I can't recall which Holyrood election it was - I think by a process of elimination it must have been either 2003 or 2007 - but there was once a Labour Party Election Broadcast that tried to terrify voters about the consequences of the SNP getting into power, and featured doom-laden music and a narrator who a newspaper journalist described as being "on day-release from a crypt". At the end, a map of the UK appeared, and Scotland was depicted physically breaking away and drifting off into the North Atlantic. A caption posed the question: "Then What?", before Crypt Guy wrapped things up with the exhortation: "DON'T LET THE NATIONALISTS PUT SCOTLAND'S FUTURE AT RISK!" For good measure, there were also "Then What?" billboard ads, and across the bottom of one of them a wag scrawled the reply: "Self-Respect?"
As risible as the Labour campaign was, sometimes "Then What?" is a perfectly reasonable question when a person or group is taking action in the heat of anger with a short-term objective in mind and no thought at all about what comes afterwards. A commenter on this blog has been keeping us updated in recent days with the running tally of the number of consecutive posts Stuart Campbell has written on Wings Over Scotland about the trans issue. There have been even more posts since the last update, and by my reckoning the number now stands - astoundingly - at eighteen. There's no secret about the objective of this monomaniacal Rant-Fest, which seems destined for a place in the Guinness Book of Records - the Wings page on Facebook defines the website's current aim in crystal-clear fashion as: "Nicola Sturgeon must go". (Younger readers may struggle to believe me if I say the former aim of Wings, a very, very long time ago, was to bring about an independent Scotland.) Thus Campbell is quite intentionally joining forces with the unionist media and unionist parties to relentlessly pummel and demonise Ms Sturgeon with jibes about the trans issue in the hope of 'finishing her off'. This is far from being the first time that he has vastly overestimated both the First Minister's vulnerability and his own capacity to play a role in "the kill", and my guess is she'll still be around at the Westminster election in 2024, which may or may not be the plebiscite election.
But let's suppose I'm wrong about that, and Ms Sturgeon is more vulnerable than I believe. There are of course two ways in which she could "go". She could simply depart as SNP leader, in which event Campbell had better hope Kate Forbes replaces her, because I can't think of any other plausible leadership candidate who might even conceivably change the party's direction on the trans issue. In fairness, Ms Forbes could very well be the successor, but if Campbell is banking on that he's rather recklessly putting all his eggs in one basket. She's only 32 at present, and it wouldn't totally surprise me if she does what Jo Swinson did in 2017 and sits out the leadership contest because she doesn't feel quite ready yet. Campbell is going to have put in a lot of effort for absolutely no reward if he somehow helps brings down Ms Sturgeon and wakes up the next day to First Minister Angus Robertson.
The other way Ms Sturgeon could go is if she remains as SNP leader, but the demonisation from the Express, Wings, the Mail et al pays off in the court of public opinion and the SNP end up being removed from government, taking her with them. That would inevitably mean the replacement of the SNP with a unionist government, because with the best will in the world, Alba is a very, very long way away from being popular enough to offer any prospect of a pro-indy alternative government. A unionist government at Holyrood would kill independence stone dead for a large number of years. If you think that would bother Campbell in any way, you haven't been paying attention, because he recently said he is now "the least Yes he has ever been" and that his "conscience" would prevent him from campaigning for independence - and presumably from voting for it too. So the death of the independence cause would be no loss to him whatsoever - but it certainly would be a loss to many of his followers who still believe in independence and who he has practically hypnotised into thinking that to-the-death warfare against a pro-independence government is somehow a way (and even the only way!) of bringing about independence.
A couple of days ago, I was informed on Twitter by an ostensible independence supporter that the Tories are using the trans issue to "successfully destroy the SNP". That of course is a ludicrous notion - although there hasn't been a full-scale Scottish poll since the latest trans controversy broke, my guess is the next poll (I gather there's a Survation one in the field) may show the SNP taking a small hit but remaining firmly in the lead, with the Tories still in a distant third. Straws in the wind from the most recent GB-wide polls suggest the SNP's vote is holding up extremely well in the 4-5% range. But what struck me about the person who made the claim was not so much that she was hopelessly wrong about it, but that she was so excited about the thought that she was right - that a Tory surge, sweeping the SNP out of office, would somehow be a positive development.
Yesterday I was on the receiving end of yet another pile-on from Campbell fans, who as per usual were trying to intimidate me into silence about their Great Leader and wanted to dictate to me what subjects I am and am not allowed to cover on this blog. (Don't worry, it wasn't a spontaneous incident - they were whipped up into a frenzy by a video Campbell posted about me the previous night. No-one need ever accuse his fans of independent thought or action.) Again, what struck me most about this is the sheer weirdness of how they're defining the problem. They're looking, square in the face, at a prominent figure who is making a crazed effort on a daily basis to bring the whole Yes house crashing down. They regard that as both normal and desirable. What they regard as abnormal, and what they believe must be stamped out by any means available, is any critique or warning about a campaign of destruction that offers no prospectus for an independence movement that will be left scrabbling around in the rubble.
Let me put this thought to you for the second time in a few days. Although the Tories' use of the Section 35 veto was outrageous and should be unreservedly condemned, it nevertheless carries the side-benefit of giving us a golden opportunity to move on from the toxic trans debate in Scotland. Nicola Sturgeon's government is now utterly powerless to introduce self-ID. Progress has also been made on women's safety due to the recent U-turns on housing men who tactically self-ID as female in women's prisons. The gender critical side of the argument has essentially won for the time being, and for that reason there is simply no need to continue the battle to such an extent that the pro-independence government is brought down or substantially weakened. Without a pro-independence government, there will be no independence. Without a strong pro-independence government in good public standing, a plebiscite election will be unwinnable. These ought to be statements of the bleedin' obvious but apparently we've reached the stage where they now need pointing out. In a small way, I was part of the campaign against self-ID, but as far as the effect on the Scottish Government was concerned, my aim was always to save them from themselves (and to save the Yes movement from itself) by preventing them from doing something that I knew was completely out of line with public opinion. The idea of achieving the main objective but then still trying to whip up public anger to destroy the government and the architecture of the Yes campaign as we know it is just totally alien to me - probably because it makes absolutely zero sense from a pro-independence point of view.
So good luck trying to intimidate, mock or pathologise me into silence while all of this is going on. We have arrived at a moment of considerable danger, and some people simply need to be forced to confront what they are doing and/or supporting, and the immense damage it is causing. My question is simple: if you destroy this pro-independence government, where are you going to find another one?
This is almost how I feel. The only difference is that I have taken a public view on the GRR, but the world around me has gone utterly mad. "The independence movement" cares far, far more about the GRR - either for or against - than about independence.https://t.co/oQ0xKx3czB— James Kelly (@JamesKelly) February 3, 2023