Siol nan Gaidheal
Open Letter prior to the 2001 Conference
It is with a continuing sense of pessimism and despair that we in Siol nan Gaidheal have viewed the recent turn of events concerning the SNP and their leader John Swinney's attempts to secure the National Independence of Scotland through the promotion of this, not just as a credible and desirable option, but as an essential undertaking for our people.
Their failure to argue for an immediate return to our historical existence as a separate national entity in favour of a "gradual" approach, and an absurd wish to ignore an SNP win in favour of a second referendum, mixed with a slavish desire for a new subservience to the European Union which will impinge further on the lives of our citizens than Westminster could ever hope to do, has always been viewed with suspicion by both Siol nan Gaidheal and the committed Nationalists of our country. However, it is the failure to galvanise the people of this great, ancient nation, and their attempts to portray their abysmal performance in the recent general election as a success which have led to Siol nan Gaidheal reviewing our position as a cultural and historical movement, prepared only to sit on the sidelines and criticise.
The National Conference to be held later this month in Dundee is the most crucial in the SNP's history. In order to prevent the complete denial of everything the Party has purported to stand for, some very hard decisions must be made, and made promptly. The insidious growth of gradualism in the Party, coupled with the very serious decline in support for the SNP, must surely give a clue as to just what has gone wrong here.
The SNP used to stand for Independence. Yes, in the last couple of weeks, we have actually heard this obscure word uttered again by the high heid-yins of the Party - but nowhere is it given top priority. John Swinney has been rushing hither and thither, glad-handing the local high heid-yins of the branches of the Party, but nowhere listening to the grass root support and activists - those on whose support his status finally depends.
The SNP have been suckered into the trap set by the Unionists, of having to have a fully detailed policy on everything, and constantly to have to explain these policies to the satisfaction of the Unionist questioner. How difficult do they want to make it for themselves? A few succinct facts and figures regarding each policy is sufficient, and attack those of the opposition instead of constantly being on the defensive - often about the indefensible.
The policies themselves change from year to year, Conference to Conference. Does anyone recall the 1987 General Election Manifesto, 'Playing the Scottish Card', back in the halcyon (sic) days of Gordon Wilson? Three quotes for now will suffice:
"The power demanded for Scotland by the SNP will be no different to that held by most countries who are members of the United Nations." But not in a country which has handed all sovereign powers from one master to another.
"In arguing for Scottish Independence, the SNP has maintained that the Scottish people must be allowed to decide their own constitutional future. Decisions taken in London will be designed to divert Scotland's energies away from gaining real political power. This was the case in the 1974-79 period when only toy-town Assemblies with no useful power were on offer." Would anyone from the SNP care to explain to the Scottish public just what possible difference there is between the 'toy-town Assemblies' spoken of here, and the one currently in existence? In name, perhaps, but not in powers…
Then of course there's "The SNP support an expansion in the use of Gaelic" - currently under attack in Perthshire, Swinney's own home turf. If it's under attack there, what chance have the rest of the Gaelic-speaking areas got?
The ineptitude currently displayed by the leadership of the SNP is perhaps unsurprising. Security of tenure is a marvellous thing, and to be assured of a job for life as Her Majesty's Official Opposition in Scotland must be comforting. However, it was not for this purpose that the party officials were elected, and they would do well to remember this fact. The Scottish National Party was formed on the premise of Independence for Scotland, and on that premise alone. Not the maintenance of a comfortable Union with our southern neighbour, complete with Vichy Parliament and next-to-no real powers; and assuredly not for a headlong rush into Union within a European Federal State, replacing one master with another. The electorate are becoming increasingly uneasy with the idea of closer union with Europe, and this is reflected in the falling polls for the SNP.
As many know, Siol nan Gaidheal and the Scottish National Party were once unequivocally intertwined; a group within a party who both shared the same vision and yearning for an independent, separate Scotland. Free from the subservient Westminster rule which for centuries has broken the spirit, pride and optimism of our people for a Britishness which, at best, has been treated with a lukewarm reception from our people - at worst, the contemptuous hatred it deserves for its destruction of our culture and the cloning of our people into the same race as that of our eternal and consummate enemy. Differing attitudes toward the urgency and necessity of self-determination and a love of our proud and defiant history as the way forward to the future changed all this, and Siol nan Gaidheal can only look on with despair at the complacent and disinterested approach to National Sovereignty of the party we once campaigned for relentlessly.
Siol nan Gaidheal are not suggesting that there is any easy fix for all of this. But there are quite a number of things that might be debated in conference. So here are a few for consideration:
1. Half of the Scottish electorate is female, but from a feminist point of view both Labour and the SNP are merely patronising, paying lip service to the promoted ideals. Is Scotland incapable of producing a strong female political leader? John Swinney hasn't got anything like the political acumen of Margo MacDonald or Roseanna Cunningham, or even of Nicola Sturgeon or Fiona Hyslop. The Labour heartlands are solidly 'working class', but Margo MacDonald has consistently made inroads into their power base, the Central Belt, having already fought and won in Glasgow. Something to consider, especially as she has a strong personality which many men admire.
2. A new slogan - SNP for Independence, THEN pick your Party! This would have a broad appeal, and cross all political lines. Vote for us, then we resign! The only people who could possibly argue against such a move would be the political jobsworths, those who live off the backs of the rest of us and perform no useful function. A chance to get rid of the likes of these would certainly have great appeal, and would also greatly facilitate the electoral process in Scotland. It is unlikely that we would see the turkeys voting for Christmas, but from a moral standpoint it would be highly impressive.
3. Ditch the deeply unpopular and constitutionally deadly headlong rush into closer union with Europe. Very few people in Scotland hold with closer ties with the EU, and far less would wish to see our nation subsumed into further nonentity. This would certainly attract a great deal of the floating vote, and more besides. To quote from the august journal quoted above ('Playing the Scottish Card'), "We would oppose moves for further centralisation in the EEC to create a European super state." Neatly put, Gordon, when did that all change? And then there's "The SNP opposes membership of any military alliance possessing nuclear weapons." So why the haste to get Scottish regiments into the European Rapid Reaction Force? Nice to see the real consistency in policy over what - a fourteen year period? How times change.
4. A minimum period of 10 years outside Europe from the date of Independence before the people of Scotland decide on any move into the EU. We also propose the scrapping of any referendum on Scottish independence after an SNP majority in the Edinburgh assembly. A majority of nationalist-minded MSPs returned to the Mound/Holyrood is automatically a mandate for independence without any need for a dubious referendum.
Nobody in Siol nan Gaidheal is remotely suggesting that we hold all of the answers, or that we alone are right and everyone else is wrong. The opinions expressed here are merely those of Siol nan Gaidheal - but they are broadly supported by many, many others who are not allied with us in any way, simply concerned nationalists. We should warn the SNP that as they approach this, their most important chance for free debate, Siol nan Gaidheal is currently aware of a new proposed political party, poised to enter the Scottish Forum. We have seen detailed policies, rationally outlined, and with which we in broad terms agree. We are informed that this as yet unborn party merely awaits the outcome of this year's National Conference. If suitable and radical reforms are made, and the SNP gets back on track, then the new party will die unborn, and indeed unrequired. But it is there, waiting in the wings, should the SNP continue its dive to destruction. Scotland's sovereign and ancient rights are held too dear to be wasted by those who do not hold our nation's best interests at heart, and those who would do her down for their own financial gain are no friends of Scotland. Nor would they ever merit our future support.
Alba Saor A-Nis
An Ard Chomhairle Naiseanta
The National Executive Council
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