This post was way too long so I have decided to amend it and run it as a mini -series….this is part 1!
As a result of illness I had the privilege of being able to watch a great deal of both the Tory and SNP conferences. They were fascinating. Teresa May gave what sounded like the most left wing speech of any British Prime Minister since Harold Wilson, the ‘Remainer’ Tories came out as anti-immigrant xenophobes (probably because they thought this would endear them to their constituency, although the thought that they were trying to sabotage Brexit did fleetingly cross my mind!), and many of the root and branch Tories went home satisfied and happy that they had their party back. The SNP conference in Glasgow last week was even more fascinating. And profoundly disturbing. I have been thinking about it all weekend and I think I have worked out why.
Firstly I have to say how much there is to admire about the SNP. It is a well-oiled machine with many fine people within it and some excellent political leadership. John Swinney, Rosanna Cunningham, Mike Russell and of course Nicola Sturgeon are good politicians and come over as warm and real human beings! Sturgeon in particular comes across as a thoughtful, intelligent and passionate politician. She is streets ahead of any other political leader in Scotland. The SNP has managed to overcome a rigged political system and has the British media and political elites eating out of its hands. I loved their attitude to immigration – Ian Black, Alex Salmond and Katie Forbes all spoke really well on this issue. As I listened to the conference I realised that I lived in paradise! In Scotland we have a better health service, less crime, less racism and we are more caring, more communitarian, more internationalist. This is of course hyperbole, but we should not be churlish and fail to recognize the good that the SNP government has done.
But….there is something rotten in the state of Scotland – and in the SNP. I think that the media and many of the senior politicians have not grasped the major change that has occurred. Rather than independence being the be all and end all of the SNP, it has been sidelined.
The SNP seems to have given up on real independence and instead has morphed into a different party – a party of the new elitist establishment.
In fact in Scotland it largely is the establishment. I heard one delegate say that for him, as for many of the new members, independence is a means to an end, not the end itself. The SNP membership has grown by 100,000 in the past months and I suspect that many of them are not nationalists in the traditional sense – they are people who see the SNP as giving them as opportunity to get their ideal world (as well as of course an opportunity for some careerists to get a political career). So what does the SNP stand for? What is the ‘end’? Alex Massie and others completely misunderstand – this is not about Scotland’s Independence – this is about the religion of progressivism and the fantasy of the EU.
Firstly it is Progressive – this buzzword along with equality and inclusion make up the holy trinity of todays SNP ideology. I wonder if anyone actually knows what it means? Is it part of the Marxist Social Darwinianist view of history that assumes (without evidence) that humanity is inevitably getting better? Is that why in any argument about the new morality anyone who dares to disagree with the elitist view is automatically branded as ‘on the wrong side of history’?
This leads to constant repetitive of ‘progressive’ slogans from ‘progressive’ politicians, funding for ‘progressive’ causes and virtue signaling from those same politicians. This was seen at the conference when in a cringe worthy display of smugness and self-righteousness, a panel of SNP Westminster MPs mocked their fellow MPs and boasted about their own achievements and how people in England wanted to be like them! John Nicholson, an SNP MP, told of how he had as an SNP MP become the first in the list of those who can present a private members bill. And what key and cutting issue for the people of Scotland was he proposing? He is putting forward a private members bill that pardons gay men who have been found guilty of a crime that is no longer a crime. When he announced that he was doing this with the support of the Tories he was greeted with rapturous applause. Really? However worthy, with all that faces us in Scotland and the UK, this is the key issue?
Secondly it is Pro-EU- From being a convenient answer to the question could Scotland survive on its own (answer ‘we won’t be on our own, we’ll be part of the EU’), this has become the raison d’etre of the SNP, the central core of its creed. “An independent Scotland within an interdependent EU” makes no more sense than ‘an independent Scotland within an interdependent UK”, but that does not stop the mantra being repeated ad nauseum.
Again it was interesting to watch how all the main politicians stayed on song, repeated the mantras and refused to engage with any of the key questions. John Swinney was asked who was speaking up for the third of SNP voters who voted to leave the EU. His response? ‘We have an open debate in our conference’. As someone who watched the whole debate I have to say that that was somewhat ‘economical with the truth’. Where were the MPs, MSPs and local councilors who voted Leave? They are not allowed to speak against party policy. This hardly constitutes ‘open debate’.
John then went on to tell us that we must ‘protect the open, progressive internationalist Scotland that people want Scotland to be’. But he didn’t explain why belonging to a protectionist-trading block like the EU fulfills that mandate. When asked about Iceland he didn’t answer, just reverted to the default mode of the conference – blame the Tories.
He then repeated another mantra (repeated ad nauseum by fellow SNP politicians and on social media – are they given a crib sheet to memorise?). ‘Nicola was speaking for the whole of Scotland who voted to remain’. No she wasn’t because the whole of Scotland didn’t vote to remain. 1.6 million out of an electorate of 4 million voted for the UK to remain in the EU. This is hardly warrant for claiming to speak for ‘the whole of Scotland’. She is not even speaking for the whole of the SNP – 400,000 SNP voters voted for the UK to Leave. Furthermore it may seem somewhat obvious, (but the SNP spin doctors have become rather good at avoiding the obvious); no one in Scotland voted for Scotland to remain in the EU, because that was not the question on the ballot paper. We didn’t have a vote on that issue.
Remain means Remain!
Angus Robertson came up with the twee sound bite ‘ ‘for us – remain means remain’ without explaining what that means. The UK voted to leave. But does the SNP really want us to remain in an EU which for example insists that we subsidise the Queen, the Mormon Church and the Sultan of Dubai just because they have land in Britain? Because ‘remain’ means remain in the Common Agricultural Policy, a policy which makes a mockery of the SNP’s proposed and right land reform.
Angus then went in full threat mode…’if you continue to ignore the express will of the people of Scotland’…This is clear chutzpah. 1.6 million Scots voted for the UK to leave the EU (this apparently cannot be ignored) whilst 2 million Scots voted to stay in the UK (this apparently must be ignored). But hey, who said logic ever came into politics?
The Oldest Alliance in the World…?
Not to be outdone Mike Russell, our Brexit minister, informed us that ‘we are part of the oldest alliance in world, an alliance we will never give up’. As a historian I found this rewriting of history to be fascinating. Given that the EU has only been around for a few decades what was he referring to? Our alliance with France (short-lived and disastrous), Scottish mercenaries going of to fight for Gustavus Adolphus? Our wars with Germany? France? Italy? Spain? The Netherlands? In terms of ‘alliances’ the oldest continuous working alliance in the world is between Scotland and England in the UK. But Mr. Russell does want to give that up. Confused?
And finally the First Minister, our Nicola has really swallowed the progressive ‘EU as religion’ pill. She complained that the UK had been changed fundamentally which puzzled me, because surely that is the purpose of the SNP – to change fundamentally the UK? She wanted a ‘progressive outward looking internationalist Scotland able to chart our own course’! – Yep, that word again. But she ignored the elephant in the room and no one else seemed prepared to point it out. If we are in the EU we are not able to ‘chart our own course’ on a huge range of issues. She declared ‘we want our own parliament to be independent’, claiming freedom from a UK parliament where we have 59 MPs out of a total of 650, whilst proposing that we enthrall ourselves to a European Parliament where we would have 6 out of 751. Go figure!
Another great quote from Nicola –
“Independence brings its own challenges but with independence the solution lies in our own hands”.
Indeed. But why does that same statement not apply to the independence of the UK from the EU?
The most revealing quote (and one that was not picked up by the press) came when Nicola expressed her motivation – she explained that after the EU vote
“I felt as though part of my identity was being taken away”.
This is such a revealing quote. The EU had moved in SNP eyes from being a corporate capitalist conspiracy which wrecked the Scottish fishing industry, to the Saviour of Scotland – something which was part of our identity. That’s why she was prepared to change long-term SNP policy, (no deals with the Tories) – to ‘building on the common ground of ‘No’ voters wandering about Brexit ‘ and working with Labour, Lib Dems and Tories to prevent Brexit. I found this whole proposal quite chilling and indeed against everything the SNP used to stand for. The SNP used to campaign against the EU. Now having wanted to prevent a democratic vote on the EU (they were opposed to an EU referendum) today they want to prevent the result of that vote being realized. Can you imagine how they would have reacted if the Indy Ref vote had gone our way and then Westminster used every trick in the book to prevent or delay it happening?! We have been bought and sold for EU gold – such a parcel of rogues in a nation.
This is why it is the great blasphemy in the SNP to question the EU – the couple of speakers who tried were given short shrift. One brave man, Robert Martin, admitted he voted Leave but was immediately put down by Dr Alistair Macleod who in response said that ‘despite what we have just heard, Scotland has always been an internationalist country’. It was a disgraceful and dumb statement. Being against the EU does not mean that you are not an internationalist. In fact it is precisely BECAUSE I am an internationalist that I am opposed to a European Union which seeks to create a Fortress Europe for the benefit of the corporate elites, and harms Africans, Asians and Arabs.
EU or UK Meltdown?
This is why the SNP swallows the irrationality of freaking out about the potential harmful financial effects of leaving the EU, whilst dismissing the far greater potential harmful financial effects of leaving the UK. It is disappointing, to say the least, to see SNP government ministers retweeting scare stories about Brexit from corporate bankers and currency speculators, when these same bankers and speculators were putting out the same scare stories when they feared that Scotland might become independent. Incidentally the SNP seem to have forgotten the intervention by senior EU figures in the Independence Referendum trying to stop us voting Yes. Memories are short.
There was one policy announcement concerning the EU which was greeted with cheers by the delegates – although I wondered if any were aware of what it actually involves. We were told that free tuition for EU students would be extended for another year. What’s wrong with that? Firstly it makes a mockery of the SNP’s claim that it doesn’t matter where you come from – because if you come from England or Wales or Northern Ireland you have to pay the full whack. Or indeed, China, America, Africa or Australia. Are the Scottish government prepared to pay for English students to study in Scotland on the same terms as Scottish and EU? And whilst I think it is great to have as many international students as possible in Scotland – we do need to ask what is possible? Is it right to spend £27 million of public money son free tuition every year to an increasing number of EU students (from 6,738 to 13,312 in 9 years), whilst strict caps are placed on Scots and most of Scotland’s Universities are struggling?
Indy Ref 2?
Anyway lets come to the headline stuff. The threat of another Indy Ref. This is a deeply cynical move by the SNP, not as Ruth Davidson, Alex Massie and others are stating, to get independence, but rather as a means to stop Brexit. The SNP’s primary function is no longer to get an independent Scotland; it’s to keep Scotland and the UK in the EU. The threat of Indy Ref 2 is a bargaining ploy. My view is that the establishment in the EU never accepts the results of referendums and that they and their allies within the UK establishment will do everything to derail this one. The big corporations, the City of London, the bankers, the civil service, the educational establishment, the legal establishment, the arts establishment, most of the media and the political parties will do everything they can, by hook or by crook to either prevent Brexit, or neuter it so much that it will be largely meaningless. As an SNP supporter I am deeply ashamed that my own party is siding with the bankers, the corporates and the metro elites just because they have bought into the whole EU myth.
I am also somewhat disappointed at the lack of discernment in the main hall. Nicola threw the delegates the red meat of another Indy ref, but they did not appear to notice the garb in which it was clothed – ‘consultation’, ‘draft bill’ etc. In other words it’s not going to happen. The Westminster government would have to agree and they won’t. And the Scottish government wouldn’t want them to, because, despite the EU love-in that occurred at the conference ,the majority of Scots don’t care enough about the EU to seek to break up the UK. The SNP know that, but they have to play the game, talk up division and danger and hope that they can scare enough people or create enough anger to drive people to their side.
Nicola says that there is no mandate to leave the Single Market. Technically that may be correct but in reality what does she think that voting to Leave actually meant? If the Single Market is the EU by other means then there is a mandate. And why this obsession with a single market? Why can’t we have multiple markets and in this age of globalization trade with Africa, China, the Americas and the rest of the world, as well as the EU? It is foolish for a Scottish government to put all its eggs into one basket. In fact they seem to have fallen into that age-old trap of the Scottish cringe – we can’t do it so we need someone else to look after us. We can’t govern ourselves or look after our own economy. If we give up London and its subsidies then we will have to accept Brussels and its subsidies. Instead of fighting tooth and nail and being used by the corporates to keep the UK in the EU, the Scottish government should be seeking to take advantage of the great opportunities that will arise because we are no longer bound by EU trade deals, or indeed the lack of such deals.
Who cares for the Poor?
The obsession with Europe meant that other issues were often ignored. I admired the speaker who pointed out that there were no resolutions on taxation and the economy. Am I the only one who was puzzled that a child poverty act is needed after ten years of SNP government? I know it is convenient and partially true to blame the Tories, but do we not have any responsibility for our own economy and society?
And what about Trident? It’s all very well to feed the conference delegates the sweet honey of ‘we will always oppose Trident’, but that turns sour and bitter when the parties’ policy is to remain part of NATO, an organization that relies on Trident. Sheltering under the nuclear umbrella whilst moralizing about nuclear weapons is not honest politics.
For Part 2 – The Nightmare begins click Here
For Part 3 – Fantasy Politics – Why the SNP are Giving up on Independence – Part 3–Childcare
PS. I guess I need to offer this disclaimer – these views are my own personal views and not those of the Free Church or Solas or any other group I am from time to time associated with – such as Dundee FC, Dundee Chess Club or the SNP!