Independence has always been my thing. I remember my first foray into Scottish politics when, at the age of twelve, I represented the SNP in our school mock election. I came third (out of three), with the Tories edging out Labour for the top spot. One of the last Tory wins in Scotland, perhaps?
That was my first and, for a long time, last involvement in politics, short of voting. Early on, I tended to be a tactical voter, at first anyone to keep out the Tories, then anyone to keep out Labour and then SNP to keep out the unionists.
It wasn’t until 2011 that I really got involved. Following the SNP majority in the Holyrood election and the certainty of a referendum, I knew I had to do my bit. I joined the SNP because I thought that, under Alex Salmond, this could be our first real chance, and possibly our best chance, of independence and the SNP were the right party to make it happen.
In common with lots of others, I worked hard during the campaign, often seven days a week, talking to folk, delivering leaflets, helping to organise activities, just keeping going.
On the day of the referendum, going round the polling places, chatting to voters, I was convinced we had won. The result was the biggest disappointment of my life. I couldn’t understand how the vast majority of people telling me they voted Yes turned into the answer we got. I was devastated.
So why am I telling you all this? It’s not to get brownie points for effort, too late for that now, and it’s certainly not to bring back memories, there’s too many memories (about the result) I want to forget. No, it’s just to explain the disappointment I feel about the way things are now with the SNP. The disappointment I feel that the SNP under Nicola Sturgeon has become a totally different party from the one I joined in 2011.
It all started just after the referendum, pretty much from the moment Nicola Sturgeon took charge. With hindsight, there were so many clues, but, like many other SNP members, I was able to find excuses because I just couldn’t bring myself to believe that she wouldn’t be just as supportive of independence as Alex Salmond had been (and still is). So it took me three or four years before I lost all confidence in the SNP as a vehicle to deliver independence.
Of course, at first there was no real alternative. No other party existed that could take the SNP’s place, so they could pretty much continue with their strategy of pre-election independence carrots followed by post-election failure to deliver.
The arrival of ISP and Alba changed the political situation enormously. Now there was an alternative and thousands of disaffected SNP members flocked to join them. With that came a change in SNP tactics. No longer just the carrot party, they became the carrot and stick party, carrots for the electorate and big sticks for any person or group who dared to challenge them. Of course, no political party likes a newcomer coming in and ‘stealing’ their support, but few others have been able to involve the police, the law officers and the judiciary in their attempts to get rid of their opponents. How this happened is a discussion for another day, but suffice to say that political control of the main arms of justice in the country is not a good thing.
Now the SNP spend so much time trying to get rid of all opposition, trying to get rid of women only spaces and trying to make it a hate crime to disagree with government policy that they don’t really have enough time left to think about how to bring independence closer, to talk about how to bring independence closer, and, above all, to do something to bring independence closer.
The last eight years of SNP inaction must have nearly decimated the Scottish carrot crop, but now, as the carrots grow mouldy because they don’t have the wherewithal to come up with fresh ones, they’ve been pressured (by Alba and ISP perhaps) into replacing their meaningless talk about independence with equally meaningless papers describing the sunny uplands of independence with no mention about how we’re going to get there and no indication that they’re up for the challenge.
So how do I feel today. My feelings about independence haven’t changed. After being an independence supporter for over seventy years, nothing’s going to change that now. I’ll die being an independence supporter, but, increasingly, I worry that independence, for me, will be an unrealised dream. In 2014, I thought nothing could stop us. In the following three or four years, I thought nothing could stop us. But now I see that there is something that could stop us, but who would have thought that the something would be the SNP.
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