In the comments section of this blog the other day, someone referred to being in the "scunnered middle", meaning somewhere between the SNP and Alba, and dissatisfied with both parties. That's not quite where I am - I'm still a member of Alba, and I hope to stay that way, and if I get the opportunity I'll stand in the party's internal elections again in the future. Nevertheless, I am absolutely sick to the back teeth of taking fire from about three different directions and being left to feel paradoxically isolated simply for being somewhere in between the extremities. The fact that it's happening demonstrates, I think, how the independence movement is increasingly splitting into entrenched factions which are taking ever more extreme positions. This cannot go on much longer - or rather it can, but we're doomed to failure if it does. People have stopped listening to each other and stopped recognising the fact that they need each other and can't win independence alone.
Last night, for example, I joined in with the very obviously justified criticism of SNP MPs for their premeditated act of petty bullying in walking out of the Commons chamber as soon as an Alba MP opened a debate on an issue of vital importance to the people of Scotland. My reward was SNP leadership uber-loyalists screaming abuse at me because I apparently don't understand that Alba MPs are subhuman creatures who all right-thinking people must joyfully shun at every available opportunity. I replied rather forcibly to that infantile nonsense, but my only reward was people on the other extreme jubilantly telling me that this proves I was wrong for saying we mustn't split the pro-independence vote in a first-past-the-post Westminster election. Apparently last night's incident means that all decent people must vote against the evil SNP at every conceivable opportunity for the remainder of time, regardless of the consequences for independence. Can people really not see how pathetic this all is, and how we're losing sight of the bigger picture?
A few weeks ago, a chap insta-blocked me on Twitter, literally because of a single reply in which I politely disagreed with his view that unionist list MSPs are "unelected". (By definition, people elected on the list ballot cannot be unelected. Anyone who thinks they are is essentially saying that first-past-the-post is the only 'proper' electoral system, and thus legitimising the system which unleashed the horrors of Thatcherism on the basis of as little as 42% of the popular vote.) This suggests to me that the factions are now becoming intolerant of anyone who rejects even the smallest, most trivial facet of their belief systems. It's like you have to unthinkingly chant articles of faith such as "Murdo Fraser has lost every election he's stood in!" to avoid expulsion from the tribe on the basis that you're a bit suspect or can't be trusted. This is of course the flipside of the madness that has gripped both the SNP and the Greens on identity politics issues - it's practically getting to the point where it's career death in those parties to fail to display your pronouns on social media, because that means you're probably secretly in league with far-right forces in America or whatever.
One reason why I haven't done many podcasts recently is that it's increasingly hard to find anyone willing to take part as a guest. Many SNP and Green people who would have happily spoken to me prior to spring 2021 now regard me as untouchable because I'm an Alba member. But many people in my own party also regard me with suspicion because I'm a moderate, have a mind of my own, and have stood up to the likes of Stuart Campbell in the past. And with almost comical irony, there's a third group who see themselves as above the fray and regard me with distaste because I've "picked a side and am contributing to the warfare within the Yes movement". Well, if this is what being on one side feels like, all I can say is I'd like to know where the hell my troops are. It's getting to the point where I'm taking a "plague on all your houses" attitude - I've more or less decided that the podcasts will continue, but mostly as solo efforts from now on.
Maybe it's about time that "the scunnered middle" have a few articles of faith of their own to bash others over the head with. Here are a few suggestions...
* Free speech and tolerance on identity politics matters. We all have the right to take strong views in favour of either trans rights or women's sex-based rights, but we must also respect the right of others to take the opposite view, and we must accept that both camps will always have a home within the independence movement. (You would think that would be an utterly uncontroversial point to make, but we all know that otherwise sensible people will be screaming in horror as I say it. "The independence movement must be purified from all transphobes!", "You're throwing women and girls under the bus, James!", etc, etc, etc.)
* Independence first. No other issue should be allowed to get in the way of us uniting to bring independence about - and that includes the trans issue, and it also includes the personal animosity between the groups surrounding Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond.
* People should not be dismissed as troublemakers or the enemy within (or as "contributors to internal warfare") simply for putting pressure on the SNP leadership to stop kicking independence into the long grass. Foot-soldiers in the independence movement have the right to their opinions on "process" just as much as on anything else, and there's nothing magical about being at the top of the SNP that gives anyone "papal infallibility" on questions of strategy.
* But by the same token, the right to pressure the SNP on independence strategy should not be abused to justify all-out hate campaigns against Nicola Sturgeon and her colleagues. (Nor are hate campaigns against Alex Salmond justified, nor should he be written out of the SNP's history in Soviet style.)
* No self-sabotage in elections. Proportional election systems give pro-indy parties the scope to compete with each other without doing harm to Yes representation, but where first-past-the-post still exists (ie. Westminster and the Holyrood constituency ballot), there has to be unity to prevent a split vote that will allow unionists to gain seats. You can't go from "supermajority" in 2021 to "minimise-our-majority" in 2024 and pretend not to spot the contradiction.
Any other suggestions?
* * *
If you'd like to help Scot Goes Pop continue in some form, donations are welcome HERE.