Siol nan Gaidheal

A Nationalist Looks at the Thistle: Part One

"But there are flegsome deeps
Whaur the soul o' Scotland sleeps"

Hugh MacDiarmid

This is the first of two follow-up articles to "An SNP Man looks at the Thistle", published recently on the website. The articles examine the dilemma facing ordinary nationalists in the wake of devolution, and with the General Election looming. Our thanks to Ally, SnG member, for permission to use his forum posting as the basis for this first piece.

Recent exposures about the SNP have placed grave doubts in the minds of many Scottish nationalists. It may sometimes suit us to ignore the fact that the SNP, when agreeing to participate in the pseudo-parliament in Edinburgh, took an oath to Queen Elizabeth 11; historically, Scotland does not recognise Elizabeth 11, as Elizabeth 1 was Queen of England only. Secondly, they agreed to swear an oath to a monarch who is totally opposed to Scottish independence and is the ultimate and absolute figurehead of Unionism. They agreed to participate in a parliament "gifted" to us by an English government, and actually acknowledged their authority to do so! Scotland needed no authority other than from its own people to re-open a Scottish parliament that was never repealed!

The next unpalateable fact; the SNP in this British (sic) parliament in Edinburgh face three other major political parties; Labour, The Liberal Democrats and the Tories. After the next election we will see the Tories and LibDems either gaining a few seats or remaining static; this doesn't really matter - what does matter is that Labour alone outnumber all the other parties put together. Now take into consideration that Labour are staunch Unionists; the LibDems are staunch Unionists and, of course, the Tories are staunch Unionists. It is clear that the SNP would have a battle outvoting the two lesser Unionist parties alone. Here's the crunch, Labour have more members than everybody else put together and they of course are Unionist, so he SNP would be up against the largest party in the parliament and the two other major parties... all staunch Unionists! Draw your own conclusions!

The chances of the SNP somehow attaining this miracle are miniscule. If you check the ebb and flow of support for the SNP over the past twenty years, you will see that it moves a few degrees one way or the other. Take this as a gauge, and the SNP would need to not only hold their present figures but continue to increase them by the same percentage each election in order to take us to the majority position. This works out at about 50 years from now. Naturally by that time we will long have been a member of the EU, and would find it impossible to extradite ourselves. Reality hurts, doesn't it?

Now let's examine the lacklustre performance of the SNP since Alex Salmond stepped down as leader. Prominent here is the lack of policies, the lack of drive, and the obvious lack of ambition towards Independence. Just holding what they have had in the past is going to be a major battle. They have no popular appeal, and come across as a very weak alternative. John Swinney resembles nothing as much as the wee guy bullied at school, the one who always got picked last when the teams were lined up for playground football. How can ordinary Scots look up to spotty Walter? Ask yourself - if this was England, would he be a candidate for Prime Minister? OK, William Hague isn't much different, and this may go someway to explaining the Tories lack of popularity, and their leaders zero-appeal, so does Swinney/Hague match our idea of dynamic leaders? Sorry, but I just can't see it. Scotland has ere been a place where the 'hard man' culture has lingered but it's a persona that does command respect; much as we regret this to be the case - but Swinney looks like a victim, not someone who exudes authority nor exacts respect. This is a comment only on his appeal as a leader of a major political party and not as an ordinary individual. How can he be regarded as a potential leader/Prime Minister for Scotland?

At the moment the fastest growing political party is the SSP, it has assumed an apparent dedication to Scottish independence but has only one MSP. We now find that many disillusioned Nationalists, Labourites & LibDems are joining the growing ranks of the SSP. The debate that went on amongst the SnG NEC members was whether or not to throw their weight behind another party (SSP) that is rising as fast as the SNP is sinking. We are now instead considering a coalition between SNP & SSP, and whilst ignoring all SSP policies, concentrate on the single issue that they are both apparently dedicated to Scottish independence. If they achieved this goal then naturally that's all that matters, everyone could then go back to voting in the fashion they did prior to assisting the SSP/SNP to gain independence. It is a known fact to SnG that the membership of SSP are at this time considering the pro's and con's of such a coalition and how best they could exploit the situation to their own benefit, citing the LibDem pact with Labour as an example of how a minor partner in coalition can sometimes force their own agenda through by threatening to pull out of the aforementioned pact/coalition. Their "socialist" stance was not an issue, nor was any of their other policies of interest to SnG, who merely looked at them as a possible vehicle to take Scotland towards total independence. In the event, the vote went against support of the SSP themselves but the issue of whether or not to advocate a coalition continues. Despite our treatment as social pariahs by the party we have supported for twenty years since the illegal proscription and for years prior to, the ties which bind were too strong in this case for us to simply substitute SSP for SNP. Even given our current view that the party is taking a route which is anathema to us, we just couldn't bring ourselves to do it - proof that sentiment still triumphs over common sense, even in an organisation as pragmatic as this, but we will continue to exert pressure for change of the leadership and policy making bodies of the SNP.

The NEC proposals for the way ahead will be expanded on in the second article.

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