Time To Be Brave

Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.
John Quincy Adams

Last week was perhaps the darkest I’ve felt since the 19th of September 2014.

Today, that darkness lifted, and I started to hope again.

I know enough about myself that, when the chips are down, I will not let my friends down, even if it comes at a great cost to my personal pride. I know that if I feel strongly enough about something contentious that matters to me, I will speak my mind, even if it upsets or alienates me from people I care about. I just wish I exercised some bravery before it came to the boiling point – where I feel utterly disgusted not only with people I considered heroes and even friends, but with myself, for not doing more when I could.

Worse still, is the party that I spent so much time, effort, and in many cases literal blood, sweat, & tears, seemed determined to let me down. I looked back at all the articles I wrote where I seemed so optimistic, so vibrant, so hopeful. I mind rallying support for the SNP, because there was no way – I thought – that the SNP would just let the UK walk all over the wishes of Scotland’s people. I never thought that the SNP would just allow the UK to drag Scotland out of the EU against our will. I was certain that they would not effectively abandon their central manifesto commitment to hold an independence referendum within these very circumstances over the course of the 2016 Parliament, a mandate repeated multiple times over 2 subsequent UK elections. I thought I was SNP until independence was done.

Unfortunately, a lot happens over the course of six years, which is the time I spent in the SNP. I was a Press Officer for Greenock & Inverclyde; I worked on the campaigns to get Ronnie Cowan & Stuart McMillan elected in 2015 & 2016; I campaigned in the EU Referendum in 2016. The 24th of June 2016 should have been the beginning of the next campaign for Scottish independence. I felt my heart soaring seeing the First Minister promising that this Material Change in Circumstances would lead to a second Scottish Independence Referendum – and that it would result in Yes.

That was almost five years ago. Every year, there was a promise of a referendum, only for the year to tick over without one. Every assurance rang hollow. I recall all the hollow promises of another party – that if you vote for us, you’ll get Home Rule; that we’ll abolish the House of Lords; that Scotland’s voice will not be forgotten again. Instead, that party spent over a decade in power resolutely failing to deliver anything beyond the bare minimum. The Scottish Parliament had to be wrested from their clutches by European intervention; the House of Lords has more “socialist” peers than any point in history; Scotland’s voice is routinely ignored even in opposition. That party was reduced from 40 MPs to 1 in 2015, because they cashed cheques they didn’t have a hope of delivering.

There comes a point where you cannot suffer the indignity of defending the indefensible any more. I recall my antipathy at the SNP voting to relax bans on the horrific practice of tail docking at the same time they were making overtures on fox hunting in England. I could scarcely believe it when I saw the Deputy First Minister meeting with wealthy, exploitative landowners. I was aghast to see the First Minister of our nation proudly taking selfies with the man behind forging a case for an illegal war. And I couldn’t understand hearing SNP members – independence supporters – actively booing someone at conference for the temerity of suggesting there may be more than one route to independence. The active sabotage of the NEC, the loss of hundreds of thousands of pounds through utter negligence, and the ostracisation of party stalwarts of decades’ service was beyond petty and actively self-destructive. There are other cruelties – more personal betrayals – which I will not share, because this post is depressing enough as it is.

This is what my friends who are still in the SNP will find difficult to understand: if the Alba Party did not exist, I would still not be voting SNP 1/2 this election. Too much has happened which has utterly shattered my faith for me to even consider it. Far from jeopardising my vote, the Alba Party has saved it: instead of scrawling the word “independence” over the ballot sheet, I have a party to vote for. I am far from alone. “But what about the Greens?” The Greens supported the SNP right at the moment they needed to be brave, and with suppositions that they may find cabinet jobs even if the SNP achieve a majority, there seems little difference between voting SNP & Green at this point in time anyway.

The chief failing of the Other Party is one of complete, bullish, relentless resistance to self-reflection. Absolutely no attempt at looking inward seems to be forthcoming in their search to wonder why so many activists, supporters, and members are leaving. Too many of them – too many of my friends – fall into exactly the same trap in the SNP. The problem, as they see it, isn’t with the party – it’s with the former members and voters, for not sticking with the party. But why? Are they stupid, somehow misguided? Were they never independence supporters to begin with? Or are they people who aren’t willing to put up with the same indignities and humiliations for the party that we are?

You cannot dismiss us so easily, any more than the Other Party could dismiss everyone who joined the SNP in the wake of 2014. You can do what made the SNP the true Party of Scotland not so long ago – a positive campaign that will garner support, and deliver on the promises made. You can make the case, and as I said in every election I campaigned for the SNP, any success or failure comes down to the party themselves. Would you rather folk like me stayed home than voted for something they believed in?

As ever, none of this is said with malice or hatred: it is through the deepest of sadness and sorrow. Many in the SNP are still among my closest friends. I know they will be campaigning Both Votes SNP too. I do not regret a single day of my campaigning for the SNP: even with everything that’s happened, they remain some of the most fulfilling and unforgettable days of my life. I wish the people in the SNP who I know are in it for the Cause every success, and dearly hope they can steer the ship rightly. Alas, they must do it without me from now on.

Again, just as I said back when Both Votes SNP was my mantra too – whichever way you vote, do it with your heart and conscience. That way, every vote counts.


24 thoughts on “Time To Be Brave

  1. Iain Cameron says:

    Excellent post. I can associate with the sentiments.

  2. duncfmac says:

    Very poignant and thoughtful. Mirrors our journey. This is not a time for point scoring and for those of us who have made this step it’s with sadness but in line with what we believe. Thank you.

  3. xsticks says:

    You often so eloquently sum up the way so many of us feel Al. It’s uplifting to know we’re not alone. Thank you.

  4. JustMe says:

    Pretty much sums up what I think too. I’ve grown more and more weary of the SNP over that last 5 years. They’ve lost focus on independence. Their reaction to the Alba party is like watching toddlers having a tantrum. They are mirroring Labours mistakes in Scotland and taking their voters for granted.
    I too had decided to spoil my constituency vote, but my message would have been #womenwontweesht.
    Listening to AS speak on Friday so passionately about independence was such a refreshing change, and made me realise we hadn’t heard anything like that in years. He convinced me to vote SNP on the constituency and of course I’ll be voting Alba for the regional vote.
    Haven’t felt this much hope for Scotland in ages.

  5. junemax says:

    Well done for adhering to your personal principles. Somtimes that’s a hard and lonley road to travel. But not this time. You have many fellow travellers who understand your every emotion.

  6. Gerald Keogh says:

    I feel very much the same of what has been written without a shred of bitterness just stating only what you feel.

  7. You are not alone, Al. I too have been on that journey and was, if I’m honest, slipping into despair and hopelessness too until the events of Friday.
    I have felt again since Friday the rebirth of hope and enthusiasm, tempered with the embarrassment of the SNP’s infantile reaction to the news.
    The contrast between this and Alex’s dignified and conciliatory manner is stark.

  8. Ronnie Anderson says:

    We.ve all been on a journey of disappointment after disappointment with the SNP I feel sorry for all those stalwarts that slogged up & down the streets delivering campaign leaflets Mr gatling would be proud at the rate the SNP fired their core support .
    Well written Al give my love to Geraldine & you didn’t take my advice before but I can’t help thinking there will be books written on this whole saga & I know You would be the manny to do justice Take Care AL .

  9. Gerald Keogh says:

    If only I could lose about three scores of my years for more drive to be able to at least equal the younger one’s efforts for what’s ahead.

  10. John says:

    A good article, however I cant help but think your reasons for dismay with with SNP are flawed. Do we want indy sooner? Yes, but we also need to negotiate leaving with both the UK and the EU…. negotiations would have been much tougher without a section 30 mandate. If we get a majority and Boris refuses, that would be the time to up the ante. We need to get this right folks. Look at Quebec, a 2nd failure would end the movement for our lifetimes. Surely having stuck with Sturgeon for so long we should hang in there now we are so close? Salmond will never return now to frontline politics and the Alba party looks a bit like a political stunt that threatens to fracture the movement.

    • lilou57 says:

      Actually I see Alba benefitting the SNP. Many had decided they were not voting SNP in the constituency but have now decided they will do it one last time, while voting Alba on the list. We will have to wait and see.

  11. Paris Rose says:

    When I read your article it described exactly how I have been feeling. We can now follow what we truly believe in. SNP make promises and have had the monopoly for so long but we really need to have Alba as an insurance policy for our investment in them. Not only are we maximising the vote for independence by doing so we are also opening up an avenue that allows for healthy debates and politics for Scotland. Truth is what people believe it to be and for some it is different to others. Having one independent party did not allow us to feel that our opinions were being heard or valuable.

  12. Mairianna Clyde says:

    I share that frustration and despair too. But I also question the negativity towards the SNP because it seems to me that independence is undeliverable. The block is the UK Government. How exactly is a supermajority at Holyrood going to shift it, especially if half the electorate thinks the supermajority is unconstitutional and lacking in legitimacy? Has it ever occurred to you that the UK Government could declare the election void? We are simply stuck unless we declare UDI and you can’t do that on around 50% support for independence. We had our chance of escape in 2014 and we totally blew it. It is absolutely tragic. And as for Alba, I fear that they will be divisive. I think those who’ve joined as candidates have spotted a quick way into an MSP’s salary. Alex Salmond is the most talented politician we have ever had but he is also flawed by hubris and motivated by revenge. Do you honestly think Nicola Sturgeon is going to cooperate with a man bent on undermining her authority? Do you honestly think the Scottish people are going to have much faith in Scottish independence watching those two doing a Punch and Judy act? It’s early days, but I am not really seeing how a supermajority is any better than a working majority, except for harassing Nicola Sturgeon. Which in my view is the aim. Yet what does it achieve? But that could misfire and cause support to drop. It could also bring dysfunction and provide a pretext for Westminster or the Secretary of State to intervene. If it were not for their bitter feud, I would feel a lot more hopeful. But it’s naive to think they could cooperate. He is there simply to be her nemesis, and really, I am a bit sick of all the flak she gets. She does have a strategy. A carefully worked out one. She published the Referendum bill, paving the way for a referendum, using the 2016 powers. Then she’s published Scotland’s Right to Choose (December 2019) outlining the international law case. Then (March 2021) she’s published the Independence Referendum Act, which if she’s returned with a working majority, will become law. What will happen if Westminster blocks it and what she will then do, we have yet to see. But she is pursuing a legal constitutional route, whilst trying to combat poverty. So, tell me, what will a supermajority actually be able to do that a working majority couldn’t? Does it have an army, a treasury, a central bank? How does it magically compel Boris to negotiate? He could just ignore it like he ignores everything else we say. I’m only seeing trouble ahead for us. I hope I am wrong. I am sorry to ask hard questions. But we need to think about how we tackle Westminster saying no. I think Sturgeon’s strategy is a preamble. She is setting out to show she has tried every reasonable lawful constitutional approach.

    • Robert McAllan says:

      Mairianna, by whose authority do you have it that Alex Salmond is motivated by revenge and would you have conclusive evidence to support your assertion that Alex Salmond is a man hell bent on undermining the authority of Nicola Sturgeon?

      You pre-suppose so much that is difficult to ascertain whether your commitment is to Independence or the Nicola Sturgeon project.

      My question to you is simply this, why under the stewardship of Nicola Sturgeon has the SNP singularly failed to activate mandates and campaign on a MANIFESTO FOR INDEPENDENCE?


  13. A C Bruce says:

    I want Independence and have done for many decades but this time I wasn’t going to vote at all.

    Gradualism, “we won’t be dragged out of the EU” but we have been, erosion of women’s rights, ignoring the harassment of Joanna Cherry and others (that was horrifying) and a complete lack of commitment to an Independence Referendum from Nicola Sturgeon are some of the reasons – the FM always manages to stop short of actually confirming there will be one leading me to believe that the SNP would let the matter slide for years.

    Since ALBA I will now vote, but it will definitely NOT be SNP/SNP; I will be voting SNP/ALBA – holding my nose when voting SNP, mind you, and a bit happier when voting ALBA.

    I’m sad it has come to this as I had such high hopes and placed my faith in the SNP – although not a member – but I want ALBA in our Parliament pressuring our FM as to what s/he is doing to advance the cause of Independence which is, after all, the reason SNP was set up.

  14. Cactus says:

    Hey Al, our X marks the spot.

  15. Gerald Keogh says:

    My thoughts are mainly negative on the SNP but I shall not discuss them with anyone. I have now signed up with ALBA after a full year of thinking about leaving the SNP, and to all my dedicated friends in the SNP, I believe that I shall be losing a good number of you because of my right to change. For those who think or even chastise me for doing what I firmly believe to be an honest and reasonable decision on my part with no bitterness involved at all, I can only assume that they have no idea of my nature as a fair-minded person. I shall be using my 1-2 vote for SCOTLAND.

  16. Cactus says:

    It’s a beautiful day for Alba Scotland. 🙂

  17. Cactus says:

    Take a freeway ride.

    Here’s a song to go with it:

  18. Cactus says:

    Aye see a half moon within the sunny Scottish sky, what do you see?

  19. Cactus says:

    Summer is everywhere.

  20. cactusaye says:

    Another beautiful day in Alba Scotland Al.

    Summer just keeps getting better…


  21. cactusaye says:

    Anything and everything is possible, Scotland.

    Cest bon oui Alba x.

    Be Brave.

  22. […] the most important election in Scotland’s recent history, and Alba only came on the scene a few short weeks ago. Since then, they have ignited a fire and an enthusiasm among independence supporters like me, […]

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