The Early Days of a Better Nation?

Críostóir de Piondargás (@Gille_Ruadh) reflects on his reasons for leaving the SNP.

It’s worth remembering the words a fellow Scots born Irishman, James Connolly who said “When questions of “class” interests are eliminated from public controversy a victory is thereby gained for the possessing, conservative class, whose only hope of security lies in such elimination.”

The beginning of this week brought me to a very sad personal juncture. For the first time in my adult life I can say that I am not a member of the Scottish National Party. The party I joined in 2004 as an 18 year old university student is vastly different from the one I left. Back then, the current political landscape was unfathomable to most. Only to the most committed and the hopeful young idealists like myself did such a scenario seem possible. In its 12th year of government, the SNP is now the dominant force within Scottish politics. The British State has never been weaker. The prospect of IndyRef2 looms large and Scottish politics is now largely divided over unionist and pro-independence lines. So why leave now one might ask?

There has been a worrying increase in anti-union rhetoric from certain SNP members and supporters that I am completely uncomfortable with. This seems to be rooted in some very flawed logic which holds that unions are in the pocket of the Labour Party therefore any union action is simply a Labour maneuver and their members Labour pawns. Firstly we had the abuse of striking women in Glasgow. While many were correct in calling out the hypocrisy of Labour’s stance, the women should never have been made a target. Showing solidarity with the women, whose frustration would have understandably have been boiling over, was the correct course of action. I work on the principle that a victory for these women was a victory for all workers.

The suspension by the SNP of Gareth Wardell following his disgusting diatribe was a welcome move but what was regrettable was that not only did Wardell stand by his words, many supporters were quick to jump to his defence. It wasn’t long before I found myself on the receiving end of this. After I took part in a demonstration in Glasgow with thousands of other teachers I was called a yoon, quisling and Labour pawn among other things by members of my own party. I was called greedy and told me that I should be gratefully accepting the generous offer made by our government. Take a step back from that for a moment and it’s quite worrying because it’s the type of rhetoric I’d expect to hear from a Tory. Is this really working as if we live in the early days of a better nation? Is this really what we are seeking to build here? A cursory glance at some of the comments below articles covering the teachers pay negotiation will show that for some supporters of the SNP its party over people and everything else. This couldn’t be further from my own values.

Born in Govan in the middle of the Thatcher era, son of an engineer and raised up a tenement close. I’m the classic Labour demographic but by the time I came into the world my family’s support for Labour was already wavering with Jim Sillars winning them over. By the time I was in secondary school even my grandparents had moved across to the SNP. I was raised with the idea of Scottish independence being the normal and desired state of affairs. Likewise, I was also raised with the principles of class struggle, solidarity and trade unionism. These are principles that have shaped my political life as well as my professional life. Growing up, the results of Thatcherism were all around me. The devastated communities, the hopeless faces and the constant remind that things hadn’t always been this way. In 2013, when Maggie finally bade God’s green earth goodbye, my own personal tribute to mark the woman’s legacy was to volunteer myself as a Union Rep.

Within the SNP itself I was very heartened by the work of the SNP Trade Union Group which at one point had a membership that outstripped the Scottish Labour Party. It must be asked, where has in the SNP TUG been in defending Trade Unionist from derision within and surrounding their own party? Does the group exist to give Unions a voice in the SNP or to give the SNP a voice in the Unions? I used to believe it was the former. The SNP is a party of mass membership holding a wide spectrum of views united under a common goal. It’s inevitable that views will differ but when a sizeable and vocal portion of the party’s supporters take a stance that is so utterly at odds with my fundamental principles then I sadly no longer want to be part of it. There are many fine people still in the party. I would urge them to guard against complacency and to challenge these elements at every turn.

I’ll will always strive for the kind of Scotland that looks after it’s people and my support for independence remains unwavering. I will continue to seek the best option to achieve independence but sadly that will be outwith the Scottish National Party. James Connolly also warned against the futility of superficial independence and that sentiment still rings true today. If it’s an independence of anti-trade unionism, that demands workers be grateful for their lot and that shouts down dissent then it’ll be a hollow victory. People need to make their voice heard and drown out this minority but in the meantime, I won’t share a platform with those kind of views.

Comments (9)

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  1. Bert Logan says:

    Well, as a socialist, and union member, and member of the SNP (former Labour member), I can understand your ire at a party that is now so large, broad, voluminous of opinion even.

    The ‘haters’ are many in the SNP, and I am one of them. I would never abuse people demonstrating for more – its takes both guts and need to do so. Those that do are pathetic, but I’m not throwing the SNP baby out with the bathwater.

    I think so many of us misconstrue what independence is or will be. The SNP may usher in that new – old nation back in, but thereafter I will likely want a more socialist party to look to – the SNP is a vehicle that will have to adapt post independence, and I am sure unions will get stronger post indy, never weaker in a Scotland that values fairness at least.

    Sad to see you thinking this way, but I completely understand. Remember – not all Yes/SNP are idiots with only one agenda.

  2. Redgauntlet says:

    Great piece Chris, mo charaid, and well done to you for sticking to your principles.

    I’ll take advantage of your references to Connolly to make the point that it is a scandal that there is no statue to James Connolly in Edinburgh, the place of his birth.

    We’ve had an SNP govt for ten years, and there is still no statue in Scotland to the man who was instrumental in freeing our Irish comrades from colonial London rule?

    James Connolly is one of the great Scots of the 20th Century.

    Alas, I doubt very much the SNP hierarchy would want to claim him as part of our tradition…. which says it all.

  3. Bill Middleton says:

    I am sorry that you felt the need to leave the SNP, but I aknowledge the fact that you needed to do so. I believe we are the closest we will ever be to getting Independence, as I think you do. I also think that the SNP are losing this opportunity big time, and the opening up of the McCrone Report today only gets us more angry.

  4. Graeme McCormick says:

    I’m sorry you have left the Party. Having stood up against bullying in my area and even resigned my office bearer position in my local branch I remained an ordinary branch member and continued to call those out who were responsible for the bullying.

    It wasn’t a very pleasant experience but after a time some of my most vocal critics admitted to me that I had been right.

    The long game does work. Please rejoin.

  5. C Ballance says:

    The SNP and independence are not synonymous. Other parties are available. Indeed the wider the range of groups calling for indy, the better.

  6. Eric Morrison says:

    Disagree somewhat with comments by C Ballance. For me, as a long time supporter of Independence (in my 70’s) but a recent member of the SNP I always worry about those who advocate splitting the SNP vote and the Unionist practice of divide and conquer is always on my mind. Of course there are other great indy supporting groups but, when it comes to the crunch, only the SNP can form a large enough unified platform to defeat the assembled ranks of what will be a very determined and devious Union.
    Once we have achieved independence then in a free Scotland people will be free to vote for whoever they want.

    1. Lorna Campbell says:

      I think you are right to be worried, Mr Morrison, because no independence movement has won without the leadership of a political grouping. Although from a rural background, I am on the left, support the trade unions and desire independence. The relentless negativity of the Unionist parties and their unrelenting SNP Baaaahhhhhdddd is making the best of us into angry people. Not only do they attack independence, a perfectly normal desire, with a dedication that would win them accolades in any other sphere, but they also attack each and every policy, whether it is working well or not, just because it is originates with the SNP, even when they, themselves, have supported such a policy in the past. The idea is to destroy the SNP on all fronts, and, instead of smiling in their faces and going ahead with independence anyway, the SNP has been gradually withdrawing from the field of combat, it seems, and becoming very defensive. This is entirely understandable and may well be the main reason why so many blame Labour for the unions making themselves a nuisance. The hypocrisy of Labour is breath-taking around the issue of trade unionism, and I would bet that they have been muddying the waters where they can, but the teachers’ threatened strike, I think, is less about pay and far more about working conditions and the often negative behaviour of some our children who see no sanctions to curb their bad attitude (not that I’m advocating the return of the tawse); those issues, and constant changes and interference from the politicians, although I have to say that Mr Swinney is endlessly patient and diplomatic. Nervous breakdowns are on the increase among teachers, I believe, and we should have sympathy for their anger and their feelings of not being appreciated. Above all, we should be listening to what they are telling us.

      I do feel, too, that the SNP is moving back rather more to the right in recent times, and I, too, want to see an independent Scotland that supports trade unionism as a counter-balance to business-orientated models of running political government at all levels.

      1. Eric Morrison says:

        Agree with virtually all you say Lorna especially about SNP being too defensive. Saw an interesting Tweet follow up to the National’s publication of McCrone suggesting extracts from the report should be printed on large Billboards throughout Scotland. This might have the effect of making soft No voters change their minds and realise they’d been conned in 1974 and more recently in 2014.
        The obvious funding and lead to do such as this should be jumped at by the SNP

  7. Trampie says:

    I’m valleys Welsh and very much on the left, I cant understand why you would leave the SNP, politics is like buying a house you cant expect any political party to tick all of your personal boxes just as its unrealistic to expect a potential house purchase to tick every single box [location, bedrooms, garden etc etc] and to leave on the basis of what seems a minor point seems ridiculous when there is equality and independence on the agenda amongst other things, to me as regards teachers, teachers pay and conditions far out perform other groups, teachers are instruments of the state, for example I was not taught Welsh history in school and believe that is still the case today, Brit Nat history but not Welsh history, teachers have been accused of holding children’s education to ransom in the past as in if they don’t get what they want they will strike and deny children their education against a backdrop of doing reasonably well compared to lots of other workers.
    As regards trade unions they seem totally corrupted these days, they were a good thing when created but now lots of their leaders are in it for themselves, some of their full time officer’s get paid a fortune, they are elitist as the groups that most need representation are not unionised and the groups that are unionised need it least, the Labour party are a right wing party and its been like that since Michael Foot and Labour are they are hand in glove with the trade unions so therefore the trade unions are supporting a right wing party which makes them right wing, as regards the last couple of years and Corbyn why was he in the party of Blair and Brown if he was on the left ?, from the shires with a brother named Piers and part of the Islington set and don’t listen to the British State broadcaster when Labour moved to the right as they figured/knew they would never beat Mrs Thatcher the Beeb moved to the right to try and stay between Labour and the Conservatives so the public only heard right wing arguments.
    Críostóir don’t lose sight of the big picture, don’t become middle class and forget your roots just because you are a teacher, the start of Labours demise was the initial success of the health service and more people going to university etc some of those people then thought they were better and more deserving compared to others and started voting Conservative, don’t fall into that kind of mindset/trap.

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