Tuesday 18 April 2023

All Scottish nationalists are to blame for Sturgeon


The series of scandals enveloping the SNP will quite soon be portrayed as a rogue leader driving an honest party and still more honest movement up to the top of the hill and then over a cliff. But this is not the case. The scandal is not primarily about why Sturgeon suddenly resigned. Nor is it about accounting. Nor is it about motor homes. It is about truth.

In Scotland we lost the sense of shared truth sometime around 2013 or 2014. The SNP of my youth was no better nor worse than any other party. It had a few MPs, not much power or influence and little hope of ever obtaining its goal. But it was more or less honest.

Sometime during the independence referendum however, it began to put forward a view of Scotland’s independent future that was so distinct from what the rest of us believed that there was no longer a shared truth in Scotland. It became like debating astronomy with a people who believed human sacrifice was necessary for the sun to rise. There is nothing to discuss.

There is an idea going around the “Yes Movement” that it was the leadership that betrayed the honest workers taking Scotland towards independence. But even the name “Yes Movement” is a lie. No one thinks that a second referendum would have a Yes/No question. If you cannot even be honest about your name, what else can you be honest about?

The rebels in Alba or who sympathise with Alba and who are perhaps trying to bring down the SNP from within were equally dishonest in 2014. Salmond’s future as First Minister and leader of the Yes campaign depended just as much on the SNP’s omerta as Sturgeon. The creator of Wings over Scotland who has provided so much useful inside information and frankly good journalism in recent weeks and months, also produced the Wee Blue Book, which did an excellent job of persuading people to vote Yes, but which had a predictive value somewhat less than human sacrifice in relation to the sun rising.

The whole of the SNP in the years following the referendum were willing to sign up to the principle that they had to agree with the leadership about everything and that any disputes were internal disputes that were not to be shared with the voters. In 2015 it was decided no MPs shall “publicly criticise a group decision, policy or another member of the group”. Secrecy and internal party discipline was not some aberration of Sturgeon, it was something everyone agreed with so long as independence was on the horizon.  

So now we find out Ian Blackford and Stephen Flynn may have known that the SNP’s auditors left in September 2022, but Humza Yousaf only found out when he became leader and about the SNP’s motorhome too. But this whole story depends on the secrecy that is inherent in the SNP being so much the norm that the leader of the party in Westminster would not dream of telling the probable new SNP leader crucial information that he needed to know. This is to assume that Yousaf really did not know anything.

So too when we hear Nicola Sturgeon shut down debate about the party’s finances, this is just part of the same omerta that everyone had signed up to. Don’t damage the party by asking too many questions, don’t damage the cause. Everyone claps in unison.

But it goes deeper I think than this. The lack of shared truth in Scotland involves us every year being given official government figures (GERS) that are then described by expert economists not only in Scotland but in the UK generally as showing that Scotland runs a deficit, only to be told by Scottish nationalists and the SNP that the Scottish Government’s own figures tell us nothing about how a future independent Scotland’s finances would be. It’s the same debate with someone who believes human sacrifice causes the sun to rise. It's not possible to discuss rationally as the only rational thing to do is escape being the sacrifice.

So too at every election in Scotland we were told that next year there would be an independence referendum. Sometimes we were even provided with a date. Then we were told that the next General Election would be a de facto referendum, or perhaps the next Holyrood Election. But then some MPs began to fear they would lose their seats so that was no good. But why would that matter if your goal was not to have seats at Westminster?

Now it all looks like a scam.

Did Nicola Sturgeon ever really intend there to be a second independence referendum? I certainly believed her each time she said that she wanted one. I believed she wanted independence in 2014 just like Salmond certainly did. But at some point, in the years since 2014 talk of referendums looked more and more like a ruse.

Sturgeon must have known that the UK Government would not grant her a legal referendum, yet she pretended for years that one was imminent. She kept us all in campaign mode, ready to begin the next battle at a moment’s notice. She didn’t give Scotland a moment to rest and recover. She gave us continual uncertainty, bad for business and bad for our minds. Was the whole thing a con? Did she do all that just to stay in power with all the control and wealth that goes with it?

But if Scottish nationalists feel cheated, if they wonder where their donations, hope and enthusiasm went, then they must accept responsibility, because they created the modern SNP.

It is no use blaming Sturgeon she is a creature of Scottish nationalism. She is a creature of us not having a shared truth in Scotland.

We have poor journalism in Scotland, unwilling or unable to investigate the truth, because it was intimidated in 2014. Mobs would turn out to shout down Pro UK speakers, crowds would turn up outside the BBC because a journalist dared ask Salmond a difficult question. As the SNP’s grip became tighter journalists would know that their career would falter or end if they displeased Sturgeon, if they presented GERS as objective truth, or proved something damaging to the SNP. Sarah got herself exiled to the United States for less.

So, we found out nothing about Salmond in 2014. We found out nothing about what Sturgeon did or what she knew when there was a parliamentary inquiry. We knew nothing about SNP finances, where £600,000 went or when the auditors left. We knew nothing about the motorhome. We knew nothing because Scottish nationalists from top to bottom created a secret society that allowed all of this to happen. You can call this society Scotland.