Straw man wars

How many more times must we be subjected to some posturing intellectual ponderously informing us that “the movement is not the party” as if they were revealing some great truth rather than flogging the arse off a straw man that was long since reduced to a pitiful scattering of chaff?

But at least that little gobbet of glibness makes some kind of sense. Which is more than can be said for the following paragraph.

“But the current impasse has partly emerged due to the SNP’s shift towards a central focus on holding an independence referendum. This is a policy that is widely regarded as having been pivotal in offering a route for voters sceptical of independence to back the party in other electoral contests.”

I’ve read that a dozen times now. But for all the superficial cleverness of the words, I still can’t squeeze any meaning out of that second sentence. To be fair, that may be due to the difficulty of getting past the grotesque fallacy of the first sentence. In the world most of us inhabit, it is the British parties and their accomplices in the media who have been obsessing about a new independence referendum, while the SNP tried to focus on the topics that the British parties and the British media were so desperate to divert attention from – austerity and Brexit.

The fact that the author chooses to run with the narrative pushed by British nationalists is very much in keeping with the tone of the piece. A pompous, lecturing, hectoring tone we have become painfully familiar with from those sections of the Yes movement which find it convenient to blame the SNP for perceived or imagined failings of the independence campaign so as to avoid the need to acknowledge their own part in hindering progress towards independence.

Because this embracing of the anti-SNP narrative of unionist propaganda is hardly unusual. It is to be found everywhere the self-appointed priesthood of the Yes movement are given a platform to peddle their high-minded sermons about how the rest of us are doing it all wrong. One thing the independence movement has never lacked, especially it became significant enough to attract the attention of poll-pondering technocrats, controversialist poseurs and righteous radicals, are people telling how we’re talking to the wrong people, in the wrong places, about the wrong things, at the wrong time and in the wrong way.

And, of course, the SNP is always a favourite target for these snipers from the sidelines. The more the party wins, the more the Yes movement’s cadre of carpers find reasons to criticise and condemn. In some sort of Orwellian process, success becomes failure. Progress becomes retreat. Every advance is perversely interpreted as a retreat. An attitude that is almost entirely explained by a deep-seated aversion to effective political power. An aversion which overwhelms any ambition whose realisation is ultimately dependent on effective political power and leaves in its place a willingness to settle for the tawdry garlands of honourable defeat in preference to the weighty responsibilities that come with achieving a goal as momentous as restoring Scotland’s rightful constitutional status.

There is ample evidence of the corrosive attitude to the SNP that infects a small but very vocal part of the Yes movement. Here is one example that speaks volumes about this self-defeating antipathy towards the movement’s crucial political arm.

“Electoral success is also the best means to smooth over internal dissent. The almost mythic discipline of the party in Holyrood and Westminster can partly be attributed to the fact that it has been able to distribute an expanding set of front-bench and committee posts for a decade.”

Here is a paragraph redolent with a bitterness towards the SNP barely distinguishable from that which suffuses the rhetoric of the British parties in Scotland. Granted, the author only “partly” attributes the SNP’s internal discipline – acidly described as “almost mythic” – to patronage. But why comment in such a vein at all? Why not remark, instead, on the vastly more significant explanation for this discipline – the fact that the party has a unifying purpose in it unequivocal, unconditional, unwavering commitment to the cause of bringing Scotland’s government home?

One can’t help but suspect that this resentment is occasioned in both those who attack the independence movement from outside and those who undermine it from within by an identical appreciation of the SNP’s critical role in levering Scotland out of the union.

If you find these articles interesting, please consider a small donation.
All monies received are used in furtherance of the campaign
to restore Scotland’s rightful constitutional status.

About Peter A Bell

Thinker. Listener. Talker. Reader. Writer. No attitude immutable. No conclusion final. No opinion humble. Lifelong campaigner for the restoration of Scotland's independence.
This entry was posted in Politics and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Straw man wars

  1. alasdair galloway says:

    What a bitter and self centred article. With a few tweaks I could change this to the typical Labour Party “if you’re no for us you must be against us” meme. I’ll leave to one side your selectivity of quotes to criticise Silver’s article, but even taking up those you use demonstrates how sad and misguided your pov is.
    First of all you seem perplexed by “This is a policy that is widely regarded as having been pivotal in offering a route for voters sceptical of independence to back the party in other electoral contests”. Maybe I can help? How about the policy is intended to attract those who dont support independence – there has long been a view that not everyone who votes SNP supports indy after all, but just like their other policies (free prescriptions etc) – to reassure them that they wont be forced into independence, there will be a choice?
    More significantly you say that “But the current impasse has partly emerged due to the SNP’s shift towards a central focus on holding an independence referendum. ” is a fallacy. Is it? I see you quote no evidence for out, so how about voting six times in four years and twice this year? Did you see the interview on the BBC of the woman in Bristol being told there was going to be a General Election? You might live and breath politics Peter, but not everyone does. It also allowed Davidson – with Dugdale dragging along a bit behind – to put up a policy of “no indyref2” as a sort of dog whistle to the Unionist vote. It is utterly true that she had little in the way of policy other than this, but you can hardly knock going from 1 MP to 13, no matter how disgraceful it was that she got away with it.
    You seem to find it wrong that anyone would “blame the SNP for perceived or imagined failings of the independence campaign ” – what about the real ones? We did lose in 2014 suggesting there were issues to be addressed – you know like currency, pensions and so on. If the SNP has come up with watertight policies for either of these – or the others – then it has passed me by. There is, I think, merit in the argument that the SNP has focused overly much on devolution and winning power at WM and Holyrood. That said, they did do this with some success, and its also fair to say that a focus on devolution was necessary for the duration of the Smith process and the passage of the most recent Scotland Act. But I do have a sense of independence, and campaigning for it rather losing some intensity. This is not to be against the SNP – or does it not need “critical friends”? Like I said, I would hope one could be critical without getting the “if you are not for us ….” etc response.
    As for your second quote, I think the point you miss is that the internal discipline of the party can become overbearing when/if it has to be in coalition with others during, for instance, an independence campaign. The SNP is, and I suspect always will be, far and away the largest single component in the independence movement, but it has never actually got its vote over 50% for anything (2015 was a very close miss) and so it needs the support of others to get there. Its about retaining that 50%, but also looking closely at how the other few percent can be taken from elsewhere to secure success. For the avoidance of doubt, retaining the support of those already onboard is crucial – but so is making the necessary changes to attract the additional support needed for success. If the SNP is not the means to achieve this then do we not need to look more widely, to be more inclusive, to loosen off that “mythical party discipline” to achieve our purpose.
    Moreover, I think maintaining that discipline can be to work against the end of independence. I was never convinced about the wisdom of the White Paper – notwithstanding its defects – because while it pointed to the type of Scotland possible under independence, other types of Scotland under independence are always possible. Which one it becomes depends on us, the electorate. It is not in the gift of any one party. The media would certainly have alighted on to this, using words like “chaos” etc, but is there not the possibility of arguing for an independent Scotland on the basis that we can take our own decisions, including what type of country Scotland will be when we become independent? The White Paper gave them a static target and the opportunity to snipe whenever a leading supporter of independence seemed to say something that was at variance. The fact is that we all have our own hopes and aspirations for an independent Scotland – why not make a virtue of that?
    In short Peter, if there is a need for further support over and above what the SNP has just now, there are two ways it can try to secure this – by absorbing it, or by working with it. In my view the latter is the better course.


  2. alasdair galloway says:

    and a reply that is sadly typical of your ex cathedra ad hominem approach to anyone who has the temerity to disagree with you. Sadly you are typical of too many SNP hacks fearful of their loss of status if they dare to agree – or even not to disagree – with anyone putting forward even a slightly heretical view.
    Oh and there are in fact 7 paragraphs there – you can usually tell because the preceding line ends a wee bit early.


    • Peter A Bell says:

      In your wee head, what do you imagine to be the ‘status’ that I’m fearful of losing? With that one comment you expose your dumb prejudice.

      If I was dismissive of your comment it’s only because you said nothing either new or interesting. You’re perhaps two years behind the debate. As evidenced by the fact that you’re still banging on about currency and pensions.

      The first independence referendum campaign is over. Whatever lessons it had to teach us have either been learned, or never will be. It’s time to move on. Time to address the new referendum and the new political context in which it is happening.

      Get back to me when you catch up.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s