The British nationalist press is very keen to press the SNP is divided meme. Perhaps if they keep saying it then it will become true. It’s a bit like those people who repeatedly warn that the end of the world is nigh, only for the forecast dates of doomaggedon to come and go as often as Gordie Broon intervenes in the Scottish constitutional debate for the very first time. It wasn’t even nighish. However the advantage of these claims is that if you just keep banging on at them, eventually one of them might turn out to hit the mark, and then you can boast to all the other press guys down the pub about how prescient you were. Which to be honest isn’t much to look forward to after the asteroid has struck and destroyed civilisation as we know it, but opponents of independence have to take what small pleasures they can find, because British nationalism in Scotland is an exercise in miserabilism.
Today it was the Herald’s turn at trying to be nighish, perhaps because it’s National Tell a Joke Day. The paper carried a report that a Facebook group which hardly anyone has heard of plans to organise a wee demo outside the SNP conference. The demo is called Use The Mandate, and has the aim of showing that there is support for the SNP leadership to make use of its existing mandate for an independence referendum. Since the SNP hasn’t actually said that it’s not going to use this mandate, a demo expressing support for it doesn’t really count as a division in the independence movement. Until such time as Nicola Sturgeon stands up and says that she’s not going to use the mandate, calling on her to use it isn’t a sign of division.
It still wouldn’t count as a division within the SNP even if those who are organising the demo were indeed members of the SNP, which is by no means certain. The Facebook group responsible, Scotland Land of the Brave Saor Alba, isn’t affiliated with, part of, or answerable to, the SNP. But hey, the independence movement is divided. And if the yes movement is divided, that’s got to be embarrassing for the SNP. It said so in the paper, which used the story to offer space to a series of British nationalist politicians to attack the SNP for divisions which exist purely in their own imaginations. Yet again we got the oft-repeated meme from the British nationalist press that the SNP and the wider independence movement are the same thing.
The Herald certainly isn’t reporting on this development because it’s keen to encourage a diversity of views and opinions to further enrich the Yes movement. Reporting that a Facebook page which hardly anyone has heard of plans to organise a demo isn’t so much a sign of divisions within the independence movement as it’s a sign that the anti-independence media is hard pressed to find any sticks with which to beat the SNP, what with it being the holidays and everything, and the usual rent-a-quote British nationalist suspects are off sunning themselves on European beaches before Brexit happens and the arse falls out of the pound.
The thing is, of course the independence movement is divided. It’s divided into hundreds of groups, into thousands of ideas, into millions of possibilities. That’s ever so slightly the point of a grassroots movement. Especially a Scottish one. Put two Scottish people in a room and immediately you’ve got three arguments. The fact that we don’t all agree about everything is the whole idea. It’s not a bug, it’s a feature.
The independence movement isn’t a political party with internal party discipline that we’re talking about here. There hasn’t been a single idea, proposal, or action within the independence movement that some other part of the independence movement hasn’t got all sniffy about. It doesn’t matter what the pro-independence intitiative is, but someone in the independence movement is going to complain that there were too many saltires, that there weren’t enough saltires, that the saltires were being waved with a lack of gender balance, that the SNP can do no wrong, that everything the SNP does is wrong.
There are in fact only three things that the independence movement is able to agree on. First is that Scotland should become an independent country, secondly that the gap between Ruth Davidson’s hype and her actual political substance is wider and emptier than the vacuum between Ross The Hoover Thomson’s ears, and thirdly that British nationalist trolls on social media get a free pass from a media that’s always looking for the nasty things said by independence supporters. With regards to absolutely verything else, the independence movement has a diverse range of opinions. And that is precisely how it should be.
There are some very real, some very deep, and some very damaging divisions within Scottish politics, and they’re within the British nationalist parties. The Tories are hopelessly divided on Brexit. Ruth’s wee band of MPs who she assured us were going to be answerable to her and who were going to vote in a bloc to defend Scotland’s interests have turned out to be as useless as David Mundell at a cabinet meeting. Many of them have come out in favour of the hard Brexit that Ruth told us she opposed. And she can do the square root of hee-haw about it. The Conservatives have absolutely nothing positive to offer Scotland, all they can do is to bang on repeatedly about not wanting another referendum, because there is no positive case for the Union. There isn’t even a Union to make a positive case for, only a unitary state in which Scotland has no voice.
Meanwhile Labour is hopelessly divided, well, about everything. They are so ineffective at standing up for the interests of Scotland that no one knows who the official shadow Secretary of State for Scotland is. Not even the Labour party knows who Lesley Laird is. Most of the party in Scotland opposes the Brexit that its leader supports, and wrings its hands helplessly while Scotland is sacrificed on the altar of a deeply regressive xenophobic British nationalist Brexit. Labour is more worried about doing anything that might inadvertently boost support for independence than about the harm and damage that the Tories are wreaking.
An opinion poll this week suggests that if there were a Westminster General Election tomorrow, Labour would lose all but one of its Scottish seats to the SNP, and the Tories would also suffer losses. The political divisions that concern voters in Scotland aren’t those within the SNP, they’re not those within the independence movement, no matter how much our anti-independence media tries to hype them up. The divisions that concern people in Scotland are the yawning cracks in the British establishment which threaten to destroy the British state and its public services. The yes movement and the SNP are not divided in our belief that we need to escape that crumbling edifice before it comes crashing down.
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