2007 - 2022

Hope in the Dark

As Storm Ciara lashes across mainland Britain its time to bunker-down and get safe. That seems to be the tactic of the SNP in announcing a possible delay of their Spring conference.

If its a move designed to deflect the critics of their softly-softly approach to winning a second referendum, or of dodging the bullet of the inevitable carnage from the Alex Salmond trial, this seems unlikely to work. Unless you are convinced by the idea that they are waiting for more “opportunities” from members to emerge? The mood music would suggest that is a minority position, but while the critics have been slamming the First Ministers position on how to get – then win – a second referendum – they have been less clear about what they propose in its place. Scotland’s history is littered with glorious failures and romance-in-defeat has become the motto on our collective coat of arms, a comfort blanket of folk-memory and familiarity.

So I’m not convinced by the Braveheart Tendency or the vague calls for “more passion” or bold but inchoate calls for “action” that crumble under the most fleeting scrutiny.  “Go to the UN – declare yourselves a people!” or “withdraw from Westminster” all sound good, and get the blood-pumping in an online fracas, but they don’t actually amount to anything IRL. If we are drawn to glorious failure we are also drawn to the dark side, especially at this time of the year when the lack of light has a profound effect on us. Doom and gloom is ubiquitous in January and February and the need for light is palpable.

But while there’s a very valid set of well-rehearsed critiques of the SNP leadership, there’s also a series of polls and indicators that suggest the tide is turning. Both these things can be true.

The American writer Rebecca Solnit wrote, way back in 2016, against the despair of the Bush administration:

Your opponents would love you to believe that it’s hopeless, that you have no power, that there’s no reason to act, that you can’t win. Hope is a gift you don’t have to surrender, a power you don’t have to throw away. And though hope can be an act of defiance, defiance isn’t enough reason to hope. But there are good reasons.”

The good reasons?

Johnson’s regime is constantly teetering on the brink of collapse, high on its own hubris, deluded by its own elite-silo and mesmerised by the right-wing populism that lifted it into office under the most unlikely circumstances.

This week saw Johnson attempt a Trumpian move by trying to ban journalists from government briefings, an action which saw solidarity even from senior lobby journalists. It saw the further descent into chaos of the plans for the COP26 conference in Glasgow later this year as the Prime Minister continues to use the international climate conference as a personal political toy. It emerged that Boris Johnson is set to nominate former Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson for a seat in the House of Lords. The prime minister is understood to have included the former Tory leader alongside a number of other party figures on his Dissolution Honours List.

These are petty things in day-to-day politics but they reveal a precariousness and an absurdity about the Johnson regime that we should observe.

As Britain’s phreatic constitutional crisis rumbles on quietly in the background – other factors are in play.

You can see Britain/England’s standing in the world receded and diminish as the realities of Brexit each week edging closer to actually leaving. The levels of delusion and triumphalism are matched only by the incredulity of foreign leaders and people, and the mishandling of the COP26 meeting is looking likely to be a global disaster, not just for our future and our children’s future but for Johnson’s political credibility.

The failure of COP26 may prove to be momentous, and the fact that it may be botched by a climate-denying Etonian buffoon is no surprise, even if it offers a sort of tragic-comedy to the debacle.

These failures – personal and political – spectacular and drearily ongoing – are of no consequence next to the cataclysmic events we see unfolding.

As you shelter from the storm this weekend remember this has been another remarkably mild winter. This is the hottest January ever recorded: and it comes after the hottest summer ever recorded: September 2019 was the hottest September ever recorded: October 2019 was the hottest October ever recorded: and November 2019 was the hottest November ever recorded.

The Antarctic ‘ice vanishing at its fastest rate in recorded history.’ West Antarctic ice sheet collapse would mean 3.5m sea level rise.

As the conservationist Stephen Barlow writes with sobering simplicity: “The whole ecological crisis, including the climate crisis has been created by over-exploiting natural systems in a mindless way for profit. This whole economic model must change, or it will collapse anyway, taking our civilization and billions of human lives with it.”

In this context we are watching our climate-denying Prime Minister grandstanding to humiliate Nicola Sturgeon.

So what’s there to hope for? Is this some post-Obama re-tread?

Solnit suggests this is a moment of complexity: “This is an extraordinary time full of vital, transformative movements that could not be foreseen. It is also a nightmarish time. Full engagement requires the ability to perceive both.”

But it is a nightmarish time.

Trumps escape from any meaningful legal process was as tragic as it was inevitable.

The British government using the terrorist attacks in Streatham to temporarily separate itself from the European convention on human rights (ECHR) in order to push through emergency laws on sentencing is a civil liberties travesty.

The news that Police Scotland sent out a guide listing Extinction Rebellion with neo-Nazis – weeks after this was initially exposed – is astonishing and chilling.

The Guardian reported that:

“Police Scotland confirmed that it had circulated documents listing the environment protest groups alongside dozens of extremist neo-Nazi organisations, including several banned for terrorist violence, across the public sector last month. Those include medical staff in the NHS who were sent it in late January by a detective inspector in Police Scotland’s counter-terrorism unit in Edinburgh as part of the UK-wide counter-terrorism Prevent strategy. The officer invited recipients to distribute it widely within their organisations. The two documents, a 23-page “Signs and Symbols” guidance booklet and a four-page list of those symbols, include groups such as Animal Aid, Peta, Greenpeace, Extinction Rebellion (XR) and Stop the Badger Cull alongside the banned neo-Nazi group National Action, the white supremacist group Scottish Dawn, the National Front and Britain First.”

So what’s there to hope for?

Well the failures of politicians are inevitable and we should stop looking to them for answers and strategies that they are not going to deliver. Political failure is a constant and, as the saying goes “We are the leaders we have been waiting for”.

In the face of state repression and capitalist failure there is also organisation and consciousness, movement-building and emergent strategies for change.  Movements are getting ready for independence and getting ready for COP, even if their leaders aren’t.

Solnit again:

“It is important to say what hope is not: it is not the belief that everything was, is or will be fine. The evidence is all around us of tremendous suffering and destruction. The hope I am interested in is about broad perspectives with specific possibilities, ones that invite or demand that we act. It is also not a sunny everything-is-getting-better narrative, though it may be a counter to the everything-is-getting-worse one. You could call it an account of complexities and uncertainties, with openings.”

“Critical thinking without hope is cynicism, but hope without critical thinking is naivety,” the Bulgarian writer Maria Popova recently remarked. And Patrisse Cullors, one of the founders of Black Lives Matter, early on described the movement’s mission as to “Provide hope and inspiration for collective action to build collective power to achieve collective transformation, rooted in grief and rage but pointed towards vision and dreams”. It is a statement that acknowledges that grief and hope can coexist.”


Image credit: Daniel Seex



Comments (35)

Join the Discussion

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Wullie says:

    Phreatic even!

    1. Alasdair Macdonald says:

      A fine word ‘phreatic’: not just in it causing us to scrabble for the dictionary but also for its metaphoric impact, in the comparison it makes with the UK ‘constitution’ and the ‘precious union’. It is also apt in the context of COP26 and the demonstrable damage being done, not just to the climate but to the planet itself.

      But, to return to a point Mr Small has been making since the FM made her speech on 31, January – ‘What is YOUR proposal?”. Yes there is frustration and impatience, but, what really can be done to make a significant change? I am all for passion – my wife and I plodded through Glasgow in the rain early in January, with tens of thousands of other Saltire wavers of all ages. I found it uplifting and I will certainly do it again. There are plenty of suggestions about what we can do and Coomonweal has set these out well.

      However, as Fabius Cunctator showed, in many cases it is better to wait and let your opponent make mistakes.

      1. John S Warren says:

        Ah, yes. Whenever I hear distressed or frustrated proponents of Indyref2 demanding some decisive action in Scotland now (and not tomorrow), I think of the shrewd remark, attributed to Napoleon, at the battle of Austerlitz (1805): “Never interrupt your enemy while he is making a mistake”. It is not difficult to think of Boris Johnson and Brexit, in the context of major blunders unfolding in front of our very eyes – on sucha a scale that even the heroically pro-government media will not be able to deflect attention somewhere else, or hide it completely and safely from public view.

        Curiously, the Napoleon reference was first published in English by the Scots advocate and historian Sir Archibald Alison (1792-1867).

  2. The Stroller says:

    This idea that Johnson is in a precarious position has been given quite a lot of mileage on these pages, and frankly I can’t see that he is in any such position at all.

    He has an 80 seat majority and has eradicated any meaningful opposition from his party. He has half of England behind him, where he plays very well and the Labour Party is leaderless and without any sign of charismatic candidate to equal Boris down south. He will soon be free of EU free trade rules and will be able to spend a lot of cash on nationalist English projects in both the public and private sectors, that is, by favouring UK based companies over foreign ones, and UK workers over foreign nationals – “British jobs for British workers” as Gordon Brown once put it.

    This may cause problems later on down the line for the pound and the economy, but in the short term it will play well with the Brexit voting, beer swilling, alehouse tavern going English public who think they have been robbed of their national greatness by a bunch of weedy, listless Belgians in grey suits .

    Johnson needn’t worry about Scotland, because he has few votes to lose up here, and no one really knows what to do as yet in the indie movement, which direction to take and which road to travel in response to the last General Election and the flat no to indie ref II.

    If that weren’t a big enough question to be mulling over, the SNP just had a catastrophic week with the Salmond trial still to come. The MacKay fiasco will take a long time to forget. He was too senior in the Scottish government even to have a Facebook account surely, it’s hard to take in that someone so senior in govt could be so stupid, but there you have it. The human condition is a riddle and a conundrum and in its essence neither noble nor dignified but more like ridiculous and absurd.

    If any problems come up for Johnson in the near future he can just blame it all on the EU. This is a tried and trusted tactic of the English nationalist project which has worked every time for the last 20 odd years.

    No, I have the feeling that pendulum has swung away from Scotland. We’ve lost the initiative and we need to find a way of getting it back. How is the question. Banking on Johnson running into problems seems to me to be wishful thinking. I can see him being PM for the next two terms…no sweat…

    1. Alasdair Macdonald says:

      Weasel words trolling

      1. The Stroller says:

        No, just my point of view. You sound like you could be in denial?

        No Tory PM has been in a stronger position since Thatcher in 1983 in my opinion. Why is Johnson’s hold on power precarious? I don’t see that.

        As for Scotland, it’s a nation of complete numpties. People were asked back in September 2014 if they wanted the national sovereignty back. “No, we don’t thanks very much, we’re fine” came the reply. Some people even argued Scotland “couldn’t afford to be a sovereign nation” which is totally nuts…

        So, then you get taken out the EU and ignored by the government in London, that’s what happens. That’s what happens to countries which aren’t sovereign. They become irrelevant..

        Let’s hope there is somebody out there in the process of coming up with a really cunning plan so that the Scots can get asked the same question again and this time get the right answer, because it’s not looking very good right now from where I’m sitting…

        1. MBC says:

          Yes we’re as big numpties as the English who voted for Brexit. Both were national acts of gross folly.

    2. John S Warren says:

      “This may cause problems later on down the line for the pound and the economy, but in the short term it will play well with the Brexit voting …. …. English public”.

      Oh, I think it all depends what you mean by ‘short term’. As I have just commented: “Never interrupt your enemy while he is making a mistake”. I rest my case. Meanwhile, why don’t you relax and go out for a stroll while this whole process ferments?

      1. The Stroller says:

        And why don’t you learn some manners, John S Warren? Why are you so aggressive below the line on Bella Caledonia?
        Scotland is not in a position to interrupt Johnson doing anything.

        The SNP could have voted through Theresa May’s Brexit Deal in exchange for indie ref two within, say, five years. The SNP chose to play Brexit with a straight bat.
        In hindsight, that was a mistake. Because there is no sign Johnson is going to start playing with a straight bat any time soon.

        1. John S Warren says:

          Manners: ah, yes. Like this? ” Brexit voting, beer swilling, alehouse tavern going English public who think they have been robbed of their national greatness by a bunch of weedy, listless Belgians in grey suits”. I actually edited my use of that quotation because I considered it needlessly and gratuitously disrespectful to both Englaish people, and Belgians!

          Or this: “As for Scotland, it’s a nation of complete numpties.” So refined, so persuasive, so compellingly articulate.

          Not only do I consider this kind of vain, gratuitous arrogance needlessly offensive, but I find it particularly objectionable when the writer is not prepared to use their own name and stand behind their remarks, while hiding behind a pseudonym; therefore, frankly I consider your reference to “manners” risible.

          Actually I did not consider my comments as ‘aggressive’, but rather as quite witty; but what do I know?

          1. The Stroller says:

            Oh no, here we go with the John S Warren sob story about how we all have to sign with our real names because John S Warren does so.
            The world is not fair, is it, John?

        2. John S Warren says:

          I put my last comment in the wrong place, but I really would not like you to miss it, so again:

          Keep digging – please; you clearly know not what you do. Sobbing? That was laughter. I rest my case, but please, please go on without me….. bring a bigger shovel!

          1. Al says:

            You’re entirely missing The Stroller’s point.
            If the voting population of Scotland had voted for self determination in 2014, none of this would be an issue. Irrespective of my (or anyone elses) desire for independence, the population rejected it.
            Observations regarding BJ’s vulnerability are also (in my view) accurate.

          2. John S Warren says:

            Hi, Al (but for all I know you could be The Stroller in another guise!), congratulating yourself. How could I possibly know? The charms of the fakery of social media…..

            “If the voting population of Scotland had voted for self determination in 2014, none of this would be an issue.” This will be the same population described by the Stroller as “numpties”? This is going to make friends and influence people. This is how to conduct political analysis – and win?

            Bluntly, this is a truly, irremediably, dismal standard of debate; and you praise it! Frankly, I prefer to call guff, guff.

          3. Al says:

            I’m not praising it. I’m claiming that valid points have been made.
            While I am not in the habit of labelling those who don’t share my opinions as fools, I am strongly of the opinion that 2014 vote demonstrates a large contingent choose subservience to Westminster. To my mind that’s an action of self harm.
            BJ will continue to talk shite. When he can’t deliver his promises, it will be the fault of the Eu. The Scots will get fingered too, so watch yer arse.

          4. John S Warren says:

            “While I am not in the habit of labelling those who don’t share my opinions as fools”; I’ll just label them as subservient instead.

            Numpties; subservient; that’ll do it! What on earth is the point of all that? Is it supposed to provide the victims of these sleights with a ‘eureka’ moment: they will read the insults and instantly be persuaded of the profound wisdom of Al and the Stroller, who have shown them the light; an epiphany wrapped in a jibe? Somehow, I don’t think so.

            The Scottish people, left or right, are profoundly (small ‘c’) conservative. They always have been. They are not easily moved and they expect progress to be delivered by gradualist evolution. They are not fools, and require convincing, and they will only respond to resilient persuasion. Probalby 25%, +/- 5% will never be persuaded. That is the examination they set, and that must be passed. Either you are ‘up for it’, or you are not. Blame isn’t an option; only success matters: whatever it takes.

            You are doing precisely nothing to persuade the Scottish public. The best that can be said of your argument is that you have given up on the Scottish people, because apart from the complaints about what everyone involved in Scottish politics hasn’t done, I struggle to see any evidence of constructive ideas going forward (looking back with suspect 20/20 hindsight doesn’t count for anything at all). It looks as if you have given up on the Scottish people; it is their fault. I think the electorate deserves more than mere finger pointing.

  3. Jo says:

    Dark times indeed. There are storms other than Ciara doing their worst, many against their own side.

    Personally, I can understand the decision to put back the Spring Conference. It’s not a bad idea with all that’s going on.

    The saddest thing, to me, is that, at a time when we’ve seen three favourable polls on independence, the movement itself has entered a period of such alarming disunity and divisions. There are so many factions it’s hard to keep up. It’s as if those creating them are completely ignorant of what damage these do.

    If we picture the independence movement as a living body and then imagine what would happen to it if its vital parts don’t work together, the outcome is surely obvious. It will ultimately not function properly, it will fall to its knees. Its vital organs will be engaged in war with each other and it will die. And, oh how its enemies will rejoice.

    If anybody thinks these things don’t happen I suggest they take a look at the Labour Party.

    1. MBC says:

      I’m not experiencing it that way Jo. Every day I seem to discover more web sites and more groups doing indy things. Yes, it is leaderless, but it is all tending in the same direction, the indy direction, and bit by bit we are winning more converts. The movement is proving resilient even as it diversifies. As regards the Knife of Bath, it’s a sad thing to say but the man is burnt out as is evident by his increasingly bitter attacks on the SNP and others and his continuing estrangement from the land of his birth. His bitterness has become a liability.

      It’s not a bad thing either that the FM is cautious as she could face removal from office were she to lead the kind of offensive some would wish she would. It is better that someone else makes the bolder moves, someone not in an office from which they can be removed.

      All the time I am seeing evidence of a change in narrative, from being supplicants, to realising as Tom Nairn put it, that our captivity is self-captivity. The colonial mindset is slowly eroding and I see hope in that.

      1. Jo says:

        That’s encouraging MBC. Thanks. It’s good to get different perspectives.

  4. SleepingDog says:

    “Johnson’s regime is constantly teetering on the brink of collapse”
    Indeed, the fortress around the Anglo-British Establishment is not built of some impenetrable force-field or adamantium alloy, it is shoddily constructed out of bricks. Each brick has a name for outward show (selecting from this article, one would be “Honours”) and a hidden name and description turned away from public view (find out yourself, although if you are thinking along the lines of patronage and corruption I doubt you will be far wrong). There is little to be gained for ordinary folks by creating a rival defensive fortification around “Scottishness” for the benefit of a corrupt Scottish Establishment. By taking the offensive, by collectively wrenching these bricks out, exposing their truth-telling sides, and constructing a siege ramp out of them to (intellectually) storm the fortress, one keeps the initiative, allies with international critics, and establishes a joint ethical framework that helps shrug off false friends and rammy-followers. There is also a dark side of the fortress, with those bricks that cannot even be named in public. Seek those out too, and lift the silence.

    Johnson’s crew will not be able to resist the temptations towards jingoism, where they are fatally vulnerable to history, science, international law and rational thought. His majority may turn out to be a liability, being unable to deflect blame and prone to chronic quality control problems. Now indeed is the time to make the case against archy, and start turning those potential whistleblowers as the tide (literally) rises against all those failed systems we are encouraged never to apply critical thought to.

    1. Jo says:


      “…prone to chronic quality control problems.”

      Step forward Andrea Jenkyns, Tory MP.

      On Friday, a man was jailed for violently threatening the Labour MP, Yvette Cooper and her staff. The offences occurred during the various Commons debates and votes on Brexit. The man was a Tory activist and former Council candidate. The threats were vile.

      Despite the looming court case, Andrea Jenkyns invited him to her “Big Brexit Bash” on 31 January. Worse, she provided the court with a character reference! She said in it that, “his heart is in the right place”.

      The BBC buried details of this in the West Yorkshire section of its online news. It wasn’t mentioned at all on its TV news bulletins. And yet, along with other broadcasters, how much coverage did it give to the murder of Jo Cox? That event was, rightly, everywhere at the time. We heard plenty too, in the media, about female MPs working across the Parties to have violent threats against them outlawed and acted upon.

      Yet, there’s Andrea Jenkyns, prepared to provide character references for such thugs. Even if another MP was previously murdered by someone similar and even if the whole House united at the time to condemn it.

      1. SleepingDog says:

        @Jo, wow, that’s a low standard indeed, and a dangerous pattern. By the way, the phrase about poor quality control was Catherine Bennett’s in her wittily acerbic piece on the hereditary applicants to the House of Lords:
        although it seems the new House of Commons intake may be sliding downhill to meet them.

        1. Jo says:

          Thanks for the link SD.

  5. John S Warren says:

    Keep digging – please; you clearly know not what you do. Sobbing? That was laughter. I rest my case, but please, please go on without me….. bring a bigger shovel!

  6. The Stroller says:

    Thanks to poster AI above.

    Johnson is on easy street and the SNP have seen better days. Surely an honest appraisal of where we are is required given a whole era has just ended and we are moving into unchartered territory.

    I see no point in glossing over the harsh fact that the SNP opted to prioritize stopping Brexit over securing indie ref II. The SNP parliamentary party especially must have been in the know about what a Boris Johnson majority government was going to do if it came to pass and yet the SNP like the Labour Party happily agreed to a general election, and in doing so, surrendered their leverage in England.

    These are mistakes that you get punished for, and there’s just too much at stake to wish them away. And that’s not getting into their so called “famous karaoke nights at party conference” – when I read that line in the paper the other day, a shiver ran down my spine and probably quite a few eyebrows were raised across the land. The idea of Alyn Smith doing Sinatra or Joanna Cherry jiving to Elvis is unsettling and uncanny, something you don’t want to know or see. like stumbling upon one of your parents naked for example.

    The impression I get is of a party leadership who have become complacent and over confident, cocky in a word. We really did need that alternative left of SNP party after all because we all stood watching while the Brexit parliament rumbled on and nobody shouted out the words, “Do a deal with May, Nicola while you can….”

    Maybe that noise we all just heard was a door clicking shut….

    1. Arboreal Agenda says:

      I felt a bit the same with Labour blocking several softish Brexits during May’s reign – except they did nearly get a version through (including a customs union) so were willing given the right version, but lost it by just a couple of votes. SNP and the LDs voted it down because they were so obsessed with stopping Brexit at all costs. The costs turned out to be very high of course. I was really livid with the SNP for that (and the LDs though that’s nothing new as I find them risible). I voted remain and would still but this utter obsession with stopping what was after all a democratic vote has led to what we have now: Boris Johnson, big Tory majority, Labour heartlands lost, a hard Brexit and in Scotland, political disarray.

      1. The Stroller says:

        And there really wasn’t much debate in Scotland about the SNP’s decision to vote against all the different withdrawal agreements which were put forward.
        The SNP would probably say that they didn’t want to be the handmaidens of Brexit and that they had to vote against it because Scotland had opposed Brexit.
        Which is true.
        But if we could go back in time…

        1. Al says:

          They would, reasonably, argue that they were representing the voters, who voted to be part of EU. I concur that that course was probably doomed from inception.
          It may well be that the long game tactics will be successful. Only time will tell.

  7. Delta says:

    I agree with Stroller. If the SNP had really wanted a second ref at a time of their choosing, and to show those teetering in Scotland that they truely believed in their cause and meant bussiness then they should have offered Mrs May a deal. So abject was her position she might well have accepted it. If she had said no then at least a strong signal would have been sent out.

    In their hearts the SNP is feart – the example of the Parti Quebecois – who came so need then died on its feet soon after the narrow second ref result in Canada must haunt them a little – a second failure means oblivion.

    Then there is the Dereck MacKay and Alex Salmon(who is innocent – he has not been tried …yet) debacles – for a party which implicitly if not explicitly trumpets Scotlands superior morals – this is bad news. I thought only English politicians were sex pests.

    But the biggest question is if we got independance – that would be the end of the SNP – like it or not we are conservative nation(small c)like the Irish – it has taken 100 years for the Irish to vote for anything that was not centre right

    1. John S Warren says:

      One problem with your approach is something you do not mention. It implies that Boris Johnson and the Government are not already actually sinking under the weight of the impending issues with which they are faced; Johnson won an election ‘big’, but that is already in a long dead political past. All politics is downhill from election victory; it usually ends in tears in front of 10, Downing Street, sooner or later. Sooner probably in Johnson’s case, because his problems are so vast, so mired in uncertainty, and no planning of anything; ‘winging it’ on the hoof already. It would be fair to say that he is already ‘on the ropes’, barely conscious and we are still in Round 1. Think about the endless list of looming, time expended crises ; his second unbuildable bridge; HS2 that transparently serves London first – half the cost will only just bring it out of London (because most of it will be below ground); we will likely all be long dead by the time it reaches Manchester; the penny will eventually drop ‘up North’; Think of Brexit (including City access; just the start), border checks, immigration (London would collapse without easy immigration); Northern Ireland; US trade deal, Huwei/5G – the problems just go on and on, I have scarcely begun.

      I do not even need to mention Scotland; Johnson can sink anyway, quite possible without serving a full term as PM. Second, I do not see much point in hindsighting the recent past; ‘so what now?’ is unanswerable. I will say, it is so easy to hindsight with lofty apparent dexterity, but in the case of a “Mrs May deal”; note the wording, the person – a weak PM – but it it isn’t with a person; it is with the Conservative Party (who unlike Cameron, know they could lose) and it therefore comes with strings; there are no free lunches. The optics of a deal between the Conservative Government, post-Brexit referendum, and the SNP is quite another in current Scottish politics. Easy from a lofty perch, after the event, from the sidelines to pontificate on ‘what might have been’. Quite another to sell it in Scotland, on the doorstep.

      1. Arboreal Agenda says:

        It isn’t all hindsight though. It was what some were thinking at the time – I certainly was. And 38% of people voted for Brexit in Scotland (including 25% of supporters of independence) so did they have no agency at all with their ruling party in Scotland? Coupled with the 52/48% across the board, the politically logical and fair thing to do was support a soft Brexit. Being cynical it could be argued that the SNP wanted a hard Brexit, wanted chaos and grievance to make independence more likely, whilst the LibDems were so eaten up by hatred for Labour they voted against them rather than any deals as such.

        But yes, all water under the bridge now but hard-headed analysis can help with future strategies.

        1. John S Warren says:

          I am making a mistake even discussing this; it is, I think all blether. It is hindsight, and here is what I ask you to remember. 1.66m (62%) voted against Brexit in Scotland. They did not all support independence. They did not want Brexit, and at the time many believed it was just possible, given the broken state of Westminster, to stop Brexit; possibly through a second referendum (here what matters is less the likelihood of it than the aspiration of very many Remainers, not least in Scotland). There would be a political cost of doing a deal on Brexit with the Conservatives in Scotland; with the large number of electors who do not like either Brexit, or the Conservatives; and msny of them may have been more concerned about both, than about independence. Do I know the scale of that? No. Do I know the cost of a deal? No. Nor does anyone else. But both were real, with real consequences. Indulging in hindsight decisions now, with no consequences arising is just so easy; hindsight talk is cheap, and everyone is the authoritative expert, at least as far as their keyboard.

          As you said, “all water under the bridge now” but this does not make it “hard-headed analysis”; it is soft hindsight. The hard analysis is about the way forward, and in terms of real, substantive, actions; and there, the hindsighters are strangely silent.

  8. The Stroller says:

    The SNP are set up for constitutional politics, and they were never going to take any risks, but the big move they could have made and didn’t was to withdraw their MPS from Westminster just after the Brexit referendum.

    I mean, that was the time they could have made a stand and said, “we’re not coming back till we get a cast-iron guarantee that we will be free to call a legally binding referendum in the future…” And they might have got something out of that move, and it would have been amusing to watch England’s MPS stew in their Brexit juice for a while.

    As it turned out, the SNP were by far the most anti-Brexit party in Westminster, and yet they could never hope to overturn the result of the Brexit vote, all they could hope to achieve was another Brexit referendum, and with the Labour Party’s ridiculous “constructive ambiguity” policy – totally incredible – the SNP might have sold it to Scotland that there was nothing to be done in Westminster, because we don’t have the numbers. It depends how you were to have sold it in Scotland, I think there was some room there…

    And this is not just idle reflection. The wider point is that the independence movement is in the hands of the SNP leadership which may or may not be representative of what most indie supporting voters think about where we are right now. We have almost no pro independence media in Scotland, we have just two or three websites, and so it’s hard to gauge what pro YES Scotland is thinking. The SNP leadership risks becoming out of touch… and there is clearly a need for some alternative to the SNP which, if it doesn’t emerge on the Left, will unfortunately emerge on the Right I fear…

    As for Boris Johnson, as far as I can tell, he is angling for a confrontation with both Scotland and the EU… that is what he has done so far and it has worked very well for him in England…

    1. Arboreal Agenda says:

      I agree that the only way the SNP could have ‘stopped’ Brexit was to get out of the Union and so upping the anti on that (withdrawing MPs) as you describe makes perfect sense. I can’t see any other way they could do it. There was never going to be a second referendum so the SNP telling their electorate they were going to stop Brexit was just nonsense.

      I’d be more wary about Johnson’s anti EU / Scotland stance going down well in England. Most people in fact are looking on at Johnson’s antics and scratching their heads thinking WTF? I think it a mistake to think there is ant-Scottish feeling in England on a large scale, nor lack of sympathy for the independence cause, though the main truth is, people don’t know what to think. Is there great love for the union? Not really – you hear from those who shout loudest on that, whilst the majority are pragmatists – you can’t hold a people to a union who don’t want to be in it any more. I would add though that the SNP are not much liked, though Sturgeon is respected as a good speaker.

Help keep our journalism independent

We don’t take any advertising, we don’t hide behind a pay wall and we don’t keep harassing you for crowd-funding. We’re entirely dependent on our readers to support us.

Subscribe to regular bella in your inbox

Don’t miss a single article. Enter your email address on our subscribe page by clicking the button below. It is completely free and you can easily unsubscribe at any time.