This is a response to Alan Bissett’s article, No Shame, No Blame, Moving Yes Forward, on Bella Caledonia. It is being published here because that site continues to block all my comments.
Let me say first of all that I admire and respect Alan Bissett and appreciate what he is attempting to achieve with this article. Some might say that simply enunciating the issues and cataloguing the positions, is a pointless exercise. I would maintain that anything which helps clarify thinking is helpful. It can happen that a dispute becomes self-sustaining, achieving a momentum of its own independent of the underlying disagreement(s) which provoked it. A dispassionate enumerating of the pertinent points of departure can have the effect of reining in passions. A splash of cold water on the inflamed passions of the parties to the dispute. Alan is to be commended for his effort in this regard.
However… And there was always going to be a qualification here. What is important is that the attempt to fill gaps and clarify aspects is undertaken in the same spirit of analytical rationality as the original effort so that it does not, itself, become a new bone of contention. I ask that everybody reading this accepts that my response to Alan Bissett’s article is offered in this spirit.
What I find absent, wholly or in part, from the article is an acknowledgement that the parliamentary diversity which was the stated ambition of what I shall refer to only as the other pro-independence parties (OPIP) was always an effective impossibility. Whilst an entirely admirable aim in itself, it was not achievable in the election just past.
I seek this acknowledgement, not for the purpose of petty gloating, but because I see a danger of the OPIPs being perceived as slipping into the kind of habitual denial of responsibility that has come to characterise the reaction of British Labour in Scotland (BLiS) to each new ‘temporary setback’ – or catastrophe, as others would regard it. It’s not about blame. It’s about demonstrating a capacity and a willingness to ‘listen and change’ such as BLiS has so signally failed to do.
I see this explicit acceptance of reality as essential to the health of the OPIPs and their relationship with the the SNP, the wider independence movement and the electorate. I see it as more than a gesture. But, even if it were no more than that, it would be an important gesture. I’d like ‘moving on’ to be more than a trite phrase. I’d like to be sure we’re moving on in the right direction, and unencumbered by unresolved or only partially resolved issues.
I’d like to see an acceptance that the whole ‘tactical voting’ strategy was a bad idea. That it was a mistaken strategy. Or, at least, that it was a strategy which was not appropriate to the time and circumstances. My own view is that the OPIPs should not have been seriously contesting this election at all.They should have been using it as an opportunity to gain experience; develop skills; build the apparatus necessary to be an effective player in the arena of power politics. Most of all, to gain the respect of the electorate. All of which would have stood them in good stead for the council elections next year.
As I see it, this would have been best achieved by adopting a role as a discrete adjunct to the SNP’s election campaign. By plainly and openly subordinating party interests and policy agendas to a more pressing imperative, while never abandoning or diluting a distinct political identity. The OPIPs message to the voters should have been along the lines of, this is who we are; this is what we stand for; but this is what we need to happen right now. This, to my mind, would have been in keeping with the collective spirit of the Yes movement.
I offer the foregoing, not by way of an unasked and almost certainly unwelcome lecture in election strategy, but because it relates to my next point about what I feel is missing from Alan’s article. Because the approach that I have outlined is only possible if there exists an amenable attitude born of a particular understanding of the nature of the SNP and its role in the independence movement.
I recently wrote elsewhere that we’d know the Yes movement was on the right track when activists from other parties and none no longer felt obliged to start every conversation with the words, “I’m not SNP…!”
Stop apologising for the SNP!
Stop behaving as if the SNP is something to be ashamed of!
Stop buying into the British establishment’s grotesque caricature of the SNP!
It is not necessary to pepper every discussion of Scottish politics with banal observations about how the SNP is ‘not perfect’. There is no need to constantly remind everybody that the SNP is not the whole independence movement. There is no call for incessantly reasserting your non-SNP credentials. The SNP is not an aberration.
Stop treating the SNP as if it is something that is happening to Scottish politics and recognise that it is just Scottish politics happening.
It is part of what should be the normal democratic process. It is unusual only in that it doesn’t fit the mould of the British political system. We should welcome that difference! It is exceptional only in that it is a tool in the hands of the electorate, rather than in the hands of the British establishment. And in that it is an extraordinarily effective tool. Which is why the British establishment is so afraid of it. We should cherish that effectiveness! We should relish that fear!
The SNP is the de facto political arm of the independence movement. Let’s be glad of that. Because it is working. Look where we are!
Let’s not get carried away with naive notions about doing our politics differently before we’ve created the means to do so. Let’s recognise that, even if the SNP doesn’t represent the different politics that we want, it most certainly represents the only viable tool by which we might lever our way out of the old politics.
Let’s get our heads around the vital difference between being independent – with all that this implies – and becoming independent. Let’s get used to the idea that the becoming precedes the being, in every sense.
Let’s accept that, even if we totally reject everything that the SNP stands for in terms of being independent, it is absolutely crucial to becoming independent.
Let’s insist that there is only one Yes movement. And that the SNP is, at this stage in our journey, the most important part of that movement. Not because of what it is, but because of what it can do. what ONLY it can do.
Let’s not lose sight of our ideals and our aspirations and our principles. But let’s not let the shining light of our vision blind us to the practicalities.
Let’s beware lest our most powerful tool in the effort to create a better, fairer, greener society be neutralised by the folly of factionalism and dogmatism.
Let’s be mindful of the fact that this tool was created by the people of Scotland, and that its power derives from their democratic mandate. Let’s respect that.
Yes will not move forward without the SNP. There’s no need for blame or shame. But there is an urgent need for this reality to be very publicly embraced by the entire Yes movement.Views: 9969
Many thanks to everyone who has been kind enough to make a donation.
Your generosity is quite extraordinary, and very much appreciated.