Siol nan Gaidheal
Ten Years After
This article appeared in the 1991 issue of the Siol nan Gaidheal magazine. Read through it and ask yourself - has anything changed in the past ten years?
The State of Independence
There are two factors which are delaying and endangering the prospects of Scottish independence. The first is the SNP's policies and direction, the second is the misplaced political cynicism amongst the electorate.
Before I move into the rant and rave mode, I would like to point out that the views in this article are not necessarily shared by Siol nan Gaidheal, and that the 'No Politics' policy of Siol nan Gaidheal is still an aspect of their constitution.
The editorial in the Glasgow Herald (11.12.90) commented on the SNP moving away from being a movement in which all Scots, who share a common belief that no matter what party was in control, Scotland could and should be independent. The editorial was affirming that the SNP are becoming more and more a party with systematic policies, occupying a niche in the left-right political spectrum. This state of affairs is being further exacerbated with their recently-announced plans for "Independence in Europe". The SNP are moving, as Jim Fairlie put it, down a cul-de-sac. It was for this reason that I resigned from the party a week before that editorial in the wake of the two Paisley by-elections.
An 'exit' poll shown on STV on the night of the by-elections illustrated the number of voters in Paisley who, while supporting independence, voted for parties other than the SNP. This is an indictment of the SNP's tactics. The SNP are failing to act as an efficient magnet for independence seekers. If further evidence is required then why do around 33% of Scots at present support independence, yet the SNP's support hovers around the 20% mark? Furthermore polls show that not all SNP voters support independence. The gap between SNP voting nationalists and nationalist in toto is disturbing.
The SNP are by their own admission left of centre. They are in reality a centre party with token socialist gestures thrown in for the central belt's benefit. By attaching this idealogical tag to themselves they are leaving themselves vulnerable on two counts.
The first is obvious. Centre party politicsis not a force and hasn't been for some time. The Liberals last had overall control of Britain in 1915. It is debatable if that government could actually be labelled centre considering that Labour did not adopt a socialist programme until 1918. It is patently clear that by adopting this centre party stance (designed I suspect to avoid upsetting or discouraging left and right wing sympathisers) the SNP are doing themselves no favours at all.
The other problem with a nationalist party having policies is that your opponents are allowed the opportunity to draw you away from the central, crucial argument. This can be seen in practice every time SNP and Labour lock horns on television. Instead of promoting and supporting the concept of independence, the SNP find themselves using valuable media time and space defending their own brand of politics, whether it be policies on local income tax, the nationalisation or privatisation of British Steel, etc., or the Central European Bank. These are serious problems but the SNP do not seem to understand that there are people out there who, while supporting independence, do not agree with the remedies proposed by the SNP. To summarise, there are left and right wing nationalists who ideally would like to see their ow style of politics operative in an independent Scotland but are unwilling in the short term to sacrifice their left or right wing stance in order to achieve independence. This is what the Paisley 'exit' polls were trying to tell us.
The answer to this dilemma comes in the shape of a movement. A political movement. Not the type of movement seen in Romania or Hungary. That type of people power does not happen in democracies. People will not go through the hassle of getting beaten up by riot police if they have the option of taking a stroll to the polling ststion. I ask all the right-on radicals who employ political cynicism to further their street cred, to consider the following. It's Murphy's First Law of Democracy that the minority (there must be one) claim that democracy is not in operation. It is, if you like, an inevitable by-product of democracy. It is not about beating the system. It is about using the system to achieve what you believe in. No team has ever won the Scottish Cup by refusing to participate in the earlier rounds and, in a political democracy, independence can and will be won by playing the system at its' own game. In a nutshell, if your ideal is sound then it is possible to obtain majority support. If your ideal is not sound and remains in the minority then by imposing your ideal against the will of the majority, in by-passing the political system, there will be an inevitable outcome. The old Communist Europe will testify to that. And before anyone starts thinking, who is this idiot claiming that we have a political democracy, ask yourself why the people of the Eastern Bloc took to the streets? It was in order that they may, if they want, go down to a polling station at regular intervals and elect a government. Does that not sound familiar?
We need a political movement which does not feel that it has to take up a position on the political spectrum. A Mandate For Independence party. The MFI party (no jokes about the cabinet tabling a motion!) has a clear straightforward ideal. If you support independence then vote for MFI. MFI will not dictate the style of government in a post-independent Scotland. That will be the choice of Scots in Scottish general elections. When independence is attained then the MFI will become redundant and will disband. This is a party which must, by its very nature, appeal to all nationalists. By possessing o policies, MP's when elected would be independents, free from the constraints of toeing the party line.
But the trump card is still to be played. No longer would Labour be able to attack and exploit the party line in the way it does at present with the SNP. Labour's only form of attack would be to declare and attempt to prove Scotland incompetent of governing and sustaining herself. This is something that at the moment Labour are scared to do, in the interests of public opinion. Scotland is derided and devalued enough by the Tories and the English media without Labour joining in. Also there are too many left wing nationalists at the moment voting Labour (around 35% in the latest polls). The MFI movement could concentrate on its sole objective. To convince the electorate of the potential of their country and to destroy the myths and propaganda which are so damaging to this nation's confidence.
Tell the electorate of the £1.3 billion generated by Scottish agriculture, and tell them of the Tyndrum gold mines. Tell the electorate that 50% of the productive woodland in Britain is in Scotland, and that 12.6 million tourists contribute £1.6 billion every year into our economy. Tell the electorate about the instrumental role that Scotland's numerous and clean west coast sea-lochs are playing in the rapidly growing and hugely successful fish farming industry. Tell the electorate about how much of their money leaves the Scottish economy via income tax and enters into the English economy thanks to armies of civil servants in London, MOD sponsored garrison towns like Aldershot and Colchester, subsidised high mortgages in the home countries, etc. Ask the electorate why the EEC would want to stand in the way of the country which contributes 40% of the fishing and 80% of the oil in the EEC at present. When the electorate ask if existing industries would stay and could Scotland attract more, remind them that in industry the crucial factor is energy. If the host country can produce plentiful energy at competitive rates, then companies are interested.
Our geological position makes the west coast one of the most efficient sites for wind and wave production in the world. Fair Isle erected a wind generator and slashed their electricity bills by 75%. We already have the potential wave power generating stations all over the North Sea - oil rigs. With peat, coal, oil, nuclear, wind and water power, Scotland is per capita the most energy wealthy country on the planet. Our 5 million population is more energy wealthy than Saudi. We are even at present exporting electricity to England, via the national grid system.
Small countries who do not have clout in the big world can use the big boys in an effective manner. For example, if the Scottish people express the wish, democratically, to have US or English military bases on our soil, for whatever reason, then charge these countries 'rent and rates'. It is a small country's role to exploit the exploiters.
Now, when was the last time that the SNP bombarded the electorate with spiel like all that? It is not that they do not want to, but that they have enough on their hands defending their own policies from opposition attack. There was a programme broadcast on St. Andrew's night called "Scotching the Myth", demonstrating that Scotland subsidises England rather than vice versa. This one hour long programme was more effective in promoting the nationalist cause than the SNP have been over several years.
So where is the foundation of this MFI movement to be found? Siol nan Gaidheal? On page 6 of Siol nan Gaidheal News issue 4/5 there is a line; "Our philosophy avoids the divisive codes of party politics". That is in common with a political movement. There is a difference between No Politics and No Policies, and I think that Siol nan Gaidheal may recognise this.
The SNP are not offering the freedom they believe they are. Yes, they will deliver independence, but their politics are part of the parcel. Of course the chances are that in the first Scottish general election, the SNP along with the Lib Dems will be squeezed out, and judging by previous election results in Scotland, a socialist party must start favourites to make the first Scottish government.
If Scotland is a lump of clay, the Scottish people have to be convinced the clay is worth moulding into something beneficial. The SNP are taking things too far by trying to play the part of the sculptor at the same time. Let the people decide what shape the clay should assume, once they finally accept that it is indeed a viable proposition.
© Siol nan Gaidheal, 1991
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