2007 - 2021

A Premature Keening for the Independence Movement

Amidst much doom and gloom, the professional mourners of the unionist press are out wailing and keening. David Torrance was on fine form on Radio 4 this morning combining a gloriously gloomy line with some barely concealed glee. He was repeating his line that “…my sense of the atmosphere at Holyrood is one of decay, as if the life has gone out of the FM, the SNP and the independence project”.

Cut to funereal music as the waxy countenance of the First Minister beams out from a Soviet style casket on parade, a saltire gracefully draped, perhaps a quaich filled with Irn-Bru, with a purvey featuring (non Tunnocks) teacakes and generous libations of uisge-beatha.

But that’s not ‘my sense’ at all.

What has happened is a very important turning point in that the SNP has realised that there is a whole grassroots movement out there that needs connected with, supported and recognised. This is not an easy thing for a professional modern political party to do, but that is what is happening. That is what’s about to happen.

Here’s what the (very much alive) First Minister said that was significant:

“We will seek to support, engage and grow the movement, and build the case…That is what my party will do. We won’t do it on our own – because the independence case is bigger than us too. We will seek to support, engage and grow the movement, and build the case…we will engage openly and inclusively with, and work as part of, the wider independence movement.”


We have seen politicians smeared and demeaned unsuccessfully in recent weeks and pundits like Torrance left looking clueless and disoriented. Here’s some of my favourite examples:

“The outcome of the 2017 General Election is not in doubt; the Conservatives will win a majority similar to that gained by one of Theresa May’s predecessors 30 years ago, almost to the day. Labour will be crushed.” – Former Labour MP Tom Harris, Daily Telegraph, 19 April. The Tory majority in 1987 was, er, 102.

“In terms of share of the vote, Labour’s result in June will draw comparisons with Michael Foot’s disastrous campaign against Margaret Thatcher in 1983.” – Former Labour MP Tom Harris, Daily Telegraph, 19 April. Labour’s share in 1983 was 27.6 percent, compared with 40 percent in 2017.

“My own view is that despite the twists and turns of this increasingly surreal campaign, Corbyn will struggle to significantly exceed the 31 percent Ed Miliband achieved in 2015, while Theresa May is locked in with about 45 percent of the vote. Anything less than a Conservative majority in excess of 100 seats would be surprising… May has faltered. On Thursday, the British people will come to her rescue.” – Dan Hodges, Mail on Sunday, 4 June

“Corbyn may even succeed in his real objective of beating the 30 percent Miliband achieved for Labour – but in an old-fashioned two-party contest that won’t prevent the Conservatives winning their biggest parliamentary majority since Margaret Thatcher’s in 1987.” – Dominic Lawson, Sunday Times, 4 June

“General Election Seat by Seat: My final predictions – A Tory Landslide is Still On.” – Iain Dale, iaindale.com, 5 June. As polls tightened, the broadcaster and publisher revised his predicted Tory majority from 134 down to 122.

Rumour Tories could be looking at 400 seats – we’ll find out in a min.” – Tweet from Steve Hawkes, Sun deputy political editor, just ahead of exit poll on 8 June

“Mrs May isn’t just kicking Corbyn when he’s down, she’s dug his political grave, prepared the coffin, set the date for the funeral service and invited us all to attend his career death. Many, even within his own party, believe it will be the greatest slaughter in the history of British politics. I think it could be worse than that… if Corbyn leads Labour into this General Election on 8 June, I fear he’s going to get beaten so badly the party itself may never recover and Britain will move forward with no viable opposition party.” – Piers Morgan, Mail Online, 18 April

The reality was a disappointment to many of these professional shrewdsters…

The writer Dougald Hine has talked about us living in an era of ‘radical uncertainty’. The political crisis is reflected  in a media crisis in which:

“The regular mechanisms of political narration are breaking down. The pollsters lose confidence in their methods, the pundits struggle to offer authoritative explanations for events that they laughed off as wild improbabilities only months before.”

So we are living in a period of real disorientation where sense-making has become a vital craft, not an indulgence. Unfortunately a lot of these commentators are so embedded within the system they are supposed to be commenting on that they are often incapable of getting a perspective on it. That’s why we get the Draculian prophesies from David Torrance or the gleeful nihilism of Tom Harris. The problem of course is their entire careers are predicated on opining with huge self-confidence … strutting male ego across print, screen and airwaves, pontificating endlessly, trying desperately to suppress their wishful thinking (‘Labour must die, indy must die…’).

Angela Haggerty, the editor of CommonSpace has a different perspective on the Nicola Sturgeons’s statement to Holyrood:

“Not an awful lot has changed. Sturgeon’s plan had always been to hold a referendum at the conclusion of the Brexit process. What’s different here is the timing of the technicality of the process, but the section 30 order still stands and the central proposition remains the same. Only something unexpected on the Brexit front – or a sudden collapse in indy support, which hasn’t happened since 2014 – would be likely to change things now. Meanwhile, the independence movement – which is much wider than the SNP and is made up of much more radical and visionary elements and grassroots groups – is continuing to build the case for indy at pace, and today’s announcement was essentially getting a green light after being stuck on amber since the General Election. The vital point is this: the indy movement must find the answers to the big questions that were obstacles in 2014 (economy, currency, pensions etc), and in my humble wee opinion it must communicate a wider array of options for Scotland’s eventual relationship with Europe. The SNP is absolutely pro-EU, but the movement can take a broader position which takes into account many of the reservations people have about EU structures. This can be done with a pro-European, pro-immigration spirit at its heart and will defeat attempts by the right to exploit a gap in the conversation.”

Lesley Riddoch also has a different understanding about what’s just happened, and what’s just about to happen:

Decay and Renewal

Decay? You talk of decay? When it is announced today that “The DUP has secured the promise of a law designed to shield British security forces from prosecution over Troubles killings as part of its agreement to prop up the Conservative government.” On the day when – too late far too late – some semblance of justice is being served for the Hillsborough disaster, and as the horrors of Grenfell Tower are barely beginning to be revealed, the levels of deception, cover-up and vested interests in British society are on show. On this day it is not the nascent Scottish state that is the issue. The level of depravity and brokeness of the British state seems to be emerging in clearer and clearer form. The level of disquiet and growing anger across Britain seems to be self-evident.

Meanwhile there are key emergent groups who have been working for some time and are building the infrastructure and the network for a renewed independence movement – one that reclaims the energy and organisational models of 2014 (self-organisation, multiple leadership, a radical imagination, diversity) but also has the maturity to have learned key lessons from that time.

At the same time the First Ministers announcement takes the wind out of the sails of the over-hyped Conservative leaders rhetoric. Ruth Davidson has had one soundbite on a loop now for about six months. Having re-set the timing of the potential referendum, this now makes the Tory leaders chuntering look like a dull misdirection. A Colonel riding on a One Trick Pony being cheered to the rafters as she gallops around the paddock. But her Secretary of State looks fatally wounded by his role (or lack of role) in the DUP deal and her new MPs look impotent and unsettled. If its a difficult task for SNP MPs to go down to Westminster and look useful (and it is), how much more difficult is it for Scottish Tory MPs to do this and not look like hopeless useless apologists for a regime their country didn’t vote for?

The idea that anyone’s going anywhere, the idea that this movement is dead is forlorn wishful thinking.

So let’s hold the funeral plans. Cancel the hearse. Disband the cortege.

As the Edinburgh survivor Joseph McIvor said appearing from beneath the rubble: “”Heave awa’ lads, I’m no’ deid yet!”

Comments (17)

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  1. Steve Bowers says:

    We’re a very long way from deid, this is just a wee breath of air before we carry on.
    I for one will still be having the conversation every day several times a day. I’ll be asking grannies to listen to what their grandchildren want for their future and asking those grandchildren to speak to their grannies to help them take a new future.

    One step at a time, one provoking thought at a time, we will win.

  2. Davie Park says:

    My concern is that the ‘radical and visionary’ left, in their drive to set the terms of independence, will alienate those of us who do not share that vision. Conceptions of an indy Scotland have to be inclusive without, of course, being cautious and insipid.

    1. Barbara Smith says:

      Then we just have to make our gentle voices stay constant.

  3. Crubag says:

    The big difference now is that the referendum will be held after exiting the EU. Which actually opens up a whole range of possible futures for discussion.

    For the SNP, their next step will be the publication of the Growth Commission report, which was expected to look at issues like currency. Given the advent of the Age of Corbyn, I wonder if that will now be revisited to allow for more state intervention.

  4. Jac gallacher says:

    What on earth are Ruth D Wee willie Rennie and kez going to talk about on interviews now

  5. Jac gallacher says:

    What on earth are Ruth D, Wee willie Rennie and kez going to talk about on interviews now

  6. Willie says:

    Independence has not gone away. That is for absolute sure.

    Our day will come and it will come naturally. The relentless MSM and BBC bias will not prevail.

    1. Alin Scot says:

      It’s not a natural order of things, a majority of the people must want it. Independence is the product we sell, what are its key features and benefits over the product we currently use?

  7. Richard MacKinnon says:

    Torrance is right, Sturgeon is depressed. So she should be. What Nicola Sturgeon, is aware of, as Torrance, Davidson, and all realistic honest Scots, of all opinion realise is, the road to independence has run out.
    Of course Sturgeon is depressed. Not only has she seen her dream of an independent Scotland disappear, she is now in charge of a large political party and a movement with aspirations she knows can never be achieved.
    The SNP are the government in Scotland running an administration that’s day job is (whisper it) implementing austerity for a Conservative government at Westminster. Slicing up a cake that gets smaller every year. I don’t fancy that as a career choice.

    1. Alf Baird says:

      You are basically right Richard, all Holyrood can do is dole out an ever diminishing Westminster budget to mostly the same waiting hands year on year (NHS, councils, calmac et al), albeit with a wee tartan tinge. Even the term ‘Executive’ was probably too ambitious a description for this. Nicola should have had the 56 SNP MP’s and her Holyrood majority pay a visit to the UN back in 2015; instead the SNP settled into unionism’s warm water, and are now drowning in it.

  8. Alin Scot says:

    I do hope the Growth Commission report will have been worth the wait as it will be torn to shreds by all who oppose us and will then be used to beat us over the head with twisted and distorted facts and might ending up doing more harm than good. It will also be packed with huge detail totally over the heads of voters to whom it will be one big yawn and in turn they will depend on the MSM for their information.

    Hopefully, it might actually provide some answers to doorstep queries when out canvassing. At the recent local and general elections, the SNP provided no answers to the many questions being asked on the doorstep and these were mainly about independence. That was not a surprise as the SNP re-introduced the indyref2 topic but did nothing about it except provide a great platform for the opposition to attack us.

    With the current “reset” we have bought a little time but not much. The SNP requires two divisions, one to be the government and one to promote the independence cause, doing both together is simply not producing the required results.

    Perhaps the SNP should set up a formal independence body and then stand back but maybe have a couple of seats on it along with other independence minded organisations and properly funded. A real orator at the top who can think on his/her feet is essential and such a person should be carefully selected by demonstration of abilities. As said elsewhere, Blair Jenkins was too nice, a bit laid back, attacks were weak and given to endless detail.

    1. Alf Baird says:

      “set up a formal independence body ”

      A good idea. When the 56 SNP MP’s were elected in 2015 I suggested they should establish shadow Scottish ministries for reserved powers, i.e. defence, foreign affairs, trade, treasury etc. They could have used their office and researcher allowances to pay for a building and staff. That strategy could have been used to inform Scots how an independent Scotland would function and how it would seek do things differently from Westminster, also preparing the ground for independence, and making the SNP look like a more serious option. However they decided to set up their wee constituency shops and become absorbed into the unionist parliament like any other unionist MP might do. Another option now might be to establish a Scottish Decolonization Commission, and park it in an office just outside the UN’s door, next to the few remaining UK territories still seeking independence and endeavouring, in the UN’s words, to “end the scourge of colonization”.

  9. Redgauntlet says:

    “Those about to take a great leap forward are obliged to take a few steps back….”

  10. Geacher says:

    morituri te salutant
    Independence is dead and you guys interpret that twitching as a sign of life. It ain’t, it is rigor mortis setting in. The abysmal performance on the economy, (official recession here we come), massive failure in our schools (shameful stuff), the worst pc GDP deficit in Europe and no currency plan formulated.
    THAT is why you lost almost half a million voters a few weeks ago. Goodnight, and don’t forget to put out the light on the way out.

    1. Redguantley says:

      Ohhhhhhhhh! Are you David Torrance languishing under the guise of a different beard? Should your surname not be newbeard?

      Rule Britania
      Britania rules the waves
      Britons never, never, never
      Shall be slaves…

      Sing along with Farage, mate.

      It’s you Brit nats who are deluded, not us. Ask any European. Except Mari Le Pen obviously….

    2. BarraGirl says:

      You make a very compelling case for Scottish independence Geacher, given that the problems you cite only highlight that it’s the FAILED Union suffering from terminal rigor mortis.

      FAILED Westminster economic policy, bringing Scotland to the brink of recession (again).

      Falling attainment in Scotland as a direct result of the Tories’ FAILED austerity regime (increased child poverty/Scottish budget cut in real terms).

      Rectifying Westminster’s FAILED management of, and tax structure for, North Sea oil would go a long way to dealing with Scotland’s ‘deficit’. An independent Scotland could mirror the Norwegian model, instead of missing out on hundreds of billions in oil revenue:


      And oil is just one small, but clearly not insignificant, part of Scotland’s resources. It’s a given that an independent Scotland would choose to do things differently, rather than follow the FAILED Westminster policies that created the deficit.

      As far as a currency plan goes, the Common Weal’s paper on Scottish currency options is worth a read, if you aren’t up to speed on the subject:


      It does look like our own independent currency is the way to go, although the Growth Commission will no doubt set out its preferred option in its own report. Nicola Sturgeon already confirmed a few months ago that using the pound would be the starting point, until the preferred option was sorted out. The currency issue truly is a non-issue, all newly independent states manage to find a workable solution, Scotland would be no different.

      As for the decrease in SNP votes (ignoring the unique circumstances of 2015 that resulted in the SNP taking 95% of Scottish seats, up from 10% in 2010!), their supporters were hardly enthused to get out and vote in a snap GE called by an arrogant Theresa May looking for a thumping majority. Now that Nicola Sturgeon has given a rallying green light to the Yes Movement that ‘now is the time’ to start building support for independence, this will certainly enthuse and motivate their supporters, for a cause more worthy than a pointless snap election.

      You May be disappointed Geacher, but support for independence is alive and kicking and about to become turbo-charged, as the inevitable disaster of Brexit negotiations play out in the coming months.

    3. Redgauntlet says:

      Geacher, tell me please, I’m curious: what’s it like to be on the same side of an argument as Nigel Farage and Marie Le Pen?

      What’s it like to be a rancid fascist?

      That’s what you Unionists are, rancid, two bit fascists…

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