Wednesday, May 12, 2021

The future's blue. The future's Alba.

Apologies to anyone 'triggered' by that title, but hey, there's room for more than one point of view in this world.

I had an epiphany earlier.  As has been pointed out, by the end of this parliamentary term the SNP government will have been in power for nineteen consecutive years - slightly longer than the interminable Thatcher/Major government at Westminster between 1979 and 1997.  I had assumed that perhaps a Disraeli-led or Gladstone-led government in the 19th century would have served for longer, but nope - the two great men kept swapping power over a period of decades, so neither came close to nineteen consecutive years.  You have to go all the way back to the 18th century to find a Westminster government that clearly exceeded the SNP's time in office.

There's a good reason for that, of course.  There's a natural pendulum in electoral politics - eventually every government will start looking tired and people will get sick of it.  That doesn't necessarily mean that the SNP will lose power in 2026, because they'll be starting from an exceptionally high base.  However, it does mean they're likely to lose seats (with Labour the most obvious beneficiary) and as a result there's surely a far greater than 50/50 chance that the overall pro-independence majority will be lost after fifteen years.  In other words, this coming parliament is probably independence or bust.  Either we get the job done this time, or we see the sun set on our hopes until deep into the 2030s, or forever.

Now, of course that thought will have occurred to the SNP's strategists too, and that ought to be encouraging.  But it really depends on what you think their number one priority is these days.  Is it independence, or is it power for its own sake?

In Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, the three superpowers exist in a state of perpetual war, and there is no objective to the conflict other than that it should continue, because the mobilisation of war entrenches the power of the elite.  Doesn't that remind you of something? "Stop Indyref2 in its tracks" galvanises the unionist vote behind the Tories, and "tell London that Scotland's future is Scotland's choice" galvanises the pro-independence vote behind the SNP.  It suits both sides down to the ground for that conflict never to reach a resolution, for Indyref2 to always be there, just beyond the horizon.  And even if SNP strategists realise that they can't defy political gravity forever, they might still think that minority government between 2026 and 2031 in a unionist-majority parliament is a prize worth chasing.

So those of us who actually do regard independence itself as the objective have got to break this pattern somehow.  I suggested the other day on Twitter that the continued existence of Alba could function as a useful 'deterrent' - because the SNP will know disaffected Yessers have somewhere else to go if independence isn't delivered by 2026 - or more to the point if there hasn't been a genuine and honest attempt to deliver it by then.

But in fact the benefit could be felt long before 2026.  There are council elections next May which Alba have said they'll be contesting.  The silver lining of the poor result last week is that expectations will be fairly low and it'll be easier to exceed those expectations.  Imagine, for example if Alba took 5% of the national vote - that would be seen as a major warning to the SNP leadership.  Whether that will even be possible depends on the strategy employed - will Alba put up candidates across Scotland to maximise their national vote, or will they pour all their resources into a few select localities to attempt to get some councillors elected?  There's a case to be made for either.

I was also pleased to see in Kenny MacAskill's new article that Alba will not be an abstentionist party at Westminster.  That's definitely the right call.  They have a precious parliamentary platform and they should use it.


  1. There is a lot of truth to this. Scottish politics is ossified, with three unionist parties that seem a throwback to the 1980s landscape and one major pro-indy one that currently looks like a personality cult intent on power at all costs far more than independence. But I disagree wholly on one thing: it is not only "for" or "up to" independence supporters to break that deadlock now. Had independence supporters been smarter on Thursday we could have done it with the stroke of a pen, but instead the second votes for Nicola and the SNP piled up to elect unionists, suggesting people are a lot keener on the personality cult than independence.

    The pro union side has to take a lot of blame for where we are, because Labour and the Lib Dems failed to recognise the shifts in Scotland and give voters who wanted more powers or independence any home but the SNP. They created the cult as much as anyone else.

    I was an SNP member until February and I’ve never felt as depressed or despairing about an election result as I have with this one. It’s even managed to top the Tory victory of 1992! And that’s the party I was literally a member of for twelve years and voted first vote for to win. So I can’t imagine how those who don’t like the party and don’t support independence feel. I’ve had a few chats over the past few weeks with very unionist pals and we found a huge amount of agreement about what is wrong with Scottish politics now and the desperate need for change. It’s going to take both pro and anti independence people to address the place we now find ourselves in. They need to challenge their parties and the pro union media; we need to challenge our side and we all - as Scottish citizens - need to find a way to come together and rid ourselves of the lot of them. A new, grassroots, pro union party which would be able and willing to debate, hold meetings and work with a new pro indy party like Alba would be a very useful thing.There must be some frustrated, despairing, pro union but aware of the shifts and demographics people out there able to do that?

    1. To be honest, it is the people who don't like Sturgeon who are the only real 'cult members' I can see. They do nothing but post about her. Incessantly, day in, day out. Usually in the form of projection. They really do give her some evil god like status.

      Regular SNP voters / members by contrast don't mention her much at all, and certainly not in any idolatry sense. Instead, they are focused on winning folk over to indy. They just think Sturgeon's a decent SNP leader / FM, and the public very much agrees.

      It's the same for 'gender politics'. The SNP cabinet hardly mentions this minor domestic legislation issue unless it's brought up. By contrast, the Wings et al. folks pretty much only talk about it, with little to no discussion of independence. Day in day out they devote hours to the subject of willies under dresses.

      That is the actual reality. Certainly how the public sees it; or rather doesn't see the wingsoverihatesturgeonandtranspeople thing because it's confined to the blogosphere bubble.

    2. I agree with you SS. For the very first time, Scots have responded to two opposing messages, both of which were crystal clear.......

      1. Vote for the SNPand the Greens, and we will hold a referendum in this parliament,

      2. Vote Tory, labour or Lib Dem and we will stop a referendum being held in this parliament.

      And Scots responded to this simple choice by voting (by a small majority) for holding a referendum. They didn't give two hoots about Mad Stu's "women with penises, or the "s30 referendum" v a "non-s30 referendum", they just voted and effectively said "There you go, now off you go and get us this referendum".

      Only on the blogosphere has it become "normal" to talk about Sturgeon "not really wanting independence". If you asked a yes punter in the street about that, they'd furrow their brows and ask you what the hell you were talking about. It's only the self-appointed blog gurus who repeatedly reinforce each other's belief that the SNP are having us all on. If you say something often enough, you can persuade yourself of just about anything......

  2. “...of course that thought will have occurred to the SNP strategists too..” I wouldn’t assume that James, given their performances and supposed recommendations over the past seven years. Your strategic thinking skills are far superior. Excellent comment on the coming parliamentary term.

    1. I'm even more pessimistic than you Jan. I suspect they're have realised it and will be working on ways to continue ensuring the strongest pro indy voices are silenced and persecuted, as has happened for the past 5 years. Pretty sure the Hate Crime Bill, an end to jury trials in some cases etc will aid them with that. I don't think they're daft at all: I think the the leadership is actively working for the union. I really hope they'll prove me wrong on that but I fear not.

    2. Sadly, Alba's reputation is already in the dirt. I say this as someone who voted for them! I've never had such a negative response from friends after the fact. The smears against the party have been very, very effective. I had to explain my way out of, apparently, giving my support to a sex-pest positive, transphobic, across the board intolerant bunch of weekend Claymore enthusiasts. People thought I was off my rocker! And the result says they're right.

      So, no. I'm not joining the 1 point whatever percent again. Guess I'm back to the Greens. Who, as the people of the Highlands decided when similarly shafting Wightman, were "right."

      Honestly, I'd prefer a new party, outright. But as we've seen by the catastrophic failure of Alba and other indy friendly forces beyond the SNP and Greens in this election, the environment is deeply hostile right now. The voters are locked in the two camps James described.

    3. I agree with you John. I was talking to someone at work the other day about the results and they weren’t terribly fussed about anything other than the fact they were delighted Alba didn’t get in. I just held my tongue and pretended I hadn’t voted for them. A lot of hostility towards the party. I will look on with interest to see if it can survive as a credible force, but I don’t have high hopes.

    4. The public perception of Alba could change if the perception of the SNP changes in response to inaction on Independence. For that reason alone, I will be voting Alba in the councils 2022 - it keeps open a place for pro-Indy folk to defect to should the SNP fail to deliver on Indy, and on the basis of that alone - the mere existence of Alba (even without a presence in Holyrood) presents more pressure on the SNP to deliver.

  3. 'Now, of course that thought will have occurred to the SNP's strategists too'
    James, I think you overestimate the foresight of the current SNP management - at best a frivolous fleeting thought, the SNP seems to be limited to a few months in advance.

  4. It looks like the media have done the job westminster tasked them with, put Alex Salmond out of politics.
    ALBA failed.
    They wont succeed in future , only older politically savvy voters were attracted to ALBA.

    We will not need another new Scottish independence party if Nicola Sturgeon and SNP do what they have promised they will do , have a Scottish independence referendum.

    We need Alex Salmond to support Scottish independence from the sidelines
    Not as part of a party

  5. We need a Party committed to Independence ready to represent us when the chickens come home to roost for the SNP