Where Stands Scotland after the SNP Leadership Election?

It has been a whirlwind five weeks. Nicola Sturgeon announced her resignation on 15 February; Humza Yousaf was elected SNP leader on 27 March and formally became First Minister on 29 March.

So many fissures and fault-lines have come to the surface about the nature and character of Scotland, politics, both devolved and beyond, and the project of independence. Previously hidden assumptions and prejudices have been uncovered that will take a longer timeframe to fully do justice to. Below are my initial thoughts about putting things into a longer-term perspective.

The SNP after the contest

The leadership contest saw the SNP in uncharted waters: a difficult leadership election where the outcome could not be called alongside uneasy public debate. Much of the commentary on the contest threw little light on it seeing it in very simple terms: left/right, gradualist /fundamentalist, Sturgeonite/Salmondite. Yet the SNP cannot be reduced to such terms as Stephen Bush observed in the Financial Times:

“One important thing not to do when discussing the SNP is to over-apply precedent or examples from other political parties in the UK, because the SNP is completely unlike the Conservative Party, the Labour Party or the Liberal Democrats.”

He went on: ‘While most members of the SNP are on the liberal-left, most members of the SNP are not liberal-lefties first and foremost. They are supporters of independence.’ That is the gaze through which the election of Humza Yousaf and his narrow 52:48 victory over Kate Forbes should be primarily seen (and which much analysis ignores).

Scotland and ethnic minority representation

Humza Yousaf, of Pakistani descent, is the first First Minister from Scotland’s black and ethnic minority communities. Scotland has always liked to congratulate itself on its diversity and inclusion but until recently in politics this was not the case. Lest we forget, the 1999 and 2003 Scottish Parliaments were all-white, and it took until the 2007 elections for this to be change with the election of Bashir Ahmad – for whom Yousaf worked. Sunder Katwala, head of British Future, noted that: ‘Yousaf is the first Muslim politician elected to be a national leader in a western democracy.’

Scotland and LGBT rights

The legacy of the SNP contest in terms of LGBT rights is less clear-cut. Kate Forbes early in the contest made her personal opposition to same-sex marriage clear as well as to other issues, while saying this would not affect how she acted as First Minister. Throughout the election a host of Forbes’ supporters and wider constituency tried to go beyond merely downplaying these remarks, but still denied their import.

Forbes’ advocates of all ages and types would say things like ‘Forbes is not a social conservative’ and that she had comprehensively stated her opposition to all gay conversion therapy, when she had deliberately done no such thing. Such perspectives were prepared to diminish and disrespect the importance of LGBT equality and rights, and to then pretend they were doing no such thing – which is a politics of deception. 

Former SNP MSP and minister, Marco Biagi, stated the day before the election result – as an ‘out’ gay man: ‘Whoever wins is the legitimate choice of the SNP membership, and I’ll accept that. But if it’s Kate Forbes, with her openly-stated positions on LGBT equality, that membership will have shown it’s not the one I thought it was, but one that is willing to set our rights aside.’ Sean Bell writing earlier this week in Bella Caledonia observed: ‘the people whose rights, liberation and lives require a never-ending struggle against those who would deny them all three will, I suspect, remember the name of every grifter who blithely told them it was no big deal.’ 

Scotland and the Gender Recognition Bill

This will not go away as a controversy. It is not just the Section 35 order of the UK Government and whether the Scottish Government challenges it. This was a running sore in the SNP contest and has led a host of feminist voices to support what can also be seen as a politics of anti-feminism and wider social (as well as economic) conservatism. Whatever one thinks of the logic of such a journey, this a dynamic is not going away and may, as elsewhere in the Western world, take some feminists further into deeply reactionary politics.

Trans rights have become part of the worldwide ‘cultural war’ and this has already impacted on Scotland. The influence of American far-right groups on individuals and groups protesting outside Scottish hospitals and health clinics over abortion has escalated into attempts to intimidate and interfere with the work of Sandyford Sexual Health Services in Glasgow which runs a range of NHS services including some specifically for trans people. This issue will be weaponised by the far-right, evangelical Christians, the right-wing media and the Tories at the next UK election.

Scotland and Faith

The issue of faith became a major touchstone in the SNP contest, to an extent unparalleled in recent times. This was due to Kate Forbes’ candidacy and her Free Church of Scotland background. This brought forth a dramatic catch-up exercise on the part of secular and even Central Belt Scotland, who had little detailed knowledge about the Free Church or its roots in some Highland communities.

There was a typical conversation of the ill-informed. Some opinions laid forth the charge that Scotland and progressives had an issue with people of faith, with Richard Holloway talking of ‘secular intolerance of religious views’. An amplified version from the right charged that this whole problem was whipped up by what A.N. Wilson called ‘militant secularists’ which in the words of Stephen Daisley in The Spectator was characterised by ‘a secular inquisition marked by triviality and partiality.’

More reflectively, the charges and counter-charges do point to an inability to talk and understand religion and faith. Religion is part of Scotland’s rich tapestry; it contributes to who we are, where we came from and what makes us distinct. The Free Church may well be a small community, but on many issues labelled ‘social conservative’ such as LGBT rights and abortion, their views would be similar to the official line of the Catholic Church. There does need to be a more informed, respectful debate that understands the different communities of faith in Scotland and their respective histories and traditions.

Scotland beyond the Central Belt 

A more broad-based idea of Scotland did appear in the SNP debate – aided by Kate Forbes’ Highland and Gaelic speaking backstory. This was Scotland beyond the Central Belt, including the Highlands, North East of Scotland, Dumfries and Galloway, and Borders – the parts that for all their iconography are regularly forgotten by politics and broadcasters.

A contributory factor has been the morphing of the SNP under Salmond and Sturgeon as it became more popular – from a party where North East Scotland was its stronghold to one focused on the Central Belt. One former SNP insider put it: ‘The SNP since 2007 have really forgotten about the Scotland north of Perth and given nothing to North East Scotland, which used to be their traditional heartland.’

The limits of Progressive Scotland

This is not only about the 48% of SNP members who voted for Kate Forbes, many of whom voted for a myriad set of reasons. It is more about the thin nature of what passes for ‘progressive politics’ in the SNP contest, representative of the wider poor state of such politics across Scotland.

The official narrative of Scotland – devolution class and beyond – is that for all the challenges and Tory austerity, we are slowly heading towards a better, fairer, more equal Scotland. The evidence of 24 years of the Scottish Parliament and 16 of the SNP does not bear this out. There has been no movement across those two decades plus in the Gini co-efficient – measuring income inequality, while the number of children in poverty was 24% when the SNP entered office in 2007 and remains 24% in 2023. Clearly we have some thinking to do about ‘progressive Scotland’, what it means in practice and whether it is up for the challenges ahead. Some honesty would definitely be a start.

The impact of the Scottish Government

The role of the Scottish Government does need some discussion. In the SNP contest the dominant political line was to defend the Scottish Government and its record uncritically, and to blame shortcomings on Westminster Tory cuts or lack of powers. But even in this debate there was a counter-charge from Kate Forbes of ‘mediocrity’. Beyond the party is a black and white account of devolution which sees it as an expensive failure and having achieved little. This is usually put forth by the ideological right in the Telegraph, Mail and Express, but finds a voice in sections of the radical left.

Strategies for Independence

The SNP under Sturgeon ran out of treadmill on an indyref. The contest showed a lack of candour and strategy from all three candidates. At points Humza Yousaf and Kate Forbes seemed to escape the shadow of Nicola Sturgeon – aided by the posturing of Ash Regan – only to row back.

If the SNP are to develop a convincing offer and approach to independence, they must do something difficult. They have to have the confidence to stop banging the drum to the same beat everyday about independence, and create a very different approach to that which has dominated post-2014. This could be called explicitly ‘Next Generation Independence’, but just as the SNP changed its appeal and language in 2006-7 to dramatic effect, outwitting its opponents such as Labour who had a set caricature of how they imagined Nationalists would behave, so independence has to engage in a similar transformation.

Scotland’s Political Commentary

There were many losers in the SNP contest, but one of them was a large section of Scotland’s political commentariat. This was not their finest hour, and a whole segment – including many who have spent decades opinionating – seem filled with bitterness, miserablism and entitlement.

There is a generational issue at play, in that a group of folk who have commented since the 1970s and 1980s continue and cling to the same threadbare cliches. But there is something about the thinness and lack of substance in Scotland’s political debate, and how it is possible to just repeat inaccurate mantras and still inhabit mainstream media platforms. This has then been added to by frustration from some at the lack of change advanced by the SNP, which boils over into disappointment and then condemnation. All of this is reinforced by the constitutional divide and the trench warfare of parts of the press.

Kenny Farquharson who often has an informed take showed the desire to engage in retro-labelling writing in The Times of the 48% support for Kate Forbes: ‘The truth is out: almost half the SNP are Tartan Tories.’ This is harking back to the insults of the 1960s and 1970s and yearning for a Labourcentric age when the Nationalists could easily be dismissed.

What is Scotland?

The roller coaster events of the past few weeks beg the question – what is Scotland? Beyond the obvious: a nation, a territory, land and a landmass. As I laid forth in Scotland Rising: The Case for Independence, Scotland is an idea or more accurately a set of ideas, continually being discussed, argued over, changing, and never reaching a final destination. This is what a nation and imagined community entails: Ernst Renan’s nation as a ‘daily plebiscite.’

The SNP contest has brought forth various characteristics about what Scotland is and its past, present and potential futures which should cause us to pause and reflect. The conventional account of modern Scotland, dominant in recent decades, has been of a progressive, inclusive and enlightened nation and people. This has drawn on Scottish nationalism, social democracy, anti-Toryism, Highland radicalism, Presbyterianism, the Scottish Enlightenment and the unco guid.

There is a modern SNP version of the above – which has posed Scots as moral citizens acting in the public good, excluding complexity and other takes on Scotland, as Kenny Farquharson put it: ‘A rule of the SNP mindset is that Scotland has to think as one. There is a singular Scottish story, a singular Scottish attitude.’ Rather the belief in a singular Scottish story is part of the problem and a denial of who we are with our many differences.

The past few weeks feel like a watershed – one with many different streams and tributaries which will take time to digest. One stand of all this is the power of Scotland as an idea and within that of dreaming. Jonathan Wilson, of Caribbean-Scots descent, reflecting on the Scotland of the 1990s (in Francesca Sobande and Layla-Roxanne Hill’s Black Oot Here: Black Lives in Scotland) commented:

“I love Scotland and I love the dream, the fantasy, the mythology associated with Scotland. But along with awakening, I’m also acutely aware that there’s a lot of embarrassing past and history that’s uncovered to me.”

We have done much uncovering in recent weeks, not all of it has been pleasant or part of that official story. This may at times have been disconcerting, but is an integral part of growing up, maturing and facing who we are – honestly and warts and all. In that, the SNP contest has done all of us a service – having provided an unexpected wake-up call and challenged our cosy, congratulatory version of Scotland.

The chimera of invoking ‘progressive Scotland’, while sidling up to the establishment, vested interests and big business, has worked well for the SNP for a number of years. But it was always going to run out of traction when the parameters of that progressivism have not addressed who has power and voice in Scotland – and who has not. Instead, it has peddled the deception that political change and independence are possible without talking about such fundamentals.

This was never the case, and the SNP will soon be reminded of such political truths – that power and voice matter and always have. If they want to address the big issues in our country, the SNP and independence – and wider Scottish politics – will eventually have to face up to this.

Comments (78)

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  1. Graeme Purves says:

    In drawing attention to the SNP becoming a party strongly focused on the Central Belt, it is necessary to recognise that this has resulted in neglect not only of the Highlands and Islands and the North-East, but also Southern Scotland.

  2. Hugh McShane says:

    A pot of typically thick Scotch broth from Mr Hassan- in trying for an overarching, authoritative summation he descends into gobbledygook,yet again. All parties in Holyrood are captured by look-over-your -shoulder fearty progressivism- it’s OK not to know lgbtq people…, you can be a good moral person without being corralled into approval of
    the lifestyle misfortune of the minority(tiny) of the gender-dysphoric- the curtailing of the activities in some clinics, including Sandyford, was necessary, especially against a backdrop of NHS costs&cuts.

    1. Justin Kenrick says:

      Gerry Hassan describes these as a set of “initial thoughts” not as an attempt to be “authorative” and ‘overarching”

      As such, I found them really helpful – perhaps the key invitation being to make use of this last while to reflect on the assumptions we all carry, rather than simply repeat our positions as if repetition brings us any closer to the complex truth of who we each and all are.

      1. Graeme Purves says:

        Just so.

    2. Derek Williams says:

      Being LGBT+ isn’t a “lifestyle”, like living near the beach or buying a fashionable new pair of shoes, it is the way I was born, and I can’t change it.

      If you reflect on your own adolescence, you’ll no doubt recall your attraction to the opposite sex was something you discovered – sexual attraction emerges out of nowhere. After that intense discovery, the only choice you have is in a spouse, and the fervent hope they’ll choose you too. Why would a gay man choose a straight woman he feels nothing for, as a partner for life, and why would she choose him, when she could marry a straight man who actually loves her?

      You can’t “decide” to like certain foods, or to like someone, you either like them or you don’t.

      1. dgp says:

        You can’t “decide” to like certain foods, or to like someone, you either like them or you don’t”

        This is demonstrably incorrect. Children change/develop. Olives are ‘toxic’ (foul tasting) to young people -adults not so much.Also cultural.
        Developing social skills, new information often leads to acceptance of previously disliked individuals or vice versa

        1. SleepingDog says:

          @dgp, well, yes, there are many ways in which people are affected by the interactions of nature and nurture, development and conditioning, cultural habituation, socialisation, neuroplasticity exposure to certain chemicals in womb or environment, and sadly for some, psychological trauma:
          Even sibling birth order can have a significant effect in humans.

          It is possible that, for some, adult traits have a strong innate component (although it is more challenging to explain why homosexuality would be a naturally selected trait in evolutionary terms if it was, say, strictly genetic). Expression of genes in behaviour is often quite complicated, I gather, though reliable enough for animal success.

          But we should give appropriate weight to early childhood experiences. A case study is provided in Bad Gays of p219 “author… actor, model, weightlifter… Japanese patriot… martial artist, bisexual, a militia leader, a dramatist, a fascist” Yukio Mishima (who strangely I had never heard of) who founded the right-wing militia Tatenokai (Shield Society) and spent a dark, cloistered childhood in room of sick, controlling grandmother, playing with only girls’ toys, according to the authors.

          The goals of those who want a healthy society should *not* be, in my view, to eliminate homosexuality, but to cultivate its healthiest expressions, just as the healthiest expressions of heterosexuality should be cultivated; and that is a challenge for a progressive society.

          Health can be a contentious issue, although it has some objective proxies at organ, individual, community, species, ecosystem, biosphere levels. For example, if intersex conditions in animal species were found to be increasingly caused by industrial pollution of environments by Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs), would we be comfortable in calling these ‘birth defects’ if that would cause discomfort to intersex humans? Yet by failing to challenge the damage to the health of living animals, would we be playing into the hands of capitalist polluters who don’t want people to sue them for damages, just like Big Tobacco was, and Big Oil is?

          I do take your point. Aristotle’s Ethics included the view that we should habituate ourselves to do good. We can steer our impulses to better goals, which is presumably why people campaigned for marriage equality.

          1. Derek Williams says:

            Thanks, but no thanks for your paternalist suggestion that my parents cultivated me to be homosexual. I can say they did nothing of the kind, but you seem only wait for replies so you can repeat your opinion, not to read or drill down or learn.

            I am the eldest of five siblings, the other four of whom are straight as a toothpick. From birth, I was surrounded by heterosexual role models. Probably needless to say, but I’ll say it anyway, my parents were a mum and dad, both of whom were heterosexual, and married for romantic, emotional and sexual love, in a church. I am as confident as I can be that my mother didn’t travel 12,000 miles from her native Scotland to marry my New Zealander dad out of a sense of procreative duty.

            My immediate family all presented as heterosexual, with children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews and so on. All the literature I read, every film I saw, every work of theatre and dance, all television and all the relationship models I was presented with throughout my Roman Catholic education, were heterosexual. Not once was I ever presented with anything that even remotely supported or represented my sexual orientation. Despite it being a crime to be gay in my youth, yes you could go to prison for up to 25 years for a single same-sex act, I remained steadfastly homosexual through it all. And by “it all” I include self-hatred culminating in a nearly successful carbon-monoxide poisoning suicide attempt with consequences that live with me to this day. So, fie on your idea that I was “influenced to be gay”. I was influenced to be straight, and you do not know me better than I know myself.

          2. SleepingDog says:

            @Derek Williams, all that may be so, for you. What about other people?

            I don’t want to be harsh, but isn’t there a repeated pattern of other people choosing to believe worldviews that suit them best, such as the British imperialists who choose to believe that the Empire was great, beneficent and benevolent? Or the Goddists who choose to believe that they are God’s Elect?

            What might adult people with superpowers think if they found out that their parents dosed them with experimental chemicals in infancy rather than their superpowers being given by God? (consider that a thought experiment rather than a pop-culture reference)

            I appreciate that you have stuck to a scientific and secular line, which is more than many others have. I hope today’s society is more enabling, respectful and supportive. I hope tomorrow’s society improves on today’s, but never on the basis of a noble lie (in the political philosophy sense), which classically involved varying types of souls. That may not be relevant to your case, but I do see such tendencies elsewhere.

          3. Derek Williams says:

            Being gay is not a “worldview that suits me best”, it is the way I was born, and I can’t change it, and even if I could at age 70, I’d not have an interest, since I quite like myself the way I am. Being heterosexual isn’t the result of good upbringing, it is just the way Nature builds most human beings. it’s not as though the world is short of replacement human beings, with the global population having trebled since my birth in 1952, and likely to have trebled again to over 20 billion by the time of my death.

            Notwithstanding the self-hatred that I talked myself out of over the several decades post-suicide, I had in many respects an idyllic rural childhood, initially on the family farm. No-one mistreated me, I was encouraged at school and in my chosen career, I was not abused or bullied, and I have never been rejected by family, friends, colleagues or employers. It was just that it never occurred to my parents that their firstborn might be other than heterosexual, like them, since there was no-one in our immediate circle who was L, G, B or T.

            Since decriminalisation of same-sex relationships between LGBT+ people, enormous efforts have been gone into public education about gender and sexual orientation, and I can only encourage you to think more rationally and more kindly of people who are not carbon copies of your goodself. You’re a far bigger danger to us than we can ever be to you.

          4. DGP says:

            “t is possible that, for some, adult traits have a strong innate component (although it is more challenging to explain why homosexuality would be a naturally selected trait in evolutionary terms if it was, say, strictly genetic). Expression of genes in behaviour is often quite complicated, I gather, though reliable enough for animal success”.

            I feel qualified to comment here as I did my first degree in Genetics. My supervisor was the late Dr. Brian Smith- Aberdeen Uni.
            I had a very good working relationship with Brian. Brian was a very openly gay man and an early gay activist who did a lot of work to help gay men in China who at that time were subjected to appalling treatment, including execution. ( state authorised AND persecution by elements within the society)
            His specialty was a branch of genetics called ‘neurosperology’ an experimental model that uses an Eukaryotic microorganism to trace,among other things, metabolic pathways by inducing mutations using UV light. In fact many of the biochemical cell processes and pathways we now take for granted, were established using this technique.

            Brian was also very interested in the genetics of homosexuality. His firmly held personal view (at that time)was that homosexuality was emphatically inherited. He said that he knew at the age of 11 he was same sex attracted and that being Gay was absolutely not a result of social or parental conditioning. This view has to be seen in the context of the time, and a less detailed understanding, and I would hesitate to endorse it completely although it is broadly extremely likely to be correct-but a simplification.

            The problem is that a gene for homosexuality is, superficially speaking, unlikely to persist for the very obvious reason that(on average) the fertility of gay people would likely be less than a straight individual. Traits that are related to reproduction tend to have a high heritability for the simple reason that a failure to reproduce leads, over many generations, eventually, to extinction of the genes in question. Brian therefore deduced that some mechanism was maintaining a higher gene frequency within the overall population. He had done some basic research on this topic and had formed the idea that the low fertility of gays was offset by an enhanced fertility in siblings, thus propagating the genes and explaining why the trait persisted.

            At the time the various development using DNA did not exist. Techniques at that time(cytogenetics/population studies and analysis of variance ) were relatively crude compared to the extremely precise DNA MAPPING and tracing technology now used routinely. At the same time (70’s/80’s) it was becoming very clear that many traits could not be explained by classical genetic thinking. For instance there was clear evidence of many diseases (mental illnesses such as schizophrenia/bipolar disease) having a complex inherited component as well as very complex environmental/social development components. At the time (pre DNA Analysis) this was lumped into a black box and labelled ‘Epigenetic’ (cryptic/unknown interactions between the genetics and environmental conditions).

            I am not fully aware of current developments in the science but I know that certain Epigenetic mechanisms have been worked out and are now routinely taught at ALevel/early university degree level.
            In parallel with these developments was the widespread availability of data from MRI scans.Much research is being done using MRI to look at brain activity in experimental models(mice) to determine the relationship between behaviour and brain structure. I know very little about this area of research although I have personal connections with a senior researcher at Duke University in North Carolina who works with cocaine addicted mice and is trying to understand the underlying brain chemistry/structural aspects of the condition.It seems likely that a similar model could be used to try to unravel the underlying developmental processes of’ ‘gender’ , sexuality and other behavioural traits.

          5. SleepingDog says:

            @DGP, thanks for that explanation. I covered some human development and neurophysiology in undergraduate Psychology decades ago, but my studies are outdated and I appreciate we have since learnt a lot, not least through tools such MRI scanners. I have heard of epigenetic switches but never studied genetics except basic stuff in Higher Biology.

            At the back of my mind was a report this week from Greenpeace Unearthed on the ‘organophosphate’ pesticide chlorpyrifos:
            Europe shipping banned pesticide linked to child brain damage to Global South
            “European companies are exporting hundreds of tonnes of a notoriously toxic pesticide – banned in Europe because of its links to brain damage in children and unborn babies – to countries in the Global South.”

            According to Wikipedia’s Chlorpyrifos page:
            “In rats, low-level exposure during development has its greatest neurotoxic effects during the period in which sex differences in the brain develop. Exposure leads to reductions or reversals of normal gender differences.”

            Whatever the natural processes and variances are, we’re messing with them by polluting the environment, ourselves and other lifeforms with dangerous chemicals.

          6. Derek Williams says:

            There is an abundance of research on the evolutionary imperative for homosexuality:
            1. http://chronicle.com/article/The-Evolutionary-Mystery-of/135762
            2. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-26089486
            3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ohFOHvcTC6I

            LGBT+ people’s parents are invariably heterosexual cisgender couples. Some possible explanations for why homosexual population has continually renewed itself, despite arising in a population that is itself renewed solely by heterosexual copulation and concomitant conception:

            1. Population control, in a world whose population is already well over the 2.6 billion maximum sustainable that was reached in the 1950’s, set to exceed 20 billion by 2050.
            2. Surplus labour derived from those not ordinarily preoccupied with child rearing.
            3. Spare gene pool in the event of catastrophic decline in population – gays can still procreate if need be.
            4. Surplus population able to look after kids abandoned or abused by their heterosexual parents.

        2. Derek Williams says:

          If you can “decide to be gay”, then I’m afraid you weren’t heterosexual to begin with. Unless you are me, you cannot know for certain whether being gay was a decision I made or not.

    3. Audrey Brown says:

      The activities outside Sandyford NHS services against abortion care and gender services did not ‘curtail’ anything. Services continue to be delivered to people who need them

  3. Cathie+Lloyd says:

    To have these issues out in the open seems to me to be healthy. There are a lot of them, one I would highlight is how we approach the issue of alliances. The Holyrood Parliament was set up to work through compromise. Support for self determination vs unionism has framed our politics more in the Westminster mode, with large opposing groups facing one another. We have started to break through this with the Bute House agreement. The Yes movement needs to take this on board too. There are signs that broad alliances are ready to be formed. Let’s make them.

  4. SleepingDog says:

    Democracy needs its nurseries; but we’re not out of the nursery yet.

  5. Paddy Farrington says:

    Thank you for a thoughtful and thought-provoking article.

    Among the many dimensions of the contest which you so pertinently analyse, you left out the issue of economic policy. While both main candidates stated that their main ambition was to reduce poverty, they seemed at odds about how to go about this: Yousaf’s emphasis on redistribution contrasting with Forbes’ focus on economic growth. This seems to fit within a familiar left/right divide. Given this, I was surprised to encounter several SNP members who would describe themselves as socialists (albeit of a traditional kind) who had opted to support Forbes, and who denied that her policies were anything but social democratic.

    1. Gerry Hassan says:

      Thanks for your comments Paddy.

      100% agree and knew I had left out economic policy and thinking. This is because there were: a) so many areas I wanted to cover; b) economic policy and thinking requires a fair amount of space to do it justice. I was already thinking writing the above that I would return to economics in a stand-alone piece.

      One takeaway from the SNP contest and devolution political era. Scotland’s mainstream politicos do not do economics or political economy well and instead display a lack of knowledge of the basics and a profound economic illiteracy. This is true across the political spectrum and has its origins in a number of factors: the decline of trade unions and an explicit class politics in the mainstream; the compact of New Labour and ‘globalisation’; and the rise of new economic and green economic thinking and the refusal of a large part of Scottish politics to understand or embrace such thinking. In its shortcomings on this – like on many things – the SNP are going with the grain of Scottish political discourse.

      1. Claire McNab says:

        One of the reasons that the SNP are going with the almost economics-free grain of Scottish political discourse is that Holyrood has very limited economic powers. The overall parameters of economic policy are set in London, and all that Holyrood can do is make small tweaks.

        So it’s not a live political issue

        1. Colin Mackay says:

          Very true Claire. Their thinking can’t go beyond the household budget style Scottish purse that we contend with. Macroeconomics barely feature as even a thought process because it’s not their remit. In reality politicians unable to think past an obsession with Scottish budgets are not the correct people to lead on serious economic decisions on direction and policy that will affect us for decades.

        2. Mary Van Helsing says:

          The SNP were voted in by people in fear of their lives over Tory cuts. Sick of voting Labour and getting Tory. Getting independence from Westminster was a desperate attempt to escape Tory cuts. How many mandates did the SNP get for independence from Westminster? They wasted every one. Even worse, their attempts to mitigate Tory cuts started off strong , abolishing the bedroom tax, but degenerated very quickly to Sturgeon whining about pressure to mitigate when it was easier for her to just follow orders and administrate the lethal cuts. Untold damage has been done. Deaths through suicide, drug overdoses, or waiting for an overdue ambulance to arrive. I understand that delivering independence might be a tall order, but the failure to use all the resources like tax raising powers and outright refusal to implement murderous policies is not forgiveable. SNP did not do what they were elected to do. I dont think the original SNP voters are going to vote for the SNP again, though some people are still seeing independence as one solution to Tory austerities. But the SNP no longer owns the indy cause. Things are changing.

          I disagree that economics isnt part of Scotgov’s remit. Scotgov does have some economic powers and was in an excellent position to grab more. But didnt.

    2. Michelle says:

      You and Gerry clearly didn’t listen to one word Kate Forbes said re:economy across all the hustings. Presumably because you both took an instant dislike to a woman with moral opinions that you didn’t agree with. Which is entirely legitimate but for goodness sake please stop lying to yourself that she is a economic conservative.

  6. M carry says:

    I feel that by continuing to dismiss the valid concerns of women, including some trans women, over the impact of the gender recognition Bill, as purely feminists going down a far right evangelical route is to be part of the ‘war on women’ that Bella Caledonia claims to stand against. There are discussions that need to be had in safe spaces, this publication included, and inferring that women either support the gender recognition Bill or are siding with the far right is not doing this.

    1. Gerry Hassan says:

      I totally respect the point of view you express.

      I have always tried to articulate a pro-trans, pro-women’s spaces and safety position. At the same time and germane for all parties concerned we do need to address the weaponising of this issue by the far right and US evangelical Christians. They are directly targetting Scotland on a range of issues and some folk who call themselves ‘progressive’ seem to be content to turn a blind eye to this.

      1. Niemand says:

        But what do you mean by ‘address’ exactly Gerry? What it seems to amount to is people mentioning it all the time to try and undermine feminists who simply want to stick up for hard-won sex-based rights. The far right have hitched themselves to this cause but are not there at the feminists’ invitation who for the most part want nothing to do with them. What should actually be happening if journalism was honest and balanced is pointing this out not making veiled allusions to feminists, and indeed anyone who supports sex-based rights, ‘going to the far right’. Do all the blood and soil, right-wing nationalists increasingly banging on about English ‘white settlers’ and ‘colonial occupiers’ undermine the cause of independence?

        What is noticeable about the three recent articles on Bella that mention the trans rights / self-ID issue that all have been disparaging about those opposed and always cited them as reactionary, bigoted and potential associates of the far right. It is really dishonest and totally one-sided. And of course the actual issues are never discussed at all.

        1. Claire McNab says:

          Niemand, the dishonesty here is in the claims of “sex-based rights”, a phrase which fundamentally misrepresents how equality law works.

          Further dishonesty lies in the attempts to claim that gender self-id brings huge dangers. The reality from countries that have implemented self-id is that there have been almost no problems.

      2. Claire McNab says:

        Gerry, I understand and value your consistently civil approach to discussion. But as a trans woman, I am disappointed by your reply to Mcass.

        Most of what GRR opponents claim is “valid concerns” is just an anti-trans tsunami is driven by media which provide almost no voice to trans people. (For example, The Times/Sunday Times runs a trans article almost every day, but articles by trans people amount to only about 1% of the total). Our lives are on trial daily, but we excluded from most of the court room.

        Concerns sincerely expressed by nicely-spoken people such as Mcass are not valid just because they are sincere and polite. The reality is that self-id has been implemented in many other countries (I think about 19) without adverse effect. But British people are bombarded with anti-trans propaganda more relentless and more vicious than the homophobia of the 1980s, and the inevitable result is a widespread fear of trans people.

      3. florian albert says:

        ‘We need to address the weaponising of this (ie Trans) issue by the far right and US evangelical Christians’

        The opposition to the Scottish government on the GRR issue was led by J R Rowling.
        Ms Rowling is a formidable opponent.
        In comparison, the ‘far right and US evangelical Christians’ are utterly peripheral.

        1. Gerry Hassan says:

          The forces of the US far right and evangelical Christianity are not ‘utterly peripheral’ to the protests organised outside hospitals and sexual health centres in Scotland.

          1. SleepingDog says:

            @Gerry Hassan, the L*G*B*T Constellation incorporates any number of far right positions. For example, in Huw Lemmey and Ben Miller devoted Chapter 10 of their book Bad Gays: a Homosexual History to J Edgar Hoover and Roy Cohn. There is nothing inherently progressive about ideologies based on desire, if you define progress as leaving the Cave of Shadows. The book covers many examples of far-right gays. There is no such thing as a ‘LGBT Community’ except as a fiction constructed to further a false political solidarity, a little like ‘class consciousness’ but even more stretched since there are naturally opposing views within L*G*B*T.

            Suppression of dissent within progressive circles is what Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie warned about in her Reith Lecture on Freedom of Speech.

            Perhaps you yourself feel constrained on what you can say without alienating some constituency which is important to you. Perhaps you are still searching for some political compromise that will be broadly acceptable: a worthy task, if so. But there is little obvious common ground between Objectivists and Subjectivists here. The Objectivists generally look to a scientific settlement of a question, a test; Subjectivists retreat in the direction of Postmodernism and its dubious champions. Objectivists value the collective; Subjectivists their own private realm, that they demand the Objectivists submit to. I have looked for a political compromise without success, because I don’t think the opposing sides are balanced. Anti-science does seem to be a right-wing tendency (we’ve had the pseudoscience of racism) whether it is USAmerican White Supremacist Christians or soullist trans activists.

          2. Claire McNab says:

            It’s amusing to see “soullist trans activists” (whatever “soullist” is suposed me mean here) cited as an example of “Anti-science”.

            In reality, the anti-trans hysteria in the USA & UK is the anti-science stance. The transphobes base their position the notion of a fixed binary sex, and think that is science. In reality, there are dozens of different variations of sex, and its the transphobes who are science-deniers.

          3. SleepingDog says:

            @Claire McNab, in reality, there are dozens of different variations of human limb arrangement, but the basic human pattern is two arms and two legs, so what exactly is your point?

            Why do you think that the concept of an innate and fixed gender identity was invented?

            A major writer quoted on a course I took was Judith Butler, who also argues, apparently, that sex is a social construct, not a biological feature of objective existence. Do you agree with that view?

            How can it be that, it seems, everyone who disagrees with your views is transphobic, when there is enormous variation in what people say even within the T-space of the L*G*B*T Constellation?

            BTW, I didn’t get a reply from Derek Williams in my response (I begin “thank you for your response”) on this article, perhaps you would like to enlighten us with your views? https://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2023/03/23/love-is-love-lgbtq-lives-and-the-fight-to-become-scotlands-first-minister/

            But if that is too much trouble, perhaps you can just tell us what your definition of ‘woman’ is?

          4. Claire McNab says:

            SleepingDog, my position on this simple: I want people to be able to live their lives as they see fit, limited only by the principle that they do no harm to others.

            OTOH, you fixate on definitions, which you want to simplify and then use as constraints on people who don’t fit your simplified definitions. You sound like a nightmare to live with.

          5. SleepingDog says:

            @Claire McNab, if only the concept of harm was that simple, utilitarianism might be an exact science. In reality, harms are contested, asymmetric, are experienced at different levels and at different times, and very often conflict. All active humans do harm at some level, mostly sharing responsibility for the 6th mass extinction event underway on our own planet. Groups are sacrificed for individuals and vice versa. Policy-makers have a duty to balance harms, examine foreseen and look for unknown side-effects, and generally make trade-offs (the pandemic measures were justified not on the basis that they did no harm, but that the balance of harm and harm-reduction was justified).

            I would argue that it harms public discourse to throw around terms like ‘transphobe’ when receiving criticism, questions and reasonable statements based on evidence and values. I generally prefer the term ‘health’, which allows for some trade-offs (which are common in medical ethics and ecology), and although aspects of health can still be contested, there are strong Objectivist proxies (like body temperature or biodiversity measures).

            If you subscribe to secular norms, then you should really not be engaged in special pleading for Subjectivist views to be made into binding overrides to Objectivist ones. You seem guilty of a little projection here: it is supporters of GRR that are, if not ‘fixated on definitions’, at least demanding definitions, as set out in Annex D of this letter: https://www.gov.scot/publications/gender-recognition-reform-scotland-bill-letter-to-msps/
            and quite ‘simplified’ ones too. If there are 72 genders or whatever, why can’t people pick one whose name isn’t already taken and based on well-grounded and highly-useful objectivist categories (‘man’, ‘woman’)? Have and enjoy your harmless kinks, cant and cosplay, but don’t commit identity theft? Take back this lawfare overreach and help forge some political compromise that may not please most people but still be acceptable to them? (though who knows what the next demi-generation’s views might be)

          6. Claire McNab says:

            What a bizarre response, SleepingDog.

            Gender Recognition works. The GRA 2004 has been in operation in the UK for 18 years, without problem except for application being too cumbersome.

            The GRR Bill makes application less cumbersome, by adopting a self-declaration mechanism which has been used without problem in Ireland since 2015. It has also been adopted by about 19 other countries.

            So it works in practise, but you have constructed some bizarrely baroque edifice of pub philosophy to allow you to reject it. No, secularism does not require objectivism: get yerself a dictionary.

            At least you are open about your reason. You dismiss trans rights as “kinks, cant and cosplay”, which is straightforwrard prejudice that qualifies as transphobia. And your “don’t commit identity theft” is just an ugly attempt to smear as criminals people who are just trying to live their lives.

            Why are you doing this?

          7. SleepingDog says:

            @Claire McNab, or an encyclopaedia?
            “Secularism is the principle of seeking to conduct human affairs based on secular, naturalistic considerations.”
            “In philosophy, naturalism is the idea or belief that only natural laws and forces (as opposed to supernatural ones) operate in the universe.”
            which is the sense in which I intended Objectivism to be taken (and not, as I see could be confusing from the article, in the specific Randian usage).

            Not all theft is criminal, or immoral, see Robin Hood for example. In this case, it depends on what you consider inalienable. I know supporters of GRR who still consider sex to be an inalienable characteristic in humans. The question then somewhat revolves around language. I don’t know what language other jurisdictions use. But you haven’t really addressed my ‘pub philosophy’ points (actually I do have a relevant qualification, and was trained in the Socratic ‘midwife and gadfly’ style).

          8. Claire McNab says:

            Indeed, I have not addressed your pub philosophy points.
            They are an absurd attempt to justify your blatant hostility to trans people, and your lack of empathy. If you want someone with whom to debate your ideological fetishes, I am not that person.
            You need hugs, not debates on your pub philosophy.

          9. SleepingDog says:

            @Claire McNab, I agree that empathy is immensely valuable to political compromise, particularly to establish that others are acting in good faith. Perhaps you can at least clear up one mystery for me. It seems a general rule here that trans activists mention trans rights without once linking to a trans rights manifesto. I cannot truly understand why, since they appear to want to promote these above all else.

            To take other examples, Martin Luther apparently nailed his 95 theses to a church door, Marx and Engels disseminated their Communist Manifesto in various languages, Black feminists published their Combahee River Collective Statement…

            But where is *your* trans rights manifesto? Is there some reason why you’re shy about posting a link to it in comments?

          10. Claire McNab says:

            That’s quite the shift of approach, from your previous Secular Calvinism.
            I prefer discussion about how best to accommodate people, as happens in most areas of public policy.
            Social needs change as society develops, so manifestos rapidly become outdated. That is why political parties issue a new manifesto for each election.
            If you believe that real politics involves some perma-fixed set of demands, then you will be permanently frustrated.

          11. SleepingDog says:

            @Claire McNab, I’m sorry you decline to clarify what you mean by ‘trans rights’ in an open, public, concise and unambiguous way. That is another sign of bad faith for me, I’m afraid. Online manifestos can be updated and versioned. In fact, I once collaborated on such a manifesto, where we went through open, public drafts, adding and debating comments, until the published version reached 1.0 stage and people signed it.

            Presumably those who say ‘trans rights are human rights’ aren’t embarrassed by the UDHR and ECHR. I gave several pertinent examples of political manifestos. The women’s suffrage movement in the UK produced many, often in pamphlet form, that were useful in refining and clarifying their demands until they converged into a clear and widely-backed list, like those of the Chartists before them.

            I don’t know where you get Calvinism from, I’ve never been religious.

          12. Derek Williams says:

            I believe I already sent you this, but repeat here. I don’t have figures for Scotland or the UK, but the most recent surveys place the US transgender population at somewhere between 1-1.4 million people, depending on which study or survey you believe.

            1. Gender Dysphoria has been connected to multiple biological factors such as genetics, changes in brains structure, and prenatal exposure to hormones. (see, for example, “Gender identity disorder in twins: a review of the case report literature”)
            2. Gender Dysphoria may occur as frequently as 1 in 500 people. (see “Prevalence, incidence and sex ratio of transsexualism”)
            3. Twin studies indicate that Gender Dysphoria is 62% heritable, and therefore has a strong genetic influence. (see “The Heritability of Gender Identity Disorder in a Child and Adolescent Twin Sample”)
            4. In male-to-female transsexuals, GID is often associated with genetically-induced androgen insensitivity.
            5. Male-to-female transsexuals have been found to have a typically female stria terminalis (part of the brain), while female-to-male transsexuals have a typically male stria terminalis. (see “A sex difference in the human brain and its relation to transsexuality”)
            6. In addition, the hypothalamus in male-to-female transsexuals appears to function as a typical woman’s does. (see “Male-to-Female Transsexuals Show Sex-Atypical Hypothalamus Activation When Smelling Odorous Steroids”)

            WPATH, WHO, AMA, AAP, ACS, both APA’s, representing the overwhelming majority of clinicians, researchers, and medical personnel in all related fields, accept that gender is separate from sexual anatomy and that gender identity is inherent. About 1 in 2000 babies are born with ambiguous external genitals, and many adults don’t have ‘typical’ sexual organs either. There are over 80 Intersex conditions that result in cis XY women and XX males, from CAIS to Klinefelter’s Syndrome.

            But if you still believe that gender is binary and fixed, then the following questions should be easy for you to answer:

            1. What gender is a person who looks female externally but who has XY chromosomes? Look up Complete Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome. These people are usually raised as female, and very often nobody knows that they have XY chromosomes until puberty or later.
            2. What gender is a person who looks male externally but who has XX chromosomes? Look up Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia.
            3. What gender is a person who is XO?
            4. What gender is a person who is XXY?
            5. What gender is a person who has both XX and XY cells scattered throughout their body? Look up chimeras, who are formed from the fusion of two embryos in the uterus.
            6. What gender is a person who has both male and female parts? Look up hermaphrodites.

            Given the massive dislocation caused to a transgender person dealing with this personal discovery, it’s not a reasonable conclusion that it’s something millions of people would actively choose. Why would a biological man choose to become a transgender woman, when the consequences can be so dire in terms of sociological and familial displacement and rejection?

            Please read the article ‘Sexual orientation and gender identity – Understanding Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity’published online by the American Psychological Association:

            There are other articles by the American Psychiatric Association and the American Medical Association, that should help fill any knowledge gaps, e.g. https://www.apa.org/practice/guidelines/transgender.pdf

    2. Mary Van Helsing says:

      Did you see the statement from the British Communist Party about the communist belief that sex rights are independent of gender identity? So the support for sex based rights spans all political persuasions. It is a slander to assimilate sex based rights solely to fascism or far right politics. To me, unisex toilets is not so much socially conservative as socially atavistic. I remember when only the lounge bar had a ladies toilets. The bar had gents only because women weren’t wanted in the bar. Unisex toilets are socially regressive to call them socially progressive is gaslighting at its worst.

      1. Claire McNab says:

        This slogan of “sex-based rights” is widely used, but misleading.
        UK equality law is based on a principle of inclusion and non-discrimination, with some exceptions — and each of those exceptions is subject to proportionality tests.
        Those asking for “sex-based rights” are seeking something new.

  7. Dave Millar says:

    ‘Religion is part of Scotland’s rich tapestry; it contributes to who we are, where we came from and what makes us distinct.’

    True, but it is also true that it is long past time to get rid.

    1. SleepingDog says:

      @Dave Millar, indeed, I gather that Christianity set fire to that rich tapestry that came before it (and to many of its practitioners). Who now follows John Knox, King James VI and I, Cardinal O’Brien…?

      I have just watched The Burning Times:
      and tracked down the source of a delightful quote they reference from Christian ‘philosopher’ and ‘saint’ Thomas Aquinas:
      “Wherefore in order that the happiness of the saints may be more delightful to them and that they may render more copious thanks to God for it, they are allowed to see perfectly the sufferings of the damned.”
      Summa Theologiae > Supplement > Question 94

      So maybe Kate Forbes is warming herself with the thought of watching her opponents burn in Hell on HeavenHD for all eternity. Talk about politicians playing the long game, eh?

  8. Dorothy Bruce says:

    The Free Church didn’t only have roots in Highland communities. There is what was a Free Church in my village in the Borders, build on land from the local estate at the time of the Disruption. Around 1900 it amalgamated with the United Presbyterian church and became the United Free church until around 1930 when it returned to the Church of Scotland. My very small village has 3 churches: the original now a ruin, the Church of Scotland now closed and up for sale, and the old United Free church which after being used for various occupations is now a house. People tend to forget the hold religion had in rural Scotland until very recently. It still casts a long shadow across rural communities.

  9. J R Tomlin says:

    A good article but there is a very large issue missing. It did not become clear until after Humza Yousaf had won. It is the widespread Islamophobia. Your brief mention that he was the first Muslim leader in the west did not explore how widespread and vicious the anti-Muslim attacks are. One needs to look to what extent that hidden agenda influenced the election, because there is no way that it could not have done so. It is a very worrying situation.

    1. India says:

      I was going to say the same thing, JR. To see folk like Alex Neil peddle dual-loyalty pish via a nonsensical conspiracy theory has been disheartening, but not as disheartening as seeing others treat it as credible, or distort Yousaf talking about his experiences of racism in Scotland to pretend he hated white people.

  10. The SNP were Thatcher's midwife says:

    Humza’s cabinet is 100% Wite and middle class. Representative democracy you are having a laugh.
    Wall to wall dummies!

    1. Wul says:

      “The SNP were Thatcher’s midwife”

      Scotland’s job always being to do whatever suits the view from Westminster eh?

      In an independent Scotland we would not have had to give a fuck about: Thatcher, Boris De Piffle, Truss, Quarteng, Handcock, Jeremy RS Hunt, Brexit, Tory parties, Sook Here Starmer etc.

      What’s your plan?

  11. florian albert says:

    Gerry Hassan’s article starts with a question; ‘Where is Scotland now ?’

    Scotland is at the end of the first sustained attempt to gain independence for several centuries. It started with the SNP winning power in 2007 and ended with Nicola Sturgeon’s resignation. Its high point was the 2014 referendum and the General Election victory of 2015. After that, it appeared to be treading water but was in fact slowly regressing.

    It ended because the SNP, aided by other parties, went down the road of ‘progressive’ activism. This led to a law being passed allowing a male rapist to demand the right to serve their sentence in a woman’s prison. (Depressingly, like the diehard Corbynistas, there are those who fail to recognize what a disaster this was.) From that, we got Nicola Sturgeon’s resignation and a wide split opening in the SNP ranks. This split also showed the utter mediocrity of those at the top of the SNP in Holyrood. The near future for the SNP is likely to be grim. It lacks talent. It may stagger on – as SLAB did under McLeish and McConnell – but it lacks all that is necessary to govern successfully, let alone win independence.

    Longer term, a second attempt to achieve independence is near certain. The fact that upwards of a third of votes have given up on Britain makes that inevitable. It will require the SNP to re-invent itself and purge the huge careerist element which now dominates the party.
    Kate Forbes’ vote shows that much of the party is ready for this change.
    Those in the ‘Yes Coalition’ have to face up to the fact that the voters show no interest in them, whether they call themselves SSP, R I S E or Alba.
    The SNP is the only vehicle for independence.

    Gerry Hassan devotes a paragraph to ‘Scotland’s Political Commentary’. The fact that some of these, e g Iain Macwhirter, have been commenting for so long is an indictment of younger journalists. Macwhirter remains worth reading. Too many Scottish journalists are not.
    It is like Allan McGregor playing in goal for Rangers at 40. He has shown he is better than any available alternative.

    1. Claire McNab says:

      More nonsense: “a law being passed allowing a male rapist to demand the right to serve their sentence in a woman’s prison”.

      No such law as passed. The GRR does not confer such a right.

  12. John McLeod says:

    Thanks for an interesting analysis of the present moment in Scotland’s politics. There is one point you made, that I am curious about. You wrote that: “the number of children in poverty was 24% when the SNP entered office in 2007 and remains 24% in 2023”. My own reading of the poverty statistics in the UK as a whole is that child poverty (and poverty in other sectors of the population) has increased over that period – which is what you would expect at a time of Tory austerity policies. In that context, although 24% is a truly horrifying figure, it surely could be counted as some kind of achievement that it is not even higher?

    1. Mary Van Helsing says:

      Sorry, I think 24% children living in poverty is unacceptable. If the SNP were unable to secure independence from Tory austerity with all the mandates and support given to them by the Scottish people, the least they could do is mitigate Tory cuts, going down the route of civil disobedience if necessary. The resistance to Tory cuts was absolutely pathetic and people have died as a direct result. Meanwhile the Rainbow Tories of the SNP/Green alliance are having a blast abusing and gaslighting ordinary women and lining their pockets. Some of them would put Andrew Tate to shame. There is no cost of living crisis on the SNP payroll. To say I am disappointed in the SNP/Green Alliance is an understatement.

      1. Claire McNab says:

        The SNP govt has indeed mitigated Tory cuts.
        The Scottish Child Payment of £25 per week for every child of a parent on benefits gives an extra £1300 per year for each of those children.

        1. Mary Van Helsing says:

          That is not enough. Parents are still going to food banks, cant afford to heat their houses, never mind buy clothing and pay for activities. There is still 24% child poverty and that is a disgrace. It is a massive betrayal of the people who voted SNP in to end the lethal Tory cuts. And what about the disabled and single people? The disabled have been culled and the SNP stood by shaking a rainbow tambourine. It costs a lot less to do that than it does to support the chronically sick. That takes more than reeling off a few slogans and printing a few posters. The SNP are very good at that.

          1. M Clyde says:

            Child poverty is at 29% in England. The Scottish Government HAS made a difference but only the powers of independence can lower it further.

          2. Mary says:

            @M Clyde. I disagree. Far more could and should have been done, about the cull on the disabled, benefit sanctions, drug deaths, and child poverty through the tax raising powers, spending priorities and outright refusal to implement and administrate these lethal laws in Scotland. But no, the SNP implemented the lot. Sturgeons Indyref2 is a joke, literally. Sturgeons government made no meaningful attempt to fight for independence, or even more powers for Holyrood. Given the loss of life caused by Tory austerity, civil disobediance was absolutely justified
            , but the SNP stood by and let the people who voted them in have it. Nobody is fooled by SNP guff, except those pocketing the SNP shilling. Oh, look, over there, transphobia

  13. Philip Raiswell says:

    As an English person, I have no problem with Scotland having a second referendum on independence, I’m a member of the Labour Party and have no regard for the Conservative Party in any shape or form. I think they will be wiped out in the next general election.

    I’m Catholic, but understand that many people do not engage in religion any more. I support the LGBT community.

    To be honest, if Scotland voted for independence, then that is your right.

    1. Elaine Fraser says:


      Dont right theTories off up here- so far the only ones listening to women. Whether they really care or are being strategic doesn’t matter to me.
      As a Catholic you should know even the Pope knows the difference between sex and gender.
      Children and women are being harmed with gender identity ideology
      what use independence to 51% of its population ( women ) with their rights erased.
      Please do some homework.

      1. Claire McNab says:

        Elaine, children and women are not being harmed by allowing trans people to live their own lives.

        This is just a re-run of all the 1980s anti-gay propaganda, with the same moral panic.

        1. Elaine Fraser says:

          So women looking for refuge from violent men have only imagined that the previously single sex services now include biological men ?
          No girl or woman has lost out in female sport to a biological man identifying as a woman? Ever? anywhere in the world?
          No woman who wants to express her own view in public or online has been cancelled or harassed or abused by Trans activists? Scenes of violence at Let women Speak events in public parks are fake? Male students are not using brute force and numbers to prevent films such as adult human female ( about women’s rights) from being shown ? I wonder what scares them about information , discussion and debate. Of course , it is not just about preventing speaking but also to stop others listening to women voices and experiences – so our freedom of expression /speech /assembly must be quashed.
          No female author has ever lost her publicist? No woman has ever lost a promotion due to her gender critical views?
          No women MP ever heckled in House of Parliament for speaking about her fears around GRR?
          No disabled girl/ woman has lost her right to request same sex intimate care?
          It is my imagination that where there once were single sex toilets and changing rooms in shops , schools etc these have been replaced by gender neutral toilets ?
          The Newsnight producer (woman) who wrote the expose on the gender clinic Tavistock in London made it all up ?
          I doubt we will agree on any of this but I’m fine with that – I’m not trying to persuade you – I know what’s happening even if many on here dont or choose not to see.

        2. Elaine Fraser says:

          Gay and lesbian community fought for equal rights – they were not demanding the rights of another group . No group has ever demanded the rights fought for by others. Women fought long and hard for the right s we have now – it is nonsense to suggest this is the same as the 1980’s gay right movement.

          What human exactly are Trans identified people currently denied ?

          Ask lesbians about what is happening to their female only spaces that they worked hard to create?

          1. Claire McNab says:

            Elaine, you seem to be fixated on the idea that trans people are some sort of predatory threat.
            That is simply false.

        3. You dont appear to have any evidence to back up your claim that GRR will not impact women /girls rights.

          Sorry but stating your opinion is not the same as evidence.

          You say “fixated’ I say I’m wide awake to the issues (being an adult human female kinda helps ) plus ,dont spend my life online and really glad to see the gender identity cult beginning to have some much needed light shone on it – tide turning thanks to lots of brave women…we make up over half the population dont you know and that is a fact.

          1. Claire McNab says:

            On the contrary Elaine, there are to sets of evidence to support my view:
            1/ The GRA 200 has been in force in the UK for 18 years. No ill-effects
            2/ Gender recognition by self-ID has been implemented in other countries without ill effects. That includes Ireland, which has had self-ID since 2015.
            So what do you have to counter that evidence-base? Nothing but the wild imaginings of a frenzied culture war

          2. SleepingDog says:

            @Claire McNab, what language does the Irish government use? You’ll really have to learn how to add links. I searched their website, and they seem to be using ‘gender’ in the traditional way, for example in board membership composition. I found this definition from 17 December 2021:
            “Gender minority is an umbrella term that encompasses transgender and gender-nonconforming people – individuals whose current gender identity or gender expression do not conform to social expectations based on their sex assigned at birth.”
            They way they use language in those reports, they separate ‘gender minority’ from women, men, girls and boys. Is that sufficient for you? If trans women are not recognised as women, but as a separate minority?

          3. Claire McNab says:

            SleepingDog, I am sadly unsurprised to find that after all your commentary, you are clueless about the basic principles of the law on which expound. This is the norm in these discussions: huge amounts of steam from angry people who have not done their homework.

            That steam is seasoned in your case your thoroughly Calvinist self-belief in the power of your own reason. A century after Freud demolished the grandiose delusion that humans are rational beings, it’s amusing to find not only that some people still cling to the delusion of rational objectivity, but that such people usually have a very limited grasp of the facts on which they expound.

            It’s not my job to educate you about the effect of a Gender Recognition Certificate. You need to do that yourself, by reading the the text of the UK’s Gender Recognition Act 2004 and Ireland’s Gender Recognition Act 2015. Both are available online, and I won’t spoonfeed you the links.

          4. SleepingDog says:

            @Claire McNab, Sigmund Freud, who rejected the rational interpretation that his patients were faithfully reporting child sexual abuse, in favour of “they were hysterical” (in the case of women), and invented complicated theories to ‘explain’ this phenomenon and blame his patients for sexualised fantasies? That Freud? That’s who your favoured authority is?

            It has long been apparent you are a troll or worse, but your assault on rationality leaves nowhere for this conversation to go, so it’s goodbye from me.

          5. Claire McNab says:

            Ah, the expected flounce finally arrives, as Mr Rational Man displays his ignorance of Freud’s revelation of the importance of the subconscious.

  14. Jim Kidd says:

    The static 24% has to be viewed against a changing context during that period, and if there is evidence of rising levels of poverty generally (what are the figures for the other constituent parts of UK?), avoidance of further deterioration for Scots may be some consolation, if not success.

    I found Paul Lewis’s article in this week’s Radio Times a cheering antidote to the prevailing miserabilism of the Scottish press and broadcast media, in that he details a number of areas in which the Scottish Government has delivered improvement in the lives of Scots as return on higher taxes.

    1. Mary says:

      The miserabilism of the press?? What about the miserabilism of those living the reality of lethal Tory cuts ? You cant be serious.

  15. Alastair McIntosh says:

    Gerry, I have commented on this as part of another article on Bella by Mike Small: see https://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2023/03/31/dont-look-up-from-the-pages-of-the-boomer-backlash/#comment-627071

    1. Gerry Hassan says:

      Thanks Alastair, I will follow up and read,. Many thanks for the spirit and content of your contributions.

  16. dgp says:

    The leadership contest triggered much comment between me(Sturgeon sceptic/Salmond warmish) and a friend(Sturgeon positive/Salmond coldish). We are both very indy positive and at times the messages got a bit ‘gritty’ over the quality of the Sturgeon leadership. At one point the ‘Ferries’ became a key topic of discussion. I was sanguine or ‘irked’, and he was a bit -“oh well these things happen”- phlegmatic. The issue remained unresolved, so I returned to the long article by the late Ian Jack about the Inverclyde area, site of the Ferguson yard. At the end of the article is the account of the SNP Ferry ‘fiasco’. I had read the article already when it was first published, but had forgotten much of the detail.
    Ian Jack’s writing is measured and factual, quite slow paced and reflective.There is a hint of regret or sadness at the recent history and decline of the Clyde and its shipbuilding industry.

    The account of the ferry contracts, it seems to me, is notable for the sheer amateurish quality of the political control and understanding of the seriousness of the whole project.

    It starts in the Salmond era and one detects hubris here. It then meanders its way into the confusion that apparently prevailed in very significant(serious) contractual matters, and which coincided with Sturgeon’s ascent, just after the referendum. A major contract was signed off in some confusion by Derek McKay then Transport minister who was under pressure at the time over the texting issue. There is an overwhelming impression that the project was well beyond the skills, abilities, and understanding of the political controllers.

    In the end, I was left with the often used, ironically intended, slogan- ‘too wee, too poor, too stupid’ rattling uncomfortably around my brain. It was hard pill to swallow for an Indy supporter but the account seemed to strongly indicate a serious deficit in the political architecture of Scotland and the SNP

    Part of politics must be an elected representative’s understanding of his/her limits. People who are elected in a small country are almost certainly going to be deficient in the kinds of background life experience and technical/commercial know-how that is required for the modern world. Without a well established, technically robust civil service, elected politicians will not be equipped to deal with the complexity and contested nature of politics.


    1. John Monro says:

      Thank you for your considered and worthwhile contribution. I live in New Zealand, exactly the same problems. I mainly blame Thatcherism or call it neoliberalism if you will. The privatisation of so many robust and experienced industrial and service institutions, the loss of a “collective skill” to these disparate privatised entities, and the obvious loss of an overarching strategic thinking process. The loss of a manufacturing industry and the ability to control the quality of imported goods. The ridiculous prices even of timber, that is actually grown in this country but owned by overseas interests even before the trees are cut down.. The fact is that civil servants and politicians are ill equipped to deal with major infrastructural investment. They always will be. Private industry will tender down to the bone, the lowest bid winning, the lowest common denominator of rationality also winning. Complicate investment infrastructures, such as “public private partnerships” etc and private lawyers and wheeler dealers have it all over civil servants whose knowledge is weak, whose power is weak, and who just want to get all the negotiation over with, political deadlines to meet etc. We’ve had a number of big projects fail to meet needs, frightening accelerating costs, from the same lack of historical engineering and construction knowledge. Our truly vital ferry service between our two islands is falling to pieces’ -one near shipping disaster, and if you want to book your car over, it’s weeks to wait (this isn’t even now a holiday season) . Cancellations for the last few of months have caused huge economic and human hardship. Holiday makers left in the lurch and having to cancel their trips.

      We had a large “Ministry of Works” at one time, not just a “ministry” of folk sitting in back offices near Parliament, but an actual industrial organisation employing engineers, civil engineers, architects, planners, organisers, men on the ground with diggers and shovels, who undertook all the major works in New Zealand – dams, bridges, roads, railways, hydro schemes, hospitals, schools etc etc. They literally had a hundred years of continuous experience in doing these things, successfully, and at cost ( It was founded in 1876 when NZ’s population was 422,000) . They built well, with a bit extra for luck. Scrapped with the Thatcherite government here in NZ in the early 1980s, we’re now hearing calls for its re-institution. That would have been heresy just a five years ago. But it won’t be the same working entity that we used to have, you can guarantee that.

  17. John Monro says:

    This thread has become rather sidelined on a discussion on the nature of homosexuality which isn’t presently a political issue, other than the irrelevance of an SNP leadership candidate being honest about her own religious belief. I would have thought honesty might have its own reward, but that no longer appears to be a political virtue in the voting public. But gender ideology certainly is a political issue, it has hijacked Scottish politics as it has here in New Zealand. I personally do not support “self-identification” as a policy, as I did not see any need for it, I believe it runs counter to the wishes of many women, and it has been the basis of a lot of predictable contention. The problem is that gender ideology has become toxic in many ways, the closure of the Tavistock clinic is one example where action has at last been taken. The use of puberty blockers and the whole ideology of positive affirmative action in children and young people in regard to gender “dysphoria” is medically irresponsible and dangerous. The ridiculous circumlocutions around the word “woman” or “women” to include such as “people with vaginas” or “human milk providers” etc etc. The ridiculous and craven circumlocutions of politicians who can no longer define what a women is. The insistence by trans-gender activists that trans-gender women should be allowed to compete in women’s reserved sports, and the insistence that women should just shut up about any concerns they may have in regard to trans-gender women’s right to be included in women’s reserved spaces.

    I have serious acute concerns about all this, and this is entirely separate from my wish to see all human beings, including trans-gender people, being treated with dignity and respect, as I have all my life, privately and as a medical practitioner of 48 years continuous service. It seems to me the trans-gender movement, ideology, almost a religious cult, will not yield in any way to these concerns, thus fuelling the contention even more and providing ammunition to the morally repugnant parts of the right wing, and ultimately damaging the very thing that transgender people need, security and safety. The cancel culture is in full swing and gender ideologues and trans-activists have been in the forefront of using this anti-democratic technique, a form of social blackmail sometimes allied to physical threats (which of course applies to other vexed questions, such as anti-semitism, but also straightforward political issues such as anti-war or anti-NATO) If cancel culture can be defined as” a moral culture in which people are unwilling to make tradeoffs demanded by the practical or moral concerns of others” then this fits perfectly with the gender ideology now taking up far too much of people’s time, like I am doing here!

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