Hey SNP member – where are your red lines at?

by | 22 Jun 2023

Many, many members of the SNP are a long way short of happy just now. Do people have red lines, have they been crossed yet and, if not, what is it going to take for them to be crossed?

Are you going to the ence on Saturday? It’s in the Caird Hall in Dundee. Or is it a shun? I’m not totally sure, but you’re definitely not going to be allowed to confer and we’re certainly not all allowed to convene. Perhaps, to help with the confusion we should just shorten it to con. So are you going to be conned this weekend?

I ask specifically because a lot of you promised me you wouldn’t be. During the leadership election I spoke at a couple of meetings and huddled with SNP members afterwards. There were a few Regan voters and some Forbes voters, but a slight majority were reluctantly going to go with Yousaf. I told them ‘good luck with that, you’ll regret it’.

The general view was that yes, electing Humza Yousaf as leader was not going to be a good option, just better than the other options. But this time (they all told me, and they’re all good people) there was a lot they were no longer willing to put up with. They all had red lines and they were adamant they were going to demand change.

But sadly, they were all good people over the last eight years as well. Over my 50 years I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve seen good people sit silent in the face of injustice and abuse. Not liking it isn’t enough, if you don’t do something you’re complicit. Or at least that’s my belief.

So here is my question to you (if you are a party member who expected change), where are your red lines? In the few months under the new regime the new leader has blocked any change. No real review into HQ has been undertaken, no true reform of governance, just wall-to-wall continuity.

That may not be a red line. So what about the fact that the barely-elected NEC of your party has just voted to change the constitution so that you can no longer elect the Depute Leader? You have had the power over your conference taken away, your National Council taken away, the power over your NEC taken away, the power to select your local candidates taken away, your power to elect the leader treated as a joke they can manipulate, and now your power to elect your Depute Leader has been taken away too.

Is that enough yet? Or what about this ence this weekend? A couple of people told me that was their red line, that if they weren’t allowed a free, open debate about indy strategy they were ‘going to do something’. Well you’re not being allowed, and you’re actually being told that this was never really about debating strategy because that will be done in October when you’ve all been able to submit motions to debate.

Reaching out seems to be the totality of your strategy that you’re not convening to not discuss

So will that be your red line? I mean you don’t really believe that you’re going to all be allowed to submit motions on indy strategy to vote on? Remember the Growth Commission where they basically wrote a bad novel, called it a motion and dared you to amend it via the only four changes they would allow you to consider, just to be ignored anyway? That’s what’s going to happen.

Will that be enough? A major setback at the General Election? A potential slew of charges and court appearances by senior SNP figures who were responsible for all of the above? What is too much for you? I ask because the other part of your party is clearly going kind of mad.

It is really quite Trump like. In fact, consider the following quotes; see if you can distinguish the Trump quotes from the Sturgenoista quotes. “Greatest witch-hunt in the history of our country”, “the police and the media seem to have some kind of collusion”, “this is a political hit-job”, “purely a politically motivated smear campaign”, “this is the work of puppet-masters and secret agents”, “a political witch-hunt that the puppet masters have no intention of ending”.

How did you get on? There are two Trump quotes, the first and the third. There is now a quite distinct Make Nicola Great Again movement (or MiNGA), and the MiNGAs seem to represent the mainstream of the SNP. Your parliamentary group are sending flowers to people for getting arrested and your leader seems to have made it clear that protecting Sturgeon is the first priority.

How are you all feeling about that? Is this the face of independence you want the public to see?. Wild conspiracy theories, mad denials, obsessing over a former national leader mired in controversy? Are you reaching out or are you lashing out? Because it looks quite lash-like to me.

And remember, reaching out seems to be the totality of your strategy that you’re not convening to not discuss. Unless I’ve missed something, the whole idea is to knock on doors until the UK gives up. If that’s right, do you not think it might be a good idea to move on from the Sturgeon era?

For what it’s worth, I don’t think either of the two main contenders for the SNP’s official independence strategy are good ideas. I know for certain that knocking on doors and telling them about The Good Works of Humza of Yousef isn’t going to work and I’m very, very sceptical that you can successfully turn a party-political election into a plebiscite and win it by a margin that the UK would recognise as legitimate.

Unless enough party members decide their red lines have been crossed and step forward to reclaim the party, I see no prospect of any progress on independence and I’m not really willing to pretend otherwise any more

The reason that it has come to this is because you’ve been denied the opportunity for proper discussion about this issue for a long time now. You were fed promises that didn’t come to pass and now, at the last minute, you’re being asked to choose an option in one go. You haven’t had the chance for the prolonged consideration which is usually what leads to good strategy.

That is really why I’m so cynical. If you can find an example in history where a major political strategy was devised and developed in a room of 2,000 people (or whoever turns up) and that strategy actually worked, could you forward it too me? You approve strategies at conferences or conventions, but you need long, considered, informed deliberation to develop them.

For example, and because I do this for a living, I looked to see who was presenting the data on key public attitudes. It would be ridiculous to develop a strategy without serious analysis of your target audience and what it is thinking, and yet no-one is talking about at this meeting. It’s just speeches from B-list politicians.

So this isn’t serious strategy discussion and you’re not going to get time for serious strategy discussion prior to the deadline for submitting motions to a conference at which I’m very sceptical you’re really going to be allowed to discuss strategy. (If they were going to let you have open discussion, it would be much more likely to be this event at the weekend than at your main conference.)

I am still trying hard not to write about the SNP and its melodramas. I realise now that there is no point; the MiNGAs are in total control and they are delusional. (Someone told me that Sturgeon’s resignation in February was a master stroke, that she is cleverly sitting out a corrupt police attempt to frame, her so that she can return in triumph later in the year and enact the secret independence strategy this person really thought she still had – referendum next year!)

Unless enough party members decide their red lines have been crossed and step forward to reclaim the party, I can see no prospect of any progress on independence and I’m not really willing to pretend otherwise any more. This will achieve nothing it in itself, but it will at least create the possibility of a positive outcome.

There are other, credible, achievable ways to actually deliver independence in the near future but they don’t really align with the interests of The SNP PLC, or at least not as it currently sees its interests. As soon as there is change in the party it should be possible to start to engage again with a proper development process to create a feasible strategy behind which people could unite.

So, SNP members, this hand-picked, stage-managed con-job at the weekend makes absolutely clear where you are. You’re still the mushrooms, you remain in the dark and you are still being fed shit. You can wait for the next opportunity to be conned and tell yourself that that one is your real red line. Or you can stand up and be counted. Those are your choices.

In the meantime, I have other things to do.

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