2007 - 2021

Scotland’s Future

Amid the desperate re-framing and Unionist denial of democracy, two indisputable principle stand out:
First : all that is required for a mandate for a second referendum is a simple majority of pro-independence MSPs at Holyrood. Second as Stephen Gethins has put it: “The SNP & Greens stood on a platform of holding a Referendum. It looks like they won. Labour, the Lib Dems & Conservatives stood on a platform of blocking one. It looks like they lost.”
When the self-styled Minister for the Union bumbles out of No 10 to pontificate some nonsense, this is all we need to know. In creating a narrative that they are standing to “Save the Union” Douglas Ross’s lamentable campaign has defined it’s own failure. It’s gratifying that he has not failed so badly that he will have to stay in post. The Tories are stuck with a terrible leader who is incapable of breaking through beyond their cowering base. He will carry on without the help of his largely absent colleague Colonel Davidson. She has been like a child’s imaginary friend, often referred to but never seen. She will now disappear to the House of Lords where no doubt she will play out the rest of her career and become a media darling for years to come.
In the hours and days to come the UK government, Scottish unionists and the right-wing commentariat will attempt to frame a huge SNP victory and a sizeable pro-indy majority at Holyrood as somehow an argument against a second referendum. This is a profoundly un-democratic moment that must be resisted.
We can also say that the election sees the predictable failure of the Alba project. Alba received only 1.3% in Moray:

This is a complete rejection of ethno-nationalism and an opportunity to re-set the independence movement away from paranoia, conspiracy and introversion and towards an open and positive future-facing movement for democracy. It would be rational for those behind Alba to reflect on the reasons for this massive defeat. Given the personalities involved its pretty clear that massive amounts of narcissism and hubris will however lead them to indulge in equal amounts of inchoate rage and exceptionalism and seek out far-fetched excuses instead of taking responsibility for the (entirely predictable) debacle. The disparity between the hugely over-confident statements about a “storm is coming” and Let the earthquake commence!  … and the actual results now look hilarious.

Finally it’s worth remembering that the political and media elite who will attempt to re-frame this election result are the same ones who were only a few weeks ago attempting to have this election cancelled. With 4,280,785 registered voters and a huge increase in turnout, the highest ever recorded, this is not just a renewed mandate but a sign of strength against all those who seek to undermine Scottish democracy.

Comments (36)

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  1. Jim Bennett says:

    Disappointing that you reserve a substantial proportion of the article for a bile laden attack on a pro independence party. I don’t recall the same withering scorn poured on RISE when they failed in a worse way than Alba.

    Just what is it about Scottish political blogs that so much effort is targeted at our own camp?

    1. Anne says:

      I agree. Sad to see this happening on different fronts and undermines the road to independence.

      1. In what conceivable way does commenting on Alba undermine the road to independence?

    2. It’s a pretty significant phenomenon Jim that has been comprehensively defeated, as I had predicted for some time. It’s a reactionary party led by someone who is considered less popular in Scotland than Boris Johnson. There is precisely zero reason why I should not write about them. The comparison with RISE is very odd.

    3. john burrows says:

      Mike is entitled to his own opinion Jim. It’s his blog. He could not in any way shape, or form, be described as an admirer of the former First Minister.

      The question of Scotland’s independence inspires great passions. Alec Salmond even more so. The recent election is a testament of the people’s opinion of his re-launch of himself on the body politic. He will have to re-evaluate his own political future based on this rejection at the polls.

      But Ignore Mike’s polemics. People can’t help themselves sometimes. Focus on the argument. I think Mike is wrong on this one. He’s not seeing the forest for the trees.

      We who aspire to statehood are not all walking the path at the same rate. Nor are we all moving towards the same Promised land. The squabling within our movement is not only inevitable but vital, in my eyes. It all helps to keep the movement vibrant.

      ALBA is a commendable idea as it allows a forum for independence minded small ‘c’ conservative voters. If it can continue to move forward as a party, it offers a potential balancing of the independence movement into a proper Left (Green), Right (ALBA) and Center (SNP).

      A mature democracy requires this kind of political balance to flourish. So to a political movement.

      Everyone who supports independence should be allowed a poltical home. The Union provides an abundance of options to the voters in Scotland who reject independence. I think it is a mistake to not do the same for those who support independence.

      All political movements have their cranks and misfits. Especially new made ones. I recommend we await developments.

      In the interest of clarity, I would have prefered we had held an independence referrendum last Thusday.

      The prospect of witnessing another five years of WM, and the supporting media cast, defenistrating, disregarding and denigrating our Parliament, with uncounted hordes of trolls unleased on social media to poison the debate, fills me with dread.

      1. Thanks John – the problem with your analysis “ALBA is a commendable idea as it allows a forum for independence minded small ‘c’ conservative voters. If it can continue to move forward as a party, it offers a potential balancing of the independence movement into a proper Left (Green), Right (ALBA)” – is that ALBA members consider themselves Left?

        1. john burrows says:

          Yes Mike, but here in Scotland, we are almost all ‘left’ of the path being followed by England.

          Even the branch office of the Conservative Party here dreaded the rise of Johnson.

          There are even degrees to being on the ‘Left.’ As the Labour party seemingly keeps having to relearn.

        2. An Duine Gruamach says:

          Conservatism and reaction are absolutely to be fought, whatever flag they wrap themselves in.

          1. john burrows says:

            Very progressive of you.

            Be prepared for a life long battle. There is a never ending supply of them, unfortunately.

  2. SleepingDog says:

    The substantial rise in turnout is perhaps the most notable feature of the election results so far, in terms of difference from last time (athough we will have to wait and find out how many ballot papers were spoilt). Emergencies tend to focus the public imagination on the need for good governance, I guess. But I have not been following the media coverage, which almost seems designed to disengage interest in real politics, and the two minutes I caught were the tail-end of an electoral system explanation, some tired padding, some wild speculation masquerading as statistical analysis, and part of a teary acceptance speech. Did I miss anything?

    1. Tom Ultuous says:

      They could practically have it on a loop that’s only interrupted by the odd result. If I hear Mundell say “once in a generation” again I’m switching to BBC Cymru.

  3. Daniel Raphael says:

    “Oh dear, don’t disparage our Farage clones, it *disunites* us.”

    I think that’s the core of it.

  4. Tom Ultuous says:

    After so much talk in the independence camp about tactical voting it seems this has mainly favoured the unionists. The number of Labour voters who’ve “held their nose” and collaborated with the Tory scum has prevented an SNP majority. The toxic (for Labour) ‘Better Together’ camp are back.

    1. MBC says:

      Yes, and that (tactical voting by unionists on the constituency seats) was a good reason for voting SNP 1&2. Even if it is pointed out that hundreds of thousands of SNP2 votes are ‘wasted’, as will inevitably be the charge, the point is, it’s an insurance policy, because the unionists could have succeeded in displacing many SNP constituency MSPs. Aberdeen West, NE Fife, Edinburgh western, Edinburgh southern, were all lost to unionist tactical votes. Many more seats that were secured could also have been lost. It’s very volatile.

      1. Tom Ultuous says:

        It is a bit of a silly system. Why not create an SNP reserves party and tell everyone to vote SNP / SNP reserves? I suppose that’s what Alba wanted but it wasn’t going to work without the SNP advising people to vote differently on the List.

        Do the government have the power to change the voting system or are we stuck with it?

  5. barrie gadgie says:

    coherently argued.
    and a helpful antidote to the grudging, massaged ‘news’ on bbc.
    however, whilst I agree with your analysis re ‘alba’, I hope we can find a way to reconcile their supporters with the mainstream independence movement.

    1. Yeah, no doubt plenty of people had the best of intentions and hoped this would work.

  6. hartie says:

    sensible and measured analysis. guanyirsel!

  7. Robbie says:

    Collaboration between the unionists in my opinion have reduced both of them from being branch offices to outside Toilets, we will get independence come what may,good to see ranks getting stronger

  8. Robbie says:

    SNP ranks , Sorry

  9. gahetacicl says:

    And again with the groundless “ethnonationalist” and “reactionary” tropes. In truth, Alba, which were literally the only novel and interesting thing about this election, have had about as much of a fair shake around here as Jeremy Corbyn had from Laura Kuenssberg, and for much the same reasons in terms of power dynamics.

    A few conclusions. 1/ Scotland’s political culture is in a dire state. We should be profoundly ashamed that with a PR system the English Left would give their right arm to have, all we’ve done is elected a centrist clique for going on 20 years, while conducting banal, self-serving, and mostly evidence-free arguments about what kinds of pluralism to inject around the edges. The pluralism of the 2014 Yes movement is dead as a dodo and what we have in its place is the adulation of a (very) small caste of professional technocrats. 2/ The real independent media are no longer the radical left (in style) blogs, who now behave in a way complicit with the devolved state apparatus, but the polemical so-called “hate bloggers”, who for all their bad manners are the only ones standing outside the culture of conformism and clientelism, and their readership who revel in their ironic tartan deplorable image precisely because it’s so ironic (hint: the “MacQanon” stuff is all a piss take).

    And 3/ there are questions emanating from the above that will come back to haunt SNP elites. Like the mystery of the apparently vanished referendum fundraising – now perhaps, though not necessarily if the cynics are right about the depth of the SNP’s commitment to independence- relevant; their hostility to liberal norms in free speech, freedom of the press (the cases of Mark Hirst and the otherwise execrable Craig Murray), and relinquishing the culture of smears, respecting the verdict that their political opponents are innocent of crimes if acquitted by a jury (Salmond).

    Then there’s the SNP’s internal transformation from a grassroots organisation into a de facto dictatorship, with an emasculated NEC, and all apparently because of the leadership clique’s hostility to a particular view about what constitutes women’s rights, which may be unfashionable, but which any sane person with their ideological blinkers off would conclude is entirely reasonable. We now know that the proportion of those people in the independence movement who are also willing to speak out is disgracefully tiny.

    Not that this has mattered much at the ballot box, because ironically for a supposedly aspiring independent country, we are still, in the final analysis, exhibiting EXACTLY THE SAME voting patterns as we have since the 1980s, with one anti-Tory hegemon being rubber stamped in protest vote after protest vote, but that the SNP have replaced Labour as the party of protest against London Tory governments. The great successes of devolution, like resisting tuition fees, were secured under Salmond.

    As Gerry Hassan said not so long ago, this proves that “independence is the new normal.” Except, err, we aren’t independent are we!!!? And support for independence has apparently peaked somewhere around 50%, give or take a margin of polling error. This after 5 years of the greatest crisis of the British state since Suez and the most hard right turn in Westminster since 1979. But well done Nicola – you’re firmly in power & popular and that’s all that matters, or as that other Great Demagogue of our times Trump would put it: you’re “winning” and your critics, well, they’re simply “losers”, or as they say in the centrist jargon du jour, “paranoid conspiracy theorists” etc. More stagnant success along these lines and we’ll all be living under the latest iteration of devo+Blatcherism for the rest of our lives.

    1. Thanks for reinforcing the idea that: “Given the personalities involved its pretty clear that massive amounts of narcissism and hubris will however lead them to indulge in equal amounts of inchoate rage and exceptionalism and seek out far-fetched excuses instead of taking responsibility for the (entirely predictable) debacle.”

  10. Kevin Hattie says:

    I’m actually pretty anxious about the prospects of independence. The result of the election has clearly indicated that we have every right to revisit the question. But do we have the numbers to win a referendum? Can we get it over the line in the lifetime of the next parliament?

    I’m naturally an anxious person, so maybe my mind is doing its usual ‘worst-case scenario’ thing, but the thought of losing a second time would be so crushing. It’s gonna take a lot of work from all of us.

    1. You are right, this is a victory but much is at play and much is uncertain

    2. Michael says:

      I share your concern. The SNP leadership has done pitifully little to further the case for independence or build the independence movement. Nicola et al have chosen to risking all on the fickle support of Scotland’s middles classes, who are disgruntled at Brexit, but who are gradually getting used to the new normal and, when it comes down to it, will likely be easily fearmongered back to supporting the union. We seem to be winning battles, while squandering the victories, being determined not to build up the resources to win the war!

      Mike, if you bother to respond to this comment, rather than glibly dismiss my views with your ill concealed rage, by trotting out some pejorative label to dehumanise me with. Please can you do something useful and explain how the SNP leadership has in practical terms furthered the case for independence and used its years of political dominance and its substantial financial resources to build the independence movement?

      1. Hi Michael, I’m not sure what you mean about “dehumanising” you.

        Anyway, I remain highly critical of the SNP in terms of their failure to develop the case for independence, in particular their failure to make the case for a Scottish currency, which I believe to be crucial for many reasons, and also I think the Growth Commission is a travesty. There are many many failings in the SNP and in the Scottish Government which I have outlined many times and will continue to do so in the future. However I just don’t believe the narrative put across by many – perhaps by yourself? – that the SNP are the major obstacle to independence and they are all traitors etc etc. The reality is flawed individuals operating in reality.

  11. carthannas says:

    “… massive amounts of narcissism …”
    My God; talk about pot, kettle, black. At least Alba are trying to contribute something practical to achieve ‘Scotland’s Future’ – rather than talking to a little band of acolytes and sniping from the side lines without making a scrap of difference one way or the other to gaining independence.

    1. Abla have contributed precisely nothing, but I predicted this response in the article you just read. Try having some humility and self-reflection in the face of complete rejection by the electorate.

  12. florian albert says:

    ‘a huge victory for the SNP’

    Yes, but not a great victory for the independence cause.

    In the constituency voting, the SNP (+Greens) got 48.4% of the votes. The three main unionist parties got a combined 50.4%.
    In the list voting, it was 48.4% for the SNP (+Greens) and 46.6% for the main unionist parties.

    When you bear in mind that this election took place nearly 5 years after the Brexit vote and nearly 2 years after Johnson became PM – both events seen as having given a major boost to the independence campaign – then the result is less impressive.

    Nicola Sturgeon is likely to continue her practice of many years; talk about Indyref2 … and that’s it.

    1. J Galt says:

      Yes Florian, on sober reflection rather than wishful thinking – a failure not success.

      “‘A great victory’ – my arse!” As Jim Royle would have put it.

  13. MBC says:

    If Johnstone is now offering to talk, Sturgeon should make some key demands. He won’t deliver, so she needs to make impossible demands.

    1. Wullie says:

      Alba was really the Salmond party, big mistake, toxic brand and an ego that needed massaging so predictable result. Pity, it might have worked better with a different leader.

  14. Alan Crerar says:

    The story of this election is not Sideshow Alex’s predictably dismal failure (did none of them talk to a few ‘normal’ voters who I found were unanimously against Abla?), but the number of Labour voters, maybe members, who were quite happy to ‘lend’ their votes to a Party creating foodbanks, poverty and inequality, support for the mega-rich, cronyism and open deception. What has happened to that Party of the ‘Left’? Why do they have a ‘Sir’ as leader and a millionaire as Scottish front man? Their success in Wales is an example of how to support Labour principles (however slightly) while being more supportive of Wales and the Welsh people.
    How did we ever allow the Scottish and Welsh parliaments to be set up with ‘foreign’ (i.e. English) registered and funded Parties being given a place? Had genuinely autonomous Labour, Conservative and LibDem equivalents been insisted upon instead of these fake ‘Scottish’ paste-ons, we (and they) might not be in this situation now.
    Anyway, well done Mike, for creating a fine blog over the last decade or so, and avoiding the “Abla/Sliced Bread” of most other Indy bloggers who should have known better.

  15. Malcolm Kerr says:

    “Paranoia. Conspiracy. Introversion. Reactionary. Ethno-nationalism”. These are shallow, obstinate, prejudiced and unreasonable beliefs, which you are holding against 40,000 voters whom you have never met and don’t know. I don’t recognise any of that among the Alba members of my acquaintance. You would do well to look closer at the improbably small leadership clique in the SNP, and at how they gained and maintain power. I am an SNP member and activist.

  16. Jake S says:

    First and probably last comment…

    Is “ethno-nationalist” a deniable euphemism for “racist”?

    If so, you’re an utter disgrace.

    I read your blog and Twitter regularly and have seen plenty lies, omissions, gaffes and pile ons, but that’s next level.

    Obviously feeling pretty chipper and looked-after, eh? Just not quite enough to bring yourself to speak plainly.

    1. Hi Jake – no I think you could be racist and not an ethno-nationalist.

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