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Finger right on the button. By Kevin McKenna. Originally published in the National

‘IN those blue remembered days when real issues affecting real people hadn’t yet been replaced by the contrived politics of identity, you knew where you stood with the Tories.

In 2002 Theresa May, then chairwoman of the party, in a rare moment of self-awareness, told her members: “There’s a lot we need to do in this party of ours. Our base is too narrow and so, occasionally, are our sympathies. You know what some people call us – the Nasty Party.”

At least the Tories reserved most of their beastliness for their opponents. In 2021, the SNP, who have always portrayed themselves as a rainbow organisation open to all, are now considered to be Scotland’s nasty party. Troublingly for the SNP hierarchy it’s not their traditional opponents in the Tory/Labour Unionist alliance who are loudest in saying this, it’s many in its own rank-and-file membership.

For much of the last two decades the SNP have carefully cultivated an image of itself that sat somewhere between Mother Theresa and Sir David Attenborough. Theirs was a new political way free from the machismo and braggadocio of Labour and Tories whose favoured modus operandi was the knife in the back and interment in concrete flyovers.

The differences between the old way and the new one were most evident at annual conferences. These didn’t seem like political events at all: they were like old-style parish bus-runs with everyone singing “here we are again, happy as can be, all good fun and jolly fine company”. It was a triumph of the party’s marketing division and indicative of Alex Salmond’s almost uncanny ability to discern the mood and instincts of ordinary people.

These were not necessarily party activists or those eyeing an opportunity to build a political career and an income beyond their dreams by touching the hem of the leadership. They simply wanted Scotland to be independent and felt that the time for this was now approaching. There was a sense of boundless optimism at these conferences such as you might find at university Freshers’ Week.

Within a few years this party, though, has begun to devour itself. This is partly due to the assiduous irrelevance of both Labour in Scotland and the Scottish Conservatives. So peripheral have these parties become to the heartbeat of Scottish life and so inconsequential their leaders that neither is considered worthy of hostility.

With all that spare energy and the certain knowledge of continuing power the party leadership has become self-indulgent. Candidates seeking to become MSPs know that this is less about falling on the mercy of the voters but on ticking the boxes and clearing the increasingly esoteric hurdles set by the SNP’s internal examiners. Virtually certain of electoral triumph next year, the SNP’s vetting machine will determine what Scotland will look like and feel like for the next four years, not the electorate.

The SNP is now in a state of open warfare with itself. This is falsely assumed to be a doctrinal battle that defines our age between a socially progressive and enlightened woke brigade opposed by a force of more the socially austere. This, of course, is a gross distortion. Many of those issues now considered woke have been fought for by feminists, gay people and ethnic minorities for generations. While those now considered a social embarrassment by the party leadership have formed picket lines, lost their livelihoods and seen their communities menaced by Thatcherism and neo-liberalism.

Playing at progressive politics is a lot easier to do and a lot less expensive than actually changing people’s lives by addressing persistent deprivation. The communities worst affected by social inequality in 2020 remain the same as in 1999. The Gender Recognition Act and the proposed Hate Crime legislation will not make an ounce of difference in these communities. Instead, they are being used to judge them and to find them wanting.

IRONICALLY, support for Scottish independence has seen its sharpest rise in these neighbourhoods. They saw independence as an opportunity to decouple from a political system that persistently kept them out. They didn’t view independence as an exercise in self-indulgent and contrived social experimentation.

Much of the rancour that currently exists within the SNP has been whipped up by a party machine now almost entirely out of touch with its rank-and-file members. Their favoured instrument of ensuring social and cultural purity is the NEC, a body which now resembles a student union. This body has been stealthily annexed by those for whom independence and the struggle against inequality are subordinate to an esoteric programme of social engineering. This isn’t politics, it’s posturing.

Every now and then of course largesse is dispensed to favoured organisations as a means of conveying diversity and high-mindedness. This can come unstuck, though. Like the £470,000 given to Glasgow University’s John Smith Centre for Public Service to support young BAME people into leadership, without asking why the entire board of this boutique organisation comprises affluent white people. Or the huge awards it dispenses each year to anti-sectarian charities, none of whom are trusted by the community most adversely affected by it.

Nicola Sturgeon was correct to highlight abusive behaviour on social media earlier this week following some unpleasant targeting of the young SNP hopeful Rhiannon Spear. Yet, many of the comments were reasonably expressed and valid criticism of Spear’s campaign video: nothing more. Many of the respondents did not appreciate being dismissed as abusive and misogynistic just because they opposed one of the First Minister’s favoured few. No-one can doubt the sincerity of her intervention but it would have carried much more weight if the party she leads wasn’t so choosy about who deserves such support.

Joanna Cherry, the party’s most formidable operator and the natural successor to Sturgeon, is still waiting for acknowledgement of a number of complaints she’s made about an orchestrated campaign of violent intimidation and abuse over her public misgivings about GRA.

Passion and justified anger which might include swearing and uncouth sentiments have always driven political debate at street level. What’s the point of political involvement if you’re not angry about injustice and inequality? Some who have hitched a ride on the SNP gravy train and many in the wider political bubble just don’t like the look and sound of politics in the raw, expressed by real people. They prefer a quiet life and largely unscrutinised to get on with their chi-chi existences free from all online beastliness. Life is just grand as it is and they don’t want it threatened by, you know, actual independence and the oiks who keep talking about it.

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2nd October 2020

20 thoughts on “ARTICLE OF THE WEEK by Kevin McKenna.

  1. Why has the SNP changed so much from those not-so-far-off times, Iain? Just a simple thought from this outsider – could it be that its success has attracted many of those who would once have been “natural” Labour Party members and activists and who, seeing which way the wind has been blowing, hitched themselves to the SNP, wormed their way inwards, and hence contributed towards it current condition?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. The big change is that in the past joining the SNP was not a careerists move but given the current political dominance it is the first stop for that element. My fear is it will get worse as they are forming support groups within the Party which are highly organised and focussed and are bullying the ordinary membership.

      Liked by 4 people

    2. I’d say that’s it in a nutshell. The SNP have become the establishment and as such are now a magnet for careerists and opportunists.

      It’s difficult to see where Scotland goes from here. I want independence – that’s my be all and end all. I’m not voting for some party that promises it and then goes off on a tangent in pursuit of some ludicrous biology-defying nonsense.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. It’s clear the wheels have fallen off but how did this situation arise. Given that the SNP was a beacon of transparency compared to the other parties why didn’t the constitution prevent this kind of rot from setting in?

    In any case, if we ever get the wheels back on this will certainly provide plenty of material for a constitution update and also for ensuring that all institutions in an independent Scotland are sufficiently robust to survive the excesses of the people who populate them.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. I was literally effing and blinding, in complete agreement, with that McKenna composition; it ably sums up why, if the ‘nasty party’ continue unabated on its hell bent direction away from independence, then the further away that independence will become.

    The nasty party: have to say, apart from idiot, bigot unionists and some of the idiot, right-wing press, I’ve never seen that attributed to the SNP by our own, but..

    Fascinating, how many Twitter fowk – following me, I follow them – are still living in the past, refusing to see what *really* lies behind the golden veil of the party. I despair; there’s now a fair glut of blogs, Twitter accounts and even the press who’re offering plenty of information on how much the party has shifted from the one in 2014. I think most of these ‘I don’t want to know’ Twitter folk are there only to post pictures of their supper, or just to get mad at the Tories being Tory, all the while covering their eyes when their own MP says he wants to be the Speaker of the House.
    That golden veil they see, woven, painstakingly, by the former First Minister for Scotland, Alex Salmond, and every other contributor in the party during a time of slow gains, is being damaged, unwoven and torn apart by non-independence people. All that good work, all the years – what greedy, careless, selfish and amateur people the current custodians are, you know? the nasty ones.

    Iain, if, as you say, things will get worse due to organised support groups then it’s only a matter of time that Scots – ultimately astute, not mugs – will find them out and stop giving them their vote. I wonder when the penny will drop, right into their supper, that the party’s over? I’m long ago sick of them.

    Good work, McKenna

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Nicola is a socialist, albeit of the champagne variety and therefore is sure of her rightness in all things. After 2014 and following her mentors example she has pursued good governance, which to her has meant human rights legislation. Not for her the improvement of infrastructure, management of government, nor support for business, she would rather drive people to conform. Alex always attracted support to the SNP that exceeded the support for independence. NS is not just attracting a different group of (socialist) supporters but is inviting them into the NEC. Independence supporters who are not socialist need a non socialist party standing on the list, initially.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Kevin McKenna changes direction with the wind.
    I suspect people who are shouting and screaming that SNP are rotten to the core. What’s their agenda? Iain Lawson I don’t know why I read your posts? Maybe it’s know your enemy. Yours for Scotland??
    Let’s hear some constructive suggestions in your posts instead of kicking the SNP at every opportunity.


      1. Rubbish. Your past and current posts are negative and extremely divisive. Happily the majority of our electorate are only focussed on surviving and looking to provide the best outcome for their families.
        If you have issues with the SNP now is not the time to stir up division when we are on the cusp of independence. Deal with these issues afterwards if independence is your goal. If your goal is to screw Scotland and our population then carry on with your anti SNP campaign.


      2. Hate to break it to you but we are nowhere near Independence. That was September 2014. We haven’t moved since. Don’t talk about polls, we do not have a match arranged or a park to play the game on.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Here’s an idea… how about we pretend everything in the garden is just rosy and nobody attempted to fit up an innocent man and have him jailed for the rest of his life? We could also ignore this nonsensical Hate Crime Bill that they seem determined to impose on us whether we want it or not. We could even just accept their utter obsession with thinking that biological males should have the God-given right to invade women’s private spaces. Would that do you?

      Of course they’ve got the polls over 50% Yes haven’t they? Newsflash… the polls should be over 65% Yes in the face of the most repugnant, immoral, incompetent Tory Government in history (which is quite an accolade). The polls creeping up are nothing at all to do with the SNP who have spent years trying to overturn a democratic vote down south instead of advancing the cause they were supposedly elected for. Take the blinkers off and waken up.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. ‘What’s their agenda’ you ask……..Well I will tell you…….FEAR that all that I, and others have worked for, for years and years is going to blow up in our faces when we are so close to our goal.

      One thing I have learned in my working life is that if you bring up an issue and an organisation can’t or won’t deal with it, the organisation flings it back at you, you become the issue and the real issue is shoved under the carpet. It is a form of denial and protection for certain people within the organisation. They say, we have to protect the organisation but in reality they are protecting themselves first and using the organisation as a front.

      That seems to be happening to the yessers who are expressing their concerns. they are being labelled as trouble makers, trolls or unionist plants……….or worse.

      Like you, I take articles by Kevin McKenna and his motivation with a pinch of salt and don’t trust him.

      Better reading articles by George Kereven, they are better researched and make much more sense and are not opportunistic like McKenna.


    3. Isabel, you were out of order in a previous post to attack Iain and you still are.

      I agree that McKenna can be a bit of a carpetbagger but that doesn’t mean he is always wrong. Can I suggest you listen to Barrheadboy latest podcast on his blog featuring Dot who is on the NEC. I did not enjoy it but listening to hard truths is never enjoyable. If you don’t want to listen to it all I suggest forward to later on when she discusses her experiences on the NEC.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I’m not closed mind about the SNP. I know there are many within the party that are happy with the status quo.
        However they are our only route to independence.
        Constructive criticism is required not a constant tirade on their failings. What do you all suggest we do about? A talking shop won’t make any difference.
        And Ian I disagree with your cynicism on independence.


      2. Your entitled to your view Isabel as am I to mine. I think we need to do more, have a better plan and strategy, you appear to be content with the status quo. I am always interested to ask folk like you what you would do to solve problems, like the current NEC, the use of vetting to favour certain candidates and agendas, the bullying of people, the fixing up of former
        First Ministers. Just ignore all Isabel, is that the route to Independence, the road to “unity” at any price no matter who gets trampled?


  6. I think it is a bit of all of these things: identity politics; careerists; and a move away from the centre left to the more socialist left, with the surge of party membership. The party is now so big, it is no longer really the party of independence per se. If you think about it, a village is swallowed up by the suburbs of a city and it is no longer a village, except in name, the villagers are replaced by go-getting, pushy metropolitan types. Basically, that is what has happened to the SNP, and why it has gone all soft on independence. Inner London was once a multi-aged set of proper working-class communities until urban planning forced many of these working-class people out of London completely and allowed a young, thrusting middle-class, well-heeled set of people into the old, revamped working-class areas, changing the whole demographics and class structure that lent stability in the past.

    The same happens with anything that becomes too big to remain the same, and the SNP is no exception. In one way, it is natural, but, in another, the take-over has involved painful and insecurity-inducing dislocation, so it is no wonder that so many feel significantly alienated from it now. It quite literally has been a take over by people who have not the slightest interest in, or even knowledge of, what went before. For them, it is Year Zero, and history is something that fusty, old people talk about. It is not all young people – not by a long chalk – but enough of them, backed by older people who should know better. How many times do you hear the same mantra: oh, that was way before my time? As if history was an alien concept to them?

    These same people have a agenda that is not entirely consistent with independence either because they do not see it as dependent on achieving independence, but on keeping independence just at bay, long enough and far enough, to allow them to activate their agenda, which relies not on party ideology, as such, the party being simply the vehicle that will take them to their project’s fruition – which, fundamentally, is to change society from the roots upwards, but, particularly, at the roots. It cannot be allowed to be a natural progression, but must be forced down throats in an authoritarian manner, and no group in society does authoritarianism and privilege and entitlement like the young and those with arrested development, which makes sense when you think that it is life itself that knocks all those unworkable ideas out of you and introduces you to 50 shades of grey as opposed to black and white.

    I am not sure what the answer is except to push ahead with independence and cut the feet from these people. They are a danger, through their immaturity, to the country as a whole because of their obsession with domestic policy instead of independence, and they need to be rooted out or disabled from causing havoc until they have grown up a bit – preferably after independence. It is bad enough that the post Brexit British State is determined to crush us without these foolish people enabling them to do it. That kind of narcissistic selfishness has no place in any independence movement or party worth the name.

    Liked by 6 people

  7. I remember a poster on Wings called Robert Peffers ( in his 80s). I enjoyed reading his posts. Robert took exception to anyone who criticised the SNP. He had a picture in his mind, a clear understanding of how the SNP as a political party worked and I have to say it sounded just great to me. The idea of the members controlling policy and selecting candidates etc etc proper party democracy. It may well have been like this for some time but it seems to have been in a golden past. The party leader and the members have to take responsibility for the change. Way too many people in the SNP in positions of power in it for themselves and not the cause of Scottish independence.

    Liked by 3 people

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