I don’t mind admitting that, in the week or so since the election, I avoided reading articles by Robin McAlpine. Just as I avoided reading articles by Gerry Hassan and others. I body-swerved them because I knew well enough what they would say. And I knew they would irk the shit out of me.
I suspect I’m far from alone in being utterly pissed off with what Derek Bateman calls the ‘I-Know-Where-the-SNP-Went-Wrong’ pontifications. I’m sick of the solemn lectures on how the answer to every known political, social or economic problem is an increased dose of ‘Dr Shafi’s Radical Snake Oil Liniment’. I may well gouge out my own eyes rather than let them light upon yet another one of those ponderous ‘Independence: The Next Steps’ pieces.
Don’t get me wrong! I respect Robin McAlpine’s undoubted abilities. And I don’t doubt his commitment to the cause of independence. But he’s a technocrat. And his greatest enthusiasm is for the tools and techniques of his trade. So much so that he sees every situation first and foremost as an opportunity to deploy his expertise and use his shiny instruments. Show him a headache and he’ll skip the cold compress on the forehead and go straight to the brain surgery.
But here’s a curious thing. For all his conviction that his methods will be effective in selling independence, he doesn’t even consider the possibility that those methods might work with selling the SNP. He’s absolutely certain that his science can change people’s attitudes to independence, but accepts their attitude to political parties as if this was something immutable, enforced by an iron law of nature.
I am not discounting the relevance of campaign strategists and their strategies. I’m merely suggesting that there may be a tendency to work backwards from the strategy. An inclination to say I have a hammer, so I’ll treat the problem as if it was a nail.
I see the words “we now need to find a way to run an independence campaign that doesn’t rely entirely on the SNP”, and my blood runs cold. Then starts to boil. For a start, there never was a campaign that relied entirely on the SNP. Nor was there ever any suggestion that there should – or could – be a campaign that relied entirely on the SNP. The problem that afflicts so many of those seeking to advise the independence movement is that they are so intent on devising a campaign which doesn’t rely entirely on the SNP that they completely lose sight of the fact that any campaign must rely ultimately on the SNP.
Working backwards from a predetermined ‘solution’ – be it exponential radicalism or the appliance of science – these ‘experts’ eventually come up against an obstacle that they’ve already accepted is impervious to their ‘solution. They reach the point where what is required is effective political power only to find that their ‘solution’ involved discarding the only way of accessing that effective political power.
Here is a scientific truth and a rather ‘radical’ idea. Given that effective political power is absolutely essential to the independence project, it should be the starting point in formulating an independence campaign. We will not move people to Yes unless we can first persuade them to accept the crucial role of the SNP. Any strategy for an independence campaign which fails to take due account of the need for a political force operating within the British political system, is incomplete and doomed to failure.
That is why people like me get irked by those within the Yes movement whose first instinct always is to run with the narrative of antipathy towards political parties in general and the SNP in particular. We’re not motivated by ‘blind loyalty’, as the shallow-minded insist, but by a cold, hard pragmatism that others could really do with emulating.Views: 3928
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