It is said that those whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad. It may well be that a war neurosis stirred up by propaganda of fear and hatred is the prelude to destruction.
– John Boyd Orr
Next month, in some wonderful alternate universe, Scots could well be celebrating their independence. Unfortunately, in the one we currently reside, we won’t be – not yet, at least. Instead, we’ll be treated to a rash of smug, condescending “told ye so” opinion pieces presented as the wrought-iron of fact, as Londoncentric journalists queue up to crow about just how lucky us Scots are that we weren’t independent. “Oil!” “Debt!” “Pound!” “Crisis!” A strong front-runner dashed out the gates a few weeks early, as Fraser Nelson hit every anti-independence note in a glorious pish-gallop:
More generous pensions, a fairer education system, protection from welfare cuts – all bankrolled by huge oil revenues which the SNP expected to come flooding in from the North Sea. Now all that has changed, and changed utterly.
Ah, the oil revenues, that magnificent Straw Colossus – a Strawlossus, if you will – bestriding the banks of the Tweed, willingly dismissing the many riches, resources and innovations of Scotland’s economy as unremarkable flotsam & jetsam bobbing morosely on the volatile black seas. Oil, as unionists would have it, is the only thing that would’ve kept Scotland from tripping up on the threshold of self-determination and smashing flat on its collective coupon. Even with Scotland’s GDP being 99% that of the UK average without our geographical share. Even when the largest calculation of its percentage of Scotland’s tax base is not dissimilar to that of comparable oil-rich nations. Even when there’s plentiful evidence of at least as many benefits to a low oil price as there are disadvantages.
But because the Nevers are obsessed with knowing the price and not the value of independence, as far as they’re concerned, the oil price plummeting should have killed nationalism as surely as devolution was meant to:
Just as the discovery of North Sea oil transformed the prospects for Scottish nationalism in the 1970s, so the collapse of the oil price has destroyed its economic rationale today.
A curious conundrum: if, as the Unionists say, the SNP’s entire economic rationale has been “destroyed,” then surely – surely – support for independence would plummet accordingly? If the Yes-voting public could only see that the very foundation of the SNP’s economic argument was built on sand, then it would be ludicrous for them to ever trust the party ever again – on the economy, on public services, on anything. So many commentators in the press and media have spared no opportunity to broadcast the news: that the economic case for independence has been destroyed. For real, this time. And with it, the SNP’s credibility is shot, and the public are no fools, are they?
Only that hasn’t happened. And it’s driving the Unionist commentariat utterly insane.
Thus far, not a single poll since the General Election have shown the SNP below 50% in constituency voting intentions, and none below 40% in regional voting intentions. Not a single poll has shown any other party in the lead in either category since the month of the referendum. This, despite a significant amount of hostility within the media; despite the continuing efforts of Westminster; despite all the attempts to smear and discredit and disparage the party, its members, and its supporters. And, crucially, despite what the right-wing commentariat believes finally puts the final nail in the coffin of Scotland’s sovereignty.
It’s not supposed to be like that. The media are used to having much better luck in manufacturing consent. Take England, for example: despite austerity being almost entirely discredited as a means of deficit reduction, anything which deviates from that consensus is considered crazy, reckless socialism. Likewise with immigration, where the net benefits of free movement are swamped in a tide of dubious innuendo about benefit tourism and economic migrants. And, of course, it can’t be ignored that eleven daily/Sunday newspapers wholly or partially backed the eventual winners of the 2015 election, while the second largest party only had the support of seven.
This good fortune continues with the current leader of the nominal opposition, whose popularity with the general public is not reflective of his popularity within the membership of his party. After being humiliated by said mandate, the Blue-affiliated corners of the media embarked on a relentless, spiteful campaign that continues to this day. They sought to do to the MP for Islington North what they’ve been doing to the SNP for decades – misrepresent, vilify, monster, throwing every scrap of journalistic integrity and basic respect for democracy to the wind in the process. Unfortunately, it’s working. Poll after poll still shows the Blue Party out in front; Mr Corbyn is deemed to be lacking in Prime Ministerial “stuff”; the anti-immigration, pro-austerity, neo-liberalism-plus-ultra agenda favoured by the Blue spectrum continues to dominate the political scene.
But not in Scotland.
They try to portray the SNP as dangerous left-wing fanatics: no effect. They then try to portray them as Thatcher-lite, because apparently the SNP can be raving socialists and cynical neoliberals at the same time: didn’t dent the polls. The “one-party state” narrative tries to portray a party with hitherto unprecedented success as undemocratic: still riding high. Why isn’t it working, they scream internally.
(I have a theory that this searing hatred of the SNP from certain sources is all based on projection. Pro-independence Scots are presented as anti-English, because they cannot understand that refusing to consider your nation inferior to another is not the same as considering itself superior to all others; The case for independence is “emotional” and “irrational,” because the case for the Union is founded on rose-tinted memories of history, tradition and past glories while ignoring any calls for real scrutiny or reform. Perhaps they fear an independent Scotland would treat them the way the establishment already treats the Scots.)
And so, they go mad. In their madness, they have no conclusion other than it is the SNP-supporters of Scotland who are mad. Not the 15-20% who vote for Iain Duncan Smith’s party – it’s the 50-60% SNP voters who are crazy. Not the 30% who never want Scotland to become independent – it’s the 41% who do that have lost their minds. It isn’t the Pacific Quay Bubble that’s demented – it’s half the people of Scotland who escaped the asylum. And they rant and rave and wail even as support, belief and respect for the media follows the tabloid press down the drain, wondering just what on earth went wrong.
You’d almost think it was unfair – until you remember what’s at stake, and why “normal politics” can, will, and must, never return to Scotland.
The simple fact of the matter is that it is not enough for the other parties to defeat the SNP, to marginalise them, or to render them a little fringe party – no, for many in those parties, nothing less than the wholesale destruction of the SNP will suffice.
We agreed on most things, but I remember many discussions about my shadow cabinet post. She told me the only thing I needed to do was to destroy the SNP (Scottish National Party) who had 12 seats. I told her I can do that, but you’ll lose me. I was a pessimist.
People who voted SNP then went towards (the Other Party). I went out in the election but we wiped out the SNP and they only had one MP left.
– Sir Teddy Taylor
Essentially, the Tories just want to save the Union. We do as well, but we have a further objective and that is in destroying the SNP.
– Ian Smart
The Never Voters want to return to the old days, when independence was just a dream, and their beloved union was existentially assured. That’s what they mean by Scotland being “divided” – they cannot stand the idea that this silly little fringe idea has become mainstream. It’s ok to have different opinions, just so long as their opinion can never be challenged. Now the idea of Scotland becoming independent is no longer something that can be dismissed haughtily. Now the idea that the UK is stronger and more beloved than ever is far less convincing. Their entire world is under attack, because they cannot stand the idea that they might lose.
The SNP Bad narrative is promoted by those who see themselves being destroyed by the SNP: parties who argue that it’s better to be represented by a disgraced liar than to have no representation in Westminster at all, just so they can stop the SNP hegemony; parties who seem to think the SNP have no mandate despite their own party having the lowest support in a century and a half; parties who would rather align with their supposed greatest enemies than even consider working with the SNP. All of them are floundering in the wake of the SNP tide.
And it is in this frame that I hope the SNP and other pro-independence parties do well – at the expense of those who would destroy us. It must never be forgotten – and I will never stop bringing this up – that the three main UK parties all conspired together to prevent the referendum from ever taking place. They make a mockery of democracy to insist on encouraging people to vote in a referendum they fought tooth and nail to stop from happening to begin with.
It’s only three months until the first Scottish Parliament elections since the Great Awakening of the Scottish people. The madness has only just begun.
*This often-cited quote turns up everywhere, alternately saying “nationalism” or “the nationalists,” but for the life of me I cannot find a decent online source for it: the best I’ve found is the attached video clip, where he says “A Scottish parliament inside and strengthening the United Kingdom will kill the SNP…” Any assistance on this matter would be much appreciated.