I said to a family member the other day that just about every faction of the independence movement seems to have completely taken leave of its senses, and that it's so mentally exhausting being caught in the middle of it all that perhaps the only answer is to be cryogenically frozen for about four years and hope by the time you wake up that people have finally got a grip of themselves. The snag is, though, that the position for Yes in the opinion polls is considerably healthier than the state of the Yes movement gives us any real right to expect, and for that reason none of us can responsibly opt out at this point - if we do, we could be sleeping through the moment of maximum opportunity. For the last couple of years, public opinion on independence has averaged out at roughly 50/50, meaning that we may never have a more favourable context in which to seek an outright indy mandate than we do right now. So we'll just have to navigate our way through the current mess somehow.
It's not going to be easy. The SNP is now led by people who care less about independence than they do about an ideology that seems to have been beamed down from Mars. They dehumanise, ostracise and in many cases try to destroy some of their best colleagues simply for not signing up to a belief system that has never been mainstream at any point in human history, and that is not shared by the vast majority of the population even now. What was previously the largest pro-independence website has essentially abandoned the cause by saying that its support for indy will only be reactivated if the architecture of Yes politics as we know it is razed to the ground and rebuilt completely from scratch, and gets people to credulously treat that impossible proviso as minor and achievable. The only daily pro-independence newspaper appears to have very recently decided to openly pick sides on the toxic gender identity debate, which arguably points to a desire to ideologically 'purify' the movement rather than to serve it and encourage it in the diverse form that it actually exists. And large swathes of the Alba Party seem to be becoming more militant, and are using language on social media that really cannot be defended, such as referring to the SNP as "the Scottish Nonce Party" or suggesting that a vote for the SNP is akin to a vote for Jimmy Savile. Some Alba voices also seem to have convinced themselves that there is a perverse 'unionist path to independence' which involves backing Westminster vetoes of Scottish Parliament decisions and allying with the Tories or other right-wingers in England to destroy a pro-indy government.
So what's the solution? It's easier to describe than to put into practice. As far as Wings is concerned, it's got to the point where I think the rational thing to do would be to write the site off as the de facto unionist / Tory site it's now become, and to try to fill whatever void is left behind with something new and genuinely pro-independence. I know that won't happen, because so many people seem irrationally besotted with Campbell and would follow him to the bottom of the sea or into the core of a nuclear reactor if that's where he led them. But nevertheless Wings is now a massive part of the problem and is highly likely to remain so, and there's no point sticking our heads in the sand about that. My guess is Campbell may well urge his readers to either vote Tory or abstain in any election used as a de facto independence referendum.
I'd suggest The National should work its way back to what it used to do very well, which was to function as a welcoming home to all Yessers, regardless of their place on the political spectrum, their party affiliation, or their views on identity politics. For a pro-indy newspaper to be so openly partisan on the GRR issue isn't just to choose sides between the SNP and Alba - if it was, there might be less of a downside given the respective sizes of those two parties. No, the much bigger consideration is that the SNP itself is split on the GRR - there's a reason why the rebellion on the GRR Bill was the biggest in SNP history, and yet it was probably just the tip of the iceberg. A very significant chunk of the independence movement will now feel The National is somewhat hostile towards them - and no, that's not just a problem for The National, it's a problem for all of us and for the independence cause itself.
Both the SNP and Alba should, in my view, make a virtue out of necessity now that it looks as if gender self-ID will be decided on a UK-wide basis at Westminster. It's a golden opportunity to take the heat out of the debate here in Scotland. There's no longer very much to be gained for Alba in constantly using the GRR as a wedge issue against the SNP when Starmer will be making the decisions and taking any flak. Meanwhile the SNP can feel much safer in extending far greater tolerance towards its gender critical wing.
As I'm a member of Alba and not of the SNP, I'll just finish by saying this. To be electorally successful, to win list seats in 2026, Alba need to become less angry and less militant. But we're currently doing the complete opposite of that. We appear to hate the SNP a hundred times more than we love the idea of independence. That is not the way of giving SNP supporters confidence that an Alba list vote is a natural complement to an SNP constituency vote - which frankly is the only realistic chance Alba have of a breakthrough. We really need to take a step back and think about what we're doing, and the long-term consequences of it, before it's too late.
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