The void at the top

This morning, I rather belatedly got around to reading Robin McAlpine’s article dated 25 April. I was immediately struck by the title ─ Who’s in charge and what are they in charge of? ─ because these are precisely the questions I have been asking myself over the last few days. My attempt to answer those question was going to be the subject of today’s article. Now, I find that Robin has pretty much said it all. Particularly the following.

… I can find zero evidence of a crisis management consultant having been appointed (most notably due to the clear lack of competence in the response so far), I think you need to assume no-one is in charge.

I too can see nothing to suggest that professionals have been brought in to sort out the mess left by Sturgeon and Murrell. This thought occurred to me while I was explaining to SNP/Sturgeon loyalist/apologist number 1,376 (I made that up. I haven’t benn counting. That would be too depressing.) that despite their efforts to minimise the situation, the party really is quite seriously broken and won’t be fixed while the members continue to deny it ─ most commomly with claims that it’s all a Unionist smear blah! blah! blah!

Of course, the British Nationalists are milking the SNP’s ‘difficulties’ with frantic glee. They can’t believe their luck. They’ve been handed a propaganda prize such as they only dreamed of. Not the least of the SNP leadership’s offences is to have given the BritNats such a fine stick with which to beat the SNP and the independence movement. If one is so inclined, it is easy to go from the undeniable fact that the BritNats are exploiting the situation to the conclusion that they must have engineered the situation for that purpose. This is the kind of logic-leaping assumption that lies behind most (all?) conspiracy theories. When those planes flew into the Twin Towers in New York on 11 September 2001, it took established power less than a second to start thinking of the ways in which they could exploit the atrocity for their own purposes. And less than a further second for the first conspiracy theory to be born maintaining that the whole thing had been orchestrated by the George W Bush administration.

There is no British Nationalist conspiracy here. The British state and it’s lackeys in Scotland could not have contrived this situation no matter how much they wanted to. They would have needed too many people in too many positions of too much influence. The SNP’s leaders and managers did this to the party. Nobody else. That is the first thing the loyalists/apologists among SNP members are going to have to admit if there is to be any recovery for what is, after all, still their party.

The second thing they will have to recognise is that nobody is even trying to effect that recovery. Robin McAlpine is correct. Nobody is in charge. Or everybody is. It amounts to the same thing. Nobody is trying to fix things because they’re all too busy trying to bury the problems. And cover their own arses, of course. Nobody is making the hard decisions. We know that because the hard decisions aren’t being made. Absolutely nothing concrete has been done to address the ghastly management culture which developed under Peter Murrell. I am not talking about possible criminal behaviour. I am not allowed to talk about possible criminal behaviour. But there is immense scope for bad management short of criminality. The Sturgeon-Murrell team appear to have been intent on exploring that entire space.

OK! It happens! Organisations go adrift due to management failures. It happens all the time. It happens so much that a whole business sector has evolved for the purpose of salvaging organisations which have gone adrift. But someone has to make the decision to call on these professional trouble-shooters. Nobody in the legacy leadership is going to do that because they have all been too long part of the culture of secrecy, control-freakery and self-serving slackness that has prevailed in the SNP for several years. It was allowed to happen and to continue and to worsen because the members trusted the leadership too much. And, yes! I include myself in that as I was a member and a conference delegate during the period when this should have been addressed, but wasn’t.

The SNP isn’t going to be fixed by the people now nominally in charge because the people now nominally in charge were part of the crew which set the party adrift in the first place and they can’t fix what they broke without revealing their own culpability. This too is an old story. This too is what what tends to happen in organisations which have broken down. Actually setting out to effect a recovery would require courage and involve self-sacrifice. Neither of these is much associated with politicians in general. Neither is evident among those rattling about at the top of the SNP like dice about to be thrown.

What about the membership? What about the branches and constituency associations. In pre-Sturgeon/Murrell times this might have been to source of an impetus for change. In those days, branches valued and vigorously defended their autonomy. The branches were the party’s spine. The branches mattered. As Robin also points out, SNP branches have their own fiunds. They raise money and pass on part of what they raise in the form of levys paid to HQ. The funds owned by the branches sit in their own bank account ─ a bit like being in escrow. I was aware of all this, naturally. What I was not aware of until I read Robin’s article was that these funds amount to around a million pounds. If called upon to guess, I would have put the figure much lower. Maybe knock off a zero. That £1m must look very tempting to the SNP’s bosses at the moment.

A thought! If SNP HQ had cash-flow problems, why didn’t they simply request a special levy from the branch funds? Why did they instead obtain a ‘loan’ from Peter Murrell? I strongly suspect the answer is that requesting ─ or simply taking ─ that levy would have raised awkward questions about the way the senior management was running things.

Might the impetus for recovery yet come from the branches and constitutency associations? I doubt it. If what is happening now had happened fifteen or twenty years ago there would already have been a grassroots revolt. That there hasn’t been shows the extent to which the branches have been ‘tamed’ by Sturgeon/Murrell and the grassroots excluded almost entirely from the running of the party. It had previously crossed my mind that a request for a special levy might have been the trigger which fired the branches into action. Now, I suspect HQ could help itself to the entire contents of the branch bank account and there would be barely a murmur of protest.

The only possibility I see of grassroots action would be a special conference not run by HQ. But for that to happen there would have to be some form of branch network to enable them to function as an organisation. To my knowledge, no such network exists. Branches cannot easily communicate with one another. Because if they could, they would be difficult to control.

I’m not sure if all this adds anything to Robin McAlpine‘s article. Hopefully, it will at least spark some discussion. Even more hopefully, it might cause those loyalists and apologists to have a wee think to themselves. Aye, right!

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13 thoughts on “The void at the top

  1. The role of branch education officers mitigates against any real political discussion at grass roots level . The education officers ensure that branch meetings education is restricted to a centrally imposed set of topics . You’re right , unlikely that reform of the SNP will be driven by pressure from branch activist .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Julie Hepburn , wife of the recently appointed minister for Independence , has been thrust into the limelight at the top table as advisor for strategic planning . She formerly served as the main link between central office and branch political education officers , strictly controlling discussion at grass roots level . The control from the centre is tightening rather than slackening with this kind of nepotism .

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Add to the branches ‘tamed’ by the Murrell gang, those, like the one I belonged to, having lost a huge tranche of committed members over the last few months; people I never thought would ever abandon the party they loved (and that last word is no exaggeration).

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I think you are correct about the remaining branch membership.

    They seem to be oscillating between denial and anger. A common expressed opinion among the former group is “Nobody’s been arrested, did you see anybody being arrested?’ while the latter are inclined to ‘it’s all the fault of Alba/Salmond, it’s a Wings/Craig Murray plot, the Yoons are all liars’ world view. Delusion on a grand scale.

    A few have arrived at the bargaining stage – ‘the party aren’t perfect but Humza will take us to Indy … please, please, please give him a chance’ – while others are depressed – ‘the party’s over, I’m giving up, what’s the point of Independence anyway?’ – and are walking away.

    I see no sign of anybody accepting the problems that actually exist and admitting they are real. Nobody is saying ‘OK we f@cked up, but we still need Independence so let’s sort ourselves out and get on with it’. Only talk about the need to ‘move on’ by those who do not wish to address the issues and pretend that all is well and want to carry on as before.

    Nobody questioned the membership numbers of 72169 announced in March, even though one-third of them seemingly did not feel motivated to vote in the party leadership election in the same month. Nobody challenged the outcome of the said election even though it became known that Peter Murrell and Murray Foote had been telling porkies about the size of the membership. Nobody bothered about the fact that during that same election the acting CEO, following the resignation of Peter Murrell, did not allow the members to edit their vote even though the systems functionality was available (and the online votes comprised 96% of votes cast).

    The remaining SNP membership seem to have lost the ability to think, let alone question anything that party HQ or ‘leadership’ dictate.

    The firebrands have turned docile.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. I would suggest the majority of the firebrands are no longer within the party, having left in disgust. Those who are still there are finding just how difficult it is to make their voices heard – and listened to.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Peter, you and Robin come to similar conclusions that this situation is all the work of mismanagement of the party, and that the british state had nothing to do with it. I think there are two other factors which neither of you have taken into account. The first is fraud, the possibility that the party was run for the financial benefit of various actors within the party – and this is probably why the polis are currently involved. The second is that people working for the british state have been in effective control of the party as part of the leadership cabal for 15-20 years, making sure that any attempts to alter course and take back control are effectively neutered as soon as they come to light. I have no conclusive proof, but if you do a “Sherlock Holmes” (or is it Hercule Poirot ?) analysis, after discounting every other plausible reason, what you are left with is the truth.


    1. Even if there was fraud it would be down to mismanagement. Good management doesn’t allow such things to happen. Good management has all manner of systems and procedures in place to prevent fraud. So, whatever way you look at it, there was mismanagement of the most horrendous kind.

      I don’t doubt the British had attempted to infiltrate the SNP. They may even have succeeded. But at a level where they could steer the ship onto the rocks? That seems very implausible. If you’re discounting the human capacity to fuck things up in the most monumental way then you’re obviously not familiar with our species. The thing that’s left when Occam’s Razor has done it’s job is almost always human stupidity, and only very, very rarely a fiendishly clever human plot.


      1. The assessment of what is “Good Management” depends on the definition of the goals set for the management. So what were the goals and who set them ? The membership didn’t set the goals, the branches and constituencies didn’t set the goals.

        Nope – The goals were set by the management themselves.

        What if the goals set by management were self-enrichment and the destruction of the SNP, but only the first goal was communicated to the uber-sheep. Once the uber-sheep succumb to the self-enrichment bribe, they are (mostly) no longer capable of resisting the destruction of the SNP because they are compromised by bribery.

        This allows the 2nd goal, destruction of the SNP, to be pursued with impunity by the “management”.

        If you were agents of the british state embedded within the SNP (and remember the british state has quite recently embedded its agents in much more dangerous organisations) then right now I think you might be in line for a wee bonus.

        Who are these people ? – Go figure, not rocket science.

        On Occam’s razor – I mostly like it, but see also Occam’s Razor Fallacy, which observes that the simplest explanations are not always the best, or indeed correct.


  5. When Caroline Mcallister was elected Womens Convenor and just pushed aside by Sturgeon, anyone who stayed on board that tinpot dictatorship obviously had no concept of democracy or governance.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. There has never been a branch network system in place, nor will there every likely be. The internal democratic systems have not been up to the job and this unaccountable structure continued and grew in due to the SNP’s political success in elections combined with unthinking/blind/loyal support from the faithful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The lack was never noticed until what was lacking was needed. The leadership never needed to be put on a choke-chain. We had Conference and National Council. That worked. Until the leadership of the party went rogue. The grassroots was then easily taken out of the equation. Conference could be totally controlled. National Council couldn’t. So, it was abolished. I’m happy to say that’s one thing I voted against and would have spoken against had I been called. Nonetheless, the delegates voted away their own power and the power of the membership. They voted to let Nicola Sturgeon use the party as she pleased. Even after the lesson of the nation voting in 2014 to let the British ruling elite do as it pleased with Scotland. Incredible but true!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yup, as you know I have also been a conference delegate and also despaired at the way conference (ordinary members) were swayed to vote against their own interests.


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