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.