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Swinney time.

As a wee laddie at school, I was always so unbelievably passionate about Scottish independence.

Many seen the UK as a union of stability, backed by historic institutions like Westminster which championed the islands we share as a bastion of democracy, economic literacy, and strength in military defence… that was seen as the ‘wiser’ or ‘more mature’ understanding of politics. 

They had the ‘dinnae be so silly’ view of those that wanted this seemingly radge idea of breaking Scotland up from something so solid. Our parents would lose their jobs. We’d be trading in monopoly money. Everyone would be poor.

Maybe it’s the way I’m wired or the background my family come from, but I just didn’t see it in that light whatsoever. I saw fellow Scots struggling. As a patriotic, compassionate guy, I wanted better for the people in my country. 

I saw the system as one of failure. One that accommodates a select region or people (much of Edinburgh included, by the way). I used to cite the far smaller number of food banks in Ireland compared to Scotland to which, in reaction, many didn’t even believe me it was that substantial. Wonder if they believe me now. 

I also looked at our resources and economic potential compared to other countries and just thought ‘hing on a second here.’ Why is our understanding of politics so surface-level? Why is joining so many other nations in breaking away from the UK such a ridiculous shout?

I was told stories about what Thatcher did to communities right across Scotland. How wealthy we could’ve been with a nationalised organisation of resources. The amount of money we’d have to spend on our public services if oil profits hadn’t been squandered and sold off to foreign companies. 

Thinking, all considered… why on earth would we make these mistakes again? 

And in my mind, the UK’s political system just didn’t make sense. I naturally looked deeper beyond the realms of what we’re used to and imagined what it would be like to do things differently. 

Worse yet was the realisation that we really would have done things differently if we could do so. Our politics would be unrecognisable had Scotland at some point over the years became independent. The disparity in voting patterns speaks for itself for the last half-century. 

Unrecognisable for the better as well.

Don’t believe me? Why not listen to the words of Henry McLeish or Jack McConnel (both former Scottish leaders of union-favouring Labour) who spoke about the “dark days” when Scotland was barely paid attention to in a fully centralised political system at the Holyrood Live podcast last month. How devolution was absolutely necessary to make genuine, significant change. 

McLeish, in particular, saying “what a mess that is” when describing Westminster and its two-party system. 

Now, those who favour independence will resonate strongly with all this talk. This feeling of democratic injustice. The potential to harness a country that people love all around the world and protect what we have left of it from the anchor that is Westminster. The prospect of going high whilst they go low. 

It was a picture painted so eloquently by Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon in their hay day. Extremely effective because of how deep it runs with Scots. 

Without this picture, there is no movement. This is the bedrock of the argument for independence. The simple notion is that should we be able to run our own affairs, that we would do so differently and we feel it would be more effective. That is democracy. 

And by contrast, our current arrangement doesn’t give us this. There is a distinct inability for the people of Scotland to make decisions that are in the interest of its people within the UK’s political system.

This is why it is astounding to me that supporters of independence wouldn’t feel a sense of conflict or hypocrisy when blindly backing the main party of independence in their coronation for a 3rd First Minister in the space of a Parliamentary term. 

Much like the Tories, by the way, who the same supporters called names like ‘corrupt’ when doing so with Truss and Sunak. 

Politics for Scotland put together a poll of (presumably) 1,000 independence supporters (besides the potential for an almighty, unlikely hijack from unionists trolls, judging by their follower base) a cuttla days ago in which only 47% of voters urged a Holyrood election after the new SNP membership is announced. 

This meant most voters felt this wasn’t the right thing to do. 

Now, this could be for several reasons. 

One could be that they are thinking in the interest of the country and the need for stability and certainty in such a difficult time (come aff it but, they’d want another referendum in a heartbeat). 

Another, and in my opinion most likely, could be that a lot of supporters of the SNP and the independence movement would do anything for their representatives to cling to power. 

This does ma heid in. How can anyone in good faith seriously say they are a supporter of Scottish independence, a movement built on the ideological foundations of wanting a truly democratic political structure for the people of Scotland, not believe the right thing to do is for the SNP to call an election? 

How can anyone in good faith seriously say they support Scottish independence, and when the Westminster establishment goes low, instead of going high, they then say: ‘Well, that means we can go low as well then?’ 

If that is where the movement is currently at, then that is a pathetic state of affairs. 

Good has come from this, mind. 

John Swinney’s pitch was right in the top bin. He’s said what’s on the minds of everyone in the movement: enough of the carry on and we need to get to being us.

He pledged to carry through the tradition of centre-left politics that’s made the SNP so successful under Salmond and Sturgeon. A commitment to convincing more people of independence before starting the conversation (an honest move, unlike his predecessor who tried to cut corners and pip a mandate out of fine, debatable margins). A vow to unite the party and country with more respectful, courteous dialogue.  

And, to some, most importantly, wanting Kate Forbes as a senior member of his team. Something Forbes looks keen on accepting.

Whatever you think of Forbes’ understanding of gender or her devotion to the Bible by the letter, it’s absolutely paramount we turn a new chapter of dialogue in Scottish politics. The public is suffering from every issue descending into a tribal culture war. Yousaf, to be fair to him, was right on the money here with his media round yesterday. 

Folk cannae pay their bills. Children suffer poverty in 21st-century Scotland. Our public services need a revamp… all this requires immediate and urgent attention. That much rings true for everyone who lives here. 

Ken what’s wild anaw? On the brink of a green revolution, a transformative era in how we utilise our resources in Scotland, our politicians are discussing Ally McCoist’s right to call someone a Fenian, followed by an expletive, at a football match. 

Whilst I support the Hate Crime Bill and its signal of a new era of decency and respect in the hope of protecting our nation’s mental health, we need a clearer idea of priorities in government action. 

Why aren’t we discussing the plan of our pending Labour Government in the UK to utilise taxes on companies in the North East of Scotland to fund Council Tax reductions in England? How is something that scandalous, let alone economically illiterate, going under the radar in Scotland? 

We may be witnessing what happened to Scotland under Thatcher all over again, right before our eyes, and we’re doing the square root of hee haw about it.

I find Kate Forbes’ views on same-sex marriage archaic, hurtful, and frankly bizarre… but folk must remember people do like her. A lot of people voted for her. She’s not in the position she’s in accidentally or by deceit. 

If we’re willing to respect Humza’s faith and his pledge never to let private religious beliefs get the better of his representation of the people’s interests, one would rationally wonder why the same can’t be afforded to Kate? Why were we so accepting of Humza's excuse for not being there on one of the Parliament's most historic days of voting on same-sex marriage?

And whilst I find these views of Forbes hurtful and out-of-touch, many will think the same of my views on things. You should’ve seen some of what was said about me in my inbox when I spoke out in support of the Trans community. It wasn’t very nice, to say the least. People vehemently disagreed with my compassion towards trans people. 

Which brings me to my point. This is dangerous and we need to find a way of getting along (at least to the point of a civilised debate). The divisive language, the personal attacks, the anger… it’s not doing any of us good. 

My mental health took such a significant battering after some of the backlash from those few articles. If this is a recurring theme across our society, then that’s a real worry. Debate needs a cooling period. 

If we are to take anything from this undemocratic manoeuvre from the SNP then it’s this: nobody’s perfect. 

Some more than others, but we’re all complicit in where politics is now. We’ve all worn scars from the heat of debate in recent years. Society needs a reset, and it begins with the discourse in that building by Arthur’s Seat. 

 We’ll get our say eventually. Keep the faith.

1 Comment

May 15

Interesting points here but as I've limited time just now I'll focus on the things you say "we aren't discussing", which I agree needs opening out with urgency as projects are both under way and accelerating while being effectively kept concealed; I'm talking about the neoliberal profit-mining project that is the Freeports (ok, call them "Green" if you believe it's a significant concession by Westminster) and Special Economic Zones (SEZs).

Both John Swinney and Kate Forbes are enthusiastic collaborators with Michael Gove in this pernicious sell-off of Scotland's resources and an investment of public (= our) money via direct funding and tax concessions, plus privileged access to planning and other regulatory processes (no details available as they're still being worked…

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