Don’t mess with the brand!

It is approaching 32 years since businesses everywhere were given a vivid demonstration of that most abiding maxim, ‘Don’t mess with the brand!’. In April 1991, the CEO of multi-billion pound jewellery shop chain, Ratners Group, stood in front of an audience of 6,000 people from across the business world and told them, in effect, that the Ratners brand represented “crap”. Thinking himself clever, Gerald Ratner told the gathering that Ratners was able to sell merchandise bearing its brand ridiculously cheaply because that merchandise was “total crap”. In an instant, he destroyed the brand, did irreparable damage to the business and wrecked his own career. What he said may well have been true. He might even have got away with the comments if he had been perceived as talking only about the items in the shop window. But what he said and the way he said it meant the term “total crap” was associated with the name above the shop window ─ Ratners.

I was reminded of this incident yesterday as I watched the voting members of the party destroy the SNP brand. Or should I say, I watched as they put the finishing touches to the destruction that had been in progress for more than eight years. The destruction may not have been as precipitous as that inflicted on Ratners Group by the hapless Gerald. But it has had much the same effect.

For decades, the SNP brand was all but synonymous with the independence movement. It styled itself ‘the party of independence’ and in the public mind that is exactly what it was. As the party grew in size and power, the SNP brand came to be linked to huge conferences where members’ delegates democratically made the big decisions on the party’s policies and positions. Later still, the SNP brand was associated with caring and competent government. A lot of this was spin, of course. Or to put it another way, marketing. We can think of a political party as a commercial venture selling goods and services to voters. In the early day, all its marketing efforts are focused on the products ─ the politicies listed in its cataogue (manifesto). As the business becomes more established, there tends to be a shift of focus for the marketing effort to the brand. If the brand is marketed successfully then it becomes a vehicke which can carry whatever goods and services are loaded onto it. Maintain the good name of the brand and the positive perceptions will rub off on anything bearing the brand.

Whatever the Ratner brand may have represented prior to Gerald making his comments, from that moment forward it would represent “total crap”. Whatever positive associations the SNP brand enjoyed, they finally fell off in the course of the lesadership election having been shaken loose over a period of several years by the failures and failings of the Sturgeon regime. The SNP is no longer the party it once was. It is less.

There’s another anniversary coming up. in April it will be three years since I resigned from the SNP. My reasons for quitting the party I first joined nearly 60 years earlier were many and complicated. Even now I don’t think I can fully explain the decision. I can’t be sure how much of the explanation relies on events and developments subsequent to my leaving the party. All I can say is that had I not left in April 2020, I would be doing so now. I might add that while I entertained many doubts about the wisdom of my choice in the months immediately after leaving the SNP, I long since ceased to have any regrets. Had any been lingering, events of the last few weeks would have thoroughly and finally dispelled them.

Even after quitting the SNP I still hoped that the members could turn things around. I hoped that the party could again be the ‘party of independence’. I hoped the brand could be rescued. It no longer makes sense to cling to such hopes.

This was not idle hope. It was not hope in the sense of futile wishful thinking. It was hope with a plan. There were still ways to put things right. What was lacking was the will. Far too many people had already given up on the SNP as the ‘vehicle’ which would transport us to independence. It didn’t matter that there was no other vehicle available. People simply conjoured alternative vehicles in their imaginatioins so they could rationalise giving up on the SNP. I don’t do fantasy politics. So, even having quit the party I continued to maintain that the independence movement had no choice other than to stick with the SNP and try to repair the vehicle. I was right. I still am. But I’m now obliged to concede that the vehicle is beyond repair. What clinched it was the revelation that the party’s membership doesn’t want it repaired. They are content with it the way it is even though the vehicle is no longer en route to independence. It had long been evident that the party leadership had massively deprioritised the constitutional issue in favour of winning elections and staying in power. The only message we can take from the outcome of the leadership election is that the membership is content to go along with this.

If you cheer anything with a Yes sticker on it then pretty soon somebody is going to start putting Yes stickers on whatever it is they want you to cheer. If the leadership vote is any evidence, the SNP membership is dominated by people who can’t see, or choose not to look, beneath the sticker.

Scotland’s cause now moves into the post-SNP era. The SNP and the Yes movement now have to be regarded as distinct entities. Some will argue that this has long been the case. What has changed is that it is now not possible to sensibly argue that the independence movement and the SNP are not separated by the nature and form of their commitment to Scotland’s cause. By which I do not mean only the relative strength of dedication to the cause. It can no longer be supposed that the SNP’s commitment to the restoration of Scotland’s independence differs in any significant way from that of the myriad organisations and groups which have found independence to be a useful marketing device for their own narrow agendas. The SNP is no longer the political arm of Scotland’s independence movement. The leadership withdrew from that role some time ago. The membership has now ratified the decision.

In the vicinity of half Scotland’s people want independence. There is currently no political party in Scotland that offers a home for those who understand both how urgent is the need to restore independence and the things that will have to be done in order to make it so. Until there is a party with a credible, viable proposal for extricating Scotland from the Union, I am politically homeless. And, more importantly, Scotland’s cause lacks a source of the effective political power that the SNP was supposed to provide.

The SNP has had its ‘Ratners moment’. The brand has been stripped of its meaning and its value to Scotland’s cause. Quite how our cause might recover is far from clear.

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31 thoughts on “Don’t mess with the brand!

  1. Aye Peter, the Ratner’s analogy well describes the predicament thinking pro Independence thinking Scots are now confronted with vis-a-vis the SNP and Scotland’s progression to Independence.

    The Mammy Rat eat its young then shat its nest lest onybody else lay claim tae it!!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. The SNP has become the CRAIP , Complete Rubbish Approximation to Independence Party ( apologies to Richard Murphy for misusing his term for GERS) . Sturgeonism is now hardwired into the SNP brand despite S&M having quit the board .

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Well that is an excellent assessment of the situation vis-a-vis the SNP, formerly known as the ‘party of Independence’ and YES supporters, a once united and solid movement.

    Many have questioned whether the leadership election was fair and above board given the party leadership’s paranoid secrecy around membership numbers (inter alia) before they were forced to release these details. However, no proof has been provided to support any suspicions of foul play and no protest by the candidates or anyone else has so far regarding the outcome.

    So we must accept the result.

    The one thing we didn’t know before was what kind of people, after the precipitous fall in membership in the last two or three years, the remaining SNP ‘electorate’ comprised of. Now we know:

    • 30% or one in 3 of members couldn’t be bothered to vote:
    Cell 1 – The Apathetic.
    • 34% voted for HY as their 1st choice:
    Cell 2 – The Transgenderist-Devolutionists.
    • 29% voted for KF as their 1st choice:
    Cell 3 – The non-Transgenderist-Devolutionists.
    • 8% voted for AR as their 1st choice:
    Cell 4 – The Independenistas+.

    So that’s quite conclusive about the message from the membership. Interestingly from the 2nd preference options of Ash Regan supporters (8%) there is a bit further insight:

    • 5% opted for KF: Cell 4a – The Independenistas.
    • 2% opted for HY: Cell 4b – The Idiots
    • 1% didn’t indicate a 2nd choice: Cell4c – The Imbeciles

    (I have described cell 4b as “The Idiots” since they understood the process but voted for HZ anyway whilst cell 4c merit “The Imbeciles” label as they don’t understand the system but at least they didn’t vote for HZ).

    OK some might consider the foregoing a bit simplistic but it does seem to me that 95% of the current SNP membership are neither emotional or rational supporters of Scotland’s Cause as THE priority.

    So there is little point in trying to challenge that. The membership has got what the membership wants (even though I don’t get it).

    The SNP itself is now on a trajectory that will take that party’s supporters in a direction that is light years from its declared destination.

    The party itself needs to amend its constitution to remove article 2a to reflect its new priorities. Not to do so would be morally bankrupt and politically fraudulent.

    But, then again, that hasn’t stopped it during the last 8+ years.

    Liked by 7 people

    1. If you take the membership as 50000, the missing 22000 from the claimed figure is roughly equivalent to the 30% no-shows.

      Where’s the evidence that the membership is 72000….

      Liked by 2 people

      1. The evidence is the SNP published membership as reported by SNP HQ and throughout the press 10 days ago.

        As you are making the challenge the onus is entirely on you to prove that it is incorrect.

        (Note that I make no claims one way or the other – I deal in facts. If and when they change then I adapt accordingly).

        Liked by 3 people

  4. Clive James once said that Liberace got himself associated with pianos by standing in front of one every time a camera was pointed at it. The same could now be said of the SNP and Independence.
    The only way forwards now is for voters to have the option of voting for a party that is genuinely intent on Independence; unfortunately at the moment that also entails signing up for a sack of Corbynite shite.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Hi Geoff, I keep moaning on here and elsewhere that I’m hacked off with ALBA & ISP offering up the same old unilateral disarmament, anti-zionist crap that their hero Corbyn came out with. Plus they were griping about “NATO expansionism” till the party managers realised that was a liability.
        Isn’t there any normal Indy supporters?


        1. Hi Terry, thanks for reply, I can’t speak for ISP but as an Alba member prepared to state I am 100% unaware of any devotion to Corbyn – never heard his name mentioned TBH. I’m personally not in favour of immediate unilateral disarmament and accept that membership of NATO may well be in Scotland’s interests , so don’t think ALBA has policies that contradict this. I would however gripe about NATO expansionism. Imagine you were a Russian – with their experience of WW2 – and not being worried about being encircled by NATO. That’s not to excuse Russia’s actions re Ukraine but to partially understand them (notwithstanding that Putin is a despotic **** and didn’t need to invade)
          I am a pragmatist, and recognise that deals will need to be done to secure international recognition. Like you, I am also a Salvo member, but think you have got Alba and its membership wrong.

          Liked by 2 people

  5. The SNP have relied on the politically homeless for years and will probably be kept afloat by them. It is the least worst option for many voters. Many people who have voted for them have not done so because they wanted independence. They just saw no alternative – other than not voting at all.

    Sturgeon and others in the SNP realised they had a guaranteed core of default voters and pretended that the reason was because they were the party of independence. They will keep that slogan going for as long as they can get away with it. It has some mileage left yet

    It has served them well, but has been a disaster for Scotland and the prospects of independence. Those who have been conned will be reluctant to admit it. And even if they do, what is the alternative?

    The Scottish political scene is one of complete constipation. It needs unblocking.

    For the time being Humza is a useful cork for the SNP.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. I can barely be bothered, but while I eat my toast (an appropriate word for Indy), perhaps an initial post mortem of the death of Independence might shorten the long decades before it becomes a possibility again, so that my kids and soon to come, grandkids, benefit.

    March eligible voters – 72,169
    18th September 2014 – SNP membership 25,500

    Nett new members since 2014 – 46,669.
    Total votes for Yousaf – 26,032

    The SNP got kidnapped by the “progressives” with little interest in Indy.

    The SNP is not the SNP, so number 1 in its constitution should change the name from the SNP to the SPP – The Scottish Progressive party.

    It should also change its Constitution to put “progressive crap” at number 2, and remove Independence from its Constitution.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. “The SNP and the Yes movement now have to be regarded as distinct entities.”

    There is perhaps a further shift in train.

    The rupture caused by a compromised national party splits the movement and understandably sickens the people. Postcolonial theory tells us that an ‘independence movement’ then becomes a ‘liberation movement’.

    This represents progress in terms of ‘a peoples’ improved understanding of their colonial wretchedness and corresponds with the need for UN recognition, which Salvo is well aware of.

    Liked by 8 people

  8. Peter, one of your best.

    What are your, or indeed anybody else’s, thoughts on the possibility of unhooking the Yes brand / movement from the SNP?

    I’m sure they’ll want to hang onto it, if only as a fig-leaf for inaction elsewhere, but except for a few bright spots (based on looking at 120 yes groups on facebook) it seems largely moribund through neglect (as well as covid).

    Perhaps the government should be paying someone 300K to revive it instead of shilling for Slater’s Deposit Return Scheme.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s a good idea but maybe the “Real” and “Scotland” should be in a different colour … to avoid the red, white and blue look?

        Just a suggestion …




    Sarwar 1
    DRoss. 2
    Cole- Hamilton 3

    There is another guy standing. But he’s not worth a pig’s fart in a cold wind. Like the above three.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. The SNP have already made an impressive start in the undermining and devaluation of the YES brand. YES is an answer to an inappropriate question anyway, so the Independence Movement should discard it and work hard to further undermine it – the NuSNP will cling on to it for dear life and ultimately be caught in the Ratneresque trap for ever. YES to, er, um, devolution ?

    So that leaves us in the “deleted” or Freedom movement with the simple (!) task of inventing a new brand and stamping it on the Nation’s consciousness. “Independence – Nothing Less” or “Independence – Just Makes Sense” , or “Freedom – Come All Ye” or something braw like “Freedom for Scotland” which disnae use “YES” and reflects our colonial status – where are the poets when we need them ? Does Len Penny read your blog Peter ?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Look at the title of the article, Geoff. Heed that advice. DO NOT MESS WITH THE BRAND! The ‘Yes’ brand is the identifier for the independence movement as a whole. This has been hammered into the public consciousness over a period of a decade and more. That brand carries almost entirely positive associations ─ unless you’re a Unionist, of course, in which case ‘Yes’ carries entirely negative associations ─ a fact which also testifies to the value of the brand. Try to change this brand an neither the public nor the larger part of the Yes movement will follow you. You will simply create more division.

      The question is should Scotland end the Union? The answer is always, Yes!

      Liked by 3 people

  11. I suppose that Humza is the least wost of a really bad bunch. And that’s saying something.

    I’m just happy that unmarried mothers aren’t going to be burned at the stake on a pyre of musical instruments. I am shocked that such a large number of SNP members vote Yes for an FM who probably thinks that pipe-organs are Satanic and would undoubtedly have been questioned publically on the subject, and a lot more, like having sex standing up, then asked about independence.


  12. Geoff, I’m an ex-SNP, ex-ALBA member, aye I make a habit of these things. I strongly support Scotland, Israel and Ukraine’s right to defend themselves, including by nuclear arms and membership of NATO. Nobody was about to invade Russia, the worse that was happening was sapping their spirits with the same soulless capitalist crap we put up with, so I don’t get the big deal about NATO.
    It really does scunner me that unless I’m willing to line up with knee-jerk leftism there is no place for me in the Yes team, but I’m not the giving up type. If it wasn’t for family and work commitments I’d start my own party!

    Liked by 1 person

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