Saturday, February 20, 2021

The SNP's adoption of an overly-broad definition of 'transphobia' is a backwards step into factionalism, and will give the green light for McCarthyite witch-hunts

Let's be specific about exactly what is - and what is not - problematical about the definition.  There are nine examples given of behaviour that supposedly constitutes transphobia, although it's stressed that even these are not exhaustive.

"1. Hate crimes such as physical or sexual assault, threatening behaviour, criminal damage of property."

Pretty much everyone will be in agreement with that section.

"2. Gender reassignment employment or service provision discrimination."

I suspect this may, in the opinion of some, conflict to some extent with women's sex-based rights.

"3. Bullying, abuse, harassment or intimidation of people for being trans or for supporting trans equality and inclusion."

This is where the problems really begin, because it's wide open to different interpretations.  We've all seen people claim to be the victims of bullying or harassment "because of their support for inclusion", when in fact all that was happening was that other people were debating robustly and putting forward an alternative and perfectly legitimate point of view.

"4. Deliberately outing someone as being trans without their consent."

Obviously it's wrong to out someone against their wishes, but the question is whether this should be a disciplinary - and potentially an expulsion - offence.  I can foresee some problems with that, if for example there's a dispute over whether it was known beforehand that a person was trans, and how widely known it was.

"5. Deliberately misgendering someone."

Misgendering someone is clearly bad manners, but as a disciplinary offence this is opening up a huge can of worms.  There isn't a consensus on the principle of self-ID, and by extension there isn't a consensus on the boundaries of misgendering.  Some people will feel that continuing to regard certain individuals as male or female is part and parcel of their legitimate opposition to self-ID, which means that their exercise of free speech will be pathologised as "transphobia" - and they may be faced with an impossible choice between self-censoring and facing suspension or expulsion.

"6. Deliberately using a trans person's previous name ('deadnaming') instead of, or alongside, their current name without their consent."

This is absolutely ridiculous.  The ability to speak about others in mildly disrespectful ways is, whether we like it or not, an indispensable part of free speech.  Give people lectures about courtesy if you wish, but this has no place in a disciplinary code.  Do we have to ask Boris Johnson's permission before calling him "de Pfeffel"?  The idea that each individual has to give express consent to the names people call them would destroy satire, just for starters.

"7. Dehumanising, prejudiced language about trans people."

Absurdly vague.  Again, this could be interpreted as meaning robust disagreement with activists on social media.

"8. Accusing wider trans people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single trans person or group, or even for acts committed by people who do not identify as trans."

This will presumably be used to try to silence people who use real life examples of assault or disturbing behaviour in single-sex spaces as arguments against the principle of self-ID.

"9. Making mendacious, malicious, conspiracy-theory, or stereotypical allegations about trans people."

My guess is that people who make criticisms of "trans rights activists" collectively will be (falsely) charged with stereotyping trans people in general.  And if I was to say there were concerns about entryism by identity politics activists into the SNP, and that this definition of transphobia is potentially evidence of that, hey presto, I'll be a "transphobic conspiracy theorist".

We could be entering a very dark period of McCarthyism within the SNP.

The beauty of democracy

Friday, February 19, 2021

Will Michelle Ballantyne be included in the TV leaders' debates?

Five years ago, BBC Scotland included David Coburn of UKIP in their TV leaders' debate for the Holyrood election (with predictably comic results), but STV did not.  The BBC's logic was that UKIP had performed sufficiently well in one of the four tiers of electoral representation, ie. Coburn's own success in being elected to the European Parliament.  On the face of it, the same logic applies to Reform UK now, because in its previous guise as the Brexit Party, it won one Scottish seat in the 2019 European election.  But this is almost a philosophical point: as Scottish representation in the European Parliament has now been abolished, and as the Brexit Party itself agitated for that to happen, shouldn't the Euro result be set aside when deciding how much airtime is warranted for each party?  I'd suggest that maybe yes, it should be.  But if it isn't, we'll have the 'interesting' spectacle of Michelle Ballantyne squaring up against Nicola Sturgeon, Douglas Ross (or Ruth Davidson if Ross is conveniently required to run the line at another vital Cove Rangers v Montrose fixture), #WinningWithWillie Rennie, and probably Anas Sarwar.

And I think that would actually be quite a good outcome for us, because the more exposure Reform UK gets, the more likely they are to take votes off the Tories.  I'm not for a moment suggesting that the SNP are immune to losing votes in that direction (Ballantyne will presumably be punting the anti-lockdown message, which finds support in some strange places), but I think it's fair to say that the Tories would be the net losers.

The other outside possibility is that Alex Salmond might be involved in the debates, if he decides to stand.  I know people are arguing that any chance of him setting up a new party have already been timed out, but there are still options open to him, such as joining forces with one of the small pro-indy parties already registered with the Electoral Commission.  If, for the sake of argument, a Salmond party burst onto the scene in a blaze of publicity and shot to 10% in the polls, would the BBC or STV give him a spot in the debates? Their normal instinct would be to find any reason to avoid having an extra pro-indy voice, but in this case I wonder if they might be just be tempted by the box office potential of Sturgeon v Salmond.

*  *  *

The above is practically the quintessential Kenny "Devo or Death" Farquharson tweet, in the sense that it's wrong in almost every respect.  A Wings party would not have been a major electoral force - it most likely would have attracted somewhere between 0.1% and 2% of the list vote, which wouldn't have been enough to win any seats, but might have been enough to do real damage to the pro-indy cause by taking votes away from larger parties.

But neither is it true to say that Mr Campbell "blew it".  He had the capacity to set up a new party, but he freely chose not to.  I suspect Kenny is trying to get a narrative going that "Stuart Campbell blew his chances by being beastly to my mate Neil Mackay" - well, that's about as well-founded as his legendary prediction that Kezia Dugdale would be the next First Minister.  (There's still hope, Kenny! Ian Smart says she's an SNP sleeper agent, so maybe she'll make a comeback that way!)

The interesting question now is which fringe party Wings is planning to back in the election.  We can safely assume he'll be openly hostile to the SNP, which presumably means he'll be supporting either ISP or AFI.  My guess is he'll plump for ISP, if only because they share his preoccupation with the trans issue.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Some citizens are more equal than others in Our Precious Union

As scathing as I've been of the 'pop-up list parties' and their potential to indavertantly reduce the number of pro-indy MSPs by taking votes away from parties that can actually win seats, there's a small part of me that looks at what someone like Martin Keatings will be doing in May, and thinks "you know what, it might actually be quite fun to stand in an election, even as a no-hoper candidate" (perhaps even particularly as a no-hoper candidate). So in a daydreaming sort of way, the thought popped into my head that if in five years' time we're still not independent (heaven forbid), maybe I could stand as a paper candidate on the list ballot for the London Assembly - that way there'd be no harm to the SNP and I could give the long-suffering Scottish residents of Greater London a pro-indy candidate to vote for. But alas, that cunning plan didn't survive more than five minutes, because I checked the rules and nobody is eligible to stand unless they have strong connections to London - you either have to live there, or own property there, or have done so within the last twelve months. And, on reflection, I realised that was exactly as it should be (leaving aside the property bit), and I immediately checked the rules for the Scottish Parliament, naturally assuming that the same would apply here. 

And guess what? It doesn't. Scottish residents can't stand for the London Assembly, but London residents are entirely free to stand for the Scottish Parliament. Inspiring, isn't it, the equality we enjoy in Our Precious Union.

Calm before the {CENSORED}

As a Eurovision fan, I'd just like to apologise to the world for the Netherlands' disgraceful attempt to import far-right QAnon language into the contest in the lyrics of their 2014 entry Calm After The Storm. OK, 2014 was three years before QAnon even started, but THAT'S NO EXCUSE.


Wednesday, February 17, 2021

The SNP I joined was a broad church - let's not allow it to become a narrow sect


About ten or fifteen years ago, I read quite a bit about the Rwanda genocide of 1994.  One of the key points I learned was that by no means all of the killings were organised - to a large extent ordinary people were relied upon to spontaneously murder their Tutsi neighbours.  That was possible because they had been carefully conditioned to believe that Tutsis were subhuman or verminous, meaning that acts of barbarism that would previously have been unthinkable suddenly seemed acceptable or desirable.  The final step of the process was apparently an official radio broadcast that used "the language of genocide", and that triggered an unimaginable wave of killings.

Now, anticipating the cretinous comments that predictably appear on Twitter after a blogpost like this, I am categorically NOT suggesting that anyone in the SNP is doing anything remotely equivalent to preparing the ground for genocide.  That would be a ludicrous suggestion, I am not making that suggestion, and I hope that is abundantly clear. However, even when the desired outcome is a million times less extreme than genocide, and is merely to remove 'undesirables' from a political party, there are nevertheless similarities in some of the tactics employed.  

Think about what's been happening.  People like Joanna Cherry and Kenny MacAskill are mainstream politicians with mainstream views.  Indeed, Mr MacAskill occupied one of the highest offices in the land (Justice Secretary) for many years, and in international terms was arguably the most famous person in the Scottish Government due to holding the decision-making power over whether the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing should be released. It ought to be unthinkable that people of that sort would ever be suspended or expelled by the SNP, and until very recently it was.  But if we're not very careful, we could be halfway down a path that leads to that outcome.

The ground has been prepared with constant reinforcement of the idea that certain radical feminist views are "transphobic", or the idea that the most popular pro-independence website is so "bigoted" that it must be treated as if it doesn't even exist.  Once enough people accept those claims as normal, you can then become bolder and start naming and shaming individuals whose prominence and popularity would previously have shielded them.  The next step in the process is to change the party's rulebook to at least allow for the interpretation that gender critical views, or a failure to disassociate completely from Wings, should be a disciplinary matter.  The final step is to initiate disciplinary proceedings and get good colleagues suspended or expelled.  And at that point the world really has gone mad, because anyone who takes a step back can see that sharing an article you happen to agree with, or expressing views on the immutability of sex that actually have a decent grounding in the accepted science, is not that big a deal.  By all means disagree with people who do those things, but concluding that you can no longer share the same political party with them is an insane over-reaction.

And even if you do, for some reason, feel that you can no longer work with people who hold alternative views or who conduct themselves in a slightly different way, why not be mature about it and say "no hard feelings, but let's go our separate ways"? Why the need to falsely tar people as "bigots", or as "not fit" for human interaction, and to feel self-righteous as you drive them out?

In truth, though, it would be far better if this madness ended and we all stayed under the same roof.  Remember during the independence referendum when under the Yes banner we had Women for Independence, Labour for Independence, English Scots for Yes, Radical Independence, etc, etc? On what planet was it a bad thing that we had such a broadly-based and united campaign? By the same token, it's a very, very good thing that the SNP contains both radical leftists and centrists, both gender critical feminists and trans activists, both Wings fans and Byres Road coffee collective Bella connoisseurs.  We should celebrate that diversity and make damn sure we don't lose it.  Instead, for some bizarre reason, we seem to be hurtling in the opposite direction.  One morning we'll wake up and find the SNP is a narrow sect, rather than the broad church that it used to be and for the moment just about is.

And, yes, I can already hear the chorus of people saying "so you want transphobes and non-bigots to have parity of esteem?" And that, my friends, is the language of intolerance.  It's the language of exclusion.  It's ultimately the language of expulsion, and that's what it's really been about from the word go.

When I made these points on Twitter last night and this morning, a number of people angrily said to me: "But James, didn't you SEE the Wings article? Don't you UNDERSTAND that it crossed a line?" The problem with that is I actually did read the article, and in spite of my own well-known issues with Stuart, I found it impossible to disagree with 80% of it.  The main thrust of the piece is that Neil Mackay has cynically misrepresented an opinion poll by claiming it proves beyond all doubt that the public back GRA reform and the sacking of Joanna Cherry.  And that's exactly what Mr Mackay has done. I made the point myself (indeed I made it 24 hours before Stuart made it) that the poll questions were hopelessly slanted and leading, and that the results contradicted earlier polling that showed substantial opposition to self-ID.

The main complaints about the piece relate to relatively small sections in which Stuart points out that Mr Mackay comes from a unionist-dominated part of Northern Ireland, and states that Mr Mackay "weaponised" something that happened to his daughter.  Frankly, it's nuts to suggest there's anything illegitimate about drawing attention to someone's place of origin, so I don't take that objection seriously.  When I first read the piece, I did wonder why Stuart was letting himself be distracted with a seemingly irrelevant comment about Mr Mackay's daughter - but "wonder" is the operative word.  I have literally no idea what Stuart meant by "weaponising", and as he didn't explain what he meant, I'm simply in no position to judge whether it was an illegitimate comment or not.  But he can fight his own battles on that one - and that's the nub of the issue.  Stuart Campbell is responsible for his words, not the people who share his articles, or who write other articles for his website.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

The wrong sort of purity test

This morning I cast my votes for the ranking of SNP list candidates in the Central Scotland region. A chorus of voices on Twitter said "why bother, James, the whole thing is a farce, the results are being rigged", and of course the word "rigged" is not meant figuratively in this case - the NEC is literally planning to change the winner if members vote the 'wrong' way. However, I believe in voting as a matter of principle, and even if I lived in an authoritarian country I'd still want to at least attempt to make my voice heard. 

Interestingly, one of the huge flaws that I identified the other day in the NEC's plan does actually apply - there are several candidates from ethnic minorities (from memory I think there are three) in Central Scotland, a region that has been arbitrarily set aside for positive discrimination in favour of disabled candidates only. That means the BAME candidates will be actively discriminated against, and it will be harder, not easier, for them to become MSPs. It literally makes no sense. 
I'm happy with my vote for Michelle Thomson as Number 1 candidate, although even that is a largely symbolic choice, because unless something goes horribly wrong she should be comfortably elected on the constituency ballot. Some of the lower rankings were a lot trickier because I'd never heard of some of the candidates. There are candidate statements provided when you vote, but a lot of them are of the motherhood and apple pie variety. I ended up looking at the candidates' presence on social media for little clues as to their real views and priorities. Denise Findlay recommended Anum Qaisar-Javed to me, although mixed views were expressed about her. So I had a closer look, and from the limited information available I decided to take a leap of faith and give her a high ranking. I know this will sound ridiculous to some people, but one small thing that reassured me about her was that she retweeted Alex Salmond a couple of weeks ago - that gives me hope that she won't be overly-factional. 

Perhaps, though, I should have waited to see who signs Kirsty Blackman's trans rights pledge. She has indicated that she will only give her preferences to those who sign the pledge - which suggests that people who do sign will be tacitly giving their approval to a McCarthyite purity test that has nothing to do with independence. Let's be clear: that's not where the membership is. I recently ran a Twitter poll to ask whether people would still support independence even if they knew for certain that an independent Scotland would not deliver their preferred outcome on self-ID. In spite of the fact that my followers probably contain a disproportionate number of people who feel strongly about the trans issue, well over 90% said they would still support indy. If a pro-indy party is going to have a McCarthyite purity test at all, that's probably the only one worth having: will people prioritise indy even if it means not getting their way on other things?

Monday, February 15, 2021

Stunning electoral breakthrough for the Catalan independence movement blows a huge hole in the arguments of the SNP's "caution / delay" faction

Here is the result of the popular vote in yesterday's Catalan parliamentary election, which as you can see is rather complex. Parties that support independence are marked with an asterisk. 

Partit dels Socialistes 23.0% (+9.2)
Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya* 21.3% (-0.1)
Junts per Catalunya* 20.0% (-1.7)
Vox 7.7% (n/a)
En Comú Podem 6.9% (-0.6)
Candidatura d'Unitat Popular - Guanyem Catalunya* 6.7% (+2.2)
Ciutadans 5.6% (-19.8)
Partit Popular 3.9% (-0.4)
Partit Demòcrata Europeu Català* 2.7% (n/a)

London media outlets that are clueless about proportional representation are describing this as a "win for the socialists", but of course it's anything but. The pro-independence parties in combination have stormed to an overall majority of the popular vote for the first time, and no government can be formed without the consent of at least one of them. It's particularly gratifying to see the total collapse of the allegedly "liberal" Ciutadans / Ciudadanos party (actually a grotesque right-wing Spanish nationalist outfit) so beloved of Guy Verhofstadt. 

What are the lessons for Scotland? Most obviously, this is a heavy blow for the ultra-cautious worldview espoused by the likes of Pete Wishart, who would have us believe that our hopes for independence are like a fragile piece of precious china, which will smash into a thousand pieces if we're not sufficiently scared of our own shadow, leaving us with nothing but regrets. The two international examples that are always trotted out are Quebec, where holding a second referendum "too soon" after the first one (ie. fifteen years later!) supposedly killed all hopes of independence, and Catalonia, where the unilateral declaration of independence was supposedly a catastrophic strategic error that left the sovereignty movement in tatters. The Quebec example was always bogus, for reasons I've explained many times. The Parti Québécois in fact remained in power for eight full years after the second referendum defeat in 1995, and was re-elected with a thumping overall majority in 1998. The real strategic error in retrospect was not doing anything with that power when they had it. 

And now the Catalan example doesn't work either. Sometimes in politics it takes a while for the fog to clear, but we can now see that the effect of UDI, and the violent, repressive response of the Spanish state, has been to rally support for the independence movement in unprecedentedly high numbers. That shouldn't have happened if you believed the likes of Pete Wishart, but it has. So not such a strategic mistake after all - although admittedly many brave individuals have had to give up their liberty to get to this point. 

Remember also that when we talk about Plan B in Scotland, we're categorically not talking about UDI or anything even vaguely close to the Catalan experience - in fact even the McEleny/MacNeil plan, which is the most radical option, is extraordinarily tame compared to the tactics used in Catalonia. Anything we might do here would be immaculately legal and constitutional, and yet so many senior SNP figures seem absolutely terrified of it. There's no longer any plausible excuse for that. 

The other lesson from the Catalan election is the psychological importance of getting an outright majority of the popular vote - something we actually fell short of on both ballots in 2016. Of course the first priority must be to secure a majority of seats, and if we do that we can certainly say that we've won fair and square under the rules and that our mandate must be respected. But there'll be a propaganda battle about what the mandate means, and the more watertight we can make it, the better off we'll be. 

* * * 

When last week's ComRes poll for the Scotsman purportedly showed support for GRA reform by a margin of 37% to 26%, I was somewhat sceptical, because other polling over the last couple of years has shown the complete opposite - ie. overwhelming opposition. I concluded that this must be one of those issues where the answers that respondents give are very much affected by the way the question is asked. But I don't think I could have anticipated just how slanted the Scotsman's question would turn out to be. I once took Stuart Campbell to task for an astoundingly convoluted, leading poll question that made it very difficult for respondents to do anything but say they were opposed to self-ID - well, the Scotsman's question is practically the reverse mirror image of that... 

"The Scottish Parliament is currently considering changes to gender recognition laws in Scotland. Under the proposed changes, the way trans people apply for a gender recognition certificate, the mechanism by which they can change their legal gender on their birth certificates, would be streamlined to make the process less expensive and bureaucratic, and less intrusive to trans people than the current process. However some opposition to the changes focus largely on the potential impact of allowing people to self-identify their gender in single-sex spaces such as changing rooms, and women-only shortlists. To what extent do you support or oppose changes to the gender recognition laws in Scotland?" 

Frankly, I don't think the results of a question like that can or should be taken particularly seriously. The wording is clearly designed to minimise the significance of the reforms, and to make them sound like a logical tidying up of existing regulations - something that no reasonable person could possibly object to. In fact, with a question like that, it's a miracle that the result was as close as it was.

By the same token, the question that supposedly showed that a plurality of SNP voters support Joanna Cherry's sacking is somewhat tarnished by wording that goes out of its way to speculate that she may have been sacked "because of general disloyalty to the SNP".  If you actively put that idea in SNP voters' heads, how else would you expect them to react?

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Here's why the NEC's plan to rig the selection of list candidates is indefensible and unsustainable

I asked on Twitter yesterday whether anyone knew the specifics of the SNP's plan to discriminate in favour of BAME and disabled candidates for the forthcoming regional list selections and rankings.  I was told that I'd need to consult a leaked document - which is, of course, exactly as it should be.  Selection of SNP candidates is quite simply none of the business of party members, and if members really want to know what's going on they'd better make sure they have a really well-placed informant.

Anyway, this is what will apparently happen, in the absence of a (highly probable) legal challenge or a sudden outbreak of common sense...

"2. For the ballot in the Scottish Parliament Regions of Glasgow, Lothian, North East Scotland and West Scotland— 

a. a ranked list will be produced from the member’s votes; 

b. if the candidate in first place has responded to the survey advising that they are BAME, the ranked list will be made public as it is; 

c. in other cases, the highest placed candidate who has responded to the survey advising that they are BAME and who has indicated that they wish to be included in the ‘reserved places mechanism’ will be made the first placed candidate on the list which is made public.  

3. For the ballot in the Scottish Parliament Regions of Mid Scotland & Fife, Central Scotland, South Scotland and Highlands & Islands— 

a. a ranked list will be produced from the member’s votes; 

b. if the candidate in first place has responded to the survey advising that they are a disabled person, the ranked list will be made public as it is; 

c. in other cases, the highest placed candidate who has responded to the survey advising that they are a disabled person and who has indicated that they wish to be included in the ‘reserved places mechanism’ will be made the first placed candidate on the list which is made public."

There's no danger of that winning a plain English award, but what it seems to mean is that candidates who declare themselves to be BAME or disabled but do not declare a wish to be included in the reserved places mechanism will be discriminated against just as much as the non-BAME, non-disabled candidates.  Additionally, of course, if you're a BAME candidate in one of the 'wrong' four regions, or a disabled candidate in one of the 'wrong' four regions, you will also be discriminated against.  This is particularly a problem for BAME candidates whose home region has been set aside for a disabled person, and vice versa.

Here's an example of how the system would work in practice.  Suppose SNP members in Mid-Scotland & Fife decide to rank their list candidates as follows -

1) Carson Campbell (BAME)
2) Iona Quigley (non-protected)
3) Petra Brady (disabled)
4) Una Robertson (non-protected)
5) Hector Johnston (non-protected)
6) Brian Thompson (non-protected)
7) John Leckie (disabled)

So the contest has been won fair and square by a BAME candidate - great, you might think, but I'm afraid Mr Campbell is out of luck, because he's stood in a region in which the discrimination is in favour of disabled people. So he's shunted down to Number 2 on the list, where he's unlikely to be elected as an MSP unless the SNP lose constituency seats.  The hopes are even more forlorn for the person who was actually voted to be Number 2 - Iona Quigley is in a non-protected category and is artificially demoted to Number 3.  Wonderful news, though, for the top-ranked disabled candidate Petra Brady?  Well, I'm afraid not!  When she filled in her form, she indicated that she wanted to be ranked on her merits and didn't want to participate in the protected places scheme, so she's discriminated against and is demoted to Number 4.  After the adjustment, the person who tops the list is John Leckie - who the members wanted to be ranked bottom, and who is much less popular than another disabled candidate, and also much less popular than two other candidates from protected categories.

Adjusted result after discrimination:

1) John Leckie (disabled)
2) Carson Campbell (BAME)
3) Iona Quigley (non-protected)
4) Petra Brady (disabled)
5) Una Robertson (non-protected)
6) Hector Johnston (non-protected)
7) Brian Thompson (non-protected)

There's obviously a big debate over whether positive discrimination is even appropriate in candidate selection, but if you're going to do it, this is the absolute worst way of doing it - an East German-style altering of an actual election result to declare the last-placed candidate the winner.  That's a recipe for people walking out of the party in disgust when they realise their votes have been treated with contempt.  Much better would be to have separate ballots for protected and non-protected candidates.

However, the whole idea is misconceived for all sorts of reasons.  Firstly, if the plan is to increase BAME and disabled representation in the Scottish Parliament, why put all your eggs in the basket of the list?  In some cases, the SNP might need to lose constituency seats for even the Number 1 candidate on the list to be elected.  Isn't it a bit odd to say "we're trying to win these constituency seats even though that could scupper our plans for a more representative parliament"?

Secondly, why are an equal number of regions being set aside for BAME and disabled candidates, when there are far, far more disabled people in Scotland than BAME people? According to official figures, 4% of the population is non-white, which means there should be five non-white MSPs on a strictly proportional basis (there are actually two).  Given that the SNP will only win around half the seats in Holyrood, their contribution to those five non-white MSPs should be around two or three - and they already have one in Humza Yousaf.  So why are there four protected BAME places on the list?  By contrast, the definition of 'disabled' being used is so sweeping that it must include an enormous proportion of the population.  Indeed, it's so sweeping that it's impossible to tell what proportion of current MSPs are disabled.  "Not all disabilities are visible" as the saying goes.

Thirdly, why are certain ethnic minorities such as "gypsy/travellers" and "Polish" specifically excluded from the BAME protected places? As far as I know we don't have any traveller MSPs, and no-one can say that travellers aren't victims of horrendous discrimination in wider society - the current leader of the Scottish Conservative Party is on record as saying he would crack down on them if he was Prime Minister for a day.

Fourthly, there's the question of the quality and suitability of the candidates who could end up as SNP MSPs as a result of this mechanism.  I was recently subjected to a volley of invective from Graham Campbell, who is seeking one of the BAME protected places.  He effectively accused me of racism simply for using the term "identity politics" (even though it should have been obvious from the context that I was talking about the trans issue), and ranted about the evils of "patriarchal capitalism", which presumably he wants to overthrow.  On the face of it those are far-left views, and it's not unreasonable for SNP members to want to consider properly and have the final say on whether they wish someone who holds those views to be their standard-bearer.

Fifthly, the SNP NEC has apparently been advised by Scotland's foremost legal expert on these matters that the protected places scheme would be unlawful, and that a successful legal challenge could potentially bankrupt the party.  Given that such an outcome might end any chance of independence in the foreseeable future, the fact that the NEC has ignored that advice does not exactly quell suspicions that the SNP has been the victim of entryism by people with an agenda on which independence does not figure highly.