Friday, June 18, 2021

The echoes and ghosts of 2017

Although I always want the Tories to lose every election they fight, I had a sense of foreboding last night when it became clear the Liberal Democrats had unexpectedly won the Chesham and Amersham by-election, because the result has a potential 'game-changer' feel about it.  Until now, the Lib Dems had been beginning to look like an irrelevance, and that suited the SNP down to the ground, both electorally and in the sense of staking their claim to be treated by the media as their status as the third largest party in the Commons would warrant.  We know from the experience of the 2017-19 parliament that the BBC and others will leap on any signs of Lib Dem recovery as an excuse to get back into the comfort zone of pretending that the UK has a three-party system - with the Lib Dems as the third party.

The by-election result can perhaps be seen as the Tories' equivalent of what happened to the SNP in 2017 - the moment it becomes clear that a slightly unnatural coalition of support can't hold together forever.  In 2015 the SNP had made dramatic inroads into former Labour heartlands by becoming the undisputed party of Yes voters - and yet they hadn't paid a corresponding penalty in the No-voting areas they had held for decades, like Moray.  2017 was the inevitable belatedly catching up with them, and by the same token the Tories can't really expect to continue to have a clear run in seats like Chesham and Amersham where voters are unlikely to approve of the nationalistic, illiberal and populist message that demolished the Red Wall.  The SNP reacted to their 2017 setback by completely losing their nerve and putting their objectives firmly on the backburner (it appeared that losing Moray was harder for them to bear than losing the prospect of independence) - my guess is the Tories will not make the same mistake.

To return to the subject of the controversy over the "missing £600,000" of donations that the SNP were supposed to have ring-fenced to fight an indyref campaign, in a sense that's the chickens coming home to roost after the strategic error of 2017.  The SNP paid a lot of heed in the aftermath of the 2017 election to the voters that had lost them seats to the Tories - but they forgot to pay heed to pro-independence voters who had, after all, just won them the election on the specific basis that such an outcome would constitute a "triple-lock mandate" for a referendum.  They also paid no attention to the wishes of the people who had donated so generously to the referendum campaign fund - indeed they very cynically did the opposite by scrapping the referendum and spending the money on other things (nobody seems to know quite what).  Exactly the same principle applies to the SNP's core support as it does to SNP-Tory floating voters in Banffshire or wherever - if you take those people for granted, eventually there'll be a penalty to be paid, even if it takes a while to feed through.

The simplest way to sort out this mess is simply to name the date for the independence referendum, even if it's in 2022 or 2023.  People won't mind quite so much about misused/squandered cash if we get back on track for the goal that cash was raised for.  Indeed, if a referendum was called, it would probably be quite easy and quick to raise another £600,000.  Everyone would be a winner - well, apart from the unionist parties.

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Have you signed our parliamentary petition calling for devolution of powers over broadcasting to the Scottish Parliament? If you haven't yet, you can do so HERE.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

The SNP need to understand that independence supporters will not wait forever

A couple of recent comment pieces in The National have caught my eye.  First of all, and most importantly, there's David Pratt's much-praised article today expressing his disquiet that the SNP government have made no progress on independence since their election win last month.  This is highly significant, because David is not one of the usual suspects who have been criticising the SNP for inaction for many years - quite the reverse, in fact.  As I've said a number of times, I genuinely don't know whether the SNP leadership are serious about holding a referendum in this parliamentary term, or whether they're stringing us along.  But if by any chance it's the latter, David's piece should serve as a wake-up call.  It must be easy for them to assume that independence supporters who loyally accepted the logic for delay in 2017, and then again in 2019, and then again in 2021, will always accept the logic for yet more and more delay. Perhaps some will, but most will have a tipping-point where 'good reasons' start to look like excuses.  

My suspicion is that's why certain people in the SNP were so insistent that Alba's setback in the election had to mean the final end for the party and that it should "never receive any coverage ever again".  If Alba survives indefinitely, as it now looks like it may do, it will always be a tempting alternative home for those who reach their own personal tipping-point and decide the SNP aren't serious about independence. The number of those people will just keep growing and growing - until and unless the SNP actually start taking some action.  We were told that three SNP MSPs were ready to defect to Alba after the election if Alex Salmond had been elected.  While it may now be unlikely for them to take that step in the short term, it's far from unthinkable in the medium term, especially if Alba can rebuild some credibility in the local elections next May.

Is the SNP's current excuse for delay good enough or convincing enough? We can see with our own eyes that it wouldn't be impossible to hold a referendum, even right now - we've just held a national election as scheduled, and we're in the middle of co-hosting one of the biggest sporting events in the world.  However, there's a case to be made that it's far from ideal to go ahead with a referendum while the virus is still circulating widely and while the vaccination drive has not yet been completed.  That's fine, but those factors will not apply for much longer anyway.  What is totally indefensible is to argue that there will have to be more delay even once the virus is tamed, because "Scotland must rebuild before holding a referendum". You can guarantee that the rest of the world, including Westminster, will not be putting its politics on hold for several years.  Clement Attlee did not say that creating the welfare state had to wait until Britain had recovered from the war - instead he knew the welfare state was essential to the recovery.

(Note: Stephen Paton specifies preferred pronouns of 'they' and 'them', so out of basic courtesy - not because of diktat from the thought police - I am doing my best to respect Stephen's wishes.  Hence the odd-looking use of language in the remainder of this blogpost.)

Elsewhere, Stephen Paton is continuing to liberally apply the parfum d'obsession with yet another rant about how much they hate Alba.  Which begs the obvious question: if Alba are so "irrelevant", why the need to keep stamping on them week after week? Ostensibly Stephen's article is a call for pluralism within the Yes movement, and yet the subtext is entirely the opposite - that Alba (a moderate, centre-left, social democratic party, let's not forget) should somehow be treated as the equivalent of Siol nan Gaidheal, with no place in the movement whatsoever.  This is of course consistent with the "no debate" line taken by Stephen's side of the debate (ironically) about trans rights.

It's perhaps slightly amusing that people are reacting to Stephen's piece as if they're ('they' meaning Stephen) speaking on behalf of the SNP - because Stephen is, as I understand it, a Green voter.  They even made a video in the run-up to the 2016 election calling for people to game the system by voting against the SNP on the list, in much the same way that Alba advocated this year.

Once again, Stephen trots out the tired old line about Alex Salmond being "the most unpopular politician in Scotland". We should really start calling this nonsense out, because there's simply no evidence to support it.  There are 129 MSPs, 59 Scottish MPs, over one thousand councillors, and many other politicians who do not currently hold elected office.  Stephen is implying that there is polling evidence to suggest that Mr Salmond is less popular than every single one of those individuals - well, if that evidence exists, by all means let's see it.  So far I've only seen polls comparing him to around half a dozen fellow politicians.

Stephen also claims that Scotland is "on the cusp" of independence and that there's no need for anyone to look to Alba when the Yes movement is already so "buoyant". Which takes me back to where I started this blogpost.  Get back to us, Stephen, when the SNP have actually done something to justify the belief that independence might be imminent.

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Have you signed our parliamentary petition calling for devolution of powers over broadcasting to the Scottish Parliament? If you haven't yet, you can do so HERE.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Important message for email subscribers to Scot Goes Pop

I've been meaning to mention this for a while - the email subscription option that is automatically built into blogs on the Blogger platform is being discontinued in July.  In all honesty, I didn't think that was going to make all that much difference to Scot Goes Pop, because I assumed there were only a small number of email subscribers.  In general the only reason I remember there are any at all is that every few months, I get an irate email saying "YOU'RE A DISGRACE, KELLY, PLEASE REMOVE ME FROM YOUR MAILING LIST", and I say "why not just unsubscribe?", and they say "HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO DO THAT?", and I say "there's a link at the bottom of each email" and they say "OH RIGHT DIDN'T NOTICE".

Anyway, I've just checked, and to my astonishment it turns out there are currently 1,422 email subscribers to Scot Goes Pop.  So it looks like this could be much more of an inconvenience to people than I initially realised.  In theory I have the option of exporting the entire mailing list to another service, and I received a marketing email this morning urging me to do that - although whether the firm being advertised is really the best option, I've no idea.  I think what would happen is that everyone on the list would be sent a confirmation email asking whether they wish to continue with the new service or not.

If anyone has any strong feelings about the best way forward, let me know - I'll have to make a decision within the next couple of weeks.

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Have you signed our parliamentary petition calling for devolution of powers over broadcasting to the Scottish Parliament? If you haven't yet, you can do so HERE.