2007 - 2021

#SP16 Result: More reactions from Hassan, Smith & Strang

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, left, and Patrick Harvie MSP, right, with Susan Douglas-Scott and Gerrie Douglas-Scott who will tie the knot in one of Scotland's first same-sex weddings (Elaine Livingstone/PA)More instant (but thoughtful) reactions from the Bella talent pool on last night’s/this morning’s tilt of the axis in #SP16. In this entry: Gerry Hassan, Elaine C. Smith, and Dougie Strang.

Gerry Hassan (@gerryhassan): Scotland and Independence are about more than the SNP

This has been a fascinating Scottish election result – more nuanced and subtle than most expected and the campaign predicted.

Scotland is bigger than the SNP. Independence and self-government are not synonymous with the Nationalists. We have possibly passed the point of Peak SNP (the May 2015 UK election) when the party won nearly half the popular vote.

Post-indyref there has been much SNP triumphalism and Presidentialism along with self-congratulation. This has been combined with a risk averse politics which has taken for granted that the Nationalists are the inheritors of Scotland’s radical traditions – and don’t have to do too much to occupy that ground.

Voters have burst some of the Nationalist bubble and conceit. They have given the SNP a mandate and victory – but a conditional, qualified one. This should be taken as a salutary lesson – that unthinking loyalty to one party, coupled with trying to shut down open debate and dissent, doesn’t produce healthy politics.

The rise of the Tories to become the main opposition to the SNP, along with the continued decline of Labour, shows that not all of Scotland is the imagined left-wing country of indyref rhetoric. The often OTT language of some indy supporters of seeing all unionists as the same (red and blue Tories), or not being a legitimate part of the country, has been counterproductive.

Green successes could help a politics of self-government being about a more pluralist Scotland, and ultimately that could assist the SNP. Fundamentally, Scotland (indyref apart) has been ill-served by majority government, and our journey to greater self-determination has to be about more than the SNP.

Some in the Nationalists may find that difficult to take, but we urgently need a deeper, more honest public debate which talks about real things – rather than abstracts such as ‘austerity’ (which most voters are confused by) and indyref2.

Can the SNP and Nicola Sturgeon change course and tone from what we have seen over the last 20 months? Safety-first politics from the SNP – or anyone else – are no longer adequate, and that is a welcome development and opportunity.


Elaine C. Smith, actress/enterpreneur/activist: Exciting Times, Eh? 

The shock for many scots waking up this morning will probably be articulated along the lines of “How could this happen? The Tories? Main opposition party? Are we now in a parallel universe – especially given the neoliberal right wing agenda being pursued in Westminster?”

The answer in my opinion is simple and complex all at the same time.

We are still fighting the referendum campaign here in Scotland. The Tories have witnessed the collapse of Labour and capitalised on that to pull all the Unionist forces together so they can present themselves as the real defenders of the Union.

To a certain extent they are correct, too. Labour always seemed to be confused and overwrought about their abandonment of the Home Rule agenda in the pursuit of power. They certainly looked ill at ease sharing a platform with the Tories during the  referendum campaign.

The voracious unionists have devoured Labour, the LibDems (and thankfully, the buffoons of UKIP). They have become the party seen to be protecting the UK in Scotland. And they’ve managed to do it by hardly really mentioning that they’re Tories.

Love the pugnacious (and at times quite nasty) Ruth Davidson, or loathe her, she and her team have done a good job of being Tories while pretending not to be, and garnering all the pro Union forces to vote for them.

That means many of those Perthshire Tory toffs or Edinburgh bankers or Ayrshire, Southside or Glagow West End rich folk who felt happy voting for the SNP before the referendum (where they had no fear of any radical talk of real land reform or tax, as well as a toxic Tory party) are now unfettered. They are back to their natural habitat and voting for self interest, land and tax.

Voting No in the referendum seems to have freed them up.

But please let’s remember that 20% of Scots have always voted Tory and their voices have a right to be heard. Surely that’s the parliament we want? Where all the voices of Scotland are heard? Where real political discussion, argument and consensus can be found?

There’s other factors too.

A voting system that allows a party (the SNP) to win outright, increase their share of the vote, and in regional areas win more than all the opposition parties combined, yet lose seats? This is far from the best system. But a plague on the many houses that set up this system (amid much criticism at the time). A system that was designed to preserve the power of Labour and to ensure no overall majority. Well, that worked, eh?

The Tories and all the opposition parties hammering on about a second referendum – all the time – played into the fear factor, again. And they know that works. Those in the 45% would have been fine and unmoved, even cheered by that thought. But others were angered by it and it gained traction – especially with a right wing media willing to help.

I support another referendum. But not till we can we win it and for that we on the pro-Indy side have to be ready.

There is also a hangover from the Yes movement that has moved to the Greens.

I’m not a member of the SNP, but I support independence and self determination (though in Scotland that meets with the same reaction as saying you’re a Celtic supporter but you’re non-Catholic!!). I’m also a friend, ally and supporter of Nicola Sturgeon and have been happy to vote SNP for the last 20 years or more. I still did this time – but my second vote went to the Greens.

The #BothVotesSNP strategy left me and many others – on the left in particular – a bit uncomfortable. It felt greedy, with a whiff of entitlement – and that sat uneasily with us. I’m sure that the intention was a purely political and strategic one – but it played into the hands of a currently resonant narrative about unchallenged power, both on the right and the left. The release of The Sun endorsement last weekend didn’t help either.

So here we are! Scotland has spoken again. The mandate for the SNP and the Yes movement is actually stronger than ever – with both increasing their vote share. The enemy is now in plain sight. That’s where the battles will take place in our Parliament in future. This will push the SNP towards a more radical agenda, while exposing the Tories as the party of greed and self interest – which is where their belief and defence of the Union is actually based.

And of course there’s that European vote to deal with too!

Exciting times eh?


Dougie Strang (@dougiestrang) is an installation artist

I’m gutted that the Conservatives have won the constituency in Dumfriesshire, but given the strong NO vote here during the referendum, it’s perhaps no surprise. With Labour slipping away it was a straight fight between Joan McAlpine and Oliver Mundell and the local lad now follows his father into politics. I’m pleased for Joan, Emma and Paul that they are through on the regional vote.

The Greens have done well, and I’m intrigued by the prospect of them holding the SNP’s feet to the fire with regards to environmental issues. Surely Fergus the Fracker’s days as energy minister are now numbered.

After the fervour of the referendum and last year’s remarkable general election, this Holyrood campaign never really sparked, and the low turnout reflects that. June’s EU referendum feels far more significant.

Meanwhile, my family and I contemplate an escape north, away from the true blue Tory shires.

Comments (13)

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  1. R Smith says:

    Elaine’s comments hit the nail on the head for me. Unionists will coalesce round the conservatives and that’s no bad thing in my opinion. Perhaps at the next election voters who are in favour of independence might think twice following the SNP x 2 strategy. I also went for the SNP/Green approach, sadly not enough others did in NE Scotland letting the Lib Dems get a list seat.

  2. Frank says:

    I know our political commentators have been up all night, but really we can do much better than this from Gerry Hassan:

    ‘but we urgently need a deeper, more honest public debate which talks about real things – rather than abstracts such as ‘austerity’ (which most voters are confused by) and indyref2.

    Patronising rubbish – how does Mr Hassan know what is plebs are confused by. Is that what he’s preaching at uni these days – ‘the proles are confused’. Orwell’s note about ‘giving solidity to pure wind’ always reminds me of Gerry’s writing, a man who can be left wing, right wing, centerist and radical all in the same day. I’m not sure if it’s theoretical inconsistency – possibly, or an attempt to market himself to every corner of political discourse? Bella please don’t give a platform to this confused academic.

    1. Kevin Williamson says:

      I’d disagree Frank. I thought the comments from Gerry are bang on the money. We’re past peak SNP. The SNP alone can’t take us to Independence. These are facts which are only beginning to sink in for many of us. Its now about taking a longer road, building a YES movement through cross party cooperation and around progressive legislation – such as land reform – that will prepare the way for an Indyref2.

      1. Frank says:

        I’m not sure what you are disagreeing with Kevin because I didn’t mention any of the points you have raised? My comments about Gerry Hassan were in relation to his patronising and pompous comments that voters were confused by austerity – I don’t see how he could possibly validate such a claim? I actually agree with you about the SNP and so long as independence remains the preserve of only one political party Scotland will never be independent.

      2. douglas clark says:


        Is this ‘past peak SNP’ a little like ‘past peak oil’?

        Andy Whightman is a bit of a hero to me. I would be utterly gutted if there is not a consensus around his views on land reform for Scotland, however slowly it might progress. Equally, I do not want our country ‘fracked’. I want us to invest, perhaps via the Chinese MOU, in tidal and other green energies.

        But the Greens, well most of them, seem to think, as we do, that Westminster is the problem. Which is a commonality.

        You do not have to believe in independence with your heart and soul, or go to sleep at night singing ‘Flower of Scotland’, to appreciate that independence is probably a better alternative. You just have to think that, on balance, it is the least, worst, option.

        It is voters that will decide. Winning them over, to not much short of a majority and on an increased percentage vote is frankly not ‘peak oil’.


    2. Darby O'Gill says:

      I think you’re being a little extreme in your criticism of Gerry Hassan Frank. He refers to ‘voters’ being confused by abstract terms like austerity. Is there no validity in that point? For some reason you turn voters into ‘Plebs’ and ‘Proles’.

      He also states that ‘I’m also a friend, ally and supporter of Nicola Sturgeon and have been happy to vote SNP for the last 20 years or more’. That means he could be ‘left wing, right wing, centerist and radical all in one day’ just like the SNP itself.

  3. old battle says:

    THE BBC naturally got it wrong but not Bella please. The Tories in Scotland are the Conservative & Unionist party and it was the Unionist part in the title was played with some astuteness against a naive SNP.
    The default blanket “issue” in Scottish politics is still Independence-the details of housing, tax, NHS, education, quality of government hide underneath the blanket of INDI. THe SC&U (Tories) are the stronger more openly branded pro-unionist party, so when the NO voters looked around, it was Davidson’s stronger Unionism that was preferred to Dugdale.
    The BBC don’t get the Unionist V Indi fundamentalism that dominates our politics. Many voted Unionist not Conservative! Yes, I know that seems a contradiction. But the SC&U played the difficult and strange voting system with greater expertise.
    Was the SNP’s STRATEGIC campaign slogan Vote SNP 1 &2 too blunt a political tool? Should it not have been a tactical instrument? Could the SNP not have put up surrogate candidates (Indi-alliance) in the cities where they KNEW they were going to win? Perhaps not but the SNP did not play the subtle voting system with the required political savvy.
    With a fresh army of arrogant jack-waving Unionists facing the Pro-Indi forces at Holyrood the public will see vividly (and with clarity? ) the essential political dichotomy in Scotland ie Unionism V Sovereignty.

    1. douglas clark says:

      Is it not bad enough, i.e. really bad, that political parties would attempt to steal votes from the independence party, for the absence of doubt, the SNP, and not attack the unionist conspiracy? RISE, otherwise now known as FALLEN, and the SSP made claims on SNP votes, not unionist votes. For the absence of doubt, not Unionist votes. They simply pleaded for SNP votes and had little or nothing to say about the real enemy, unionists.

      If your objective is independence, and let that fall as it does, all this internecine stuff is stupid, especially in the light of day.

      I completely agree with your last sentence. That is where we are, right now.

  4. carthannas says:

    You members of the ‘talent pool’ and joint editors make me bloody sick. Just like WOS, Derek Bateman and ScotgoesPop said, you got it wrong but you don’t even have the decency to admit it. Instead we get some mumbo-jumbo claptrap of self-justification – oooh, I voted Green and I feel so good about. Yeah right. Just remember, that you all were at least a part in the Tory revival in Scotland and no amount of self-congratulatory verbal bullshit will change that.

  5. Fiona Sinclair says:

    Well, at long last I agree wholeheartedly with a Bella piece! – even Gerry Hassan, who can sometimes be a touch lacking in specificity. Excellent points and summaries – especially Elaine C. Smith. I have no probs with me voting 1st SNP and 2nd vote Green, as the electoral arithmetic clearly showed that the SNP failed to pick up list seats because of its dominance of most of the constituency seats, not because the Greens `stole` their votes – what a pathetic notion, anyway! Such a shame that Sarah Beattie-Smith didn’t get in in the South and Maggie Chapman in the North-East – and a bunch of Tories did, who avoided their toxic own brand and settled for a distinctly nationalistic logo, which didn’t mention Conservative. I also think that the left (Greens included) have been less than savvy about the Named Person scheme, and the regulation and policy that has supported the drift to this level of dataveillance, detailed in Autism Rights’ Briefing Paper, some 9 years ago. Maggie Mellon (of Indy Women) is on the political left, and she has also made cogent arguments against the whole Named Person scheme. Not one member of the Scottish political classes, Maggie Mellon aside, has addressed the oppressive nature of the Named Person initiative, and has failed to realise the way that it mirrors policies in England (such as those that created Contactpoint) that were so expertly demolished by academics such as Liz Davies and Eileen Munro.

  6. Bill Melvin says:

    What a contrast, Gerry Hassan makes the same mistake as the broken labour party he cant let go off, in his anti SNP comment and in particular his disregard for the numbers of Scots now voting SNP. The long overdue change in Scotland to get rid of a Labour party full of self serving mediocre politicians, who did little to tackle the problems facing working people while the same people continually and habitually gave them their vote is over. They have been replaced by a government with a clearly stated priority of independence, governing with transparency, respect and competence but he still cant acknowledge any of this I suspect due to his blinkered views. Elaine C Smith on the other hand is open and honest about the challenges we face and has been voting on the record of the current government although not a member. Like Elaine many of us can see the route to living in a better society, richer and fairer for all our citizens and with respect for the level of democracy this requires for us to achieve if we are to bring as many as we can along the same path.

  7. Alexandra Jenkins says:

    I didn’t give either of my votes to SNP for two reasons . The first, and one that doesn’t get mentioned often, is that I don’t think we can tackle austerity without raising money through taxation and the one party who refuse to do this is SNP . There is no way, in my opinion , to solve austerity without raising taxation to pay for it. The second reason is I do not want a second divisive independence referendum . I did vote No, but would have accepted the result should a majority have voted Yes and would have known I couldn’t have another shot at getting a “No” result. Why then does SNP talk of reasons for a second attempt and in fact keep their supporters on side at their conference mentioning a second referendum.

    1. Bill Melvin says:

      Can’t agree with you Alexandra on the question of taxation as the only solution. Your assumption appears to come from a scenario that would involve having all the associated powers and in such circumstances your view on raising taxes could be a forceful argument. However, Scotland does not have access to enough levers of control and over simplifying solutions in this way has the potential to create a bigger financial mess, which would make many anti SNP voters just as happy despite the negative effect for many. In reality the SNP is more competent than any previously devolved government and have earned the right to be trusted. Even within the limited conditions in which they operate they have protected those less well off, made changes to improve infrastructure and delivered on their manifesto pledges. We can all be proud of what the SNP are doing to hold the Tories to account in Westminster and to manage the Scottish economy. It can be better but the time is now for us to access all our resources to make them work better for all the people and this wont happen while Tories continue to rape our country and suppress our ability to succeed.

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