. They do not have any form belief in independence and never have. These two things – the stagnation on independence and the ditching of the GRRB (and, later, the repeal of the conjoined HCA) – should be done as a matter of urgency.

    No healing is possible until that happens, and pragmatism should be telling us so: independence in a country where all one’s rights have been stripped away is no independence. If the YES movements wants the women’s vote, they are going to have to do both those things more or less simultaneously, with a black-and-white statement that women’s rights and protections will be enhanced in an independent Scotland and contained within a Constitutional Bill of Rights, along with everyone else’s. Like you, Peter, I, and many women in Scotland, prefer substance.

    Liked by 7 people

  4. After 8 wasted years of Dictatorship where I truly believe The Mullins have consolidated “Ownership” of The SNP by by promoting less than the most able of MSPs to Cabinet Positions. Box ticking and keeping a lid on competitors for the top job seem to me to be obvious. Swinney “refuses” to insist she leave the job immediately after resigning is a case in point. Why have we been paying him as Deputy Leader for all these years? Sturgeons’ sycophants must have a new name. What could we possibly call them after all these wasted years and all the attendant crises. How about a “Collective of Cognative Disonences”

    Liked by 2 people

  5. As far as I’m concerned, while the SNP mandates support for transgenderist ideology and ALBA/ISP ditto for nuclear disarmament / anti-zionism, they can all go to hell. I’ll join in when sanity breaks out.


  6. It’s very hard to unite around the other two candidates. Humza wants to sit on his arse until 2050. Kate is similarly wanting to spend years building a case again!!

    Ash wants to take action, speak to other parties and the movement. We can unite around that ,and forgive the SNP. Ash is the only true unifier. She would also not form coalitions with fake independence supporting parties.


  7. Ash Regan will be to the SNP what Liz Truss was to the Tories.

    All the “malcontents” in the Tory party ranks and the right wing think tanks that cultivated them thought all their birthdays had come at once when she was elected leader and resulting in a “mini budget” they all claimed to be a triumph. Of course, reality bit. The sky fell on their heads, the economy tanked and the Tories will be unelectable for tears.

    All the malcontents in the Yes movement appear to believe Regan is the answer to their prayers. However, by dropping socially progressive policies, ditching environmental policies and telling the Greens to bugger off, she will alienate hundreds of thousands of Yes voters who have gotten behind it because they believed an independent Scotland would reflect those values. The “younger” Yes voters overwhelmingly support them. All the Green voters who vote SNP in the constituencies support them.

    Regan is extremely optimistic if she believes she can kick these voters square in the nuts and expect them to vote for something that suddenly looks very different to what they were led to believe, and very much like the state they wanted independence from. She’d best prepare herself for the sky falling on her head, and the SNP becoming unelectable for years.


  8. Me Bungo. 70% of SNP members are over 50! Only 3% under 24. The youth wing voice is far too loud for it’s size.

    The majority of Scots don’t like the Gender ID bill. The majority of the SNP members want independence. The comparison with Truss is inaccurate. The independence movement is 50% strong. She would have most of their backing.

    You have simply compared apples with oranges, to make an easy comparison.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. BJ, I don’t question any of the claims you make. However, you make the mistake many malcontents continue to make by talking of “members” while I talk of “voters”.

      So 70% of SNP members are over 50, so what? Over 60% of the Scottish population (well over 3,000,000) is under 50. So only 3% of SNP members are under 24, again, so what? About 15% of voters are under 24 and most of them currently overwhelmingly support independence on the understanding it will be a progressive, environmentally sensitive Scotland. That is not what Ash Regan is offering.

      Green votes too numbered over 220,000 in 2021 and are polling higher now. Granted there will be a large overlap between “young” and Green votes, but can any Indy campaign afford to potentially throw away about 6-700,000 votes and expect to win? Especially as the current wish by malcontents is for a Holyrood election to be used as the de facto referendum.

      “The majority of Scots don’t like the Gender ID Bill” – I don’t disagree. But I would ask, if the Bill had been “allowed to pass by Westminster” (why are you not angry about that) would the majority of Scots have batted an eyelid? They weren’t perturbed in the preceding 20 years when all the “dangers” highlighted by opponents were just as valid (ie not at all) due to the GRA 2004 and the EA 2010. There are a lot of laws/issues “the majority” don’t like …. when asked. But if you don’t force them to take a position, they don’t give a monkey’s about them (like the Death Penalty). Until the maliciously orchestrated stramash by malcontents and their unionist allies, GRCs were one of them.

      The counter to that though, is that the “young vote” cares a LOT more about it than the “older vote”. Ash Regan’s “conservative” position on social, political and environmental matters will make many of them question their support for Indy. Why should they vote for a change when the resultant independent state will be a conservative one that rejects what is important to them and looks remarkably like the state they would secede from.

      You say – “The independence movement is 50% strong. She would have most of their backing”. “Most” of 50% is not enough, and I think you are exhibiting an optimism born of an over exposure to the malcontent echo-chamber.


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