The Pressure Cooker of Scottish Politics

A Scottish voter, with even a cursory glance at traditional or social media, could be forgiven for thinking the SNP is playing out a bizarre re-enactment of a Shakespeare tragedy. The lines they speak are particularly difficult to comprehend unless you are well versed in the lingo. The plot twists and turns and there is definitely a Macbeth or two out there with paranoid delusions.

However, I write this in the aftermath of the monthly branch meeting with over forty people glued to a screen for the ubiquitous Zoom call. The agenda was skewed towards preparations and activity for the Scottish Parliament elections. Candidate was present and correct. Agent and organiser feeding in key timelines and next steps. 

Yet, there was a tension in the air which would have been palpable if we were gathered in a physical room but nonetheless was present. The Convener deftly opened up discussion to any other issues and the floodgates opened: why does it appear there are schisms in the party? What about Plan B?

Unlike social media, the questions were asked respectfully even though no one in the room had the authority, specific insight or evidence to answer definitively. Suggestions were made as to what was wrong. Occasionally a sane voice would point out that some matters were in a due process and may become clearer by the end of next week. No one actually named an individual but it soon became clear what were the issues that specifically bothered them.

After all the polite discussion, it became increasingly clear to most members present; the Scottish Parliament elections are the only important thing for the SNP for the next twelve weeks. Securing an SNP majority is the only mandate that opponents locally and in London will have to concede on. 

It’s only natural when the occasional member, who no one has seen at a branch meeting before let alone come out and deliver a leaflet, joins in and questions why the SNP are not talking about independence more. Rather more alarming when an SNP councillor echoes that angst. The gentle retort was swift from many angles: you do know we have a pandemic to cope with over the past year and this wasn’t the time to be engaging the electorate in our prime motive, when their very existence was in doubt? Why, if the SNP is not talking about independence, is support for independence at its highest ever levels and consistently so for the past twenty polls? 

Comment after comment in the chat bar retold anecdotes of neighbours, friends and family who had previously voted No in 2014 now being so impressed by the First Minister that they are going to vote SNP for the first time. The SNP councillor remained silent, however, when asked what they had personally done to promote independence from their privileged position of local power.

Likewise, the frustration of a lack of Plan B spilled over. National Assembly hadn’t won over as many as it may have hoped for and the establishment of an NEC working group for a Plan B was clearly not understood. Again, and again, the debate came back to one simple fact. If we don’t win Plan A, then all the talk in the world of a Plan B is just that; hot air. 

Two hours of perfectly civilised debate released a steam valve on the pressure cooker of internal SNP politics and that little bit of local democracy was all the better for it. Resolute we go forward to 6th May with one agenda: Both Votes SNP. With a swing of 4% in our region and even winning every seat, we are still likely to win a regional list seat. This member took heart from our branch meeting and I hope the party nationally does too.