Siol nan Gaidheal

SNP - Lost the Plot?

Siol nan Gaidheal have been accused of many things over the years, some of which we happily admit to, and others which appear to have derived from serious hallucinogen abuse on the part of the accuser. All in all, we are pretty much immune to it. One thing we have, however, at all times been staunch in, and that has been our overall support for the Scottish National party. We may, at times, have begged to differ on approach or emphasis on various strategies, but despite the continuing proscription from some 19 years ago, we have always unswervingly voted for, and encouraged all other nationalists to vote for this, our National Party - the only one we felt could lead us to Independence. To quote from our Constitution: "We leave the party political struggle for Independence to the Scottish National Party who are well able to destroy the Unionist argument in the electoral challenges to which they are periodically called."

Times change, situations change, and leaders change. Twenty-two years on from the first Referendum on devolution, we now have a devolved Parliament in Edinburgh, albeit a toothless one. The situation has changed in that the Labour Party are now back in power after being ditched by the electorate following the 1979 debacle, but with radically altered policies almost unrecognisable to the informed Scottish political analyst. And leaders change - Alex Salmond resigned as leader of the SNP, as did Jackie Stokes as leader of SnG. Despite a change at the top, however, some things should not change, and prime amongst these is the cause of Independence. Siol nan Gaidheal has not altered our stance, our total commitment to our people and our country one iota despite the change in National Organiser. But what of the SNP?

Anyone with eyes to see knows that the present parliamentary arrangement set up by the British Unionist Labour Party was a ploy intended to ensnare Scottish politicians and convince them that they were actually participating in a Scottish government. Finding themselves well paid, with all the perks of staff and offices, status and a dubious sort of fame - small wonder they are laughing their heads off in Millbank and Westminster as to how easy it was to buy off the SNP so cheaply. This has put the nationalist movement under serious threat, though the reality is that most nationalists do not fully realise the divisions that exist within the party itself. The victory of the gradualist John Swinney in the leadership contest launched a profound sea change in policy, which became almost immediately evident. Despite the election of staunch republican Roseanna Cunningham to the Deputy Leadership, presumably a sop to the fundamentalists among the Party faithful, the Party's approach became immediately muted, low key, and almost totally non-confrontational with regard to the Unionist parties. Instead they are merely attending a sitting of a Westminster-appointed Assembly. The costs involved in this white elephant are astronomical but a drop in the ocean in comparison to Scotland leaving the Union and taking its natural resources with it. We have already witnessed the attitude of Blairites and, sadly, Swinneyites who feel that the rank and file are just there to vote, not to interfere in the inner workings of the party itself. The SNP now seems to regard any deviation from its "endlessly flexible definition" of nationalism as traitorous behaviour. Gradualism has been described as "death by a thousand cuts", and this is what appears to be happening to the Scottish National Party. There are many good people, staunch supporters of the SNP who have been turned off by the lack of real leadership and direction, and they are looking for the charisma that only a true leader can bring - or at least some innovative policies or new strategies to tackle the Unionists.

The SNP have for years campaigned and advocated that Scots should vote for them, telling us that being independent would ensure that everything in the garden would be rosy. Nowadays it is quite clear that the SNP are in fact quite happy to remain in opposition in Edinburgh and get off on their own little power trips, enjoying a fair lifestyle whilst accepting their wages from the British state. Should some accident come to pass and, horror of horrors, they were actually swept into power then the machinery to offset this is already in place. The insane idea of a referendum in the first instance, and then merely passing on all power to the European Union in order that they don't have to assume any real responsibility. If the SNP leadership is so good, why are they not winning by-elections? Why are they not proposing radical policies to solve Scotland's problems? Instead, they are posturing on the Mound in the sure and certain knowledge that they will not be called to account.

The SNP had climbed to their highest ever level of support pre-Salmond standing down, when that level stood at around 38%. Let's apply some very basic mathematics to this: if there were 100,000 Scottish voters out there, then the aforementioned percentage for the SNP would translate as 38,000 votes. That would therefore mean that there are 62,000 voters who do not support the SNP. Using these figures we can see the uphill struggle which was still facing the SNP at the height of their popularity. All right, now consider the dissatisfaction among nationalists at this time; and further consider the doubt in the minds of other floating voters who might have been thinking of supporting the SNP. It is now fairly obvious that the previous percentage of support will have dropped considerably due to bad leadership, a lack of positive policies, a veritable wasteland of innovative ideas or strategies - need we go on? So where stands the SNP today? Considerably further down the league and with a mountain to climb, even if the whole idea of Scottish independence hadn't already slipped from their minds.

So where do the SNP go from here? If there were no change in policy or leadership, then the answer would clearly be oblivion. Should they somehow or other be straightened out and return to the single goal of Scottish independence, then we still face a mighty battle to remain in contention with the British Unionist Labour Party. All in all, there can be no doubt whatsoever that a calamity of major proportions has taken place. The decision by Alex Salmond to resign was the first major blow; the infighting between the Gradualists and Fundamentalists proved there was a schism within the ranks of the SNP hierarchy; but the selection of John Swinney and therefore the victory by the Gradualists was the most telling blow of all. This caused much despair among the grass-root membership and caused the present cloud of suspicion and lack of confidence in the party, which is patently obvious to all. The latest decision to have Alex Salmond return to Westminster to represent the SNP's interests there, must cause nationalists some consternation. Here we have a man who decried Westminster and the MP's who chose to remain there rather than work in the newly-founded Scottish parliament, and insisted that Scottish independence would be won from Edinburgh, now returning to the hub of Unionism in Westminster - what does this mean? It could be yet another sign of John Swinney's lack of confidence, that he feels that the SNP needs further representation outwith Scotland, and an indictment of his fear that Scotland cannot win independence through representation in Edinburgh. This is a charge that SnG have levelled at the SNP since the conception of this Wooden Horse parliament which the SNP should have avoided like the plague, as it was set up to destroy the clamour for independence and undermine the SNP. Now, it looks like the notion had more than a bit of merit.

The way forward is to either create an alternative to the SNP, or to work to change the infrastructure of the party. By this we mean that we must oust the gradualists and their crazy strategies, which have more in common with emulating England than creating anything new or innovative from a purely Scottish context. A stronger SNP must be formed, they must show this parliament up for what it is, they know they have no friends in the media - but action speaks louder than words and the press will always report on "sensationalism". So let's make our party "sensational". Get the revitalised SNP to stand united in the Edinburgh Assembly and pose the unanswerable questions, force the opposition to admit that they would always form a coalition rather than see Scotland independent! This is what will provide the opening for the SNP to walk away from this unconstitutional talking-shop and form a real Scottish provisional government. It is only by sitting down and debating each and every idea, every single point, can we be assured that we have attempted this in as democratic a fashion as possible. These ideas should represent the common views of the majority of those wishing to see the SNP change direction and policies, not to mention the appointment of the right people to carry out what we all hope will be a new strategy for Scottish independence.

We need a party that will place Scottish independence in the forefront of all that they do. Their job will be to change the party into a more dynamic, aggressive and active group of politicians, encouraged to be innovative and not to hold back from the Unionists. They must know that the support they will receive will be much more than just people willing to place a cross in a ballot box, they will find that their support is solid, vocal and active. Our party's confidence will come from the knowledge that the new SNP activist is prepared to do far more than just vote. We want Scottish independence and we want it as soon as possible - the powers-that-be had better get their heads around this notion because we are not taking NO for an answer, if push comes to shove then ALL nationalists might have to reconsider the parliament in Edinburgh. Does it truly represent the nationalists of Scotland? Can it ever? Should we see the old story of the other three unionist parties forming a coalition to prevent independence then we must then state that "This parliament no longer represents almost half the people of Scotland!" This may be a Siol nan Gaidheal initiative, but the cause that we support is far bigger than any one group, it concerns us all. Each person is as important as the next; we cannot suffer from egotism or thoughts of elitism in this struggle for our country's liberty.

The SNP at this time are almost down and out, although perhaps we need a few more polls to confirm the truth of this. The figures being bandied about at this time are numbers of past SNP voters, they aren't taking into account the disillusionment and lack of interest that now abounds, if as they say the SNP are riding on the crest of a wave at this time with their popularity sitting at 38%, then why aren't they winning by-elections? Anniesland was forgivable but Falkirk was a disaster. The SNP are in for a real shock come the General Election, a shock that will make Anniesland and Falkirk look like near-run things in comparison. We in Siol nan Gaidheal accept that our own stance of abstention certainly will not help the SNP in its present mess, but we have reached the end of the line with them. Siol nan Gaidheal knows when to say ENOUGH! Unless the SNP can prove they have policies that matter; they can prove they have re-introduced Scottish independence as their first priority; they are willing to adopt a more aggressive stance towards the steamroller tactics of the unionists; and lastly, they can assure us that the gradualist approach is being ditched - then until these things are up for grabs Siol nan Gaidheal, its friends and supporters, will abstain from voting for the SNP and encourage others to follow our example.

Addendum: It has been suggested by a SnG supporter that rather than NOT use our vote, instead we should fill in the ballot paper with the words Scottish Independence Party/Independence Now! A spoiled paper perhaps but a clear message to the SNP that the electorate are not willing to see our political party become the new Scottish Gradualist Party with independence as far away as at any time in the history of the SNP.

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