Friday 5 July 2024

Rub SNP noses in defeat


If the price that we needed to pay for the SNP to be reduced to a handful of MPs was a Labour government with a large majority, it was a price worth paying. I am more optimistic than some people about Labour, but whatever Labour does and however long it rules, it will be temporary. What the SNP was trying to do since 2011 would have been permanent. The UK would have been broken up and that would have been final. That is what we were fighting for all these years. That is the victory that we have just achieved.

When Labour used to win nearly all of the seats in Scotland, it did not gather them together in front of the Forth Railway bridge. Nor did it claim that if it won more than 50% of the votes in Scotland it would give it a mandate for anything. There was an arrogance about the SNP when it was at its peak that deserved the fall that has now taken place, not only a fall in the number of its seats, but a fall that amounts to a trip and lying face down in the sharn [dung].

The task for us is not to be conciliatory as people like me tried to be after victory in 2014, but rather to grind that SNP face into the dung so that it fully tastes it and until it admits the scale of its defeat.

It has been a long fight for those of us who have been there since the beginning. It felt like a long campaign in September 2014, but the result although decisive needed to be by 20-30% rather than 10%. There was still hope for Scottish nationalism and so we had to endure ten years of talking about nothing but Scottish independence, marches in fancy dress and SNP misrule. I have a sense of relief, but also a sense of exhaustion. But it was worth it.

The scale of the SNP’s defeat means that there is now every chance that it can be defeated at Holyrood too. If this is VE day, that will be VJ day. All that will be left will be a lone piper dressed up as a Jacobite somewhere in the jungle singing about sending someone homeward to think again, when it is really he that will need to think again if indeed he is still capable of thinking at all.

Was it really sometime in 2022 that Nicola Sturgeon put forward the idea of the General Election being a de facto referendum on independence? Did we really spend the past couple of years modifying this by claiming that the SNP would be able to negotiate independence if it won a majority of seats in Scotland and then merely if it won more than any other party? There were still mutterings of subversive talk of a unilateral declaration of independence (UDI) as recently as a few months ago.

Well, the SNP cannot unsay what has already been said. To have a de facto referendum on any terms there has to be the concept of winning it and also the concept of losing it. The SNP has lost by any measure and so it has had its second referendum. The only unilateral declaration required from the SNP is let me up from the dung I surrender.

I wonder if there will be any more marches. Scottish nationalism is going to have to come to terms with this and that will be psychologically difficult for many. When you have told others for so long that independence is inevitable it will be tough to take to realise that it will not happen in your lifetime, probably not in your grandchildren’s lifetimes and more than likely not at all.

There were moments of genuine danger in the past decade. The level of support for the SNP looked permanent and a second referendum if it had occurred would have been a coin toss at best for the Pro UK side. Too many in England were willing to tell us how wonderful Nicola Sturgeon was not realising that she cared about Remain only insofar as it would destroy the UK, too few in Scotland were willing to make any argument against the SNP.

There was genuine fear of the consequences of disagreeing with the SNP. We must get to the bottom of SNP corruption and intimidation and never ever let it happen again. Labour’s eventual task will be to fully investigate SNP misrule in Scotland.

 I never foresaw this moment. It looked like trench warfare forever. But then there was the unexpected breakthrough.

The oddest thing is that we still don’t really know what caused Sturgeon to resign nor indeed what caused the SNP’s support to fall so far so fast. I can point to scandal. I can point to Humza Yousaf being more concerned about what was happening in Gaza than in Scotland. I can point to John Swinney being no better than he was when he last led the SNP only this time having less hair. But none of it is enough to fully explain the steepness of the decline.

If you had predicted this result two years ago, I would have told you it was impossible.

I think it was really that the moment passed. The independence referendum caused Scottish nationalism to reach a peak that it had not reached before in the past three hundred years. It blew like one of those gales in November that blows down all the trees, but then the moment passed.

If Scotland were going to achieve independence it would have done so in the past ten years. The fact that it has not means that it will not. We have returned to the norm of voting Labour. There is no longer any need to complain that Scotland voted for Labour but got a Tory government, which was the root of the soft nationalism that gave us the Scottish parliament, and which eventually gave us the hard nationalism that almost destroyed the UK.

If the SNP is wise, it will admit that independence is not happening, cease talking about it and devote itself instead to improving Scotland by cooperating with the British government and by focussing its attention on improving the lives of Scots rather than turning our neighbours into foreigners. If so, it may still have the political role of trying to get the best for Scotland.

But I doubt that the SNP will be able to concede defeat for which reason it will end up like one of those Jacobites toasting the king oer the water long after he is dead.

The root of the problem was and still is that too many Scots fail to have an identity that matches their passport. This has now become more of a problem in Wales, Northern Ireland and England too. This is the soft nationalism that thinks that it is unfair if Scotland votes to Remain, but the UK votes to Leave or that it is undemocratic if Scots vote one way but the UK votes another.

The UK almost alone in the world has subnational nationalism because we persist in maintaining that the parts of the UK are countries in the same way that France or Germany are countries. This is intellectually incoherent. It would make the UK some sort of confederation. It is simply ignorant to suppose that it is.

 The key is to admit that the word “country” can be used in different senses and that Scotland has not been a country in the sense that the word is usually used since 1707 and Wales has not been a country since it was conquered and then merged with England in the Middle Ages. Playing international football is an oddity but it does not change this.

The only way to defeat hard nationalism finally is to defeat the soft nationalism that causes it. The hope is that Labour does something to make the UK more united, more like France, Germany and the United States where people don’t think that the formerly independent countries that make up these states are still countries and don’t unless they are nutters want them to be independent again.

This has been a devastating defeat for the SNP. The UK briefly was threatened more by Alex Salmond and then by Nicola Sturgeon than either the Kaiser or the Führer, but now it is as if we have reached 1945 again and with it safety. There will like then be a Labour government, but it won’t be forever.

I am worn out and will need to find new topics to write about but will do so for as long as people want to read what I write and encourage me to do so. Lately I have been getting fewer readers than normal, which is disappointing when the only object of writing is to be read.

Enjoy the moment. Whatever else happens in the next few years at least we will be able to look back on this moment. Rejoice. Rejoice.  

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