There’s been a lot of justified anger this week. Partly it’s a symptom of an SNP leadership which many feel is at risk of becoming out of touch, managerial, and tone deaf to the sensibilities of the wider independence movement. Partly it’s the febrile atmosphere of Brexit, which has produced a political uncertainty and British government incompetence the likes of which has never been seen in the UK since WW2. Partly it’s the anxiety that the far-right is gaining a purchase in British politics in a way that it has never before. But it’s also partly because Scotland is inching ever closer to independence, and there are concerns that we now have an opportunity which must not be squandered.
Of course it’s not just the Scottish independence movement where you can see emotion. There is also emotion amongst the ranks of the Scottish Tories. It’s just that for them the dominant emotions are fear, jealousy, and bile. They are terrified of the future, the best that they can hope for is to screw down the shortbread tin lid in the hope of containing Scotland’s aspirations. They are terrified because they know that they have to win and to keep winning forever, to ensure that Scotland is kept encased the fragile glass of Ruth Davidson’s ego in perpetuity. We only need to win once, and there are so many more of us. As someone pointed out in the comments to yesterday’s article on this blog, there are more comments on this blog than people who attended the Conservative Conference in Aberdeen.
Ruth Davidson has often been accused of her detractors of being an empty vessel, a vehicle for photo-ops and cheeky sound bites empty of the cargo of policy. All this is true. However there is also one sense in which she is a finely tuned German automobile. She’s capable of instantly going into reverse. It was only a short while ago that Ruth was happy to concede that it was up to the voters of Scotland and their elected representatives to decide whether Scotland should have another independence referendum. Now she’s unilaterally ripped up the Scottish Claim of Right and has decided that power belongs to a UK Prime Minister and not to the people of Scotland. Ruth doesn’t want Scotland to have a referendum before 2021, or after 2021. And she expects a British Prime Minister to block it for the foreseeable future. Screw you and your electoral will, Scotland.
In an interview the other day, Ruth claimed that she’d changed her mind on whether it was up to Scotland to decide should have another independence referendum because during the most recent elections in Scotland, the 2017 general election, Nicola Sturgeon fought an campaign about independence and lost. That’s untrue on a number of levels. Firstly it’s untrue because the SNP didn’t lose the general election in Scotland. While it is true that the party lost ground compared to the historic and unique victory of 2015, the SNP won that election in Scotland. There is only one measure for victory in the First Past the Post system to which Westminster is so attached, and that’s the number of MPs a party gains. The SNP achieved almost three times as many MPs as Ruth Davidson’s Ruth Davidson’s Vote Ruth Davidson Party.
More importantly, it’s untrue because the SNP most categorically did not fight the 2017 general election on the basis of proving support for independence. Instead the party went to great lengths to tell anyone who was listening, which wasn’t Ruth or most of the media in Scotland, that this wasn’t an election about independence. The only people banging on about independence in 2017 were the Scottish Conservatives. The upshot was that pro-independence supporting voters were not motivated to come out and vote for the SNP in a way that anti-independence supporting voters were motivated to come out and vote for Ruth. We were there Ruth, we were paying attention, and you don’t get to claim that you’ve changed your mind on the basis of your fantasies.
The real reason that Ruth Davidson has changed her mind about who is the final authority on whether there’s another referendum from the people of Scotland to a UK Prime Minister is because she’s terrified there’s going to be one, and even more terrified of the result that it would produce. Ruth might have been on maternity leave for the past few months and not being actively involved in politics, but she will have noticed the complete and utter shitshow that her party has become. The Conservatives are currently not in any position to win a bottle of cheap supermarket wine in a raffle, never mind mount a successful campaign to persuade Scotland of the benefits of remaining a part of a United Kingdom that has spent the past few years alternately ignoring it and treating it with contempt.
Ruth knows that her party’s chances of retaining its sole Scottish MEP are even less than the chances that Murdo Fraser would win the clever Tweet of the year competition. The vote share for the Scottish Conservatives, sorry, the Ruth Davidson’s Vote Ruth Davidson for Greater Ruth Davidson Party, is going to plummet. It’s very difficult to maintain the pretence that you enjoy the political momentum when the only momentum you’re demonstrating is your ability to allow your support to fall off a cliff. That’s all the more painful when, like Ruth, you have done your utmost to ensure that your brand of politics has been so intensely personalised.
The anger within our independence movement of late is a sign of its rude good health. It means that we’re not going to be passive recipients of politics from above. We are the ones who are going to shape Scotland, and we reject the managerialism, the lack of care, the lack of empathy and compassion of British politics. That’s why we want independence, because we know that Scotland deserves better and we won’t settle for anything less. And if that means we sometimes need to read the riot act to those at the head of this movement, then so be it. Better that than the Scottish Tories, who are dying inside and rotting from both the head down and the bottom up. Our emotions are a sign of health and vitality. The emotions in the Scottish Conservatives are the last twitches of a political corpse.
No one can accuse the Scottish independence movement of lacking heart, of being emotionless, of being cold and clinical imposers of a heartless ideology. The fact that feelings are running high is a good thing in one important sense. It means that there is passion. That’s the passion that will drive us during the campaign that is ahead. Where there is passion, there is heart, and where there is heart, there is empathy. Where heart meets passion, it produces compassion and the hope for a better future. That’s the formula for independence.
My new book has just been published by Vagabond Voices. Containing the best articles from The National from 2016 to date. Weighing in at over 350 pages, this is the biggest and best anthology of Wee Gingerisms yet. This collection of pieces covers the increasingly demented Brexit years, and the continuing presence and strength of Scotland’s independence movement.
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