Now What?

I am cautiously pessimistic about the outcome of the SNP’s leadership contest. If at first all possible outcomes seem to result in some terrible consequences, when you look closer things are far worse. Forget for a moment the bitter internecine feuding, the lack of any serious policy debate, the amateur-hour style of presentation or the complete failure to see the contest as anything other than a narrow opportunistic moment for career advancement.

Each of the candidates has its own flaws. Brutally, but rather accurately David Jamieson writes: “Forbes hails from rural and small business parts where her combination of market banalities and social Kirkishness wash, and she imagines this will arrive as a pleasant surprise in the central belt. Whatever the thinking, her self-presentation means a Forbes FM would likely mutilate the SNP’s existing voting bloc. Forbes represents the economic liberalism of her party – but snarling, with none of the necessary apologies.”

Firm but fair. For those over-generous souls who claim that Forbes stance on abortion rights, gay marriage, sex ‘outside wedlock’ ( whats it this 1953?) or conversion therapy will have no electoral impact whatsoever, please ask a) anyone under 60 b) women c) gay people d) your conscience. Even if you make the dubious calculation that Kate is the person most likely to attract new yes voters by reaching ‘beyond’ (whisper, to the right) the current demographic, you would also have to conclude that she would shed younger voters in droves.  That is, of course, forgetting what kind of momentum for exactly what kind of nation you would be projecting with such a figure as your leader.

For Ash Regan the performance cannot all be put down to the deep state conspiracies sketched by her backers. The plans to erect Readiness Thermometers in city squares with a ‘dial on it that moves’ – and the language about “voter empowerment mechanisms” were as far-fetched as the strategies for winning independence by just ‘having an election’ and then starting negotiations.

Regan’s background team rarely pause from explaining how long they’ve been ‘political strategists’ but there if there candidate is having a ‘mare perhaps they should have a think why? There is for one a complete disconnect about her idea that her opponents views on how to achieve a referendum are ‘wishy-washy’ and yet she will ‘begin negotiations’ on the back of a 50% + 1 vote at a General Election.

“It is the same as a referendum if you think about it”. 

Just willing the world to be different from how it is isn’t a political strategy. However much we might like the British government to think and act differently – it doesn’t cut it to just shut your eyes and go blue in the face. Building a mass movement for independence and mass support across the party, combined with effective ways to put real pressure on the British need to be addressed.

Last Humza Yousaf  but not least the ‘Continuity Candidate’ who is trying desperately not to be that very thing. He is under attack from all sides as the ‘establishment candidate’ which he surely is in terms of the SNP leadership. But there’s some complexity to this. First up Forbes is the ‘establishment candidate’ with most of the right-wing and unionist press acting as cheerleaders for her campaign (some of them have been gushing for months). Second, I really don’t think Yousaf would have been the leaderships candidate of choice. Their real champion didn’t stand. Yousaf’s problem is not just his track record in office, nor the barely-disguised racism of much of his critics, it is that every time he tries to re-brand his candidacy it just points out his flaws. For example he recently pledged to look at whether more money can be spent on drug treatment services if he becomes the next First Minister. First the language is so weak as to be completely ineffectual. He would ‘look at it’ would he? How bold of him. Second it just points to the SNP’s dire track record on drugs deaths.

So none of the possible three outcomes are particularly good.

A Forbes victory, possibly as a result of second preference votes being gifted from Ash Regan’s camp might swell the ranks of the Yes vote and the SNP with swithering small and capital C conservatives, but to what end? At the same time such a victory would put off millions of progressive and younger voters.

A Regan victory would result … look that’s not going to happen, it’s just ridiculous, sorry. I and many others share her frustrations and at least some of her critique, but her performance has been dismal, her proxy backers are transparent, and her strategies don’t stand up to the slightest scrutiny.

A Yousaf victory would result in carnage of a different sort altogether. His track record in office would be under intense scrutiny and unless there was swift (and miraculous) changes of direction and competence it’s difficult how to see that would not be an immense political pressure. It’s also likely that given he’s the only candidate to stand by the GRR policies there would have to be a split in the party if he was to win. That might not be a bad thing – if individuals have such deep-seated differences it is difficult to see how they would work together. But this would leave several high-profile SNP figures politically homeless, and despite rhetoric unlikely to join Alba. Perhaps a fourth (fifth?) pro-indy party might emerge splitting the vote several times.

Am I being too pessimistic? I don’t think so.

I’d love to be wrong about all of this. Maybe the candidates will start talking with imagination, passion and coherence, maybe a unity pack will emerge, maybe the party will emerge strengthened and renewed by this cathartic process? I don’t think so. Tell me I’m wrong?

This isn’t all their fault as individuals. These candidates have inherited a shitshow,  a political movement denuded of radicalism and devoid of imagination. Now what?


Comments (39)

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  1. Lindy Barbour says:

    Yep. Is all I can find to say to that. It’s dire. Going to abstain.

  2. Mary MacCallum Sullivan says:

    Sturgeon dropped a bomb; nothing but chaos was ever going to emerge in the first place. Having such a foreshortened contest exposes the non-contest. I expect not very much to be worth celebrating as this nonsense plays out. More will have to be done afterwards. I can only suppose that she intended the chaos to make herself look better, but it rebounds on her – such a destructive exit.

    1. Graeme Purves says:

      Just so.

  3. Russell Taylor says:

    I am less pessimistic that you Alan. Yusaf has lots of redeeming qualities, not least his honesty. His brand of ‘real-politik’ is likely to continue to meet the ambitions of many younger and middle-aged voters. He could do with being more forthright about his longer-term plans, if any, to move the campaign forward and there are questions about how easy he moves with pressure, either from colleagues, lobby groups or other special interest body. We can only guess, but for me he is the best if the three and you can only support the choice you have before you. I wish him well. If the SNP do split it will be self-inflicted and play into the hands of Alba and the British State. Let us hope it doesn’t happen and instead we see a reinvigorated campaign headed by a runaway victor in the leadership election!

    1. Tom says:

      “not least his honesty”.

      That’s just an opinion, not a fact.

  4. Alan says:

    “inherited a shitshow”

    It’s been clear for some time that this was going to be Sturgeon’s legacy. I suspect we don’t know the half of its badness at the moment. She has masked her numerous inadequacies by being an accomplished bullshitter.

    The devolved HR parliament is little or no better than the WM one. Both are full of self-serving careerists who are all about self-promotion and have little interest in or grasp of important policy issues, never mind the skills necessary to bring about change to improve the lives of the citizenry they supposedly represent. Modern British politics is weightless.

    It is hard to see the road to Scottish independence from here. The muck in the Scottish byre is piled as high as the muck in the English/British one. Without constutional reform, separation of powers, accountability, etc. an independent Scotland will end up just being governed by more of the same greasy rip-off artists doing their thing, just under a different flag. It really needs to be driven by the grassroots; not political parties. Scottish politicians are no different than English ones. Most of them need kept on a short leash and in fear of the law.

    1. Russell Taylor says:

      One would think you were a Tory troll, or an MI5 Agent Provocateur!

    2. BSA says:

      More vacuous hyperbole is just what we need.

    3. Frank Mahann says:

      God save the King, presumably, old boy ?

  5. SleepingDog says:

    To Kate Forbes’ demerits you could add that the Free Church of Scotland might consider prayer to be one of the best responses to the climate emergency. Their website’s COP26 and the Gospel of God article quotes and links to this one on Tearfund:
    Why COP26 matters – a Christian perspective
    “Importantly, we can pray – for those already impacted by the crisis and for world leaders to recognise the need to take immediate action. Prayer is crucial if we’re to see a breakthrough in this crisis, and God is powerful beyond anything we can imagine. Find resources here to help you pray.”
    I guess the chosen few can ask Kate Forbes and the other candidates if they think that prayer will be crucial in tackling the climate crisis. Well, at least they recognize the problem and the injustice, and they’re going to… speak out, do home recycling, pray, go to church, love their neighbours and stuff.

    Presumably this is the temping phase of SNP leadership, anyway? Having never been a member of any political party, this is not much encourage to change my ways.

  6. Meg Macleod says:

    Vote green?they support independence?
    Better the devil etc…????????

  7. India says:

    “It’s also likely…there would have to be a split in the party if he was to win.”

    I think the risk of a split is overstated. I also think it’s wrong to attribute the risk only to Yousaf.

    Forbes threatens to shred the party’s progressive image, its electoral coalition and its support from younger voters by abandoning its manifesto commitments and alliance with the greens in a move to the right. I don’t see why we should imagine the SNP left, which had enough power to inflict defeats on Sturgeon, would thole that and the SNP’s long- and rightly marginalised right would split as Yousaf continued to deliver the 2021 manifesto.

  8. florian albert says:

    Kate Forbes victory ‘would put off millions progressive and younger voters’.

    Millions ?

    ‘Progressive’ Scotland has come to mean passing legislation which would give a male rapist the legal right to be sent to a women’s prison.
    I doubt that there are many thousand, let alone millions, of Scots who see ‘progressive’ Scotland – as it is – worth defending.

    ‘Progressive’ Scotland also means two of the three candidates send their children to private schools and it is not an issue.

    I agree that the SNP government is devoid of radicalism and imagination. A huge part of that failure is its promotion of identity politics, at the expense of class politics. Until recently, radical politics were class politics.

    1. Frank Mahann says:

      You are Kevin McKenna and I claim my fiver.

  9. Jake Solo says:

    Once it became clear that nobody was interested by how bent it was, I lost all interest in this election. I don’t care who wins because it doesn’t matter who “wins”.

    None of the candidates have it in them to turn round what’s happened to the SNP, never mind revive and jet boost a Yes movement, never mind fight off or rouse the country to the predations of Westminster, never mind get the country to vote to do something about it.

    The SNP is burst. It’s not built on anything anymore. It’s been gutted. It used to be built on the membership, but, despite being and representing what it’s supposed to be all about, they’re a barely tolerated lumpen embarrassment now to the professional waster class of Indy politician and commentator.

    All that’s it’s built on now are people who’ve been conditioned to wish really hard and dole out judgement and threats when they don’t come true.

    I’ve been saying to people for years that the SNP was a bawhair away from coming down. Since they pissed away Brexit, it’s been a matter of time. Sorry, but that was the big tell that the party was rotten. That the leadership let it go and the membership let them is a disgrace.

    The end for me was watching them morph into a Save England From Itself party instead of a Save Scotland From England party. The utter fools. And for what? Head pats from the fake left down there and them fake marvelling at how big and grown up you’ve got.

    It genuinely baffles me how you can sit right opposite to, and work with day in and day out, the worst shower of gits in the country – Tory and Labour – and after years and years still be unable to see what it is you’re up against and what they think of you.

    2 or 3, or even 5 or 6, years ago was the time to be getting vexed at the “health” of the party, not now. Folk kept pointing to a level of support not justified by actual achievement as if it was a good thing.

    The pandemic put it on ice for a while, but I knew they’d be blown away by the next gust of wind, and when I saw them bulling onward with GRR, I thought that was probably it. I knew that policy would not survive first contact with the outside world and a media smirking and playing out more and more rope for the SNP to hang itself with.

    The only interesting thing left about the SNP and Yes movement’s reverse is speculating how much of it is deliberate and how much of it just rank incompetence.

    1. Frank Mahann says:

      You lost all interest in in this election. But you still saw fit to post !

  10. WT says:

    Hello Mike, I can understand your frustration but your analysis is a bit off. Admittedly, none of the candidates are particularly good but selfishly, I would like independence in my lifetime so I’m not sure I can fit with Yousaf’s timetable, nor can my grandchildren. That is not ‘barely-disguised racism’ by the way it is the viewpoint of someone who has waited for eight years voting for Sturgeon’s City of Gold ‘just over the next hill’ and am now told by a member of her team that now is not the time. If you have a Tardis let me know and I might reconsider him.

    “For those over-generous souls who claim that Forbes stance on abortion rights, gay marriage, sex ‘outside wedlock’ ( whats it this 1953?) or conversion therapy will have no electoral impact whatsoever, please ask a) anyone under 60 b) women c) gay people d) your conscience.”

    This is just nonsense. You have no idea of the impact this will have. I have voted SNP for decades although I find a lot of their policies objectionable, eg. minimum pricing, named persons, the sectarianism at football law (I support neither side), but I voted for them because I want independence, now it seems they are not as interested in that as I am. Trust me, people will vote for independence irrespective of some of the other guff that they throw in with it – if they don’t, they don’t want independence.
    ‘GRR?’ – I’ll take it if I get independence,
    ‘Stop GRR’ – I’ll take it if I get independence.
    And no it’s not 1953, but have a look at the rest of the world on some of these issues and you will see that perhaps it is us who are out of step. Africa (look at the schism in the Anglican Community over gay blessings), much of Latin America (particularly with the rise of Evangelical Christianity), Russia, China, Islamic countries (57 nations opposed LGBT rights at the UN GA). We might be mostly secular in Scotland but amongst the over 60s even here you will find a reasonable support for Forbes views – not views I share I hasten to add before I am hit with the ‘barely-disguised homophobia’ remark. And may I add that by not including those over 60 years of age in your list that could be viewed as ‘barely-disguised ageism’ Ask yourself, is it right that the views of those over 90, those over 80, those over 70 and those over 60 should be dismissed because they were developed in a different time frame? Is that liberality? Or maybe, ask yourself is it not time for us to stop carping at each other all the time and maybe listen to one another – even the oldies? And after all they are the ones who vote.

    “I and many others share (Regan’s) frustrations… but her performance has been dismal, her proxy backers are transparent, and her strategies don’t stand up…”

    So what? Is this a speaker’s corner beauty contest? If the candidate is for independence then that’s enough. Sturgeon for all her smart talk was a disaster for the movement, from the broad-based movement where everybody was welcome in Salmond’s time (yes), she fractured it, split and factionalised the movement – hey but her performance was good!

    No Mike, you’re not being pessimistic, you are seeing Sturgeon’s legacy, three crap candidates and yet the one you don’t go for is the only one who seems to be up for independence. Bizarre. Who cares who her proxy backers are? If she’s for independence fair enough surely? Or deep down, do you prefer factionalism to independence?

    The question ‘Now what?’ has four answers-
    go for Regan and hope for a miracle.
    go for Forbes and hope she gets us somewhere nearer to independence (but I doubt it).
    go for Yousaf and say farewell to independence forever.
    The fourth answer is the hardest – don’t vote. Perhaps the SNP is dead.

    1. Frank Mahann says:

      What ? Isn’t Alba going to save the nation?

    2. Dave Millar says:

      I am proud to be ‘out of step’ with a) Kate Forbes b) the examples you quote from the rest of the world.
      Eventually, we will come to realise that religious ‘faith’ or ‘belief’ is a mental health issue.

  11. Alexis P Walrus Titty says:

    Holy shit we’re screwed and independence is lost forever- or at least one would believe so according to all these posts.

    NS was always going to be hard to replace- when you’re finished ripping her apart and all she’s done remember there’s a reason she’s hard to replace?

    Leaderships do CHANGE-when it is required, it would be good that we don’t do it like Westminster Tories?

    NS stepped down because it was the right thing to do- she didn’t lose an election. She had the integrity to leave because it was the right thing to do!
    So let’s rip her and the SNP apart because a politician had integrity?

    There are three candidates with different views and visions – if you have a vote as an SNP member ( I have a vote) then choose your most self aligned candidate and vote for them. Simples!

    If you have aspirations as a Scot of whatever flavour for Independence stop tearing your aspirations apart and shitting on your own dreams.

    Because we have done this for centuries now. We’ve never been closer to Independence and you’re doing exactly what the British state wants you to do- ripping your selves to bits. Divide and conquer n’est pas?

    1. Sophia says:

      Spot on. Thankyou.

  12. Graham Boyd says:

    Cheer up Mike and read Robin McAlpine’s 7 March opinion piece in his blog: There are positive in this leadership race – if you look for them.

  13. Alistair Taylor says:

    What now? Fit noo?

    Now what? Noo fit?

    Holy shit.

    Who wants to be Queen o’ Scotland?
    I wonder if Annie Lennox wid be interested?
    If she’s no, ah micht be prepared tae dee it masel’.
    Ah’m okay wi’ same sex marriage,
    Let us pray, that some sunny day,

    Aw, fuck it.
    Lost the thread.
    Lost the plot.
    Back tae bed.

    Gaun yirsels.

  14. Peter Havelock says:

    The lunacy of the SNP’s policy on Trans self-ID has sunk independence to the bottom of the North Sea for a generation.

    The Trans policy posed a real threat to the safety of women and girls in Scotland. It would have been a massive blow to womens’ rights in all areas of life.

    The SNP made an epic mistake with the trans policy because once the wider general public found out about it they were shocked and absolutely appalled.

    Any new leader now faces an almost impossible job. The previous leadership made such a massive error of judgement and the damage to the party’s reputation with the Trans policy will take a very long time to recover from.

    1. Derek Thomson says:

      Thanks Mr. Littlejohn. We’ll let you know.

  15. Iain Macphail says:

    Independence wins soft No’s when it is international – its all about Europe

    Yousaf has disappointed in the health role as literally every problem relates back to Brexit, and the loss of tens of thousands of vital staff, who fled back to the sanity & prosperity of Europe, even before 2019.

    Yousaf had one job, from an indy point of view – to point out that you can have Brexit Britain, or you can have an NHS, but you can’t have both.

    Winning indy – it’s all about Europe

  16. JOE HASTIE says:

    Surely, it isn’t too late to change the format in this supposed Leadership contest. Bang heads together and come up with a solution for our great Country, SCOTLAND. Our people are watching??

  17. Maxwell Macleod says:

    This may sound absurdly contrary but as a Unionist I find myself rather sad at what I witness as I have such admiration for so many Yesers, who seem so decent, immensely able and well meaning. . Firstly because I want a quality leader for this wonderful country. irrespective of the Independence issue, and dont see any of them fulfilling that role. My instinct is for Ms Forbes but her display of antagonism for so much of what the SNP has done when she herself was part of the team that was delivering those policies rather belies her claim for transparent honesty.
    I found the hustings rather embarrassing to watch, in fact I turned it over after the initial statements. Are these folk really the best that Scotland come up with? Best to Bella.

  18. Laurie Pocock says:

    I’m interested by Forbes Christianity as a Catholic I remember his holiness the Pope urged a No vote in 2014. I don’t know what effect that had probably not much but nonetheless the argument in religious terms centred on Social relations an aspect which seems more acute with the possibility of independence becoming separation to some.

    1. Peter Havelock says:

      I’ve immense admiration and respect for Forbes. She has the honesty to just tell it like it is about her religious beliefs. Not everyone will agree with her on those but for sure it shows she has real integrity.
      Being able to say what you think instead of what you think you should say is a rare example of real leadership qualities which Forbes clearly has in abundance.

      1. SleepingDog says:

        @Peter Havelock, I am not sure that proclaiming your supernatural beliefs always translates that well into trusted public policy, if the reported comments by Turkish President Erdoğan on the recent catastrophic earthquake being Destiny or Fate’s Plan are examples.
        Do you think that praying for God’s help with the climate crisis would be a helpful move, particularly for a public policy leadership contender?

        1. Peter Havelock says:

          Greetings Sleeping Dog!

          We are not talking about Turkey.
          We are talking about Scotland.
          And if we ever want this country to achieve independence we need a principled leader who people can actually trust.
          Forbes is that person.

          Her religious views are personal and have no bearing on how well she could lead this country.

          Her faith quite simply is irrelevant. It is not connected in any way to the polices she would implement as First Minister. She would simply be carrying out the democratic will of the Scottish electorate based on their views and aspirations, not hers.

          1. Russell Taylor says:

            I doubt any honest politician can separate their beliefs from policy development, and why should they? That is why I would never vote for someone with superstitious beliefs.

          2. SleepingDog says:

            @Peter Havelock, I thought we were talking about the Vale of Tears?
            Global warming is, well, global; the recent earthquake affected many regions beyond Turkey. An Independent Scotland should have its own foreign policy. So how can a First Minister separate their religiously-proscribed worldview from the World? Does Kate Forbes say her faith is “irrelevant”? Is she merely, as you say, an empty vessel in which the democratic Will of the Scottish electorate is to be poured into? Not sure how that would work in practice, sounds a bit like one of those lottery devices.

            Both planetary-unrealistic and -realistic ideologies could be catastrophic. But orthodox Christians who believe in such things as the Vale of Tears already imagine the world as a place designed by God to be full of suffering (allegedly good for the soul) and ultimately disposable, the more ‘real’ world to them being that of the eternal afterlife. Many Christians, like US President Ronald Reagan, and other Abrahamists, like factions of ISIS, have warmly welcomed the Final Battle in their own (Earthly) lifetimes. A country ruled by Christians is the only to have used nuclear weapons in war.

            Do we imagine that Kate Forbes is actually revealing the extent and implications of her religious views any more than Tom Cruise does when he speaks about Scientology? Why exactly does she worship a God who she thinks tortures opponents (including atheists, and presumably at least one SNP leadership contender) for eternity, committed the most genocide in history and exceeds any measurable scale on sadism? I mean, she could as well worship Cthulu. I’m not sure that ‘trust’ is the obvious response here.

      2. Dave Millar says:

        She believes in an omnipotent ‘God’, for which she can provide no evidence of the existence of, and that dead people can come back to life. That is surely enough to have her sectioned rather than installed as First Minister.

        1. Russell Taylor says:

          I and many of my friends totally agree!

        2. Peter Havelock says:

          It’s easy to mock Forbes and her faith. Give it a right good belly laugh.
          But Forbes is the only realistic candidate. The others are a bit of a joke. So snigger all you want.

          But unionists and the British establishment will have the last laugh. They’ll be rolling around in stitches if either of the other two end up in charge. And even the idea of independence will be the butt of jokes for many years to come.

        3. Laurie Pocock says:

          She would no doubt say she has faith. You are right though n the sense no evidence can be provided overall at least material evidence.
          But and it’s a deep subject here is something to think about 11 apostles were willing to be executed because they insisted there teachings were based on their witness of Christs teaching.

  19. Dalriadan39 says:

    “social kirkishness”? Bigot.

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