Siol nan Gaidheal
The SNP is currently gripped by a crisis looming far larger than any it has ever previously faced. The ongoing state of their finances has become a political millstone, exposed to ridicule in the Unionist press ("How could they run a country if they can't run their own affairs?") and leaving the rank and file with a feeling of despair following the poor showing in the May elections. So what can be done about this state of despondency? Are they ultimately bankrupt not only financially, but ideologically? Siol nan Gaidheal does not think so. There are many very able people within the ranks of Scotland's Party. The failings of the inept clique currently in charge have brought us to this pass, but it will be the grass roots membership who save the day, as always. Further discussion on the financial issue can be found in "At the Crossroads".
Every crisis brings an opportunity. We need belief, faith, hope, and a positive attitude. Remember, every problem is a solution in the making... The intense debate which today's financial situation will undoubtedly provoke means the chance to forge ahead with initiatives which will make the party stronger, and encourage increased commitment from all the membership. Chief amongst this must be the idea that Independence is not a one-party issue, but an issue which affects all Scots, regardless of political hue.
An optimistic, upbeat independence agenda addresses the issue of what actually happens after independence. It is crucial that the electorate are not left with a void in their imaginations where the future, once independence is achieved, should be. Ensuring that they are invited to imagine favourably what fills that void, if not necessarily drawing them a picture, has historically fallen to the SNP. The unionist tactic of making anything other than the status quo inconceivable needs to be countered. Unfortunately, the SNP have dropped the ball on this one, so that their very public preoccupation with trivial bickering has only contributed to the ongoing malaise in Scottish politics, whereby falling electoral turnouts merely evidence the pessimistic apathy that these contretemps engender. Apparently, what psychologists call "learned helplessness" grips the electorate when they realise there is no point in voting, if it only returns another shower of useless numpties to the Mound. Of course the electorate are being manipulated - "learned helplessness", after all, is a way to ensure animals don't cause any trouble whilst one slaughters their friends. Nevertheless, the SNP do bear a huge responsibility, since they have had a monopoly of this issue for decades - and, unprompted by any competition, have thereby stagnated.
The future shape of politics in an independent Scotland requires the issue of independence to be detached from the politics of any one specific party. A putative Scottish democracy requires a choice of parties, all of whom are committed to the future status quo of independence. In addition, people who are for independence are put off voting for it when the only party that supports it doesn't appeal on other grounds - it should not be an exception, but the rule, that a Scottish political party is committed to independence, and that requires a multi-party independence movement. After all, it would be ridiculous in any other country in the world for there to be only one party to vote for to maintain independence. People should assume of a Scot that he or she is committed to independence unless otherwise stated, as they would of a citizen of any other country, rather than the opposite, which currently prevails in Scotland. The same should apply to the parties we can vote for. And a multi-party independence movement allows the case for independence to be presented to the electorate without them automatically responding as though only some short term electoral advantage is being sought for a single party, a real turn off when dealing with such an important issue. Loyalty to your country must not require loyalty to a party. In addition a multi-party independence movement presents the electorate with a vision of politics once independence has been achieved, and fills the void in their imagination that so scares them.
The time scale is fortuitous - developments now allow as long as possible for changes in the structure of the Scottish party system to bed down before the crucial vote 300 years after the hated union - the 2007 election. Now is the best time to push through changes. So Siol nan Gaidheal challenges the SNP to grasp the nettle, and get together with the Greens, the SSP and any individually-minded politicians of whatever political persuasion - and take the first step! Talk to the representatives of these parties, and agree a common agenda. There is no point in dwelling on ideological differences, other than to gratify particular politicians' egos - the main thrust is the thing. Seize people's imaginations, and shout out the benefits of running our own country. A multi-party independence will experience a symbolic triumph in 2007, and the SNP as it stands can only repeat the shambolic failure of 2003.
There are some 260 or so SNP branches, and SNP USA should be included here also. Grass roots involvement is a recurrent theme, and needs to be addressed not only by the party leadership, but by the local branch membership as well. Nationalism is not just turning up for Burns Suppers and handing out election leaflets every few years. Nationalism should be 24/7, to use an American phrase. Scotland's Party needs to be far more than a mere political grouping and become more of a club; organise summer schools, history & language classes, outings to places of interest, concerts etcetera; it has to be new, dynamic, and attract the young. The local branches would be able to take this idea and make something positive out of it. There isn't a single area of Scotland without some local historical focus, and this could become the primary initiative for each individual branch. The branches also have to be seen to exist, and this brings us back to the Bannockburn Rally (see "Retaking Bannockburn"). A decent show of strength is needed, to make this day an exciting event; stalls, entertainment, etc., turn it into a family occasion and much more than a couple of dull political speeches. Imagine the turnout if Sean Connery was to attend! The SNP have contact with the man - approach him and talk to him about this. A proper platform, a real, functioning public address system, and David Ross plus Sean Connery as speakers... They would be turning people away hours before the march, and passing the buckets round a crowd that size would help swell the party coffers by a good margin.
Perhaps it might also be possible to arrange a march, say in Edinburgh, to celebrate Saint Andrew's day, held on the Saturday before 30th November. Start to celebrate our national saints' day, instead of forgetting it every year. As the patron saint of the oldest national flag in the world, he deserves a little remembrance!
The current SNP web presence is poor, and a couple of youngsters with web skills drafted in would be able to turn this round in no time with a bit of imagination. Reduce the amount of politics and policies - most punters know what the policies are, and are not especially turned on by them. Ditch the begging bowl talk - walk tall. The site needs far more history, culture and information on Scotland. A weekly webcast or downloadable file, with a personality presenting one facet of Scotland would also be cheap and achievable. Turn the site into something people will want to keep coming back to, to see what is new. Up the educational content - by all means drop a bit of politics into this - but not to the exclusion of other content, the stuff which will prompt repeated visits. It may also be worth considering a Java Script news ticker for other sites to link to, giving updates on the fight for Independence.
The other thing the SNP should consider is running an open forum, perhaps similar to the one Siol nan Gaidheal operate. There is a degree of control against spamming or trolling, and a few moderators would be easy enough to recruit. This is an excellent method of conducting debate, and indeed would allow the party heirarchy to answer direct queries (though perhaps this would be regarded as too open to abuse.) The forum is also an excellent method for disseminating information between branches, on whatever topic. It is certainly an idea which should be looked into.
Start back-tracking now on the commitment to Europe. This is a large voter turn-off, despite what the professional politicians say, and has been one of the main differences between the people of Scotland and the leadership of Scotland's Party. 'Britain' is now a sinking ship, and the European Union has too much rot in her timbers to stay afloat without massive burdens on the member states, which even then would amount to naught but a long string of stop-gap measures.
· Explain to the people of Scotland how the Common Fisheries Policy has destroyed our native industry.
· Explain to the people of Scotland how the Common Agricuultural Policies are destroying our farmers and small-holders.
· Explain to the people of Scotland that it wouldn't be Scotland's oil, it would be Europe's - and we wouldn't benefit from it at all.
· Explain to the people of Scotland the planned European justice system, where thought crimes could be criminalised as per "1984", and unelected civil servants in Brussels will decide what constitutes a crime, and not the famed Scottish legal system, preserved even under the hated treaty of Union.
Explain all this to the people of Scotland - and don't be surprised if they turn round and ask just what was the attraction of Europe in the first place. Siol nan Gaidheal is not proposing out and out isolationism. Norway and Switzerland exist quite happily alongside the EU - using it as it was initially proposed; the 'Common Market'. Not a European super-state with laws governing all the regions, but a large local trade entity, which is what it must eventually return to.
And finally, one more suggestion. The name "Scottish National Party" has served well for years. If the changes proposed above are even at least partly taken on board, how about one last one. Drop the 'National' and just become "Scotland's Party". Brief, obvious and to the point. No more snide references to the link between nationalism and nazism, a favourite jibe of our unionist enemies. Leave them with the prospect that if 'Scotland's Party' is defamed, the detractor is having a go at all Scots. Let's see just how many of them would have the temerity to do that.
With grateful thanks to many members of Siol and friends of Siol for their suggestions (you know who you are), plus Priority Independence and Scots For Independence for their input also.
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