Monthly Archives: May 2020

We Need to Vote Smarter for Independence

The Scottish Parliament is a relatively young parliament and as such is still in many ways is finding its feet. Apparently designed to produce a more consensual, cross party politics it has in effect produced an almost even British Nationalist/Scottish Independence split, with only the Greens tiny presence tipping the balance in our favour. Even as a young parliament though there’s now enough data on previous elections to start making changes to the way that we vote. Having crept to minority power in 2007 the SNP were fortunate to win the 2011 Holyrood election with the perfect combination of constituency and list seats to give them an outright majority. However their continued success then worked against them in 2016 as their constituency gains disproportionately wiped out their list representation. The simple to understand ‘SNP 1&2’ mantra met the real world and the vast majority of SNP voters saw their second vote sit idle as the Britnats hoovered up the list seats. It is said that he who doesn’t learn the lessons of history is destined to repeat those mistakes. Many Scots have learned and determined to ensure that doesn’t happen again, hence the formation of the Independence for Scotland Party (ISP).

There are many arguments against the formation of another independence party, given that we already have the Scottish Greens, Solidarity and the Scottish Socialists. With such a wealth of choice there is apparently little room for another, after all RISE sank, and yet Scotland’s electorate aren’t really giving them votes in significant numbers. Why is that? The latter two are simply too small, both are fishing in the same pool of socialist voters and at present don’t appeal to large numbers. That leaves the Greens, the ones who at present tip the balance in favour of independence, but whose raison d’etre is environmentalism, and who I personally view as the weak underbelly of the independence movement. We recently have seen disturbing entryism in the SNP which is raising concern but is still containable and can be dealt with due to the size of the party, but the Greens are small enough that a number of determined people of a British Nationalist bent joining could see them become neutral or pro UK. After all, where does the British Nationalist environmentalist put their vote? The Greens have also been seen to collude with the Britnats to scupper the popular OBFA legislation and even have one prominent MSP who has referred to the readers of this paper as “zoomers”, so for many people they simply aren’t a popular choice. Some people might consider the tactic of “Hold your nose and vote Green” but what should those who don’t want to hold their nose do?

The SNP will undoubtedly use the vote ‘SNP 1&2’ line again, and if the Greens would only field list candidates then they might gain from an ‘SNP 1, Green 2’ approach, but hubris will ensure that doesn’t happen. So why not consider another way?

The Independence for Scotland Party would certainly use the ‘SNP 1, ISP 2’ message and that would be a clear rallying call to the Yes movement across much of Scotland. With the SNP forecast to sweep the boards on constituency seats the ISP would not stand in areas where they would damage the SNP list chance, but where they could do maximum damage to the combined Britnat representation.

There will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth from within the SNP at the emergence of this party, and that’s entirely to be expected. Having seen the horrendous infighting within the party over who even gets on the list and what position you get, there will at least be a degree of unity against a perceived external threat. But if we vote wisely the only ones threatened will be the rejected elected, the Leonards, Lennons and Lockharts who creep in to undermine our parliament via the list.

Scotland sent a majority of SNP MP’s to Westminster with the mission of settle up, not settle down. Perhaps we also need a party in Scotland with enough profile and clout to also remind the SNP that their main role is to guide us to independence, not simple to provide stable and competent colonial administration in Edinburgh. We can certainly do that if we get smart, do the homework and get behind a party like the ISP. I hope that independence supporters will go back to being the open, receptive movement they were in 2014 and give this idea a hearing. We have nothing to lose, and everything to gain. Let’s not discount this new party out of hand.

(Letter sent to The National, 15/05/20)

Published in The National, 16/05/20

Ein Volk, Ein Nation, Ein Exit Strategy

VE Day is in the air. Liberation is coming! The news that Boris “The Butcher” Johnson is planning on easing lockdown restrictions from Monday is extremely worrying. The UK government, driven by Johnson, initially planned to allow as many people as possible to catch Covid 19 to create their so-called herd immunity. Then when it was too late they implemented a limited lockdown supplemented with social distancing. Unfortunately the Scottish government has by and large followed that model, albeit with a few days difference in implementation. There has been little or nothing done here which has been radically different, and anything which has been done such as closing schools or construction sites has raised UK hackles, with British Nationalists in Scotland railing against anything which differs from the one state/four nation approach. The whole idea of devolved government is about to be put to its toughest test yet though, and possibly from next week we will see a real change in who people see as the superior parliament. Since hearing that the UK government plans to ease restrictions I have noticed a change in behaviour of the public which indicates to me that when they are given a choice between lockdown measures which are more or less restrictive a significant number of people will choose the least restrictive restrictions. If for example Johnson announces that people may meet socially and resume visiting parks for picnics and the like, but Nicola Sturgeon announces that people in Scotland must maintain the current level of lockdown for longer, whose advice will people take? This situation differs vastly from the confusion which the leader of the Tory group in Scotland Jackson Carlaw claims might occur from the use of two different tracing apps. Instead this will create a situation where people will feel that they can make the choice of whose lead they will follow. I’ve no doubt that hardline British Nationalists will make a show of choosing to follow their leader Boris Johnson in goose-step, sorry lock step, but what of the rest of us? The fact is that most people will follow the path of least resistance in life, so this will probably be no different, but people will be making a conscious decision to choose either the advice of the UK government or the Scottish one and that will be important going forward.
At the time of writing there have been around 3,000 deaths from Covid 19 in Scotland. In a country of 5 million people that is low enough that it would be reasonable to assume that many people may not have been personally affected. Some people might know someone who has had the virus, some might know someone who has died from it, but for the vast majority of people this situation has been an inconvenience which has limited their work and social life and which they have seen on TV but not up close. If we want it to remain that way, bad as it is, or get better then we need to not only continue what we have done up until now, but actually tighten up our behaviours. Recently the First Minister recommended the wearing of masks or face coverings in public places, but I’ve seen little evidence of this being taken acted upon, indeed quite the reverse. I have yet to see a policeman on the street wearing a mask, few if any shop staff wear them and those working in public transport are seldom seen with any PPE, yet all are coming into contact with the public and the public take their lead from them, from public figures of authority or responsibility. If people see that when they go into a shop or get on a train that the staff are wearing masks aren’t they more likely to follow suit? Nicola Sturgeon must now take the bull by the horns and lead us on a different path. She should make the wearing of masks mandatory in workplaces and public places as the next step in trying to prevent the spread of coronavirus. This will undoubtedly be resisted by some but I am sure this will be a necessary measure in ensuring that we do not have second and third waves of the virus; having seen tens of thousands die because of the actions of the UK government we must try to make a clear break with UK policy and demonstrate through decisive action the benefits of being able to make or own decisions about how and when we deal with the pandemic, and by extension any situation affecting the people of Scotland.

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

The behaviour of Catherine Calderwood, Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer has caused a great deal of comment on social media over the last twenty four hours and it’s really rather sad to see how many sections of the independence movement have jumped through hoops to defend her actions when they should be raging at them. Catherine Calderwood clearly broke the very rules she was telling everyone else they had to abide by, and my initial reaction was that she had been very arrogant in doing so, however in this pandemic we really need to have the best people available, and that a heartfelt and public apology would possibly have been enough to stem most of the anger which was being aired. If people could see that even those at the very top weren’t too big to be punished then this would have sent a clear message to everyone that such behaviour would not be tolerated. For these views I took some criticism on social media as some thought such an apology was too extreme, while some indulged in whitabootery, citing Prince Charles decision to travel to his holiday home as an excuse. In their rush to defend the CMO many folk threw rational thinking out of the window completely. If we aspire to create a better society, a better nation, why should we set the base line of acceptable behaviour as that of our opponents on their worst days? That makes no sense.
I was pleased and somewhat surprised to see that this is exactly what happened and that the First Minister stuck with her, valuing the contribution her expertise brought to our country’s response to the global pandemic. This should have went some way to allowing things to settle and to get on with the very important job of dealing with virus response. Sadly this was all undone when it was revealed that she had done this two weekends running and Ms Calderwood had no option but to resign. But if she has shot herself in the foot, the press have grabbed the gun and given her the coup de grace to the head. One commentator who had vociferously called for head stated that we should all “put this behind us and move on”. Presumably to new target, because even at times like this British Nationalists will put Britain first and if they can give the SNP a kicking, directly or indirectly they will do so, even if it means doing damage to the immediate medical response. This means that the SNP need to be at the top of their game, day in, day out. As elected politicians who represent their party and (to varying degrees) the independence movement as a whole they must be aware that their behaviour is being scrutinised from every angle, be it a neighbour or constituent who doesn’t share their beliefs, by political opponents looking to defeat them at the ballot box or by the gutter press who may be seated next to them on the train. This also applies to those who the Scottish Government engage to work on their behalf. Every dodgy Permanent Secretary or adviser who thinks they are above the rules is just as much a liability as those who are actually members of the SNP who behave likewise. Scotland deserves better, and the SNP need to deliver, every single time. Mistakes like we have witnessed recently may be tolerated by the happy clappers among the party, but others in the country will not be as forgiving.

Published in The National, 07/04/20