Monday, April 18, 2022

Could we have stopped the SNP from losing its way on independence?

Fergie Kate replied to the above with: "Far too many fawning, obsequious members have allowed them to f*** up the best chance of Indy we ever had. Every month it recedes further into the past."

This raises the interesting question of whether SNP members, including current Alba supporters who were still in the SNP until a year ago, share responsibility with the leadership for the grotesque direction the Scottish Government have taken. At the very moment the SNP should be moving into the endgame for independence, with Brexit as the casus belli, they've instead settled into a bizarre comfort zone with the help of bland and meaningless buzz phrases such as "ease the squeeze".

As I've noted a couple of times recently, there's a difference of view among Alba members about exactly how we're going to help bring independence about.  The majority view is that we'll do it as a relatively small party, using electoral pressure to nudge the SNP in a more radical direction.  There's also a minority 'utopianist' view that we'll soon replace the SNP as the most popular party and directly deliver independence ourselves.  Whichever interpretation you subscribe to, though, there's no question that we're talking about a huge amount of additional work which really should have been unnecessary.  It would have been far more optimal if we'd been able to march together towards independence within an SNP that had maintained a laser-like focus on the prize.  So could we have rescued the SNP from the inside?

The short answer is "not with Nicola Sturgeon as leader". That was pretty conclusively proved in late 2020 by the aftermath of the victory of "the good guys" in the SNP internal elections, which the leadership swiftly and effortlessly nullified by procedural chicanery.  Most famously, Fiona Robertson carried on as if nothing had changed, as if being voted out of office was a mere technical detail. She undoubtedly continued to wield more power than her elected successor. This circumvention of SNP internal democracy was perhaps analogous to the dying days of the Weimar Republic, when a supposedly democratic system proved to be a hollow shell due to the massive overuse of centralised presidential powers - which were technically constitutional, but which no-one had ever really envisaged the potential significance of.

So realistically if the SNP was to be kept on track, it would have meant Nicola Sturgeon never gaining those centralised powers in the first place, which in turn would have meant her not becoming leader in 2014.  And that would have been a tall order. The most straightforward way it could have been achieved is if Alex Salmond had simply never resigned as SNP leader, thus preventing a vacancy arising.  Funnily enough, just a few hours before he resigned, I was asked by the BBC to go on the breakfast programme the following day, and in the preparatory phone conversation the producer/researcher said to me very emphatically: "Now obviously Alex Salmond isn't going to resign because of the referendum result, no-one would expect him to do that, there's no reason for him to do that."  Those words seemed very authoritative, and I was bit stunned when the opposite occurred so quickly.  Perhaps it would have been perfectly feasible for Mr Salmond to ride out the referendum result, because after all the Yes campaign had performed a lot better than most observers had expected.  It's a borderline call, though, because remember he was less than three years away from a decade in Bute House, and there comes a point where any leader will be accused of trying to "do a Thatcher" and stay in office forever.  But maybe, just maybe, he could have held on for four more years, giving him just about enough time to hold a second indyref in 2018 in the wake of the EU referendum result.  The snag is that he had no way of knowing when he resigned that an EU referendum would take place or that Leave would win.

Without Mr Salmond staying in office, is there any other way Nicola Sturgeon could have been thwarted?  Well, someone could have challenged her in the 2014 leadership election.  As a matter of principle that would have been a good thing because it would have prevented a coronation and facilitated a debate about strategy, but in the long run it would have changed nothing - she would undoubtedly have beaten any challenger by a country mile.  

More realistic would have been to prevent her becoming recognised as the undisputed heir to the throne prior to 2014.  There was nothing inevitable about her gaining that status - remember that if it hadn't been for Alex Salmond's last minute entry into the race, the 2004 leadership election would have been a three-way contest between Nicola Sturgeon, Mike Russell and Roseanna Cunningham, and it was almost universally accepted that Roseanna Cunningham would have won comfortably.  However to know the importance of preventing Ms Sturgeon becoming seen as 'the anointed one' you would have needed a hell of a lot of foreknowledge about how any administration she led would prove to be pro-independence in theory but devolutionist in practice.  I'm not sure there were any real clues in advance.

Hindsight really is a wonderful thing.  I recall the former blogger Jeff Breslin saying in 2014 that it broke his heart that Alex Salmond had chosen to stay on as leader, rather than allowing the supposedly wider appeal of Nicola Sturgeon to win the referendum for us.  But whether or not it's true that Ms Sturgeon is the ideal person to lead a referendum campaign, that's not of much use if no government she leads will ever take the action required to actually bring a referendum about.  I think we just have to accept that there was a lot of fate involved in where we've ended up, and instead of beating ourselves up about things that would have been hard to control or predict, we need to think about how we're going to drag ourselves into a better position. In my view, that has to involve some kind of electoral progress for Alba, and we can make a start on that in the local elections.

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To catch up with my Scot Goes Popcast interview with Alba candidate Lisa Keogh, please click HERE (video version) or HERE (audio only). 


  1. I strongly doubt Sturgeon and her clique have the ability (or power) to have planned and carried out all that has happened since 2014, so forecasting the extent of what has happened to the SNP would have been pretty much impossible. Clearly she has the power hunger personality that would have allowed her to be manipulated and guided through what has happened, becoming the enemy within courtesy of her ego and the aims of those who had the power to direct the SNP in a direction that became increasingly clearly against what most SNP voters wanted. With the lack of an alternative to the SNP, they were give the benefit of the doubt for far too long, for many in the hope that maybe there was a secret plan. If there was then it was to hamstring independence not to gain it. Far fetched? Just look at the calibre of the favoured SNP MP's & MSP's and the sidelining of those that show a desire for independence.

    After the referendum in 2014 two things happened very quickly - the deceptions of Better Together became very evident and support for independence didn't fade away (as was probably expected by BT). So not long after the referendum, the union had failed to deliver a fatal blow to independence and since their pre-referendum 'promises' quickly became either lies or broken promises, and without any positive case for the union, independence became virtually certain as support for the SNP took off. The Brexit vote in 2016 may well have been when the UK became serious about arguably by then their only option capable of preventing independence - neuter the SNP. With no other options, taking over an organisation from within has a long and proven track record of success. Now with years of hindsight, with all the inaction on independence but a focus on issues such as GRA, who can argue that this isn't quite possibly what happened to the SNP.

    Arguably until ALBA became an option, there wasn't much of an alternative to the SNP. There is now, but only if voters wake up the the twin realities of what being in the UK means (pretty much unavoidable now) and that voting SNP will simply result in Scotland remaining in that UK. The SNP of 2014 no longer exists. Nor does the UK of 2014. It's down to voters now to play their part and end this SNP/UK marriage of convenience. Voting is the only say that people actually have in changing anything and it's time to use it to prevent being on the path of bad to worse continuing any longer. Support should be conditional and Sturgeons SNP have had the benefit of the doubt for far too long already. It's time to squeeze them out and support those that do want independence.

  2. I fear this is going to take another decade James. Sturgeon has lost the fight before the battle ever started.

    I have today started the process of trying to get Irish citizenship. That might be the only realistic way to regain my EU status.

    I don't think the majority of us want to wait until we are nearly retired to get our own country.

  3. Just in case anyone worried there was any danger of the SNP doing anything decisively about indyref2, "still no date for legislation".

    "As I've noted a couple of times recently, there's a difference of view among Alba members about exactly how we're going to help bring independence about. The majority view is that we'll do it as a relatively small party, using electoral pressure to nudge the SNP in a more radical direction. There's also a minority 'utopianist' view that we'll soon replace the SNP as the most popular party and directly deliver independence ourselves."

    On the first point, using Alba to apply pressure makes sense in theory. One does suspect though that there is at least some faction within the SNP now that quite openly want to do the opposite of whatever Alba is trying to pressure them to do, no matter what that actually means in practice.

    On the second point, I don't know if it's "utopianist" - I suspect a lot of the people that fall into that camp know the reality that Alba are not going to supplant the SNP "soon", but it will be (as Anon fears above) a long journey of a number of electoral cycles. Something that no-one really wants but seems increasingly like it may be necessary as the SNP at best dither and at worst actively hinder progress.

    Whether it actually happens or not no-one knows, but for me its clear that having more pro-indy parties has got to be better than having fewer.

    1. That's true EXCEPT in first-past-the-post Westminster elections, where it's a huge advantage for the pro-independence vote to be united behind one party while the unionist vote is split three ways.

    2. From an electoral maths perspective the point is well made: agreed.

      But Alba may at some point *have* to stand against the SNP and be damned in that circumstance anyway: if we're going through further Westminster GEs it's almost certainly because the SNP aren't doing anything on independence, at which point you can't just give the SNP free run to suck up the pro-indy vote to not do anything with it. You don't exert any electoral pressure on the SNP if you don't stand in an election against them.

      But there's still a bit of time before that situation would become an issue, and it probably doesn't at all if the SNP get on with holding the indyref2 they said they would be end of next year at the latest.

    3. I totally disagree with everything you've said there. We have three tiers of electoral representation, of which two are not elected by first-past-the-post. Nobody "has" to be idiotic and stand large numbers of candidates in the one and only tier that is elected by FPTP. What you call "not giving the SNP a free run" is simply being self-destructive for the sake of being self-destructive. The only winners would be the unionist parties. To "exert electoral pressure on the SNP" responsibly and effectively, you do it in elections conducted by proportional representation.

  4. Meanwhile more and more No voters settle in Scotland. Sturgeon knows this.

  5. I don't think we could have changed anything without foreknowledge of Sturgeon's (lack of) plans for independence. What is more interesting to me is her motives. Has she done nothing due to an innate caution, or is there something else? I'm really beginning to wonder.

    As for Alba, I've said it before and I'll say it again- Salmond is a double-edged sword. He is probably the only person with the clout to get Alba out of the starting blocks, but the scandal around him has, rightly or wrongly, permanently sullied his name and made him a no-go for many voters. Don't get me wrong- do I think personally that he was guilty of the crimes he was accused of? No, I do not. Do I think there was a conspiracy against him? Yes I do. Do I think he has been blameless in his actions towards women? No I do not. Maybe I know people who know things. Maybe I don't.

    Also, Alba's vote will be artificially low due to them not standing candidates in all wards. I have been forced to give my votes to the SNP, not Alba because they were the only nominally pro-independence candidates in my ward. How much will that sort of thing have skewed the figures over the country?

    Going back to Sturgeon, what are her motives, and why? Those are the big unanswered questions, methinks.

  6. Do I think Stravaiger has been blameless in his actions towards women? No I do not. Maybe I know people who know things. Maybe I don't.

    The beauty of unsubstantiated smears is that they can be applied to anyone. Bit of a sex pest are you Stravaiger?

    The big unanswered question is what are your motives?

    1. Bit of a sex pest? Maybe I am, maybe I am not. Am I the leader of a political party looking to increase its vote share? No, I am not. That is what is relevant.

      Facts are chiels that winna ding.

    2. Stravaiger - Facts are not your strong point but you like a smear. You probably worked for the old News of The World newspaper where your "facts" would meet their standards.

    3. Pfft, just giving some friendly advice. Take it or leave it.

    4. Would you survive a concerted attempt by the state to jail you, where they set 22 police on a 2 year fishing exercise, interviewing every woman you'd ever worked with and some you'd just been photographed, trying to find something, anything to prosecute on? Would the state, if they did that, find nothing at all other than defence witnesses (including in Salmond's case personal protection people paid to watch him like a hawk, at the time these things were alleged) end up with ludicrous things like "hair pinging" and "touching a back", all at very public events, some with his wife next to him? (Likely because it was easy to find the dates and details of those events). How many men would survive that and come out innocent, them having found nothing but things a jury clearly saw through? Not many, I wage. Most men could have been better men. So could most women. When the state goes to that length to try to imprison someone highly political and a major threat to the state and they come out clean as a whistle, I'm going to assume that man is very innocent indeed.

  7. Our well kent insights into the Saint Nicola's Party are still not public knowledge.
    We're political anoraks, ahead of the curve.
    The masses' opinions suffer from natural hysteresis; they'll take time to catch on.
    But that's not a bad situation: we're well prepared for the obvious.
    Once the Saint Nicola's Party house of cards blows over, the resentment against this heinous deception will drive folks into action.
    Alba must stand ready and solid to take aboard all the shipwreck survivors.
    Their energy will be impossible to contain and will propel Scotland into success.

  8. Sturgeon the independence leader who can find the time to shave the beards of hairy men but cannae find the time to name the date of an independence referendum that is supposed to take place next year.

    What happened to wee Patrick who claimed that a date for debating the Indyref2 date in Holyrood would be announced soon.

    Oh and wait a minute the WGD numpty Dr Jim says there already is a date set for Indyref2.

    Charlatans the lot of them.

  9. James, you will pleased to hear that a great polling expert has agreed with your analysis on Alba. No not Prof Curtice but Dunce Anderson.

    " I agree with SGP's analysis here in that Alba is retaining its base to date"

    There you go James Skier has given you his seal of approval on something. I am sure it has made your Easter a happier holiday.

  10. I tend to think Nicola Sturgeon was a decent leader at first. She definitely reacted well to the Leave result in 2016. However, she got a bad shock when Theresa May's "Now is not the time" approach didn't lead to the Scottish people rising up against her, but instead led to Tory gains and SNP losses in the 2017 General Election. Ever since then, she's been hopeless, clinging to power instead of finding a new route to independence. So if we're into counterfactuals, I would've liked somebody to challenge Sturgeon after the 2017 GE and take over a SNP leader. But who?

    1. I'm not so sure.

      I was a party member at that time and I remember just after the 'Leave' result when there was a bit of a surge for 'Yes' in the polls I was thinking 'Bring it on!' but another member higher up in the branch said "There won't be another referendum any time soon", meaning not for a good number of years, and I wondered why.

      Seems he knew more than I did about the thinking going on higher up in the party.

    2. I'm not sure what exactly happened inside the SNP from the Brexit referendum till the 2017 GE. I know that many SNP leavers were deeply unhappy with Nicola's anti-Brexit stance and they wanted to postpone a new indyref till Brexit was a fait accompli. But whether Nicola was listening to them or not, and whether there were some internal power struggles that the rest of us never heard about, I don't know. I hope somebody will write an inside account at some point.

  11. " Could we have stopped the SNP from losing its way on independendence."

    If the SNP truly was a party of Scottish independence Sturgeon would have been replaced as leader after she made her " there will be no referendum" speech in Jan 2020.

    She wasn't replaced and the SNP had shown to any independence supporter who was not suffering from some sort of delusional illness that Sturgeon's leadership is a devolutionalist leadership and as such a Unionist/British party. The SNP members had also shown why Scotland is still under London rule.

    Vote Alba to end London ( Sturgeon ) rule.

  12. Is Patrick Grady the SNP's very own version of the Tories Ross Thomson (remember him)?

    Will Grady now be known as Groper Grady?

    Will Grady be kicked out the SNP?

    The nicophants on WGD are probably waiting to hear from Sturgeon as to whether he and Gibson should be supported or condemned. These WGD numpties are nothing but pathetic party drones.

    1. You're probably right on the latter point. If the SNP line is "they've apologised, they have work to do, let's move on", the WGD commenters will parrot that every bit as wholeheartedly as they would if the line is "there can be no place in a civilised society for behaviour of this sort, these wicked MPs must resign and give their constituents a chance of a fresh start".

    2. No mention of Grady and Gibson on WGD. Yet DrJim and others are always smearing Salmond as if they are perfect human beings. Hypocrites the lot of them.


  13. After Salmond resigned, Sturgeon was seen as his natural successor. I don't think any of us could have foreseen how duplicitous and manipulative she would become.

    In essence, she is Scotland's Maggie Thatcher - a power-crazed narcissist who has surrounded herself with a 'cabinet' of weak-willed sycophants, hanging on to her every word as if it were divine revelation.

    Ironically, the first step to achieving independence now is the removal of the leadership of the Scottish 'National' Party. Until Sturgeon and her ilk are defenestrated we will continue to have to endure the 'benefits' of the Union.

  14. well when I was in the SNP when Alex was incharge the culture was pretty bad as well, mention of a scottish currency or udi or anything that deviated from indie light/devo max was seen as sacralidge, the rott was in from the start. I got the impression that the SNP had given up the ghost long ago and adopted the gradulit adenda hoping for devo max at best but then found it's self getting voted in in 2007, by people like myself who thought the free at 50 mantra still ran, it was just a perlonged teeth grind from then on until 2014 though I was saying there was a need for a new party to other campaigners back in 2013, even talked to Gordon Wilson before he died about it a few years later. he seemed still traumatised by the rift in the party in the 1980's which he heeld in all fairness and helped alex push it foward. 2014/15 was the time for a new party, but we are here know, better late than never.

  15. Sturgeon has been hopeless as a leader of the SNP and by extension of the Indy Movement. Douglas Ross is my MP = Proof enough she has been a disaster as SNP leader. 2017 G.E was an utter disaster electorally for Indy Movement and not just the SNP. SNP was losing its way before that election. Sturgeons true anti Indy colours were showing before that 2017 election. I was putting a peg on my nose to vote for them.It is now 2022 and no sign of a new Referendum. She really needs to go. For Gods sake she needs to go and to take her man hating anti Indy cabal with her.

  16. Sturgeon and Robertson have made an absolute bollocks of the Scottish census. Something that should have been straightforward has cost the taxpayer a lot of wasted money and all because of their obsession with trans ideology.

  17. In Gordon Ross's last blog where he talks about the Queen accepting the wishes of the Scots if they vote for Independence he also mentions "another good news story" about the latest Ipsos Mori Poll for independence now at 55%.
    That is the first that I have of this and can find no mention anywhere else of it. Has there been another poll.?