Thursday 25 January 2024

The SNP has a cult of conformity


After the latest revelations from the Covid inquiry in Scotland it is hard to believe that support for the SNP won’t fall further. There is a real prospect of Labour replacing the SNP as the main party in Scotland both in Westminster and in the Scottish Parliament. That’s a lot. Even a year ago that would have been unimaginable. But it’s not enough.

Scottish society has in the past two decades been largely captured by the SNP. It needs to be freed. But if it is to be freed it cannot immediately be recaptured by Labour. What we need is genuinely independent thought. Not independent from England, but independent from party political control and influence.

There is a conformity in Scottish life that goes back to before the SNP became dominant. It unthinkingly holds the same assumptions about Margaret Thatcher, the 1980s, public spending, tax, healthcare and England. It may not support independence, but it is soft nationalist, mildly Anglophobic (the Auld enemy chuckle, chuckle) and hasn’t had a new thought about Scotland since Donald Dewar and devolution. It is this that captured us.

The Scottish civil service ought to be full of people with all political views or none. Instead, it identified itself completely with the SNP. It is this above all that allowed Nicola Sturgeon to carry on as if she were an absolute monarch. The rules did not apply to her.  It is this that meant that the culture of secrecy at the heart of the SNP was not exposed.

But it’s not just the civil service. It’s also the fact that the police was centralised under the SNP and became too close to its political masters. Both the police and the judiciary must be completely independent of government. The First Minister should not have any more acquaintance with important members of the judiciary or police than any other Scot. There should be no phone calls to a friend asking him to sort this or that.

The same goes for all other aspects of public life from higher education, charities, the health service, the BBC and the media in general.

Scotland is a small country, but its not that small. The lawyer representing the families who lost loved ones due to Covid just happens to be a friend of Humza Yousaf. There are enough lawyers in Scotland. Choose one who Humza Yousaf has never met. There is no need to be worried about impartiality. But do it anyway just to be on the safe side.

The capturing nature of Scottish society can best be seen by how many who move here from abroad feel the need to conform. Someone from France, or Canada or the USA would have grown up knowing absolutely nothing about the SNP, or Scottish independence. Yet suddenly upon arriving in Scotland they turn rapidly into Scottish nationalists. Why?

If a Scot moved to Poland, he wouldn’t get much involved in Polish politics. He would not campaign for independence for Kashubia nor for Silesia to be returned to Germany. But here we find an American academic who has gone completely native in her love for Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP. There we find a Canadian who thinks the problems of climate change would be solved if only Scotland were independent, and we returned our bottles.

These people quickly realised that if you wanted to get anywhere in Scotland you had to conform to Scottish nationalism. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t get this post, or that promotion.

Scottish nationalists are completely open and confident in expressing their views, because they know that it can only help them in society and cannot hinder them, but in much of Scotland people who oppose the SNP or indeed who disagree with leftwing politics in general learn to keep silent. If you don’t you will lose friends and your work might disapprove.

If you arrive in Scotland and campaign for the SNP, you will be loved even if you are English and called a new Scot, if you oppose the SNP, you will be a white settler or told to go home. That is why people conform. The easiest way to fit in was to agree about how wonderful Nicola Sturgeon was.

The Scottish media conformed when Labour and the Lib Dems were in power. There was hardly a voice that questioned devolution or its nationalistic assumptions. But it became vastly worse during the referendum and after.

The Scottish media failed collectively in its job of holding the Scottish government to account. Whichever government is in power in Westminster there will be journalists willing to expose and criticise and make arguments against it. There will be no holding back.

In Scotland there are independence supporting journalists who can write what they please. But even those apparently Pro UK journalists have to modify their criticism of the SNP lest they get into trouble with their readers or the Scottish government. When things go well for the SNP, they tell us that independence is inevitable, when things go badly like now, they revert to supporting Labour. But always they share the same nationalist assumptions that underpin both devolution and the argument for independence.

The BBC did a fairly good job of being impartial during the referendum, but it was genuinely scared by the intimidation from Scottish nationalists or being exiled to America, and we now have the absurdity of Scottish TV programmes that no one watches that the BBC has to keep paying millions to pump out because otherwise would upset the SNP. It’s not impartiality. The assumptions are soft nationalism, woke and soft left. There are no alternative viewpoints.

With few exceptions the Scottish professional media has disgraced itself during the past decade, but the disgrace is really the same disgrace as the civil servants who were paid to be impartial but instead became Sturgeon acolytes. The disgrace is almost universal in the Scottish public sector, which chose to conform to the SNP. It’s a form of corruption.

You may call it low level corruption, because people don’t usually take bribes, but corruption in sectors where funding depends on public money is universal in Scotland. High level positions depended on not disagreeing with the SNP.

This is how the SNP had such power. All it took was a phone call and someone who did not conform was either made to conform or else had to keep silent or leave.

We are fortunate. There were just about enough of us to keep making the argument, just about enough of us who did not conform. But if we are lucky enough to defeat the SNP let’s create a truly free society where every political and moral viewpoint can be expressed and where our goal in public life is to be genuinely impartial and independent in our thinking from influence and control.

Scotland began to resemble the Soviet Union where you couldn’t get ahead in any field unless you supported the Party. The Scottish government was as secretive as the politburo, and we had a cult of personality that made me wonder if soon we would have a giant picture of Nicola Sturgeon in George Square and Alex Salmond would be purged from old photographs.

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