Steve Bell’s If …
By Dale Street (also posted at the Workers Liberty website)
“SNP independence has become the cocaine of the politically active. Fun to join in, but dulling the senses, jabbering on at a hundred words per minute while disconnected from self-awareness.”
In a recent article admitting that the SNP’s economic arguments for independence never stacked up, this is how Alex Bell summed up the delirious nature of the pro-independence political mindset. (Bell was SNP Head of Policy under Salmond.)
But the response of the SNP to the launch of airstrikes against Daesh has exposed the inaccuracy of Bell’s statement: he was being too charitable by half.
Labour Party policy was to oppose the bombing. The overwhelming majority of Labour MPs – and a majority of the Shadow Cabinet – voted against the bombing. Some 75% of Labour Party members were against the bombing. The lead speaker in Westminster against the bombing was the Labour Party leader.
But all these basic facts were blotted out of reality in the parallel political universe inhabited – and created – by Scottish nationalism.
SNP MP John Nicolson summed up the political essence of the SNP response to the launch of airstrikes when he created the hashtag: “Labour, Conservatives and Lib Dems #BombingTogether.”
Challenged about the accuracy of this hashtag, Nicolson responded that bombing was backed by the vast majority of Tories (true), by all Lib Dems (wrong), and by most of the Shadow Cabinet (wrong).
And the 152 Labour MPs who voted against bombing? Or Labour Party policy against bombing? Nicolson simply ignored them.
SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson likewise ignored how most Labour MPs actually voted. Harking back to the SNP’s exploitation of the Labour-Tory “Better Together” referendum campaign, he tweeted:
“Syria vote: Want to join opposition to Labour/Tory ‘better together’ majority. Join the SNP.”
The Tories had a majority even without the votes of Labour MPs. And the majority of the Labour MPs voted against bombing. But this did not prevent Robertson from performing the political conjuring trick of pulling a “Labour/Tory ‘better together’ majority” out of his hat.
The SNP was equally silent about anti-war speeches by Labour MPs. Instead, on planet SNP, the intervention by Labour MPs was reduced to Hilary Benn’s closing pro-bombing speech.
SNP MP George Kerevan and former SNP leader Alex Salmond both referred to Tony Benn turning or “burling” in his grave because of his son’s speech. (Salmond likes to use folksy Scots expression to kid voters on that he’s really a ‘man of the people’.)
Less coherently, SNP MSP Christina McKelvie tweeted: “Hilary Benn in trying to prove he is not his father proved beyond doubt he will never be his father.”
There was a good reason for the SNP to focus on Benn’s family ancestry rather than the politics of his speech, in which he invoked the labour movement’s tradition of anti-fascism.
Firstly, the SNP can rightly boast that is the only political party in the world whose elected representatives and members are able to communicate with the dead.
As anyone who has ever spoken to them is aware, the SNP spiritualists simply KNOW as an incontrovertible matter of ‘fact’ that if Keir Hardie or Tony Benn – and every labour movement icon in between – were alive today, then they would be supporting the SNP not the Labour Party.
Secondly, to have delved into history and explored traditions of anti-fascism would have been something of an embarrassment for the SNP.
National Party of Scotland (NPS) co-founder Hugh McDiarmid was also the author of “Plea for a Scottish Fascism” and “Programme for a Scottish Fascism”. In 1929, a year after the creation of the NPS, he advocated the creation of “Clann Albain”, a far-right paramilitary organisation.
During the Second World War McDiarmid looked forward to the bombing of London and backed a Nazi invasion of Britain as being good for Scotland. SNP member and future leader Douglas Young likewise wrote of the “great service to Scottish nationalism” which Hitler could perform in the war against Britain.
The SNP has long since moved on from such politics. But, unlike Benn, it could certainly never lay claim to embodying an anti-fascist tradition.
SNP Head of Research Paul Robertson threw himself with gusto into the SNP’s flags-beat-facts campaign with the tweet: “Scottish forces deployed to Syria despite 97% Scottish MPs and 72% Scottish public opposed.”
Angus Robertson chipped in with a statement along the same lines: “It is likely that most aircraft will be deployed to Syria from RAF Lossiemouth, which is remarkable considering 72% of Scots are opposed to air strikes.”
But there are no plans to “deploy Scottish forces to Syria”. The vote was about dropping bombs on the country from a great height, not about deploying ground troops in Syria itself. And the RAF planes based at Lossiemouth are to be deployed to Akrotiri in Cyprus, not Syria.
(Cyprus is a small island divided by a border. Surely the SNP should welcome the relocation of the jets to there?)
In fact, given the result of the 2014 referendum, there is not even any such thing as “Scottish forces”. When some Scottish newspapers began using the same expression, the writer Muriel Gray tweeted: “Scottish fighter jets? How long have I been out, Doc?”
The figure of “72% Scottish public opposed” was quickly trashed on social media and by most newspapers. It was taken from a self-selecting and unweighted poll conducted by the website “VoteXScotland”, which describes itself as “a secure voting platform”.
But the SNP continued to repeat the figure regardless. More reliable polling, conducted by YouGov and other polling companies, was ignored by the SNP.
This was because it did not fit into the nationalist political narrative which the SNP was busy manufacturing: bloodthirsty English and peace-loving Scots, pro-war Labour and anti-war SNP, and the deployment of non-existent “Scottish forces” in another country’s war.
Polling has consistently revealed a small majority of Scots (around 44% to 41%) in favour of bombing. Much to the chagrin of the SNP, this means that support in Scotland for bombing is marginally higher than in London, the heart of the imperialist beast: 43%.
Relying on the mythical figure of 72%, Robertson concluded: “In any normal country, in normal circumstances, Scotland would not be involved.”
This reference to “any normal country” is particularly fascinating. According to Robertson, a “normal country” is one in which the country’s parliament votes to use the country’s military forces in a combat role, but one part of that country is given an opt-out.
Of course, there is no such country in the world. What is “normal” in Robertson’s political universe is non-existent in the real world. But that’s the kind of hallucinations you suffer from if you snort the crack-cocaine of SNP independence.
A statement issued by the SNP’s chief political spokesman provided another fine example of the SNP “jabbering on at a hundred words per minute while disconnected from self-awareness”:
“What it (the vote on Syria) demonstrates is that as long as Scotland is represented at Westminster the entirety of Scottish MPs can vote a certain way on an important issue like this and Scotland’s voice will still be drowned out by voices from elsewhere.”
Firstly, this assumes that “Scotland’s voice” is necessarily different from “voices from elsewhere”. But are there not people in Scotland – working people, trade unionists, pensioners, students the unemployed, etc., etc. – who speak with the same “voice” as their counterparts “elsewhere”?
Secondly, there were many “voices” from “elsewhere” (i.e. from other parts of the country which the Scottish electorate voted to remain part of 15 months ago) which spoke out against bombing in the debate in Parliament. Everyone heard them – apart from the SNP.
Thirdly, in whipping up hostility to “voices from elsewhere” which “drown out Scotland’s voice” – Did someone just say that the SNP’s ‘civic nationalism’ is different from other nationalisms? – the SNP inadvertently trashed its own general election campaign.
In May the SNP told voters in its election material: “Vote SNP and make sure Scotland’s voice is heard.” But just six months later they are saying the exact opposite: “Scotland’s voice” will always be “drowned out” at Westminster.
Fourthly, what exactly was “Scotland’s voice” saying?
When Cameron first announced proposals to bomb Syria, Sturgeon’s response was: “I am prepared to listen. It would be irresponsible not to do that.” When Sturgeon eventually came out against bombing, she described it as “an honest difference of opinion” with the Tories.
Neither statement opposed bombing in principle. And Sturgeon’s language was far removed from the self-righteous indignation displayed by the SNP after the vote in Westminster.
To portray itself as the only ‘real’ opponent of bombing, the SNP therefore had to do more than blot out Labour opposition to the war.
It also had to “drown out” what its own leader had been saying only a few days earlier: an “honest difference of opinion” did not provide a basis for another bout of inward-looking nationalist grievance-mongering.
(SNP has “honest difference of opinion” with Tories re. bombing. Hilary Benn agrees with Tories re. bombing. So SNP has “honest difference of opinion” with Benn? No! Hilary Benn is a Unionist traitor, a traitor to his father, and a traitor to all humanity! That’s the way SNP politics works.)
“Scotland’s voice” became even more confusing when it sought to explain the SNP’s alternative to the Tories’ proposals to bomb Daesh.
In an attempt to answer (or evade) the question, John Nicolson MP tweeted: “I wouldn’t have fought the Iraq War.” But saying that you would not have done something over a decade ago is no answer to what you believe should be done now.
(Nicolson’s answer was no more than a specific example of the general approach of the SNP to any question about current problems: Blame it on something that happened a long time ago.
Thus, when Labour recently demanded that the SNP apologise for its Independence White Paper having miscalculated current North Sea oil revenues by 94%, the SNP response was demand an apology from the Tories for not having created a North Sea oil fund 40 years ago.)
Pressed further about the SNP’s alternative to bombing, Nicolson replied: “Bombing without ground troops to secure the area bombed is not a coherent stratagem.”
So, was the SNP opposed to bombing in principle? Or only to bombing not backed up by ground troops?
After all, if bombing is bad because it kills lots of innocent people, then surely bombing plus ground troops would kill just as many innocent people and must be just as bad?
And if a plan had been in place to secure areas which had been bombed, does that mean that the SNP would have voted with the Tories?
Of course, the best way to avoid having to grapple with such questions, and having to explain why what you are saying today is so different in tone from what your party leader said only yesterday, is to whip up a frenzy about a minority of Labour MPs who voted in support of bombing.
This is particularly the case if your party is more concerned about winning next year’s Holyrood elections than with the fate of foreigners living a long way away.
And that was exactly the approach adopted by the SNP.
The SNP has been hooked on the cocaine of independence for so long that it now suffers from a permanent nationalist delirium. And to feed its habit, the SNP has to engage in increasingly serious fraud with every day that passes.