Tuesday, 1 November 2011

It's not how you start its how you finish

One of the things about this blogging is that it can go to your head.

After I posted my blog "I Despair" all sorts of people weighed in to say what an insightful (cough, cough) piece it was. The problem was that they weren't my people. My people are still living in the fantasy land where either Johann or the other excellent candidate will, given better organisation, sweep Alex Salmond aside in four and a half years time. It appears, in their analysis, that despite Johann and Ken being respectively  the No Change Candidate and the No Hope Candidate, both would nonetheless be more than adequate to that task when the time comes. Time will tell.

In the meantime, I really, really don't like the underlying philosophy of the SNP.

There is probably no Labour figure with whom I have disagreed more, over the years, than Brian Wilson.

But in the new chapters of David Torrance's biography of Alex Salmond there is a quite brilliant insight by Brian.

The consequence of a Scottish Parliament dominated by the SNP has not been radical change but rather no change at all.

Brian makes the telling comparison with Fianna Fail. In pastiche "Until we have a United Ireland then nothing must delay its achievement"

Any since any bold policy initiative is controversial, then, to avoid controversy, avoid any bold policy. More so  still if  you start off in a minority.

We are all familiar with the  sort of newspaper letter that starts "I have always been a supporter of Party A, but because of policy B, I will never vote for them again."

So are the SNP.

Consequently, for the next four years, there will not be a policy B, or indeed a policy C, D or E. Or indeed a policy  F, G, H or.................continue to the end of the alphabet and beyond. Because if  to advance any one of these hypothetical bold policies might lose a single vote from the cause of "Independence" then it is not worth the risk.

The press reaction to the SNP's first post election legislative programme was a snore fest. But the Scottish Government's response was not to address this on its merits but rather to try to move the agenda back on to the national question. Because, for them, that is the only question which is really important.

Now at this point I could happily set off on a list of things which ought actually to be important to the Scottish Government, starting with the poverty of opportunity which afflicts so many of our young people. But that would require me to have opinions and make judgements. And, regretttably, neither opinions or judgements
are the way to prosper in current Scottish politics. As I  fear either Johann or the other excellent candidate might be about to demonstrate to their temporary advantage.


  1. I'm a former Labour voter; and probably a future one too - in an independent Scotland, so I want the party to do well and share Ian's frustration with the calibre of the leadership candidates.

    However, I can't see how policies telling us Scots that the price of alcohol is going up because all else has failed to stop us drinking to dangerous excess, radical reform of the police & fire services and legislating to tackle sectarianism - whether one agrees with the details of the policies or not (I, myself am not uncritical of some of them) can be described as "avoid[ing] any bold policy".

    I share the SNP's analysis that education, poverty, employment and health improvements are stifled by the current constitutional arrangements and so agree that independence should be the number one priority as a means of giving ourselves the tools to improve. Ian disagrees. Naturally, that's fine; but it's not accurate to say that everything else - especially challenging social policies - are standing still.

  2. I think that comparisons of Irish and Scottish politics, especially if Fianna Fail are to feature prominently, invite lines of argument that can only end in unpleasantness.

    On the subject of legislative inactivity, I'm all for it. "Don't just do something, sit there!" Living in a country which survived quite lengthy periods of no government with no obvious ill-effects - admittedly they weren't as long as the recent one but Belgium hasn't collapsed yet - I never understood why "doing less, better" was greeted with so much derision in Scotland. I'd have thought it would be beyond dispute that quality of legislation should be preferred to quantity. And even if higher quality were unattainable, there would still be less bad legislation simply because there was less legislation. Or is that too optimistic?

  3. Like the first poster, I'm a former Labour voter, and my yet be again after Independence, especially as the opportunity will be there to properly join and cut out the dark heart of London Labour that afflicts the Reds.

    The reason I emphasise this is that it is precisely the boldness of the SNP that I find so appealing about them. Leaving aside independence (the boldest suggestion of all), they have embarked on a range of legislative intentions that completely overshadow the entirety of the preceding Lab-Lib coalition's achievements, except for the smoking ban.

    People remember transformative legislation, whatever their perception of it, and Salmond et al know this. They are completely overhauling emergency services in Scotland, imposing a floor on alcohol pricing, drawing ire from just about everyone for legislating against sectarian hate crimes and have invested the proceeds of crime into a Communities Fund that, amongst other things, was used to ensure the financial viability of the Scottish Football League Cup.

    All of which begs the question, is there another, determinedly less timid SNP Ian Smart is talking about? Because he's certainly not referring to the one elected by the Scottish people in May 2011