As the laughter grows and grows, can anyone end the joke?

by | 14 Jun 2023

I'm nearly done writing about the mess the SNP is in - if it doesn't take itself seriously, why should I? Without a serious intervention this whole show is going to fall apart.

I’m trying to move on. I think I mentioned that on Monday. There are things of great import happening in Scotland and the wider world. I want to write about them. I had a whole piece planned out for today about the Deposit Return Scheme – but it feels futile. How do you look seriously at what’s going on when everything is a farce?

And it is. With camper vans, ladyshaves and bouquets of flowers, Scotland is one Sid James shy of turning into a Carry On Movie. I don’t know what’s happening where you are but I’m in the middle of our local Gala Week so between the many conversations I am part of and those I have overheard, I can promise our political scene is a laughing stock.

But I refuse to be a pointless broken record writing things people enjoy reading (or don’t) but which have no purpose. Explaining how bad things are getting is shooting fish in a barrel. I’m not here for the likes or the clicks – I don’t make money out of this site (other than a handful of generous donors who help out with the costs of it). If you don’t think what I am writing is useful I urge you to find other analysis which is because we need better debate.

So let me just summarise what I’m about to write and you can skip it if you want. I’m going to argue that one of the few things which is worse than being in a crisis is being a laughing stock. And the SNP is now a laughing stock. This probably can’t make government any worse given where we are but it makes independence harder.

But it seems that not a lot of the SNP payroll can see this, or perhaps they don’t care enough, but they’re very, very seriously not doing anything about it. Which means that it is down to the membership of the SNP to make the first order of business at their strategy conference next week the need to get a grip. And other than that I’m going to try to stop writing about this pantomime and dedicate my writing time to something which isn’t pointless.

OK, why am I this exasperated? Because having been on radio yesterday morning pointing out that unless the SNP can put some distance between itself and this unfolding mess it is going to be dragged around by the mess until its over, the mess gets worse within hours.

There is a very good reason to find this much-needed critical distance because (deep breath) Branchform is only one of three current potentially criminal investigations into matters proximate to the SNP (as far as I can tell). The investigation of perjury during the Salmond trial is ongoing and I understand that there may be developments in the ‘leaks to the Daily Record’ police investigation, though I can’t confirm that.

None of this is going away in the next six months. In fact if any or all of these cases leads to charges they may well not be over for very long time indeed. How much of that time is the First Minister of Scotland going to spend lavishing inordinate praise on those involved, tying himself and his government tightly to the mess?

You don’t generally crash and burn electorally because 20 per cent of the voting public turn on you but because five per cent do

Your options are either to spend much of the next year answering more questions of this sort and getting more and more damning headlines like we’re seeing – or you quarantine the thing that is giving you difficulties. My reading at the moment is that it looks like the SNP has decided to sacrifice itself and independence to the cause of protecting Nicola Sturgeon.

I really hope that saying someone who has just been arrested is ‘an asset’ and sending her bouquets of flowers is happening because Kevin Pringle isn’t yet in post putting a stop to this idiocy. Because despite what you might read, getting arrested isn’t that normal. It’s not ‘just something that happens’.

Think about this as if you’re not stuck in the myopic SNP bubble. Think what this looks like to everyone else. Imagine a leading Tory was arrested by the police and the entire parliamentary Tory Party agrees to send a bunch of flowers. What would you think? What would you say?

I totally understand that the party is now fighting splits all over the place (the idea that all the MSPs are content with this shitshow isn’t right) and that the bouquet of flowers was meant to be a clever stunt to show unity, but it wasn’t; it was crass, stupid, myopic and frankly insensitive to people who are the victims of crime.

And this madness is spreading. It was with total horror that I checked the National this morning to find it going big on a story that the police investigation has now been more expensive than the cash involved in the accusations – as if this invalidates the investigation.

For an independence supporter like me, this is humiliating. I suspect that 99.9 per cent of all crimes cost more to investigate and prosecute than the value of the crime. What’s the cost-benefit calculation on a serious assault? If I come round your house and steal £500, should the police just go ‘sorry, not worth the cost of investigating’?

And this is the thing; it is as if the SNP is having a mental breakdown. It is as if they can’t see what this looks like, or they’ve completely lost contact with what people outside their bubbles are saying. You don’t generally crash and burn electorally because 20 per cent of the voting public turn on you but because five per cent do.

So when it looks like the SNP is focussing on everyone except the five per cent (‘forget unionists altogether and the loyalists aren’t revolting yet’) you’ve lost your purpose. And the people I can hear are not longer confused, they’re laughing. A bouquet of flowers? Jesus wept.

You can stand resolute in a crisis, but you cannot do a fucking thing when people are laughing at you

This administration’s biggest problem other than its policy disasters is the fact that people don’t take it seriously. I know serious, heavyweight people who aren’t putting any effort into building contacts in this administration because they don’t think it will be around long enough to make it worth their while. Now they’re actually chuckling.

You can stand resolute in a crisis, but you cannot do a fucking thing when people are laughing at you. Nothing. Widespread mockery is the real politician-finisher. And the SNP is hugging independence so close to it (given its using independence as a life raft) that it is doing wider harm.

Perhaps Kevin Pringle will get a grip on this, but I fear that for Yousaf it is too late. He is the continuity candidate who is his own man, both totally loyal and independently-minded, starting afresh while continuing on as was, standing tall as he sits down, choosing the red pair as he reaches for the blue pair, thumbs up with one hand, thumbs down with the other, just in case.

Which means I think the only chance of a sanity check now will come from the party membership, if it comes at all. They meet next weekend to discuss ‘independence strategy’. They are to be stage-managed through another travesty where they can hear speeches from their betters and Tweet about it later. If they allow this to pass, it is October before they get their power back. There is no ‘independence strategy’ when the ‘party of independence’ is in this state.

And let’s be honest – everything I’m writing about here happened between lunchtime and teatime yesterday. They’ve just appointed Fiona Hyslop to fix the ferry problem; it can get a lot, lot worse from here.

I’m almost done with it all. I’m not trying to bury the SNP, destroy it, damage it, tear it apart. I’m writing this in the desperate hope that there are some grown-ups left in there who can see what is happening and might try and influence events a bit, even if only informally. I wrote this a while ago; I need the SNP, but not if it is a 35 per cent party. That I have no use for whatsoever.

The SNP needs dragged into a room by its friends for a serious intervention. It is having a full meltdown. If it can’t see that, it is in trouble. It’s only real friends are in the party. If they don’t stand up, it could all fall down.

And, just to make my point, in the time between starting this piece and finishing it, it has broken that Humza Yousaf demanded that any MSP who didn’t wholly and fully back Nicola Sturgeon 100 per cent should leave the party. Is he truly, truly off his head? Do I need to write that if your party cannot accommodate someone who has any doubts about unqualified backing for someone who has just been arrested, your party is sick.

Because apparently I do. Because apparently Yousaf doesn’t know this. Because apparently none of them do. This is now beyond pitiful and if this continues there may be nothing left to salvage.

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