Why did nobody think of it before? How could it not have occurred to anybody that it would be a good idea to have “an honest assessment of why we lost so many SNP MPs last year”? It seems so obvious once somebody says it. Once it’s pointed out, it seems truly remarkable that nobody in the party has properly reflected on the outcome of the 2017 UK general election.
Not a single person in the SNP has noted that it was a snap election for which the party was ill-prepared. Nor that this made it no different from any other party. It wouldn’t be a snap election if everybody was expecting it.
Nobody recognised that, because this factor was common to all parties, it could not satisfactorily explain any effects that were unique or particular to the SNP. Nobody realised the implication of this – that the SNP vote was especially vulnerable.
It’s startling that it’s taken eight months, and today’s urging from Pete Wishart, before anybody was moved to examine the reasons for this vulnerability. You’d think somebody might have remarked on the fact that last year’s result for the SNP was only a major decline when compared to the 2015 landslide. You’d think somebody might have suggested that such a comparison makes no sense. You’d think somebody might have pointed out that comparing these two results was like comparing coal to diamond.
It is astounding that nobody in the SNP analysed the outcome of the 2017 UK general election thoroughly enough to have noticed that, by all meaningful measures, the party came out of that election in exactly the same position as when it went in. Still a clear majority of MPs from Scotland. Still more seats than all the British parties in Scotland combined. Still the third largest party at Westminster. In terms of what matters within the British political system, the SNP hadn’t lost anything. If only we’d had that “honest assessment” we’d be aware of this.
Notwithstanding the fact that, by any halfway dispassionate analysis the SNP’s result in the 2017 election was a resounding victory, it is reasonable to ask about the factors in that election which exclusively or mainly impacted the SNP. Again, it is incredible that after such a length of time we need prompting from Pete Wishart to conduct this basic analysis.
And it’s not as if it is all that difficult to identify the factors which particularly affected the SNP vote. The party’s failure to get its vote out is, perhaps, the most obvious. Had we got around to this “honest assessment” earlier we might have found the explanation for this in such things as ‘election fatigue’ and a somewhat muted campaign.
Had we not inexplicably neglected the kind of review now being called for by Pete Wishart, we might already have discovered the ‘tactical voting’ by British Nationalists. We might have properly recognised the part played by the British media. We might have realised that the entire election was effectively a contest between the SNP and the British parties, with the latter enjoying ready access to the resources of the British state.
Had we not been in a state of catatonic torpor for the past eight months we might have given the 2017 election result some thought. And we might have concluded that, all things considered, it wasn’t such a bad result for the SNP. Having taken from the campaign whatever lessons were there to be learned, we would then have been able to move on to matters of more immediate importance. We wouldn’t be sitting shame-faced as Pete Wishart points out how remiss we’ve been. We might even be wishing he’d raised the matter earlier.
What are these matters of more immediate importance? Not, I would suggest, a prolonged internal “conversation” within the SNP. Important as restructuring and reorganisation certainly is, we simply don’t have time for any self-indulgence. The threat to Scotland’s democracy is imminent. We have to address that threat now. If there is one thing we need it’s a sense of urgency. I’m not getting that from Pete Wishart.
On the issue of the EU, for example, we find Pete Wishart talking about a process for independent Scotland “rejoining the European Union”. He appears to have resigned himself to the democratic will of Scotland’s people being treated with utter contempt by the British state. I expect nothing else from the British political elite. But I expect better from our elected representatives. I expect them to respect the fact that Scotland voted Remain by a decisive margin. Not ‘Rejoin’! Remain! The first priority of Scottish politicians must be to stand up for Scotland. They should be resisting the British establishment’s efforts to undermine and delegitimise our democratic institutions. Not fretting about how the damage might be mitigated afterwards.
It is true that we need to “design a roadmap” for a new independence referendum. But that roadmap must take account of the rather significant fact that the British state is determined to prevent such a referendum ever taking place. And that Brexit offers an ideal opportunity for a constitutional redefining of the UK which would seek to lock Scotland into the Union.
We don’t only need a ‘roadmap’. We need a timetable. A schedule which takes due account, not only of what we want to achieve, but of what the British establishment will be doing to stop us.
Who could disagree that, whether we’re talking about the SNP or the independence movement as a whole, we “need to be more agile and nimble in response to the quickly changing Scottish political environment”. But, again, this lacks the necessary sense of urgency. We don’t just need to be better at responding to the machinations of the British state and its propaganda machine, we need to be more proactive. We need to be more adept at setting the agenda and pre-empting the intrigues of British political elite, as well as more prompt and vigorous in dealing with the distortions, disinformation, smears and lies peddled by the British media.
What we most certainly do not need is a new vision for independence. The case for restoring Scotland’s independence is made. It doesn’t change. It hasn’t changed in any significant aspect since the Union was imposed on Scotland over three centuries ago. It is a straightforward matter of constitutional justice.
While restating the constitutional case is, of course, an essential part of the independence campaign, it is not enough. We need something more. Arguably, we have already won over all the people who might be attracted by our positive vision for Scotland. What is required now is that we open people’s eyes to the negative implications for Scotland of remaining bound to the British state.
As an ordinary party member, what I want to hear from candidates for Depute Leader of the SNP is, not platitudinous pieties about ‘conversations’, but pragmatic proposals for confronting a British political elite whose malign intent towards Scotland becomes more explicit with every passing day.
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