by Rab Bruce’s Spider

In these days of binary, confrontational politics, it is perhaps no surprise that arguments within the Yes community as to the best way to gain independence for Scotland have now spread to in-fighting within the SNP. As someone who is not a member of any political Party, I look on with dismay at the once united SNP beginning to form into factions. Worse, it often seems that debate is being stifled, and that is always a concern.

The SNP have been in power for a long time, and it must be said that they have done a lot of good things in that time. There are always areas where people can grumble that faster progress should have been made, but on the whole, the SNP have amply demonstrated that they can form a competent Government. Nicola Sturgeon’s personal performance in dealing with the Covid pandemic has also confirmed her position as a leader most nations would be proud of. She had a shaky start due to a desire not to rock the UK boat, but has since demonstrated greater leadership than any of her Westminster counterparts.

So what is the problem within the SNP, and why are so many Yes supporters expressing disappointment or, in some cases, downright hostility?

The main catalyst must be the lack of progress towards gaining independence. This is not to say that the slow, constitutional approach is the wrong one, because quite frankly, the only way we will learn whether it has worked or not is with the benefit of hindsight. Personally, I think the SNP should have done a lot more to progress this. I’d have hoped that they would have pressed the case for IndyRef2 much harder, that they would have abandoned the Growth Commission’s cautious approach and announced that an independent Scotland would have its own currency. After all, this is a requirement if we wish to re-join the EU. I wish they would produce a draft constitution for an independent Scotland, and I wish they would counter the propaganda emanating from Westminster and its Scottish agents. Social media suggests I am not alone in these wishes.

In past months, though, other concerns have caused ructions. The botched case against Alex Salmond began it, but we’ve also seen controversy over GRA reform, the Hate Crime Bill, the "sacking" of Joanna Cherry, and the FM’s refusal to condemn the abuse and threats directed at Ms Cherry. Wherever you stand on any of these issues, you must surely agree that these controversies are an unwanted distraction when we are approaching a crucial time in our history. If we wish to become a normal, self-governing country, we need to push for it now. Conditions have never been better in a political sense, with the twin disasters of Covid and Brexit showing just how inept and corrupt the Westminster system is. And there is no chance of that system ever changing, so our only viable option is independence. And yet, at this vital time, serious concerns are being raised about the way the SNP has been operating, and it must be said that some of these concerns seem valid. This has led to a great deal of argument on social media, with both sides accusing the other of causing the problems, and even though both agree that unity is essential, the ever-widening gap between them means that such unity can only be achieved if one side surrenders to the other, and that doesn’t seem likely. I suspect that an announcement that IndyRef2 is going ahead would cover the cracks, because independence is everyone’s aim, but any such announcement depends on quite a few things happening over the next few months.

In the meantime, concerns about the SNP remain, and even Party members are speaking out. I have been speaking to a member of the SNP who is as disillusioned about recent events as me. They have kindly agreed that I can quote them in this article. Here is what they told me about their worries over the direction the SNP is heading.

"My own thought is that we need someone other than the Greens (who are fully woke) to get the SNP back onto the straight and narrow.

"I have just had the e-mail about the hustings for the SNP highland region. What SNP is having is NOT anything I recognise as a hustings in all the years I have been a member of the party. It appears to be nothing more than a stage-managed public event. It is not restricted to members.

"We have been given nothing but names - no bio data, nada, zilch, zippo. Thee-mail arrived today with a deadline of tomorrow for the questions to go in. This will be a first as there has never been a requirement for Questions to be submitted before the event, before the candidates give their speeches.

"Apparently, candidates can choose to give only speeches or only answer questions, or do a mix of both. Thus we, the membership, have no guarantee that they will even deign to answer any questions at all.

"I doubt if many of the membership know who these people are. As far as I am concerned, this is a farce.

"As far as I can see, this SNP leadership is hell bent on alienating as much of the party membership as possible. In that they are having a rip roaring success."

That’s pretty strong stuff, and I’d like to think the SNP leadership will pay attention to its disgruntled members, but it must be said that doesn’t look likely.

And yet, for all this dissension in the ranks, and for all the media spin of #SNPBad at every opportunity, the Yes community knows its only chance of gaining independence lies with the SNP. The polls are bearing up, and showing a consistent majority in favour of independence, and it seems the SNP can rely on most of us giving our Constituency vote to them in the upcoming Scottish Parliament elections. We must hope that they do not take such support for granted, and that they act on the new mandate they seem likely to be given.

The one good thing about all this is that, even though many Scots are switched on to politics and keep an eye on all these internal arguments, the wider public do not seem overly concerned. For many Scots, they will vote SNP whatever else is going on. This, though, must surely be the Party’s last chance to deliver. If they descend into yet more internal bickering and find excuses not to push for independence, then the Yes community may well look for another vehicle. After all the SNP has done to get us this far, that would be a shame, but some new alternative Parties have already been formed. They may be too new and small to offer much at the moment, but that can change. We saw with the demise of Scottish Labour that support can switch very quickly. For the sake of the SNP and of Scotland, I hope such a switch is not necessary, because the reality is, if we don’t take our chance soon, it may not come around again for a long time.

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