The quetchetariat (unfinished)

I abandoned this article because I grew weary of addressing points that I’ve addressed on innumerable previous occasions. I only post it now because it has been mentioned in a Twitter exchange.

I use a handy browser extension that allows me to highlight passages as I read articles online. Typically, I’ll pick out interesting content in yellow. For particularly notable points where the writer presents some new perspective or expresses an idea in a manner that prompts an inadvertent nod of agreement or open-mouthed smile of realisation, I use green. Red is reserved for the stuff that really grates. The stuff that makes you grimace, scoff, swear, splutter or stare in slack-jawed wonder at the sheer idiocy of it. By the time I’d finished reading Gerry Hassan’s latest droning diatribe the page was a sea of red.

It is entirely fitting that such a piece should appear on Bella Caledonia – which has long been a haven for those ‘righteous radicals’ who would rather see the independence movement fail than have it succeed on anything other than terms which they can’t even agree upon among themselves. People whose support for independence is, at best, equivocal and conditional. People who see ‘indy’ as little more than a marketing device for whatever narrow agenda they’re espousing this week. People deliciously dismissed by Roddy Macdonald as the “Holy Wolfies of the Byres Road Cappuccino Commie set”.

I rarely pay any heed to Gerry Hassan’s writing these days, for much the same reason as I tend to ignore David Torrance. It’s simply that neither has anything interesting to say. Both speak to us from somewhere outside the Scotland that we know and remote from the politics with which we are engaged. They talk about the stuff of our everyday lives and commonplace activities as part of the Yes movement in a manner which suggests they’ve learned about it only from reading accounts written by others who know only what they glean accounts written by the Hassans and the Torrances.

Just as the mainstream British media has its cosy consensus of mutually affirmed assumptions, preconceptions and prejudices, so the likes of Bella Caledonia and Common Weal have a shared narrative which, especially when referring to the SNP, seems to derive from remarkably similar biases.

This narrative tends to be presented in the style which oozes pompous superiority. You can’t get past the title of Hassan’s piece without stepping in some of that superciliousness. “Time to Wake Up and Ask Some Difficult Questions about the SNP and Independence!” he declaims. As if the rest of us have all been in some sort of dumb stupor and he alone has been applying the weight of his formidable intellect to the “Difficult Questions”. Not, you may note, Difficult Questions about the British parties and the Union. Certainly not Difficult Questions about the Holy Wolfies and their Cappuccino Communist agendas. The biases that Hassan shares with British Nationalist writers such as Torrance are those  revealed in the fact that Difficult Questions are only ever to be asked about the SNP and Independence.

We can get a sense of those biases by taking a look at some of the bits that have been given the red highlighter treatment.

Scottish politics is, we are informed, in a “becalmed period of inertia and inactivity” while “everyone is waiting to see how Brexit pans out”. It is, we are assured, “a politics of passivity, and even of acceptance”. Or, at least, this is how the SNP and the Scottish Government see things. Quite how Hassan arrives at this conclusion is not explained. And it needs some explanation, given that it is so much at odds with the reality of a Scottish Government taking forward a programme which is bolder than anything seen in the UK since the distant days when Labour was a socialist part with genuine reformist zeal at its heart. Not to mention an SNP which has at last decided the time is right to be more assertive and forthright.

Of course, that programme for government will never be bold enough for the Holy Wolfies. The SNP administration could nationalise all public transport, take all land into public ownership and introduce a universal basic income, and those Byres Road Commies would still be huffing into their cappuccinos about how timid the SNP is. Because, for them, its not about what is achieved, but the fact that achieving it requires the effective political power which is anathema to them. It’s not even a partisan resentment of the SNP, although there is certainly a great deal of that. The righteous radicals will always be instinctively opposed to any party that is in power. It is the power itself that they abhor. The ‘hard left’ will always remain on the fringes of politics and never achieve anything because they fear and detest the power that is needed to actually bring about meaningful reform.

To those who glory in ‘honourable’ failure, success will always appear as betrayal. The greater the success, the greater the betrayal. The railing of righteous radicals against the SNP can be taken as a measure of the party’s success.

But it’s not just the SNP. Apparently, the independence movement is beset by “a problematic mix of complacency, and even self-deception”. Really? I wonder how many Yes meetings Gerry Hassan has attended of late. It shouldn’t be difficult for him to find an event that slots into his busy schedule. As those who are actually involved in the Yes movement will be well aware, there are Yes events taking place all over Scotland practically every night of the week. When you have fifty or sixty people braving the worst that Scotland’s winters have to offer in order to meet with fellow Yes activists, that does not betoken anything akin to “complacency”. And if Gerry Hassan deigned to listen in on the proceedings at these events what he would hear might make him marginally less contemptuous of the grass-roots Yes movement.

It’s all the fault of the SNP, of course. According to Gerry Hassan, “the SNP leadership has failed to grasp the political momentum post-2014”. Not only that, but “Nicola Sturgeon has not made one strategic gambit since the indyref”. I don’t mind admitting that the shallowness of this analysis aggravates me greatly. What the hell is it that Mr Hassan would have had Nicola Sturgeon do? We’re never told. What grand political gesture might have satisfied his craving for drama? We are given no clues.

Adopting a less blinkered perspective, what we see is the SNP – as a party and an administration – working with the “political momentum” while, crucially, keeping open as many options as possible. A strategy which I suspect most of us would regard as eminently sensible considering the fluidity of circumstances and the power differential which makes the UK Government the main driver of developments. What’s the point in going against the flow if the current is taking you where you want to go anyway? Due to those biases mentioned earlier, Hassan is blind to the “strategic gambit”, made by Nicola Sturgeon, of not interrupting while the enemy is engaged in helpful blundering.

Here’s a thought that surely has never occurred to Gerry Hassan. Nicola Sturgeon may just be cleverer than him. The fact that he imagines she was “out-manoeuvred by Theresa May” when the latter called a snap UK general election in 2017 certainly suggests he is not as clever as he thinks he is. The reality obscured by the assumptions, preconceptions and prejudices that he  brings to his ‘analysis’ is that, by any rational measure, the SNP came out of that election in exactly the same position as it went in. Which, under the circumstances, was something of a triumph, rather than the ‘defeat’ of the narrative shared by Messrs. Hassan and Torrance.

I’d be happy to explain the foregoing at length to those in whom it has provoked the anticipated knee-jerk reaction, but there’s a lot more red highlighting to get through.

For example, there is the notion that the “advent of the Corbyn Labour Party” marks some sort of significant development in Scottish politics. It’s almost as if Gerry Hassan supposes the “Corbyn Labour Party” to be something new and different. Not all of us are so easily taken in. Lacking the Labour-tinted spectacles, all I see is a Jeremy Corbyn who, doubtless at the instigation of party spin-quacks, has done everything short of donning a red dress and tartan shoes in a farcical effort to mimic Sturgeon and steal a ride on the SNP’s success.

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About Peter A Bell

Thinker. Listener. Talker. Reader. Writer. None of my attitudes are immutable. None of my conclusions are final. None of my opinions are humble.
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3 Responses to The quetchetariat (unfinished)

  1. grizebard says:

    Oh, a pity the article ended where it did, because it was just getting even more interesting than it already was!

    The rot set in, I believe, with the sinking without trace of RISE in the Scottish elections of 2106. The Union/Indy polarisation of the political scene was so binary by then that the True Believers had nowhere to go, electorally speaking. It must have been a bitter blow not to be in any position to influence events, unlike the Greens.

    The arrival on the English scene of Jeremy the Saviour seems to have put them in something of a quandary, for how best now to pursue the desired Nirvana? In their anguish the best they seem capable of doing is nit-picking at the SNP from the sidelines. They are simultaneously assuring us that our time won’t come until 2020 or even the next Scottish elections in 2021 while also bemoaning Nicola and her party for being too lacklustre and letting slip the Main Chance!

    As for JC, there will be no Second Coming in Scotland. He clearly knows nothing about us, and cares even less. He has nothing to offer us except a return to the bad old days where once again we can safely be taken for granted. Nobodies in the Great Scheme of Things. Judging by performance so far, his new proxy in the Northern Accounting Unit will be even more effective in demonstrating this utter failure of imagination than his unfortunate predecessor, who did at least attempt to construct a figment of autonomy.

    It’s high time for the quibblers to “accentuate the positive”, and turn to working together for the one thing that makes everything else possible, genuine autonomy in an independent country. Only then can politics return to something like normal, whereupon they will be free like everyone else to persuade the people of a new country that they have the best ideas for how it can develop. Let us hope that they have the self-confidence to be able to do so.

    As Ben Franklin bluntly put it in that last great break for freedom from the English Empire, we have to hang together or we’ll hang apart.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Del says:

    The majority of Articles about independence on Bella, start from the premise that the only good Independista is a radical left wing Independista. I still read Bella but gasp at its presumption.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Peter A Bell says:

      I didn’t get to the most depressing bit of Gerry Hassan’s article – the bit where he asks “what is independence the answer to?”. It seems he simply cannot imagine a case for independence stripped of a policy agenda. He derides those who regard independence as something worthwhile in its own right. He does not see independence as a purely constitutional issue, but as part of a leftist campaign.

      It seems that Gerry Hassan doesn’t actually have a problem with the Union. He doesn’t see it as something that is actually harmful to Scotland. Therefore, he cannot conceive of independence as a solution. He can ask what independence is the answer to because he can’t understand it terms of rectifying a constitutional anomaly.

      Independence is the answer to the question of where sovereignty lies. Independence says sovereignty lies with the people. It says the people are the sole source of legitimate political authority. Nothing has to be appended to this. It is sufficient in and of itself.

      Liked by 1 person

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