Siol nan Gaidheal

An SNP Man Looks at the Thistle

"For wha o's hae the thistle's poo're
To see we're worthless and believe't?"

Hugh MacDiarmid

A modern Scots Parable

Angus MacLeod is a well respected local General Practitioner in a modern city suburb. His practice is part of the areas medical centre, and he has built up his role there to become part of the local community. He is now several long, hard years out of University, and skilled at his job, which he mostly enjoys, despite the unsocial hours and night calls. Married, with two young children, he lives within the community he serves. Politically, he's always been a nationalist. Descended from a Highland family, he was brought up with tales of wrong-doing against his kin, and the inherent latent resentment against the wrong-doers. At University he joined the student branch of the SNP, and managed to combine political activity with his studies. Once he qualified, though, real life and the necessity to earn a living impinged on these activities, and now, although still a faithful member of the Party, he has lain dormant as he married, raised a family, and worked hard on his chosen career.

He still keeps in touch with several of the friends he made during his student years, and occasionally, over a pint or a dram, they thrash out again the policies they once dreamed of creating in a Free Scotland. One of those friends is still an activist, and member of the local SNP Executive. He views Angus with the eyes of one who calculates every move before making it, and somewhere in that political mind the idea forms that here is an ideal prospective candidate. After many hours talking it over, Angus agrees to stand for the SNP as a councillor at the next local bye-election. His known and respected local profile, and one of the usual 'sleaze' stushies mean the incumbent Labourite is ousted, and Angus is elected to the local council to represent his ward.

A couple of years down the road, Angus is toiling a bit. Council work, combined with his medical duties, mean that he is spending little time at home with his wife and children. But there is some hope, politically, as the new Labour government has announced that it will grant Scotland a little government of its very own. During debates and selection, Angus shines amongst the many who come forward for list selection, and he is duly put forward as a list candidate. The Blessed Donald, Saint of Dewar, has decreed that "There will be a Scottish Parliament", and rejoicing fills the land. Elections are duly held, and Angus MacLeod becomes a list MSP for the SNP. He has to resign from his practice, but - after all - he has a real job now.

How his life has changed! A couple of hours a day in the chamber, with the occasional contribution of "Blah, Blah" or "Rhubarb, Rhubarb" to enliven the debate. Sitting around in the party offices, discussing the plotlines of English soap operas he now has the opportunity to watch of an evening. No more unsocial hours, plenty of time to spend with his wife and kids, long holidays abroad (plus a few little trips 'fact-finding') - all the things he dreamed of whilst struggling in the medical world. His DIY skills have improved, due to the fact that he has time and money to spend on his house. All the perks mount up - his wife acts as secretary, assisting with answering a few constituency letters, so he can claim an allowance for her, too. The utility room has become an office, with all the latest hi-tech gadgetry essential to the performance of our nation's needs. He gets tomorrow's news today, so his little share portfolio is growing nicely - after all, it's not really insider information, is it? The papers carry the news next day, he's just getting in ahead of the rush. His money's as safe as the Bank of England. Then, just when it seems it can't get any better - reality bites!

The current Labour majority in the Scottish Parliament (sic) is toiling. General unrest in the land means that there is an outside chance of the Nationalists carrying the day and - horror of horrors - a majority. Suddenly, all the advantages of this new job seem to becoming millstones. If, by some mischance, Independence is achieved - what will this mean for poor Angus? A vastly increased workload - after all, opposition is easy, but now he'll have to deliver the goods. Responsibility and accountability (two words all politicians hate) will now become his watchwords. If it all goes wrong - he may be out. Back to the humdrum medical world, unsocial hours, night calls, drug-crazed addicts, hypochondriacs and chancers - with a chance of catching disease from the great unwashed! The horror, the horror! as Mistah Kurtz said...

So what is to be done? Isn't life just sublime the way it is? Isn't it easier not to push too hard, do too much? Enjoy the benefits without the responsibilities? Angus asks himself "Do I really want an Independent Scotland or is it better to stick with the status quo?". Breeze along the way things are, retire (with a good pension) a well-respected local man made good, get invited onto the board of directors of a few companies - in short, the Good Life. Ask yourself this question, and be honest.

What would you do?

Consider the Lungfish. A native of the African plains, during the wet season it thrives, breeding in the burgeoning waterholes so essential to life there. When the dry season arrives, it buries itself in the mud, changing from gill-breathing to air-breathing in order to survive, hidden and silent. When the rains arrive again, out it pops, to flourish again in the waters of life. Change the waterhole to a political environment, and this becomes a perfect simile for the SNP.

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