The SNP is in the process of tearing itself apart, one of those seismic events that wrenches political forces apart that can no longer live with the consequences of their own contradictions. The Tories did it recently over Europe, and tore not just themselves apart but the rest of the country too. Labour experienced it in 1981 when Shirley Williams, David Owen, Bill Rodgers and Roy Jenkins left and formed the SDP in response to the perceived ‘drift to the left’ (and then did it a couple of years ago too). In 1976 something similar happened when Jim Sillars, John Robertson and Alex Neil broke away from the UK Labour to form the Scottish Labour Party.

The end of the SNP as a broad coalition gathered around a central political goal is plain to see, mostly, but not entirely because that goal seems out of reach. This is due to a combination of the parties own incompetence and the British state’s role in suppressing democracy. But there are other forces at play, not least the shifting of boundaries and norms (the Overton Window) of what’s acceptable and society being in cultural flux. This has led ‘Kate’ as she’s dubbed herself to misjudge the moment.

Kate Forbes is backed by a merry host of the commentariat (‘Kate Forbes is the SNP’s best hope’) gushing praise from rivals (‘Forget the old guard, the SNP could flourish under Kate Forbes’) – and a selection of the party. This is a test not just of the party but the country. Is it feasible to have a political leader that thinks same-sex relationships are less legitimate than straight relationships?

NEW: Kate Forbes tells @Channel4News she would have voted against equal marriage.

Now, any criticism of Forbes views are being deflected by dint of her being a woman, as Kevin McKenna wails here (‘The targeting of Kate Forbes shames the SNP and Scotland’), or by her religion making her somehow above criticism, despite this being a largely secular society.

Ash Regan has come out saying: “I am utterly appalled by the misogynistic attacks on Kate Forbes because of her faith. Kate is and always will be a great friend and colleague and it distresses me to witness this. It must stop immediately.”

I’m not sure how there are “misogynistic attacks on Kate Forbes because of her faith”? But maybe that can be explained?

Regan, who was head of advocacy at Commonweal has now announced that she “…will not support an accelerated net zero path which sees us turn off the North Sea taps, throw 10s of 1000s of oil workers out of jobs, hollow out NE & H&I communities whist still using and importing hydrocarbons. I will stand up for our oil workers and their communities.” I mean, how does that square next to Commonweal’s position about Just Transition, or even the most basic (and inadequate) SNP positioning on climate?

The entire campaign feels like it is just individuals jostling for career advancement, operating with complete opportunism adrift of any political principles. We have heard virtually nothing about the big social or constitutional questions, nor alternative strategies to gain momentum.

There now exists an uncomfortable coalition of Salmond-supporters, petro-nationalists, Christians (of various stripes), and people who are both obsessed and repelled by the (largely imaginary) wokerati. Such simple things as gay marriage, abortion rights or reform of gender recognition legislation have become a rallying point of reaction. Whether such a group can cohere enough to start their own party, or join Alba, remains to be seen, but it seems unlikely that all these factions and groups can co-exist within the SNP.

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  1. MacGilleRuadh says:

    I think what Regan is saying on hydrocarbons is that there is no point in masochistically shutting down their extraction here if there is a continued need for the stuff that will just result in us importing it. This would be similar to the crowing about the reduction in UK carbon intensity since 1990 that ignores that we’ve simply offshored most of it to China from where we are provided us with the goods, powered by coal.
    Her policy would be right if it were accompanied by a strong and realistic transition plan to move away from hydrocarbons within a certain timescale.
    Just shutting down the remaining NS reserves without such a plan is infantile – we will just buy the stuff in with no economic or climate benefits.

    1. That’s a position usually articulated by Conservatives and jars completely with the position of the think-tank she was part of and mainstream SNP policy.

      1. MacGilleRuadh says:

        I hate to agree with anything the Conservatives say but that is the only sensible and practical policy. If Regan has belatedly realised that and plans to adopt this as policy it shows she is thinking pragmatically rather than indulging in magical thinking.

        1. Alvin Vertigo says:

          How can ending the SNP’s alliance with the Green’s and therefor losing a majority in Hollyrood be described as “pragmatic”?

          1. MacGilleRuadh says:

            Would a minority government not be better than having to entertain the siren voices of the greens? I am not at all sure the greens’ contributions have been particularly helpful to the cause of good government.

        2. ‘Magical thinking’ is thinking we can continue using fossil fuels in the current climate catastrophe.

          1. MacGilleRuadh says:

            I would be delighted if ScotGov or anyone else for that matter had developed a cunning plan to avoid our use of fossil fuels but so long as they have not we are fated to burn this stuff. It then is just a choice of whether it is produced here or imported. You seem to believe that the latter will solve the climate crisis. Truly that is magical to behold.

          2. The Scottish Government has failed in this regard, this doesn’t mean that we dont need to urgently create alternatives to oil and gas. Just to return to facts North Sea oil is not the type of oil that we use in UK refineries, which means that we export 80% of it.

          3. MacGilleRuadh says:

            Ok, let’s say we do shut up shop as regards hydrocarbon extraction with no transition plan for the workers and the economy and no plan to replace fossil fuels overall. How does that help our situation? Do you think the other producers of oil etc are going to take the lead from this little sub-national entity? We’ll just import more oil from Norway. I guess though that closing these fields unilaterally might make us feel piously self satisfied for a while as the economic hit gathers.

            But please don’t misunderstand me, it would be great if there was a clear plan to wean us off hydrocarbons that would run in conjunction with a phased closure of the north sea fields. But there is nothing that resembles this kind of plan emerging from ScotGov. Just the usual empty rhetoric and sloganising that we’ve all become so dispiritingly used to.

          4. “let’s say we do shut up shop as regards hydrocarbon extraction with no transition plan for the workers” = that’s not the plan, and that’s not the plan according to Commonweal (who Ash Regan worked for) and a dozen other groups and anybody with half a brain cell

          5. Frank Mahann. says:

            Aye, as if the changing climate was going to make an exception for anyone.

    2. John Monro says:

      Your argument about not using North Sea oil and gas because we’d otherwise have to import it is a typical false dichotomy. You reduce your demand by encouraging renewable electricity (for Scotland that’s mainly wind), BEVs, a massive WW2 style assault on fully insulating Scotland’s hundred years old building technology, public transport, etc. You no longer then have to import oil or gas. Continued investment in wind power, on or off-shore, battery and pump storage, export of electricity etc and conversion of industrial processes to renewable electricity are nowhere near unfeasible.

      The main thing is, stop growing your population, because all these renewable energy infrastructures will cost a huge amount of time and money – a continually growing population means you never catch up to needs. The first thing for a sustainable 100% fossil free energy system is a 100% sustainable population. The figures are simple, to fully supply Scotland’s entire energy system renewably, you’d need more than twice the presently installed capacity. To meet those demands for a doubled population means a quadrupled capacity.

      The thoughts about a sustainable population policy are never argued in these matters making all other arguments redundant and misleading.

  2. Alex McCulloch says:

    Questions for myself……

    And so we are challenged to grow up and become critical thinkers! ( Although it should actually be taught in childhood!)
    To focus on solutions and no longer be slaves to collective dogma, to have our own individual principles and stick to them, but to recognise and understand that all humans, situations are influenced by circumstance and context.
    As such, progress requires compromise, best options on balance or least worst choices – perfection us the enemy of progress!. Nobody is perfect and a policy or solution may need amended or become obsolete relative to external events and parallel societal changes and developments.

    Your absolute favourite musical artist has just produced their best ever work, it is released next week!
    Yesterday they said they think marriage should be between a man and a woman/ supported equal marriage ( delete as per your prefered principle) , said that we should continue to source oil as close to our borders as long as it is required / should ban all new oil fields ( delete as appicable), said that the leader they prefer must have a faith / be an atheist ( delete as applicable)……,will you buy their album?

    Is what they do ( assuming they don’t harm , break the law or blow the budget!) more important than something they believe, once thought or said?
    (See Van Morrisson, Eric Clapton, Kate Forbes, Humza Yousaf, Ash Regan, Josh Taylor…..David Bowie)

    Can we tolerate exceptions if we agree on the majority of values / actions?

    1. Alvin Vertigo says:

      A musical artist’s work is inseparable from their world view. Since learning of Bowie’s paedophilia and Dylan’s misogyny/homophobia and malignant narcissism I now see these things are blatant in their work, and no longer listen to it. It is no great loss. The black artists they stole their work from are much more worthy of attention.

      1. Alex McCulloch says:

        I think what we might be learning is that everyone’s worldview in itself contains contradictions and hypocritical elements.
        The output of the black artists you refer to , though great then and now, was overwhelmingly misogynistic bit a product of it’s time and environment.
        Re Bowie – not aware of this but what you accuse him of is an act of harm not a worldview that could be contrary to others.

  3. Steve Bowers says:

    Are we just ignoring Humza then ?

    I’m not too sure about this “tearing itself apart”, healthy debate and a variety of opinions is a good thing in a political party, for my money I take my hat off to Kate for her blunt honesty, I’d rather have that than someone saying something cos they think it might help their career, it’s also worth bearing in mind that when it comes to a vote in the Scottish parliament she would only have 1 vote same as everyone else (although her power to influence others would be there of course) so her religious beliefs bother me as little as Humza’s and Ash’s (I say that as an agnostic).
    I would be amazed if there was a political party anywhere in the world where all members agree on all things and if there were I would find it very frightening.

    1. John Learmonth says:

      I wonder were Humza (as a practising Muslim) stands on abortion/gay rights etc?
      Has anybody asked him or would that be ‘Islamaphobic’?

      1. Yeah – he’s been asked – and answered on this issue several times

  4. SleepingDog says:

    The goal of secular government will be greatly aided by constructive developments towards a new Independent Scottish Constitution, which obviously have to reject theocratic formulations of the God-anointed monarchy and established Church of the British Empire.

    Some of our topical policies are influenced by but not mandated by non-planetary-realistic ideologies such as Christian sects, so there could be wriggle room (if some sects have changing policies on marriage, say). If gender is viewed as a social construct, the number of possible frameworks of gender recognition are already quite large; I’m not sure if they are simply additive or can conflict, but some democratic process of establishing a recognized list of genders should be achievable, without confusion with biological sex. However, if gender is viewed as a soullist property, then we move into non-planetary-realistic ideological territory and non-secular politics, just as in soullist Christian doctrine.

    That is, neither orthodox Christianity nor soullist gender identity beliefs can rationally be written into law in a secular state, in my view. It also seems to be the case, in my reading, that gay marriage is not a goal of everyone in the L*G*B*T constellation.

  5. Robert Allan says:

    I hadn’t appreciated this was an Anti- SNP site. Mike Small is obviously the type of person who lights up a room by leaving it. Constantly depressing blogs – time to unsubscribe and look for a growth mindset.

    1. Jake Solo says:

      Oh my days. Dearie me.

      This site was the site of the Wheeshtmeister General until about 5 minutes ago.

      But down and down and down the purity spiral we go. Never far enough. Never.

      Ironic, considering those of us who knew and warned the SNP was unfit, compromised, riddled, a mirage of a party, was being gutted and was rotting from the inside out are now completely vindicated.

      The party confused pro Indy voters having nowhere else to go with consent, hegemony and invulnerability. Well they’re reaping the shitstorm now and they’ve effed us all. And the country.

      1. Alec Lomax says:

        The nation awaits salvation by Alba (or rather, it doesn’t).

    2. In what way is it an anti-SNP site Robert?

  6. Sandy Watson says:

    It’s a sad state of affairs.
    And we’ll see soon enough whether the independence movement really is ‘more than N Sturgeon and the SNP’.

  7. David+B says:

    I get annoyed by Forbes’ views being described as religious freedom. No one has forced any church to perform same sex marriages against the tenets of their faith. But the legislation has allowed denominations who believe in marriage equality (like Quakers and Unitarians) to follow the tenets of their faiths by marrying gay couples.

    Forbes essentially believes she can restrict the religious freedom of others due to her own beliefs.

  8. Tom Ultuous says:

    On MSN, which is awash with fascist vermin, there was an article about her views on gay marriage and her critics within the party, and it’s the first time I’ve ever seen a comment section where the vast majority were praising someone within the SNP. If I thought for a minute we could all hold our noses and hope she’d build up support for independence I’d coexist with her till independence day. I sincerely doubt it will happen though, and Mike’s view that the SNP are in the process of tearing themselves apart may be depressingly spot on.

  9. Michael says:

    Democracy is great in theory. But in practice there are too many people who don’t subscribe to an ideological materialist dogmatic view of the world for democracy to ever work. I mean, imagine having to accommodate people with religious views and morals. Probably what we need is a gulag for those spoiling our perfect liberal love-in.

    1. Frank Mahann says:

      Or an Auto de fe.

  10. Paddy Farrington says:

    I see little evidence of the SNP tearing itself apart. What I do see is that many prominent SNP figures who were prepared to support Kate Forbes are now withdrawing their support, more often in sorrow than in anger, because of her lack of judgement in expressing personal opinions that are completely at variance with much of Scottish society.

    The SNP does need a proper debate on the big issues of social justice, the green transition, and advancing the case for independence. So far, this has not happened. It really needs to get going soon.

  11. florian albert says:

    ‘Simple things such as gay marriage, abortion rights or reform of gender recognition legislation have become a rallying point of reaction.’

    Reform of gender recognition legislation led, only recently, to a male rapist being sent (briefly) to a women’s prison. This reform was backed by four of the five political parties at Holyrood.
    What you see as ‘reaction’ is viewed by a majority of voters as common sense. When the political Establishment unites against the voters,, the voters will find a way to register their point.
    It has happened in the UK, the USA, France, Italy and Sweden. Scotland will be no different.

    1. Tom Ultuous says:

      It was all gutter press driven though. On the 17th January Scotland’s colonial governor Alistair Jack blocked Scottish govt GRA reforms. On Jan 23rd this appeared on the gov uk site ‘Update on changes to transgender prisoner policy framework’. If you read it, you’ll understand that there was nothing that happened in Scotland that couldn’t legally have happened in England or Wales and still can as they’re now only acting on this to avoid accusations of hypocrisy.

      Indeed, if you lookup a 2021 article from the Guardian entitled ‘Lawful to imprison trans women sexual offenders in female jails, judge rules’ you’ll discover it had already happened in England. In fact, this appeared in the Independent today
      [Transgender women held in women’s prisons in England and Wales have committed no assaults or sexual assaults since reforms were introduced in 2019, according to the UK Government.]

    2. Alec Lomax says:

      I seem to recall that Farage’s Reform UK party (sic) won a microscopic share of the votes at the last Holyrood election.

  12. Politically Homeless says:

    What this piece fails to mention is why the other side of the schism is integral to the whole “tearing itself apart” dynamic. Yousaf, an insider’s insider and spectacularly unpopular, is the only apparent alternative. The “centre will not hold” because it has no credibility, and the only strategy available to shore up its credibility are denunciations of the reactionaries and the “dangerous radicals” of Alba and the SNP right. The Sturgeonites will keep control of the party in the person of Yousaf, but he’s going to take their electoral fortunes downhill at breakneck speed. The SGP will probably end up splitting the SNP vote massively, simply because Harvie will make a far better SNP leader than the actual SNP leader. But the ramification then is that the SNP political system depends – and this is the bit that McKenna always gets so spot on – on patronage. When the people in Scotland with “woke” opinions and the ones with power, the ones doling out the funding to all the right thinking chums, are no longer the same people, that hegemony will quickly start to fray.

    1. The centre is not credible, but the idea that you can dispense with basic equalities, fundamental things like equal marriage or abortion rights is obscene. It is not ‘woke’ to believe in a woman’s right to choose.

      1. Alec Lomax says:

        Chris Deerin is of the opinion that same-sex marriage is ‘progressive moonjuice’.

    2. Alec Lomax says:

      McKenna, former editor of the Scottish Daily Mail mutated into the hero of the Scottish working class.

  13. Gavinochiltree says:

    C’mon, this is a democracy where we are ALL entitled to our views. I would hate to live in a country, be in a political party, or even in the same room as people with identical views to me.
    Forbes looks the best bet to lead for independence (a bit too soon for Regan), irrelevant of her religion. Most people like me are not religious but still have moral red-lines they are uncomfortable crossing. It’s one reason the GRR Bill has limited public backing (the other being media repression), even when most politicians in Scotland are in favour. Sometimes things take time and we live in a country where the media hides the lived experience of other countries.
    The SNP will fall to bits, if its members become illiberal and moral Holy Wullies.

    For Gawds sakes, do we want to emulate Labour, with Starmers “one true vision” and all who deviate expelled?
    I want Scotland to be fair, egalitarian and allow all to follow their own path to happiness—the usual qualifications apply.
    Don’t forget the media is our enemy. Forbes has made herself an easy target, but her expressed beliefs are no different from DRoss, Starwars and Sunak—though there are no pearl-clutching “journalists” chasing them down the metaphorical street.

    1. Alex McCulloch says:

      Well said!

    2. Robbie Forbes says:

      Spot on

    3. John Monro says:

      Thank you Gavinochiltree. A simple honest retort.

  14. Jacob72 says:

    I don’t agree with Kate Forbes’ views but I do commend her for having been honest enough to articulate them.

    From reading what she has said my interpretation is that she is expressing her own view and she is articulating that she will go with the democratic majority vote even if she personally disagrees with it. That would suggest that she is offering a move away from the big man / big woman idea of government and more cabinet government.

    Given the denunciations by many of her friends, my hunch is that she will withdraw and will step down as an MSP shortly after.

    It does seem as though the SNP will tear itself apart on the GRR, an issue of trivial importance with no relevance to a party who’s primary mission is independence, and in direct opposition to the general public. It seems very odd to me.

  15. Robbie Forbes says:

    As an atheist republican, I respect the right of any person, including politicians, to express sincere personal opinion based on deeply held moral principles. If those views are perceived to be sectarian and contrary to other viewpoints, including those of other minorities (such as mine) or the political consensus, so be it. I suspect that if Kate Forbes was Jewish, the media would currently be awash with accusations of anti-semitism, despite having generated this Twitterstorm. It’s fine to ridicule the Wee Frees though, as they’re a Scottish minority! It should be a surprise to no-one that KF is a member of the Free Church of Scotland and shares its outlook. What is a surprise is that political pundits are incapable of distinguishing between personal opinion and matters of policy. At no point has KF advocated rescinding existing rights or discriminating against minorities. I’m also pretty sure she doesn’t advocate a ban on Sunday working / ferries or dancing either, though I’d be happy to vote for any party banning use of power tools on Sundays. Surely in any tolerant secular society we should be capable of accepting alternate personal views, or is this Nazi Germany?

  16. Niemand says:

    Not mentioned here but where are all the candidates? There’s three and that looks like it and Forbes will no doubt soon have to withdraw. Almost no MSP wants the job, it’s pathetic and very telling.

    1. James Mills says:

      Big shoes to fill …

  17. JP58 says:

    Kate Forbes has shown she is too inexperienced and naive by allowing her personal religious beliefs to become such a big issue. She could easily have headed this off but chose not too. SNP has to have a broad base of support to be successful and show therefore avoid all the culture wars nonsense as these topics by their very nature are very divisive.
    Hamsa Yousef always seems to be reacting to criticism and does not seem able to carry the fight back to opponents and interviewers. (NS & AS, like them or loathe them, could both think on their feet and come out fighting which is essential as SNP leader.)
    Ash Regan seems too inexperienced to be able to handle the pressures that come with job. It seems that HY is probably going to win therefore which will not inspire many to look again at independence.
    NS made a few mistakes in her tenure but I am beginning to think her sudden resignation was the by far her worst mistake.
    I fear the next few years are going to make advancing independence cause difficult. The only silver lining I see is Stephen Flynn who has impressed so far as leader at Westminster. Perhaps he can pick up mantle at Holyrood in a few years after honing his skills at Westminster. We can but hope.

  18. Gerry Robertson says:

    Sorry you are wrong. Firstly and unlike the other factions in the Tories and Labour you quoted there is no disagreement in the way forward…. ALL want Independence and if they have reservations about that they should quite the Party. Secondly the current nominees are not the best (all three are not IMHO the ‘complete package’) but unless unless someone more suitable comes along then my vote will be for Kate Forbes. I am not religious in any sense but she alone can do little to prevent the trajectory of GRC (which would be suicidal for her) and more generally her faith may indeed be attractive to those who are (and more likely to be NO voters). Furthermore I guess Politicians of all Parties are not highly regarded by the population in general and are considered hypocritical so anyone who is driven by a moral conscience will have my vote. In any event personally I can see Sturgeon returning after her self imposed sabbitical.

  19. John Monro says:

    Mike, thanks for your article and your care for Bella Caledonia. I have yet to read others’ comments, I hope my comment isn’t mere repetition.

    You ask, Mike, how can you direct misogynistic attacks on Kate Forbes because of her religion? Where have you been living in the last few years, Mike? Absolutely any subject is can be used as a vehicle on which to direct misogynistic attacks on a woman in a leadership role, whatever the time, whatever her age, whatever her politics, whatever her race. The fact is that there are a minority, but far too large a minority, of men, whose resentment against women is extreme, there must be something Freudian about this, to make the life of women in power anywhere subject to the most cruel, constant and exploitive harassment. .Your apparent surprise at this fact should not be an excuse for dismissing Ash Regan’s concerns so cavalierly. Additionally, I am unsure why a religious commitment should somehow dismissed because Scotland is, as you claim, a largely secular society? It was my impression there is freedom of thought and religion in Scotland and as around half your fellow citizens still profess some religious faith I wonder as to the accuracy of this observation. . When our societies perhaps totally fall apart in the coming years, I suspect a religious faith might be all that many of Scotland’s citizens will have to sustain them.

    You do rightly point to the divisiveness of woke politics – a divisiveness that will make any party’s functioning, democracy’s functioning, so much harder, when the truly serious problems all our societies face are mounting almost exponentially. We’re all in an increasingly rocking boat in gathering stormy global waters. . I am unsure if the SNP will fall apart as well, but perhaps it’s a good time to call an end to the SNP’s near monopoly of Scottish politics. Perhaps too a Scottish Labour party that will commit itself to ultimate independence for the nation might take up a lot of the political slack? Cheers.

    1. Alex McCulloch says:

      A common sense summary in an oasis of bigotry and confusion. We’ll said.

      1. Alex McCulloch says:

        Or even an oasis of common sense in a sea of bigotry and confusion!

    2. SleepingDog says:

      @John Monro, when you wrote “the divisiveness of woke politics”, had your sense of irony gone to sleep? The Arch-Divider Christianity, after all, divides people into Believers and Unbelievers, True Believers and Heretics, Saved and Damned, Saints and Sinners, Faithful and Heathen; and has a history riven by sects and sectarian violence. Not content with dividing up the actual world, their theologians fantasise about dividing up the afterlife into large and small sectors. That is where the divisive nature of Kate Forbes’ worldview comes from, not ‘wokeism’, which as far as I know holds the worldview that we’re all just people.

    3. Hi John – certainly some people need no excuse for misogyny – I just didn’t see the logical link in this example. I think Forbes has rightly been called out for her views.

      A ‘religious commitment’ should not somehow dismissed because Scotland is a largely secular society?’ but equally it shouldn’t be given a free pass or assumed that people will agree with your outdated and reactionary views.

  20. florian albert says:

    ‘Is it feasible to have a political leader who thinks same sex relationships are less legitimate than straight relationships ?’

    Yes. It is.

    Germany managed it when their Chancellor, Angela Merkel, voted against same sex marriage.

    My conclusion would be that Germany has a more genuinely tolerant political culture than Scotland.

    1. SleepingDog says:

      @florian albert, although presumably Angela Merkel didn’t argue that praying was one of her key proposals for dealing with anthropogenic climate change.

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