With the SNP neck and neck with Labour in the polls and, yet, support for independence looking relatively unscathed… It’s getting clearer some folk are becoming sick of the SNP.
Humza needs to complete the process of changing the guard and hit us with some new patter. The kind of rebrand that doesn’t cling on to the past – a sign of intention to work with like-minded parties (besides that one issue of course) to show the public that politicians are working together. One that seeks compromise and puts the welfare of Scots before any conversation is even had about reforming our political relationship with the rest of the UK.
I present to you: Scotland’s Party of Independence.
‘Nationalism’ has become a common term in Scottish politics.
It’s often shortened to ‘Nat,’ labelling anyone (often in disdain) that supports full independence from the UK’s political union.
But what is ‘Nationalism’ and why are the SNP so readily accepting of this tag?
‘Nationalism’ describes movements of people coming together to promote the common interests of those within a particular land border. It’s often routed of needing to free a nation-state from outside interference in the name of sovereignty and self-governance. National identity is often moulded by geography, language, ethnicity, politics or religion. It seeks to promote a nation’s ‘traditional’ culture.
It's the fostering of an allegiance to the flag. It’s patriotism.
Nothing wrong with patriotism though… right?
Might seem so to folk in Scotland, a nation filled with extremely proud and patriotic people. The problem is that, over the ages, leaders of nationalist movements often play on this emotion for ulterior, political motives that defy the purity of reasons for people getting behind the cause. Its history is littered with dictatorship, extreme political policy and the legitimising of ethnic suppression. Brutally undermining human rights all the while.
There was a brief period we often look back on fondly with nationalism. It arguably started with the Yanks claiming their independence from British colonial rule. July 4th, the day on which the unanimous declaration was signed, is still celebrated with tremendous passion and fervour.
You even get some absolute roasters who celebrate it here. A cohort of Glasgow Uni students traipsed in the American flag, singing the anthem in that voice everyone does. Ken that weirdly widespread American accent people sing in across the UK because for whatever reason it sounds like the ‘right’ way to sing.
A nation of British folk sounding like Katy Perry for a few minutes and then back to their best Top Boy impression once the song is over.
Gies peace with that honestly. The return to my America-obsessed theory will come soon I reckon but no the day. It’s no as bad with Biden now but the amount of yank wanabees in Scotland when Trump was about was embarrassing.
Anyway… back to nationalism.
Swear it all comes back to Britain after we took over half the world or sout, whatever it was. It’s like the caught hail mary we threw just before the Americans and French told us to bolt. One whiff ae that ‘Rule Britannia’ song in the mid 1700s and they pair were off. Fair play to them.
It wasnae back then when it properly kicked off but.
I’m no gonna take you through the whole history of nationalism but you just need to think back tae yer lessons at school to work out that it gathered pace in the 1800s and then by the 1900s certain countries were taking it way too far.
It went from freedom, self-governance and a flag to a deathly charge for a globally pure race by the Germans. Or political ideology gone mad by the Russians.
(Complexities and ignorance aside)
The reason I mention the two that stick in everyone’s napper isn’t to be deliberately ignorant… It’s to tell you the examples that everyone goes to when they think of nationalism. The Chinese maybe get thrown in there anaw after Chairman Mao’s infamous stint in charge over there.
Point being, folk don’t think of freedom, self-governance and democracy… they think of dictators, bloodshed and some form of racism.
Now, a lot has happened since 1934 when the Scottish National Party were formed. Breaking off from Britain’s colonial state was becoming commonplace and that was no bad thing for any country exercising that right. Britain’s historic shame needs no reminders and the idea of breaking Scotland off from this abhorrent empire probably sounded like a positive political brand back then. Nation-states were building.
Our lives are drastically different now.
You might think that point is contentious in terms of international order, given the big boys are still ‘at it’ wae the imperial mindset.
Look at Blair. Look at Bush. Look at Putin. Warfare has hardly slowed down.
Modern-day battles (masked in claims to morality like ‘humanitarianism’ or ‘universal morals’) still reek of colonialism. The institutions we’ve set up in the wake of disasters do not do nearly enough to disrupt the balance of power between Russia and America, and their respective cronies like China and Britain.
How can we expect progress when the big teams are both lawless and without a duty of care? Steamroll one country and a blind eye turned to another in a similar situation?
Reminds me of the catering to Celtic and Rangers in Scottish football. Celtic represents communist Russia, fighting back against their ideology oppressors in the West (Rangers). United Nations delegates are the conforming referees. Decision-making follows money and voting systems are tailored to the big teams like in the SFA.
Christ, that makes Neil Doncaster the Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Sorry Antonio mate.
But even with the ever-present imperial battle ground you certainly dinnae feel like countries still under British rule are strangled by the shackles of full-blown authoritarianism.
Scotland, for example, has democratic rights in the UK Parliament. It’s given a sizeable amount of money each year for a healthcare service and schools and stuff for local communities. There’s no war between our army and England’s. A lot of our connections are positive.
There will be many now shouting at their phone saying ‘ARE THEY DUCK.’
If so, steady. I hear you. There is extreme poverty here. Scottish democracy is under severe threat. Our country would be run a lot differently had we been given full powers however many years ago you want to put it.
I’m not here suggesting the ‘Scotland is a colony’ argument is in any way invalid… I’m arguing the landscape in which we’re talking about suppression from British rule is radically different to what it was even 50 years ago. And especially for Scots who have also had considerable benefits from British colonialism too.
In other words, the ‘nation-state building’ frame I think is severely outdated. You can see it in the rebrand of the SNP by Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon – making the cause exclusively about social democracy and improvements to our economic well-being.
Making it less about the flag and more about an objective perspective of why our current political arrangement simply isn’t working. Or if it is working, it’s working for a relatively small segment of the island.
I’m unsure Humza Yousaf has the vision for this but the batton he’s received isn’t just about replicating the masterstroke of change that began with Alex Salmond… It’s finishing the job he and Nicola made so much progress with.
I might be wrong, but I think this starts with letting go of the past and recognising the movement for what it is in the modern day.
It isn’t about reclaiming a nation, breaking off from a colonial ruler… It’s about local communities making decisions for themselves. It’s about recognising that different corners of the world have different needs. It’s about respecting the democracy of those communities and giving them a chance to have their say. It’s about recognising that dictatorship over vast sums of land simply doesn’t work. It’s about breaking down power from institutions that cater to big business, greed and corruption.
The word ‘national’ shouldn’t be anywhere near the name of this movement.
Why? Because I think the SNP needs to face up to the reality that a settlement of ‘devolution max’ and a far better financial package whilst keeping the same currency on the island or the same postal service or the same army could be the optimal option for Scots.
Not for certain… but it could.
Why can’t this same movement also be fighting for independence over certain things one at a time, seeing if a balance struck might be right for Scotland?
Scotland can be an independent nation and also have political and economic settlements with other countries… look at all those independent European nations that are bound together by the Euro and the EU Parliament. Independence can be found on several different levels.
Or it could be fighting for powers that let Scots decide whether they want the Queen as head of State or whether they want allegiance to the Union Jack anymore. Seeking a settlement to say aye we’ll make decisions together across the border, share the currency and resources and what not… but we want rid of ties like these that define our cultural identity in a way we don’t like.
Independence can be fought in several policy areas without a full-blown divide. Why can’t we ask these questions without the immediate shun from Westminster because they want to shut down any chance of it breaking the union up?
Some of you might be hinkin, ‘Well is at no just independence then?’
Aye, it is. But it’s a change to the tribal idea of a completely separate entity and ‘becoming’ independent as if we’re saying cheerio to our neighbouring countries on the island. It’s recognising that ‘nationalism’ aptly fits a dangerous pattern of behaviour that we’ve seen throughout history.
If an independence referendum isn’t happening, why aren’t there significant efforts now to get a better deal out of the devolution settlement and SHOW the people what more independent decision-making would look like and the benefits that would come with it?
Yousaf’s Government has started this with the conversation on drugs and he’s absolutely spot on. Issues like drugs and immigration make no sense to deal with over the whole of the UK. Maybe he’s on the track I’m talking about and maybe it would take a stint in opposition to justify a full rebrand of the party.
But until he changes the brand, the term ‘Nat’ and its connotations to historic evils will never go away. It’s a dirty word. It isn’t a Scottish form of nationalism he’s after, he’s sticking up for democracy and local communities having a voice.
He needs a symbol of progressiveness, one that says he’s letting go of the past. Start a new chapter and change the language we’re using… not only to the benefit of this movement in particular but Scottish politics more generally.
Tribal politics and unmoveable battle lines are getting us nowhere and the public is suffering as a result. It’s manifesto promises like the referendum (which will inevitably lead to a 50/50 split and get us nowhere) or the statement that we’ll start acting like a fully-fledged independent country that’s making the rest of the UK resist doing any positive work for Scotland on their powers and their financial settlement. We are all suffering as a result.
The promise of fighting Westminster to get a better deal for Scotland and more powers for our Parliament is one that has given the SNP so much popularity in recent years. Getting back to this is exactly what the party and the public need right now. Incidentally, that is the best route to the kind of independence SNP members want.
And this will only happen with a statement that the movement has turned a new chapter. One that encompasses all kinds of sympathy towards independence, even those that like the idea of some of it but not all. Including the ‘devo-max’ camp in their venture would see the party have landslide victories again and again like they have done for so long now.
So, here’s my shout: ‘Scotland’s Party of Independence’ – the party demanding a better deal for Scots at every corner, one we work our erse off for and deserve. A symbol of strength and progression. One that goes high when the archaic Westminster establishment goes low. Positive politics above the hate-stirring, wedge-issue-obsessed ideology that only detriments the public. Back to basics, taking care of the honest Scot.
The same one so many fell in love with 15 years ago.