Thursday 21 December 2023

Lovers of Scotland need to unite to get rid of the SNP


I spent five years living in Cambridge and there were lots of things I liked about it. The standard of education was higher than anywhere else I have been. I have never been in a place where the concentration of really bright, interesting people was so high. I could get on a train and be in the centre of London in an hour. I could get anywhere else within a few more. It was easier to fly abroad as I was nearer to major London airports. It was easier to get to the continent by ferry. Restaurants and pubs were usually better than in Scotland and there was a wider variety of shops and entertainment. But I wouldn’t choose to live there again.

Despite SNP mismanagement I wouldn’t choose to live elsewhere than Scotland. It’s not just a matter that I am from here. It’s a matter of choice.

From Aberdeenshire in the Summer, I can drive to Skye or Sutherland or Glencoe and get back in a day. It’s a long way, but it’s perfectly possible. Get up early enough and I can be back before dark.

There is a beach that stretches almost all the way from Aberdeen to Fraserburgh with a few gaps where there are cliffs and rivers. This beach is invariably empty even in the summer. There may be some dog walkers or there may be nobody.

Anywhere I want to go to there will be space to park and I rarely if ever come across a crowd. If you live in a small town or village, it won’t feel as if there are lots of others packed into a tiny space beside you and within a short distance there is real countryside.

This for me is what I love about Scotland. For most of us there is not urban sprawl. You leave a city and there is countryside. We don’t even in the more populous parts of Scotland have villages every two or three miles. Rather they are spaced out with nothing much in between.

The weather in Scotland is not as cold as people think. If you read nineteenth century fiction it was colder in the south of England, then than it is in the north of Scotland now. We don’t get much snow and it is rarely cold enough to freeze the lochs let alone the rivers. But the cold in Scotland feels colder because of the combination of wind and moisture. Eastern Europeans feel it to be colder here than winters in Warsaw. At least it feels colder.

It rarely gets hot in the summer. Quite often a day in July can feel like November, but I don’t much like it when it gets really hot, and I’ve often been grateful when there is a heat wave in England that Aberdeenshire is exempted.

So of course, I don’t hate Scotland as the Scottish nationalists continually tell me. Being critical of the SNP is not hating Scotland. If it were, then lovers of Scotland would only have one party we could vote for, which would very quickly mean that Scottish patriotism became Scottish tyranny which would be a funny way to love Scotland.

Loving Scotland also does not mean that a Scot has to desire independence. Scotland historically was a kingdom, but it was the king that had sovereignty. The people were not politically independent. They didn’t have a vote and they didn’t have a say. There is a tendency in Scottish nationalism to read into the past their present ideas. But these ideas would have been strange to Scots prior to 1707. “Should we have a referendum on independence?” you might ask one of Robert the Bruce’s soldiers, but he wouldn’t understand you even if he spoke a form of English. He would have no concept of democracy at all let alone of a referendum. His loyalty would have been to his king, and he would not have had a concept of a nation in the modern sense of the word at all.

So, throughout history few Scots have desired political independence for Scotland. The idea didn’t occur to Scots living in the nineteenth century even as they read Walter Scott and built monuments to Wallace. There was no need for a Scottish form of nationalism during 1848 when everyone else in Europe developed theirs nor later when German and Italian nationalism emerged, nor indeed after the Russian revolution and First World War when nationalism was discovered in the wreckage of the empire.

Scottish nationalism was a tiny fringe until it briefly flickered in the 1970s almost went out in the 1980s and first won an election in 2007. So, no. The vast majority of Scots in history did not support political independence, though we all felt Scottish. So, if you question our love of Scotland and our Scottishness, you equally need to question theirs. This would mean that you would have no Scottish history as you would have no Scots.

Loving Scotland and wanting what is best for Scotland has never been about seeking political independence either because we had no political rights at all prior to 1707 or because we were content with the arrangement that had unified the crowns and then united the kingdom politically. That is until less than twenty years ago.

Scottish nationalism that was not sparked when other European nationalisms caught fire for that very reason was not enough to win the referendum in 2014. It looks now this year to be returning to its historical position of the “ray of sunshine” on one of our blustery summer days that then goes behind a cloud.

It will be for history to tell what happened this year. Perhaps when everyone involved is dead, we will be able to search through the archives and find out what really happened in the years between 2007 and 2023 or perhaps the evidence will be on a WhatsApp account that was deleted and a mobile phone that was lost.

I can’t tell you what happened in what may be a pivotal year in Scottish history, partly because I don’t really know and partly because I am not allowed to comment. I may as well be Blind Harry trying to tell you about what William Wallace did two hundred years earlier. “Look for it only in fairytales, for it is no more than a dream remembered.”

But the moment has certainly passed. Pickett has failed to capture Cemetery Hill and he no longer has a division. So too the hopes of the SNP have faded like those of the separatists at Gettysburg and have been buried in the same cemetery.

The SNP was Scottish nationalism’s army, but Scots no longer want the SNP because we have seen, whether we believe in political independence or not, that it is corrupt and incompetent and that SNP politicians are in it for themselves. But without an army how do you fight for independence? Not yet, but soon the whole force will surrender at Appomattox.

For now, I think there is a strange coming together of independence supporters who have recognised that the SNP has been a disaster not only for Scottish nationalism, but a disaster for Scotland and those of us whose love of Scotland like most Scots in history did not depend on a desire for separation but was based not on politics but a love of living here.

We can agree whatever our ultimate goal that the task is to get rid of the SNP then form a new government that just might give us all a “new birth of freedom”, and which would have the power to investigate what happened really happened not just this year, but since 2007.

In the meantime, Scots of all political views can perhaps unite in our love of the land and our love of living here and our desire to make Scotland better for all Scots no matter how we differ otherwise.

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