I always point out, in a state of some incredulity, that if you want to achieve a political goal, you generally unite with people who believe in that goal, and crucially you unite in opposition to the people who do not believe in it. As a supporter of independence, the only circumstances in which it might make sense for me to unite with someone who doesn't want independence would be if we were aiming for some sort of grand national compromise between Yessers and unionists. That's not where we are right now. We actually are trying to win independence, not something less than it.
That fairly unanswerable point generally provokes indignation from the wannabe 'peacemakers'. "Of course the fact that Stuart Campbell votes Tory doesn't make him some sort of 'Tory voter'. Don't be silly, James. And the suggestion that he no longer supports independence is ridiculous. There's no more passionate supporter of independence than the Rev, that's why he's saying he wouldn't vote for it!"
I mean, people are quite rightly scornful of so-called "gender woo", but I'd have to say that the idea you can vote Tory without being a Tory voter, and that you can support independence by opposing it, is taking the mind-bending metaphysical gibberish into a whole new dimension. It's thus something of a relief that Mr Campbell has randomly chosen today of all days to put the matter beyond all dispute with an article on Wings itself that makes clear he would not vote in favour of independence in any new referendum held in the prevailing political conditions. He would not vote No either, seemingly for old times' sake, but it's plain that he'd be wanting No to win because he thinks an independent Scotland would be a "nightmarish Aunt Lydia nanny state". He'd previously announced his abandonment of support for independence on social media quite a long time ago, but many people seem to regard his social media posts as throwaway in nature, so I suspect that this may be the first time they realise that his departure from the pro-independence camp is genuine and that his announcement of it can be regarded as definitive.
To be clear, Mr Campbell's defection is not something I welcome. Indeed it's a matter of considerable regret, because it means that a website with a substantial readership (nowhere near as big as he claims, but substantial nonetheless) is now working against our cause rather than in favour of it. However, until today we had the worst of both worlds, because people were deluding themselves that black was white and that Scotland could somehow be led to independence by a person who wants Scotland to remain in the United Kingdom. At least now we can collectively start facing up to the new reality, and find new constructive constellations among those of us who are actually still inside the independence movement.
Doubtless a few people will cling to their denial due to Mr Campbell attempting the "Schrodinger's Yesser" trick by claiming elsewhere in his article that he remains in favour of independence "in principle". But the unspoken words at the end of that sentence are "but not in practice". Labour have been "in principle" supportive of democratic reform of the House of Lords for over a century, but have always failed to do anything about it when in government. If you say you are in favour of a reform in principle but oppose it in practice, you are in fact an upholder of the status quo. That's exactly the position Mr Campbell is now in. The only objective and credible test of whether someone is a supporter of independence is whether they would vote in favour of it if given a chance, and Mr Campbell has clearly indicated he would not do so. By definition, therefore, Wings Over Scotland is no longer a pro-independence website. That's regrettable, but it's also the indisputable reality.
The only caveat on all of this is that Mr Campbell has stated that he might in the future revert to supporting independence if the SNP perform a mass clear-out of the "deranged ideologues". There would only be a chance of that happening in the near-term or medium-term if Kate Forbes replaces Humza Yousaf as leader, and admittedly that's perfectly conceivable - Ms Forbes has established herself as the most likely successor if the unpopular Mr Yousaf is toppled due to some sort of entirely foreseeable electoral calamity. But there's certainly no guarantee of that happening, and there's also no guarantee that Ms Forbes would go far enough as leader to satisfy Mr Campbell, or indeed that anything at all would even be capable of satisfying him. My suspicion is that, while most of us who left the SNP did so in desperation because we wanted to get the independence campaign back on track, Mr Campbell turned against the SNP at around the same time because he was becoming Yoon-curious. For him, the reasons he has found to hate the SNP leadership are a gateway drug that is leading him towards out-and-out unionism. In fact he may well already be there and is in the process of trying to break the news to his most devoted readers by installments to avoid alienating them with a sudden admission that even they might find too unpalatable. His hint at the end of the article that he may not even be "in principle" supportive of independence for very much longer would tend to support that suspicion. Wherever precisely he is on the journey, though, there seems little doubt about the final destination.
This generates a major peril for the Alba Party, of which I am a member. There is substantial overlap between the Alba membership and the Wings readership, and many senior figures in Alba routinely praise Mr Campbell to the skies on social media. But we simply cannot afford to allow Mr Campbell to be the Pied Piper figure who leads us to being a "Yes in principle" party or a "Yes but not really" party or a "we might be Yes one day but only when and if a long list of terms and conditions are met in full" party. We only have a future as what we started out as - a totally committed "Yes, just Yes, no ifs, no buts, no caveats" party. Indeed the whole point of Alba's existence is to be far more full-throttled about independence than the SNP. If we start doing the total opposite, we might as well never have bothered getting the party off the ground.
It's become commonplace to observe that "I didn't leave the SNP, the SNP left me". Well, by the same token, I can honestly say that I didn't leave Wings, Wings left me. I was once a staunch supporter of him, and long-term readers might remember that in 2017 I defended him to the hilt in his absence at a sort of alternative media "summit" in Edinburgh attended by a passive-aggressive Mike Small and an openly hostile Angela Haggerty. I have no regrets about doing that, because at the time Mr Campbell was still a pro-independence blogger and on balance was still a strong asset for our movement. My own political views have remained constant since 2017, while Mr Campbell's have darted off in a radically different direction, in a way that could never have realistically been predicted. It's also fair to say I had no way of predicting in 2017 that Mr Campbell would behave in a frankly unforgivable way towards me personally four years later, first by sending me an abusive email out of the blue for literally no other purpose than to call me a "c**t", and then the following night getting his solicitor David Halliday to attempt to intimidate me with thinly-veiled threats of what might happen if I refused to give in to his outrageous demands that I should delete Douglas Clark's criticisms of him in a comment that had already been published in the Scot Goes Pop comments section. That, of course, is a further reason why it was always barking mad for people to suggest I could or should somehow "unite" with Mr Campbell. It's impossible to make peace with someone who has overstepped the mark so outrageously unless genuine contrition is shown later, and that was never going to happen in a million years.
For what it's worth, my own response to the question "do you support Scottish independence?" is not "yes, in principle", but simply "yes". My answer to the question "would you still support Scottish independence if it meant trans self-ID would be introduced?" is "yes". My answer to the question "would you still support Scottish independence if you were required to worship weekly at a statue of Fiona Robertson, inscribed Mother Of The Nation?" is "yes". My answer to the question "would you still support Scottish independence if it ushered in twenty unbroken years of Tory rule?" is "yes". My answer will always be "yes", irrespective of which hypothetical you hit me with, because my support for independence is not rooted in transient bread and butter policy matters but in the simple, fundamental belief that Scotland is a country and should be able to choose its own governments. It's entirely up to the Scottish people which governments and policies they choose, and even if I think they made the wrong decision, I'll still be glad they were able to make it and I'll still want them to be free to keep making their own choices in the future.
Say what you like about Brit Nats, but their sense of identity is authentic and deep-rooted enough that they don't start pining for rule from Paris or Berlin just because an election goes a way they don't like or because they disapprove of a particular law passed by Westminster. The fact that all it took for Mr Campbell to abandon independence was for Scots to vote in a way he disapproved of suggests that his belief in the cause was always much, much shallower than most of us ever suspected. In retrospect, his weird desire to eradicate the Gaelic language, something which I've literally never encountered in any other Yesser, should perhaps have been taken as a massive red flag.
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On a semi-related matter, I was recently asked by an anonymous commenter to write a blogpost about a factually inaccurate claim of truly astounding scale that Mr Campbell included in a Wings article. But the comment itself explains the inaccuracy and the surrounding issues admirably - you can read it HERE.