THE LONG ROAD.

A guest article from Kate Ferguson, the Alba Candidate in the recent Linn By Election. The long road… There has been a fair bit of despondency on Twitter over the last couple of days around the Linn by-election result for Alba. Some question whether Alba is the right vehicle, or just diverting the energies ofContinue reading "THE LONG ROAD."

THE LONG ROAD.

A guest article from Kate Ferguson, the Alba Candidate in the recent Linn By Election.

The long road

There has been a fair bit of despondency on Twitter over the last couple of days around the Linn by-election result for Alba. Some question whether Alba is the right vehicle, or just diverting the energies of some of the most active pro independence campaigners. Might we, some ask, not be better off inside the SNP, pushing from within? The below screenshot is typical.  It deserves a longer, more considered response than a Tweet.

First, it should be stated that many now within Alba did try to change the SNP from within. In 2019, when Chris McElveny was booed and shouted down for daring to talk about independence at conference, when it became clear democracy in the SNP was being removed and cliques devoted, at best, to other issues being manoeuvred into the NEC. Those attempts were met with bullying, hostile actions, withholding information from people the members had elected to NEC and bringing back the leadership clique via opaque and non democratic means. No one now in Alba left with anything but a heavy heart, and a few high profile ones were brutally forced out. Many were the longest term SNP stalwarts and campaigners. 

So, that out the way, we are where we are.

And where we are now is in a position which most countries find themselves at some point on the road towards independence. Alf Baird has written about it extensively around post colonial theory: the period where a country is close to independence, and the dominant pro independence party find an accommodation with the coloniser. 

There is a parallel to where we are now in Ireland, which Craig Murray recently blogged aboutwhen discussing whether or not Alba should field candidates in the next UK general election, assuming it is not a plebiscite for independence. It’s worth quoting a section from that here:

The Irish Parliamentary Party of John Redmond was even more dominant in Ireland than Sturgeons SNP is in Scotland. In 1906 just two of its MPs, like the two Alba MPs we have now, deserted as a result of lack of progress towards Home Rule. One retired at the next election and one stood and was defeated as a Sinn Fein candidate in 1910.

In the 1910 election the Redmondites continued to be utterly dominant electorally, taking 78 Irish MPs to the Unionists 27. Sinn Fein got nil.

But in the course of just 8 years, by the 1918 general election, Sinn Fein had 71 Irish seats to the Redmondites 6. Simply put, people worked out that the once triumphant Redmondites were not serious about Independence, and they switched to a political party that was. The Redmondites changed their name to the National Party, and quickly descended into irrelevance.

For those of us who wanted independence yesterday, or at least before Brexit, this is a depressing thought. If we have to build an entirely new pro independence party, this is the kind of timescale we are looking at. With the best will in the world, and leaving aside the fact Yes voters should be a lot more aware of how our voting systems work and less susceptible to propaganda, new parties do not emerge over night. They do need time to build, establish themselves, gain trust.

So (leaving aside SALVO and possible left field routes that may not involve direct parliamentary democracy) there appear to be two potential outcomes from here:

The first is that we are all wrong: the SNP are fully dedicated to independence and will deliver a workable route. This may be a referendum, or a plebiscite, or some other secret plan we are not aware of. It may even involve groups outside the SNP (who are, bear in mind, the governing party, with day jobs, surrounded by the UK civil service) doing the real ground work while the SNP tinker away lulling the unionists and civil service into a false sense of security. Whatever the method and route, this belief – that the SNP will deliver independence – is one most yes voters still hold. It is entirely possible they are right and we are wrong. That needs to be acknowledged rather than berating people and shouting at them to wake up. Most people do not follow the intricate details of politics and political parties and are turned off by both them and in-fighting. 

The second possibility is we are right and this SNP have zero intention of delivering and may, indeed, be working against independence. In this second scenario, there are two sub-possibilities. One is that Scots really aren’t that interested in independence and don’t have the stomach for the fight it will need. In that scenario, the voters will shift back to unionist parties, or forever accept an SNP which is no different to Labour, and keep voting for a mixture of them and unionists to sit in Westminster being ignored and pilloried, while Scotland is robbed of its resources and tied into the union. If that is the case, there is really nothing much Alba, the independence movement or anyone else can do. We would have to accept we had a fantastic flowering of confidence and democracy in 2014 then the UK successfully destroyed it after Brexit, at the very best time to deliver independence, interest petered out and everyone went back to not caring. If that is the case, Scotland is probably better off not independent and we have to accept this.

The second possibility in this scenario is that the independence movement and upsurge in support for independence was and remains very real and there is a genuine, abiding, settled will emerging that we are a country and we do both want and need independence. My gut feeling is this is the case rather than that depressing first scenario. If this is the case, then the parallel with Ireland becomes very real and a stark illustration of what will be needed.

If Scotland genuinely wants independence, and if the SNP really has sold us out and has no intention of delivering it, at some point the voters will crack, as they did in Ireland. And as Alex Salmond said in his powerful speech in Dundee, ‘political change can happen very quickly at the ballot box’. But it can only happen if there is an alternative. At that point, if and when that shift happens, we absolutely need there to be an alternative party in place. And we need that party to be one that has already done the hard slog of building itself up, doing the ground work, and taking all the toxic bile and smears those who really don’t want it there throw at it. One which has the people, the expertise, and the experience to very quickly put well considered plans into place, and which has a mountain of resources ready to go. 

Now maybe that is not Alba. Maybe there is some other party like that out there which might emerge instead. But I don’t see it – do you? I see in Alba a party which has the bulk of the SNPs previous activists and leaders, key players in the independence movement such as Commonweal, SSRG, Alf Baird, Richard Murphy, and even the SNPs own currency research group feeding into its policies. Ans a power of work and resources being developed.

So by all means be disappointed Alba didn’t do better in Linn – though bear in mind it did raise its vote share by 33% and it was a turn out of 23.3%. But also take heart in that, on the ground, Alba had all the activists. I didn’t see a single SNP activist on a polling station (I didn’t visit them all, but it was a comment people from other parties also made: loads of Alba, and a highly diverse bunch as well; no SNP).

If all Alba does is push the SNP to act on independence and prove us wrong, that will be a success. And if a genuine independence campaign happens next year, we will all get behind it and it won’t matter which party, if any, the activists are in. That would be the best outcome (assuming we win) for delivering independence quickly. If that doesn’t happen, and we really are paralleling the Irish route, there is nothing to be despondent about in still being a fringe party at this stage. If that’s the path we’re on, it is a long path but building that second party is absolutely a necessity. Had Sinn Fein given up after their first total defeat and losing the two MPs who defected to it, where would Ireland be now? In all likelihood, not an independent country. This, of course, is what the enemies of independence want – for any new alternative party to give up in depressed despondency. (And you can bet the Redmonites had their own Pete Wisharts, deriding, goading and spouting hatred at Sinn Fein).

So take heart and keep building. And share the Irish example: if people – Alba, SNP, Green and non party – want to expedite the process so it doesn’t take another 20 years to achieve independence they have two options: push the SNP to get it done or start voting for and supporting viable alternatives faster than Ireland did. 

MY COMMENT.

I feel for Kate because she was a good candidate. She is right creating a new political party takes time. It took the SNP more than a decade to win their first seat, which they only held for a matter of weeks and then decades before they won another one. I would not be “leaving aside “ Salvo or Liberation.Scot. Both are close to releasing and campaigning on an explosive story that will enrage and energise Scotland into fighting for Independence like nothing before. Can’t wait!

I am, as always

Yours for Scotland.


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