Opinion

The SNP is a failed project

by | 2 May 2024

It is hard to express how dark my mood is today or how much pain I feel for the future of Scotland and independence. The SNP is unreformed and unreformable, and the rest of us are just onlookers

There is a Karl Lagerfeld quote by which I live my life: “Sweatpants are a sign of defeat.” John Swinney is a sign of defeat. This is a sign of a party not only incapable of regenerating itself but seeming unwilling to try. What does this most look like? Scottish Labour 2006, a machine the purpose of which was creating jobs for the machine.

To give you a sense of why, let me explain a conversation I had earlier in the week. My first read on events was a conversation with a woman I don’t know whose politics I knew nothing about. I was trying to get a feel for how the public were seeing things without leading her.

She told me was that she had always voted SNP under Alex Salmond and had kept doing so but has become more and more disillusioned under Sturgeon. Her conclusion now was that the SNP is contemptuous, that it couldn’t make it clearer that all they’re interested in is whose turn it is for the trough. She said that there was now nothing that would make her vote for the party.

I agree. I can seen no reason. The idea that independence is still a live issue under John Swinney is not one I can take credibly. He doesn’t have anything that could possibly make you think this isn’t the case – he is not a tactician, he is not charismatic, he has no vision, he is tired and laboured. I will place you any bet that no further progress will be made while he is leader.

Then again, unless I am misreading the situation, no-one in the SNP thinks John Swinney is going to deliver independence. In fact I doubt anyone even thinks he’s going to deliver competent government. Swinney delivers one thing and one thing only – protection for insiders so they can maintain their jobs.

The SNP has now failed to renew itself for quarter of a century and it now seems likely that that will remain true for another decade. The SNP has become so detached from the hopes, views or interests of ordinary people that it barely pretends otherwise. It behaves like a cartel, an oligarchy, an elite club for insiders.

Unity? For a decade Swinney has been the most divisive figure in SNP politics after Nicola Sturgeon. In fact it was Swinney who stabbed Yousaf in the back because Swinney and his people felt Yousaf was demonstrating insufficient hate for Alba.

The SNP currently looks like it will be routed at the Westminster Election – does organising a coronation for John Swinney scream ‘take a fresh look at us?’

His political career has consisted of what exactly? A lacklustre-going-on-woeful spell as leader? One brief period where he was considered a competent finance minister? A truly disastrous time at education? The period when he got closest out of anyone in the history of the Scottish Parliament to losing a vote of no confidence after he repeatedly tried to obstruct the legitimate work of a parliamentary committee? Safe pair of hands how exactly?

If this party had any capability of converting itself into the party Scotland or the independence needs it would have started that work today. Let me ask you this; Humza Yousaf was sitting at an approval rating of -47. What does Swinney bring to the show that adds 30 or 40 points to that? And let’s just hope there are no further Branchform developments eh? The party just picked the man most closely associated with Nicola Sturgeon and Peter Murrell.

So let’s look at the reality. Do any of you think Swinney is going to make significant changes either in the government programme or how well it is implemented? Do you see him as a man either of vision or interested in vision, something that might make the public look again at the SNP? Do you think he can really drop his own petty animosities and unite the independence movement?

Then if those things aren’t your impression, what would you imagine is going to be the result of this on the polls? I mean John Swinney was yesterday’s man so long ago no-one can remember which yesterday it was. The SNP currently looks like it will be routed at the Westminster Election. Does organising a coronation for John Swinney scream ‘take a fresh look at us?’.

I’m fascinated what they think the dynamic is here. Almost exactly half of the party voted for change in he last leadership election. Can you not all see that the party establishment’s response to this has been to make absolutely sure they don’t get the chance again? What is that going to do to the party?

I’d love to see if they can explain the choreography of the next few years to me. Do they think the public has been asking for them to ‘shut it all down, ignore your doubts, carry on as before and let’s just leave it at that’? That doesn’t seem like what the public is asking to me. It is not my experience of the nation just now.

My experience is a cynical and jaded nation which has lost faith in its political elite, feels disrespected and is broadly sick of it. Am I wrong? How does that feeling tie up with what has happened? Is that what will rescue a General Election campaign? What do you believe is going to go better between now and the Holyrood Election? What then?

We’re all passenger in a bus that a political elite is driving off the end of a cliff and they’ve welded the doors closed so none of us can escape

This is the reality for me; when Humza Yousaf was elected I realised there was one remaining chance for reform before 2026 since I realised he wouldn’t make it that far. That one chance has just been squandered.

By choosing not to change now I can’t see any opportunity; there can’t be a further leadership change before the Holyrood Election. After 2026 I fear we will be scraping about in the detritus of a collapse to see what can be salvaged. That’s not a chance for a fresh start, that’s the moment where you realise you blew it and it is now five years before you can begin to regenerate yourself.

And then it is 2031 and the SNP, still unreformed, does what? Wins another election under who? There will be no fresh talent in the party by then because they locked the doors. In the meantime government by KPMG, endless privatisation and centralisation and everything else that marks this administration will simply hollow-out Scotland bit by bit in the meantime.

I can’t detect much of a pretence of enthusiasm among even the most Pollyannaish of the below-the-line commentators in the National. Everyone I know is somewhere between disgusted and despairing. I have now deleted chunks of this article multiple times because my actual interpretation of where we are is so grim I can’t see it as constructive to share.

Nor can I use the words I am feeling just to describe my mindset. At the moment, between the sheer pain I feel at events, my personal sense of betrayal and my calm, rational assessment of what this means for the future, it won’t help if I share them. I have some very deep personal reconsideration I will need to go through now.

It will take me time, something I’m afraid we now have in bucketloads. My hope of a fresh start with a government people could actually work with, hope of an independence movement not kept under the heel of a political party, hope of an end to the sheer nastiness around in the independence movement: last night I had those things and this evening I don’t.

So yes, I now need to take some time. As a project to shape Scotland for the better and move us to independence, the SNP has failed. What comes next cannot be this, it cannot be anything like this. I’m sick of telling people things are going wrong, I’m sick of being right about it and I’m sick of feeling powerless in between.

And that’s it. There isn’t much more to say. We’re all passenger in a bus that a political elite is driving off the end of a cliff and they’ve welded the doors closed so none of us can escape. This is the end of an era, yet we are unable to leave it. So here we are, trapped nowhere with nothing to do. Shame on you SNP.

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