An article written by former MSP CAMPBELL MARTIN. THIS IS NOT THE FIRST TIME THE SNP HAVE BEING GOING SLOW ON INDEPENDENCE.
FROM THE SUNDAY HERALD 2003
Since Dr Bill Wilson lodged his papers to challenge John Swinney for the leadership of the SNP, he has been subjected to disgraceful attacks from un-named sources speaking on behalf of Mr Swinney – and some ex-MSPs who should have known better. Not only did the ‘sources close to the leader’ attack Dr Wilson personally and professionally, they also attacked his performance as an SNP candidate at the recent Scottish Parliament Election.
A strange tactic given that, if Dr Wilson did not achieve a ‘good result’ as an SNP candidate, this probably wasn’t primarily the fault of him as an individual but rather of the campaign run by the SNP, a campaign devised and orchestrated by the same leadership now attacking Dr Wilson. After all, Dr Wilson was hardly the only SNP candidate who did not receive a ‘good result’ at the Scottish Parliament Election.
The loss of 200,000 constituency votes and 8 parliamentary seats across Scotland would tend to suggest that John Swinney, rather than Bill Wilson, has more responsibility to bear for poor SNP performances. So it may be that, as well as shooting itself in the foot, the leadership attacks on Dr Wilson could prove to be totally counter-productive to the cause of Team Swinney, in as much as they have, in fact, brought to the attention of the wider membership, and indeed the general public, what many within the SNP parliamentary group have known for some time: that if the leadership clique perceive you are not with them, then you must be against them and you are then fair game to be attacked – even if your ‘crime’ is nothing more than disagreeing on the best strategy to lead our country to independence.
The present leadership of the SNP, and those who have been placed in positions of power within the party by the leadership, are very much of the gradualist persuasion. That being the case, the SNP strategy over recent years has been one of ‘building the powers of devolution’, and ‘managing the devolved parliament’. While the gradualist leadership has sought power – albeit only the very limited power available through the devolution settlement – the independence message has been relegated to an eventual aim, but not necessarily any longer the primary one. Then, of course, there are some within the leadership clique who have gone further and have even suggested that the party should ‘park’ the independence thing and settle for managing Catalonian-style devolution within the United Kingdom.
It is this line of thinking, and this gradualist strategy, that has seen the party leadership become ever more remote from the party membership, a membership that joined the party to fight for independence and which finds it increasingly difficult to motivate itself to get onto the streets and campaign for a party that appears to be walking away from its core belief.
It is this membership disillusionment with the leadership strategy, and the fact that the leadership has become so remote that it cannot any longer hear the voice of the membership, that has led to the leader being challenged by a rank-and-file party activist. Challenging a leader is not a step taken lightly, and the fact it has happened only serves to illustrate the frustration and isolation felt by ordinary members of the party under the current leadership. As an SNP activist, who also happens to be an MSP, I have shared the frustration of fellow members at what appears to be the strategy of the current leadership to New Labour-ise the SNP.
The signs are clear: a remote leadership centralising power in the hands of a few MSPs and unelected advisors; a line of argument being developed that the party should re-position itself to the political centre ground, i.e. move to the right and, in the process, abandon the principle of refusing to deal with the Tories; the concentration on economic policy – on persuading multi-national companies of the merits of fiscal autonomy in a devolved Scotland – at the expense of identifying and developing the radical social policies that can, in an independent Scotland, transform the lives of our people; being seen to be part of the establishment, a devolved government in waiting, rather than a radical party fighting for our country’s freedom and the right to govern ourselves on our terms and in our interests.
While the membership of the party has remained true to the principles of the SNP, the leadership has embraced the New Labour Project and has sought to emulate in the SNP what Tony Blair did to old Labour. By mounting a challenge to the current leader, Dr Bill Wilson is speaking for party members who are saying they’ve had enough. The SNP is not New Labour. The SNP is not, and never will be, part of the establishment – the British establishment. The SNP was, and should return to being the party that fights for independence for Scotland – the party that will settle for nothing less than the restoration of full sovereign powers to the people of Scotland. That’s what party members are saying and that’s what party leaders should be listening to. By lashing out at party members who simply disagree with them, the current leadership further distances itself from the members the party relies on to deliver the SNP message and to deliver SNP votes across the country.
By attacking as ‘troublemakers’ those within the party who disagree with the leadership line, they are further alienating a very large section of the party – and to use the word ‘fundamentalist’ as if it were a pejorative term or was the SNP equivalent of old Labour’s Militant or ‘loony-left’, is to ‘fundamentally’ misunderstand both the meaning of the word and the beliefs of those the leadership seek to attack. I am a fundamentalist. I am a member of the SNP and I believe, fundamentally, in independence as the way to deliver a better life and a better future for the people of Scotland.
Fundamentalists in the SNP simply believe that the party should return to its fundamental principle – fighting for the freedom of our country; freedom to govern ourselves at home; freedom to represent ourselves in Europe and on the World stage; freedom from poverty; a Scotland free to develop policies that reflect the views of the people of Scotland and benefit the people of Scotland – an independent Scotland. That is what the membership of the SNP is saying. That is what the leadership of the party should be listening to and taking onboard. The SNP isn’t in crisis. The party is, however, at a stage in its history where, unless the leadership returns to the core values of the membership and of the party itself, then crisis could be what we face. To avert such a situation, the party leadership must stop attacking party members.
The small clique around John Swinney must realise they are not the SNP and the party does not operate for their benefit. Ultimately, the leadership must listen to the members. They can only lead with the consent of the members and the SNP can only defeat our unionist opponents when we return to our fundamental belief in independence being the catalyst that will deliver to us the powers to tackle the bread and butter issues that affect every one of us every day of our lives. To settle for anything less would be to sell-short the people of Scotland and would be an insult to the SNP members, past and present, who have fought for our nation’s freedom.
I was sent this excellent article by a regular reader of my blog. It highlights that the party leader at the time was following a go slow strategy on Independence It was causing division, disillusionment and a host of other problems not least the Party were going backwards in the polls. The situation was rescued by John Swinney stepping down and a dynamic Alex Salmond taking over leading to the election of the First ever SNP Government in 2007.
Here we are in 2021, eighteen years after this article was published and the case for Independence is once again frozen. Most people point the finger for this at Nicola Sturgeon as the cause of this. This article suggests the Deputy First Minister may also be quite happy for this situation to continue indefinitely as well. HOW SAD THAT SO LITTLE HAS CHANGED IN ALL THOSE YEARS. WHEN AND WHO WILL RESCUE INDEPENDENCE THIS TIME?
I am, as always
YOURS FOR SCOTLAND
BEAT THE CENSORS
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A book worth reading, recently published and available at Amazon Books.
Craig Murray is due to be released next Tuesday on the 30th November 2021 from Saughton Jail at around 10am where he has been wrongly imprisoned for several months as a political prisoner in the corrupt state that Scotland has become.
The very least we can all do is be there to meet and cheer him to demonstrate our determination to defend freedom of speech in Scotland.
Craig will address the rally and it will be videoed so that it can be shared with media across the World.
If you can be there please make the effort. I am in the USA so will not be there in person but I will be raising a toast to him and perhaps sharing any video at the St Andrews Night Dinner I am hosting in Clearwater, Florida.