No body! No voice! No power!

There seems to be some kind of ‘rule’ in Scotland’s independence movement that everything has to be done at least two years after it should have been done. In terms of a national campaigning organisation, that would be at least five years late.

I wish the Scottish Independence Convention (SIC) success. But as very much a creature of the SNP, the SIC is hardly the best example of a “non-party political body”. Or is that just the natural cynicism with which anybody greets this kind of initiative who remembers even a few of the ones which went before? The ‘new initiative’ has long been one of Sturgeon’s favoured can-kicking tools. After the initial hyped-up announcement, we are all told we must WAIT for the necessary arrangements to be made. Then we’re told we must WAIT for the event itself. Then we must WAIT for the event to be assessed and feedback to be collated and for a report to be prepared. Then we must WAIT for the report to be distributed and studied and responses to be gathered and….

It’s a lot of waiting. Often, the whole ‘thing ‘initiative’ evaporates before even the first round of waiting is over.

Not all of these initiatives are SNP devices, of course. So, why does this national independence campaigning organisation not already exist? Why have none of these non-SNP initiatives fared any better than the ones which were never intended to succeed?

The dynamics of such groups are commonly rather complex. No ’50-words-or-less’ account can possibly do justice to this complexity. There are always multiple personalities and agendas playing off against one another in labyrinthine ways. But it is possible to identify some of the more general errors, First among these is loss of focus, leading to loss of a sense of common purpose and loss of cohesion. It is all but guaranteed that the initial meeting(s) in the process of setting up a national Yes body will end up talking as much or more about policy issues than about the constitutional issue. The project is dead as soon as this happens. This is the point when people start to drift away. This drift is seldom if ever reversed. It is easier just to write-off the ‘quitters’ than to acknowledge and address the reasons for them quitting.

Diverse policy agendas inevitable leads to different factions forming around each agenda. The factions then compete for the ‘soul’ of the organisation. The initial purpose of creating and conducting a coherent national campaign is all but forgotten by this point. Rather than being the common purpose that unites the factions, it becomes the stick with which those factions beat each other as the blame game descends into all-out tribal warfare.

Sound familiar? Then so too will this next explanation of the ways in which these unifying efforts fail. With all the usual caveats about the kind of generalisations a word limit demands, it’s all about leadership. Or rather, lack of leadership. And that is down to another sweeping generalisation ─ the left. The reason the political left achieves so little is that achieving anything requires power. The left distrusts power and therefore shuns it. Established (or conventional) power is ‘the enemy’. So, anyone who acquires the power to do anything immediate becomes ‘the enemy’.

Nobody is better at ‘assassinating’ ─ actually or figuratively ─ left-wing leaders than the left itself. Look no further than the British Labour Party to see the truth of this. The party has been formed (deformed?) by internal forces which tend to kill off capable leaders. This is a massive over-simplification. But there is an essential truth at its heart. And similar forces quickly get to work in any body determined to earn its democratic credentials. Leadership elections in organisations dominated by the political left are never (sweeping generalisation!) about appointing the person best able to wield whatever effective power that body. They are about preventing the most capable people gaining power. Several forces combine to ensure the best people never get within grasping distance of power. The precautionary measures taken to defend the current leadership would be one such force. The membership’s (often justified) fear of losing ownership of the organisation to an effective leader is another. Then there is the deterrent effect which discourages the most able people from seeking advancement because they recognise the risk that success will lead to their ‘friends’ turning against them.

Any attempt to set up a unified national representative body for the Yes movement and/or a national campaign organisation has to be mindful of the kind of problems I have outlined here. Those essaying such a project must be aware that the organisation they hope to create is not the same thing as the movement from which is stems. A movement can be organic and distributed. And organisation must be mechanical and hierarchical. That, I think, is the best way of stating the difference concisely. Try stating this truth without being accused of being ‘dictatorial’, however. You’ll soon see why some sixteen years into the modern era of Scotland’s independence movement, that movement still has no representative body, no single voice and no effective power.

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3 thoughts on “No body! No voice! No power!

  1. Independence is independence: Everything else is everything else. It is simple really…

    A fine analysis, and psychoanalysis, Peter.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Well said, Robert; and regarding “must wait”… Perhaps, Scotland has already waited for well over 300 years – we are entitled to say that’s a form of historical shame and this must never be forgotten!

    Liked by 2 people

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