Suppose someone were to tell you that, in the coming local elections, there would be people going around wearing Yes badges but urging folk to vote for a unionist party. What would your reaction be? What would your attitude be to a group portraying itself as being pro-independence whilst actively campaigning on behalf of a party that is vehemently opposed to independence?
Would you immediately assume that this was the work of British nationalists stooping to new depths of unprincipled behaviour? Would you be appalled, if unsurprised that the wolves of hard-line unionism would resort to draping themselves in the sheep’s clothing of the Yes movement in an effort to dupe people into voting for candidates whose party is absolutely committed to the preservation of the union at any cost?
How much more shocked might you be were you to discover that, rather than some devious ploy dreamt up by the union flag-wrapped fanatics of Scotland in Union, the plan to tout votes for unionist candidates whilst posing as independence supporters is actually the work of one of the groups that was at the very heart of the Yes movement during the first referendum campaign?
It is entirely possible that this plan is not motivated by malice. It need not be that this is a case of some faction adopting the independence label as some kind of marketing device by which to further personal ambitions and partisan agendas. It may well be that those responsible genuinely believe it is possible to abstract the independence campaign from council and parliamentary elections and the rest of Scottish politics. It may be that they are naive enough to suppose the campaign for independence can be isolated from ‘normal’ politics. That it can be put into some kind of quarantined category to be addressed separately as and when expedient.
This is, of course, the most abysmal folly. Politics, like history, is a continuing process, and not a series of discrete events. Where we are right now in terms of the fight to restore Scotland’s rightful constitutional status is at the end of a line which can be traced unbroken back to the Acts of Union and beyond. That line may be erratic. It may be confused by branches and loops. It may grow fainter the further back we go. But it is unbroken.
At a more manageable scale, we can draw a line from a more recent starting point, say the 2007 Holyrood election, to the present day and we will find that this line passes through every political event of any significance along the way. It leads inexorably to the 2011 SNP majority government; the first independence referendum; the SNP landslide in 2015 UK general election, right up to the EU referendum and its aftermath. Everything is connected. Nothing exists in isolation. To pretend that any one part of the tide of political developments is irrelevant to any other part is to deny something akin to an iron law of nature.
Understanding the nature of the relationships is as important as acknowledging the existence of those relationships. The process is dynamic. Relationships are not fixed. It may previously have been possible to argue that local elections are ‘different’. That their relationship to the rest of the political process was marked by particular characteristics that made them some kind of exception. Special rules applied. But it is nonsensical to suppose that, while everything else in the political sphere is changing – often in extraordinary ways – the status of local elections somehow remains fixed and immutable.
The plan to campaign on behalf of the parties of the British establishment while claiming to represent the campaign for independence is not – or, at least, is unlikely to be – motivated by any purpose to undermine the independence movement. It is explained, rather, by an abject failure to appreciate the context in which the 2017 local elections are happening. It’s a similar kind of fantasy politics to that which lay behind the RISE ‘tactical voting’ nonsense during the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections.
We are talking here about people who genuinely believe that it is possible to treat elections and the independence campaign as two entirely distinct strands of political activity. Strands which do not meet, or overlap, or impact one another in any way. They quite sincerely suppose that they can campaign for the union in elections without this having any effect on the independence campaign. They really seem to think they can fly the banner of the Scottish independence movement when that is convenient, then drop that banner in favour of their old British party allegiances when it comes to elections.
They reckon it’s that it’s OK to go around telling people that they’re pro-independence while trying to elect politicians who would sell their grandchildren into slavery in order to preserve the union.
They simply don’t understand the realpolitik of our situation? They actually believe people can afford to indulge their personal agendas and partisan allegiances and it’ll all work out fine in the end because, deep down inside, they mean well?
This is down to a bare-knuckle fight. The British state is a cornered beast. We saw how vicious and unprincipled they were in the first referendum campaign. AND THAT’S WHEN THEY THOUGHT THEY WERE GOING TO WIN EASILY! We simply can’t afford any weakness now.
And, make no mistake, anything less than a massive surge in favour of the SNP in the local elections will be loudly and interminably hailed by the British parties and their allies in the media as a collapse in support for independence. This would severely weaken Nicola Sturgeon’s hand when seeking to secure a second independence referendum. Perhaps to the extent that Westminster might be able to rationalise refusal of a Section 30 Order. Or allow the UK Government to claim control of the process. Which would, of course, be even more disastrous than blocking the referendum altogether.
At the very least, one or more of the British parties would be able to assert that it was OK to vote for them even if you want independence because this has been endorsed by a leading group within the Yes movement.
There are always consequences to any action. Failure to take due account of those consequences, or insistence on remaining stubbornly blind to them, is just plain irresponsible.
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