To dream? Or to do?

Neal Ascherson is only half right when he says “that’s not how it works”. The bit that he gets right is an important observation about Scotland’s independence movement. The bit that he gets wrong is likely to be fatal to that cause.

He is right to say that independence is something to be valued for its own sake. For what it says about a nation and its people. For the potential that it brings within the grasp of those who aspire to better.

Independence is the thing. It is both normal and extraordinary. Normal if you have it. Extraordinary if it is denied.

Independence is the beautiful dream. The undying dream. The desire which, once wakened, never really sleeps. It is a knowing that cannot be unknown. The political consciousness that has once recognised the properness of independence can never revert to satisfaction with something less.

All of this is true. But it is only half the story. Of what use is a dream without the practical means to realise it? However worthy an objective may be, if there is no clearly viable path by which it may be attained then how might it inspire sacrifice and effort?
Where it all goes astray is when Neal Ascherson says,

“What isn’t true is the assumption that independence sinks or swims with the SNP’s fortunes.”

He makes the grotesque and quite incomprehensible error of confusing/conflating the spirit of the independence movement with its corporeal manifestation. Of course that spirit is unquenchable. But without the capacity to act in the real world of the British political system, that spirit is, by definition, ineffectual.

With a few thoughtless words echoing the sentiments of those who yet hope to eradicate that unvanquishable spirit, Neal Ascherson dismisses the SNP as its agent. We hold in our hands right now the lever by which we may prise Scotland from an anachronistic, anomalous, asymmetric and evidently dysfunctional political union. Neal Ascherson would have us toss that lever aside. And for what? For the plaintive hope that some new lever might sometime, somehow materialise out of a fog of fatuous political speculation.

I don’t accept the British nationalist propaganda machine’s contention, so casually parroted here, that “the SNP and their leader have been seriously damaged”. Far less that they are “holed below the waterline in ways which aren’t yet visible”. But even if it were to some extent true, what should we do? How should those imbued with the spirit of independence respond to this weakening of the agency by which their aspiration might be realised? Should we simply write it off and content ourselves with honourable defeat and the tenuous hope that maybe something will turn up?

Or should we fight? Should we rally in defence of this vital component of our movement? Should we do all in our power to buttress it against the onslaught from a British state in the desperation of its death throes?

Shall we be helpless? Or shall we seize hold of that lever and throw all our weight behind it?

Isn’t that how we “act as an independence nation”, rather than just a nation that dreams of independence?

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34 thoughts on “To dream? Or to do?

  1. Clydebuilt

    Bang on Peter, I’ve heard others trot out that we can attack tge SNP and still become independent.

    Aye we’ll get rid of the SNP we’ll split the vote amongst parties supporting Independence, we’ll vote Colin Fox, Harvie etc, and wait another 60 years before we have a potent political force.

    I’m always suspicious of the motives of people pushing these ideas.

    1. Peter A Bell Post author

      You make an interesting point. Those who imagine there is some alternative to the SNP seem to have absolutely no appreciation of the sort of time-scales involved. It took the SNP around eighty years to become an effective political force within the British system. Even supposing that it has now made it easier for other parties to follow suit, we only have elections every five years. It simply isn’t possible for the independence movement to develop an alternative political arm in time to save Scotland from the economic and constitutional impact of the Brexit process.

  2. Robert Graham

    I remember these type of views and sentiments being raised before the elections to the Scottish Parliament , echoed by the unionist press ” its going to be a landslide for the SNP so lend your vote to others ” , Well that worked out well didn’t it , the only party to suffer was the SNP it lost a vital Majority and we are witnessing the fallout , the short sighted fools who apparently were on our side couldn’t see they were being used .
    A hard lesson was learned , that wont work again , the ones who inadvertently assisted the Union had their chance , most people are now very selective about who gets their vote and anything other than the SNP is a wasted vote , WONT GET FOOLED AGAIN .

    1. David Simpson

      Well, yes, but… The SNP’s call for SNP 1 and 2, i.e. both for constituency and list, arguably allowed more Unionists to be elected on the list. Voting SNP for the constituency and another pro-independence party on the list might have resulted in the election of a few more Green etc. and fewer Unionist MSPs, giving if not an SNP majority then a stronger minority SNP / Green alliance.

  3. David Anderson

    Sorry to ‘hole’ the arguement but ‘en marche’ in France have just wiped the floor with all and sundry in the space of a few years.

  4. Big Jock

    There is only one route to independence at the moment and that is by electing a majority SNP MP’s or MSP’s. Giving the Greens 6 seats helps the Yoons say that the SNP failed to win a majority. It’s wrong on just about every level , but we are dealing with a poisoned media who regurgitate this pile of faeces.

    The same media that insist the SNP failed in the last GE by only winning a majority and not all the seats. We have reached such a level of reactionary anti democratic hyperbole, that Scotland now looks like a Colony similar to what Eire and India were.

    Even when we win the state tells us that we lost. They decide what a victory looks like , not the arithmetic or the plebiscite.

    If I hear one more person going on about the SNP losing 21 seats as an indicator of the independence vote ……….

    The message is getting pumped out. This is the state fighting back, and it’s dirty! They no longer recognise democracy. We are being treated like serfs.

    Democracy will end when we leave the EU. There will be no greater power than Westminster and the Supreme court. Nothing to keep England in check. They are going to dismantle Holyrood and they have their eyes on Direct Rule!

  5. Big Jock

    Quebec is not Scotland. It is not an ancient established nation. It is part of a new nation and has never operated as Scotland once did. However the history of the Quebec nationalist party is something that could now happen to the SNP. Don’t forget they came within 0.5% of winning in their second referendum.

    The people then got fed up with them and all but killed them in 2014. We haven’t had a second referendum yet. When we do and I expect it to be in the next 2 years. It really is win or bust of our movement and the SNP. They will not lose a referendum and then get another majority in 2021. They will also not get another mandate to hold a referendum if they wait until 2021.

    They are now faced with going over the top without knowing how the enemy will strike. But if they remain in their bunker forever they will slowly die.

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/apr/09/quebec-separatist-movement-independence-referendum

    I hope people realise just how monumental the next 4 years could be. This could be the end of our movement or the start of our long road to freedom. 2014 Quebec election results below.

    2014 Libs / Nats

    Seats before 49 54
    Seats won 70 30
    Seat change Increase2 Decrease24
    Popular vote 1,757,071 1,074,120
    Percentage 41.52% 25.38%

    Quebec independence support current 2016 18%

    2016 – 2nd Referendum result 1995 was 49.4%

  6. Hugh Wallace

    There are times when I think that Scots (some at least) are too f’in stupid to deserve their independence & Mr Ascherson is one who pushes me in this direction of thought.

    Of course the SNP is not the independence movement & of course other parties could take their place but I don’t think I’ve got enough years of life left (and I’m only 42) to wait for that to happen. The SNP is our best, really our only, hope of winning independence for Scotland in the foreseeable future. Anyone on the Yes side who claims otherwise needs their heads read.

  7. Saor Alba

    i agree with you Hugh Wallace and I entirely concur with Peter Bell’s well reasoned and considered thoughts.

    Isn’t it interesting that the most able political leader around ( our FM) is castigated so easily along with her most able and very competent party, whilst the most utterly stupid and most incompetent Prime Minister in history and her corrupt party get away with all sorts of corrupt practice which is forgotten with a nod and a wink. The same goes for the 3 absolutely disgusting excuses for political leaders of the 3 Tory parties in Scotland as well as their shambolic parties.

    What keeps Scotland back Hugh, is the stupidity of those in Scotland whom you have referred to. It does go beyond all reasonable understanding to appreciate how stupid some can be. Servitude is an ugly thing and hard to eliminate.

    The SNP and Ms Sturgeon have not been given the credit they deserve by some in the independence movement and they are hated by the unionist parties who realise how good the SNP actually are and who are frightened to death that eventually this will become clear to all.

    The storm is all around us. Britain is a basket case. The sh@t is about to hit the fan, and still those who cannot get off their knees and who indulge themselves in WATP rubbish (witness the pandering to the bigots both North and South of Berwick in order to gain votes or to do deals with the DUP) doff their caps at the rich who continue to laugh in the faces of the masses who support them.

    Saor Alba.

  8. mary mac

    Placing our confidence wholly in a political force could be extremely detrimental to the cause of Independence, and to our voice as a people.

    If we believe the SNP can tackle the Union for us, we will not give them the support they desperately need – without which they will fail.

    If we believe the SNP speaks clearly for us, then we will fail to motivate and move them in the direction we want and believe is right.

    —-

    Independence lies within us, the people of Scotland.

    It is in our psyche:

    whether we lie back, governed and driven by others – or whether we choose to be a people who stand and speak to determine our own future and fate.

    once we, the people, believe we are ready – once we stand – once we choose – once we speak – then there will be nothing capable of keeping us from that fate which we determine.

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