Or, rather, it continues.
The ongoing Michelle Thomson saga provides grim foreboding for the SNP in the months to come. I’m not going to talk about the ongoing Michelle Thomson saga specifically, because plenty of others have already, and to be perfectly frank, I don’t feel informed enough to make any comment on what’s supposed to be going on at all. But then, I never did watch Property Ladder. What I’m going to talk about is the broader story going on.
Make no mistake: with the future of the United Kingdom at play, there is much, much more at play than the business history of one MP.
The 2015 General Election was uncharted waters for Scotland. There has never been an election quite like it: for New Labour to plummet into second place after decades of dominance; for the Neoliberal Democrats to cascade into irrelevance in its own heartlands; for the SNP to ascend to unprecedented support across the country. Even the Conservatives, who had long been believed to have found the bottom of the barrel, somehow received their worst general election result in over a century. To think that we spent the entire short campaign looking at the polls as outrageous outliers, that there was no way we’d get 30 or 40 or 50 seats, let alone 56. To think that the three of the main UK parties would be reduced to a single seat apiece. All after a referendum that was meant to destroy the SNP once and for all.
2016 is going to be very different. The UK parties no longer have to divide their attention across the British Isles, staving off the rise of UKIP and dealing with the implications of the Neoliberal collapse. They can spend all their might and power on what they considered only one region among many 2015. They can afford to send up hundreds of veteran campaigners, just as they did during the referendum, only this time without an election on the horizon. They can use the BBC and the media to broadcast a single, consistent narrative, without worrying about saying one thing in England and another in Scotland. Be it spending foreign aid money on unionist propaganda, or strong-arming businesses, or even pleading with international agencies, they will stop at nothing. They tried in 2007, and failed. They tried harder in 2011, and still failed. And after the near-death of the union a year ago, you can bet they’ll try even harder than ever.
But unlike the referendum and the general election, the SNP cannot rely on the goodwill of the Greens, SSP and newcomers RISE to lend their votes, for they are seeking to elect their own candidates. Regardless of how one feels about the “SNP constituency/pro-indy list” tactics, the fact remains that all the parties are going to want as many votes as they can get, and that’s as much of a danger to us as it was to the unionist parties who suffered so much in May. Likewise, we cannot simply assume that the SNP surge will last the next 8 months – not when the entire might of the UK establishment will be brought to bear once again.
The UK establishment avoided disaster in the short term by virtue of a Conservative majority: that made things easier, without having to deal with messy coalitions. We’ll never know if a New Labour minority propped up by the SNP could have worked. What we do know is that the Conservatives, New Labour, and all the other unionist parties will stop at nothing to deprive the SNP of their majority in Scotland, now that they’ve seen just how close the SNP got to achieving their ultimate goal even after everything the establishment threw at them over the past 8 years.
Every measure Westminster has taken in regards to Scotland since the foundation of the Scottish National Party has been “how can we kill the SNP.” The arrest of Arthur Donaldson was to paint the SNP as dangers to British security. Suppressing the true extent of North Sea Oil was about “taking the wind out of the SNP’s sails.” The reconvening of the Scottish Parliament was meant to “kill nationalism stone dead.” And, of course, a No vote was meant to see off independence for at least a generation, if not once and for all.
We’ve already seen Private Eye write pieces on Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh, Michelle Thomson, Ian Blackford, and Tommy Sheppard in their “The New Boys and Girls” column, which seems a mildly disproportionate number of SNP MPs studied compared to the number of new Conservative and Labour members (4 of 8 covered so far from a party that makes up only 27% of 2015’s new MPs). The establishment tried to drag Mhairi Black’s reputation through the muck prior to the election, and was almost certainly a factor in Ian Murray scraping through. And we saw what happened when Nicola Sturgeon was starting to look like a better Prime Ministerial candidate than anyone actually in the running for the job. In every case, it was ultimately the SNP as a party – not just the individuals involved – which was the target of attack.
And the establishment, once again, have no-one to blame for themselves. Are they not the ones who constantly equated the Scottish independence movement with Alex Salmond and his “separatist dream” even after he stepped down as First Minister? Are they not the same people who present Nicola Sturgeon’s incredible popularity as “proof” of a sinister personality cult? Do they not personalise the thoughts, dreams and aspirations of hundreds of thousands as the will and diktat of a few individuals? And are we not already seeing them tarring the entire SNP by the allegations made against one of their members?
When it comes to the mainstream media, an attack on any SNP member is an attack on us all. Their rules, not ours.
Eyes on the prize.