Thursday, September 9, 2010

Radical Times

The current debate among Scottish nationalists appears to be about whether or not it might be best for the SNP to lose next year’s Scottish elections, leaving the Labour Party to take the blame for implementing London’s impending budget cuts.

The argument appears to be that if the SNP wins the May 2011 elections, they will be forced to pass on Westminster’s promised budget cuts, and the Scottish press will paint the SNP as willing Vichy partners in the Tory devastation of Scottish society.

So if the SNP were to lose this election, so the argument goes, it wouldn’t really matter. Labour would get the blame for the subsequent cuts, and Scots would remember they were offered an alternative, and avoid making the same mistake in 2015.

At first sight, this argument appears to have merit. For a moment I started to believe it myself. After careful consideration, however, I now see there are huge flaws with this strategy. One is that it relies on Scots coming to blame Labour for the Tory cuts, when for four years the Unionist press in Scotland would be singing in perfect harmony that it is not Labour’s fault, but the Tories.

But there is a bigger problem. This strategy would lead many in the SNP to conclude that it’s better simply to give up now without a fight, to stop campaigning and take a break.

The Labour Party, not to mention the British Establishment, would like nothing better.

Consider this: if Labour knows that savage cuts are coming in Scotland, why on earth do they want to win this election so badly? Because they know that an SNP victory will probably mean more SNP seats in Holyrood. Which will be one step nearer a majority, and Scotland will be one step nearer a referendum and independence.

But if the SNP were to lose, everything that has been achieved in the past three years will be swept away as if it never happened. A massive opportunity will have been missed. Momentum will be lost. Scottish independence will be taken off the political agenda for four more years, possibly longer.

That is what is at stake here. That is why the SNP and its activists must do their utmost to win this election, fighting tooth and nail, down to the wire.

Whatever happens, the SNP must hold Holyrood, and Labour must never be allowed into power in Scotland again.

The question is, though, how to achieve this? How to fire up the troops, especially with so much self-doubt in the air, after deciding not even to demand a referendum?

On the referendum, let me say that Alex Salmond was absolutely right to take it off the table for now.

First, this move has caught the Unionist parties off guard. Their printing presses were already set to say ‘Waste Of Money At Such Hard Times’, and ‘Salmond’s Vanity Project All In Vain,’ etc. They thought they knew what was next, and they were wrong.

Second, it has made the SNP rank and file wake up. Many were quite happy to sit back for the next eight months and ‘leave it to Alex’. The rigmarole of the voted-down referendum would fire up Scotland to vote the SNP back in. Sure. That’s all it would take. And all the voted down legislation for the past three years has had exactly the same effect. Scots are simply livid about Unionist obstruction on a minimum pricing for alcohol. They are marching in the streets for more borrowing rights for the Scottish Government. Can’t you feel it in the air?


What is called for now is a series of bold, dramatic, game-changing political moves that seize the initiative once more, energizing the SNP activists to make this election about Scottish independence. And then to win it.

At very least, the SNP should do the following:

1. Stop complaining about the Unionist media in Scotland. Bypass it. Issue press releases, policy statements and interviews exclusively to Newsnet Scotland and STV. Nurture them as alternatives to the BBC and the Unionist dead tree press. Foreign-based contributions are restricted to political parties, but not to media organisations. Advise your cashed-up non-dom supporters to tip their millions into Newsnet Scotland.

2. Start thinking like a radical NGO. NGOs take a hostile and indifferent press for granted. Learn their tactics. Hire creative people with this background to plan media campaigns. Get them to teach your members how to form activist cells. Pull off a breathtaking and ever-building series of spectacular media stunts that exposes the true exploitative nature of the UK presence in Scotland and, by extension, teaches Scots how much better their lives could be in an independent nation.

3. Unleash the party activists to start using the tactics of creative disobedience and nonviolent protest against London rule. Turn Scottish independence into a moral issue. Get activists to study and adopt the creative protest tactics of Henry David Thoreau, Mahatma Gandhi and Saul Alinsky. These tactics work. They are unstoppable.

4. Label the BBC a foreign news agency and that as such non-payment of the BBC licence fee will not be prosecuted. Boycotts are a core strategy of nonviolent protest. The people of Scotland will rally to the cause. It will politicise Scots of all backgrounds, especially the unemployed. The courts would be powerless to handle the number of cases. Those that feel guilty can regain the moral high ground by donating their licence fees to charity. Or to Newsnet Scotland. I’m sure it could find a use for £300 million a year.

5. Win Glasgow’s heart. Take a leaf from Old Labour’s book: create a powerful emotional bond between the people of Glasgow and the SNP as their protectors. The SNP is the only major political party that is prepared to defend Scotland against London’s cuts. Hold two or three meet-the-people cabinet meetings every year in the heart of Glasgow. Forget persuading the long-term unemployed – they don’t vote. They will gain from Scottish independence by getting jobs, but most won’t thank you for it. It’s the working and middle class who vote New Labour. Talk to them. Recruit for the party amongst their community leaders. And then win Glasgow Council.

6. Get Scottish teenagers engaged in politics. Get MSPs to visit schools to talk to students like adults. Recruit more students to the party. Get them to help with by-elections. Build a grassroots organisation that grows organically. Play the long game.

7. Go on the information offensive. Work with Newsnet Scotland to hit Whitehall and the BBC with a hailstorm of freedom of information requests. What exactly did the Scotland Office spend its £7.2 million a year on under Jim Murphy? What directives have BBC management given to IT staff on censorship of nationalist comments on BBC blogs? What is the true nature of MI5 Operations in Scotland? Which political activists in Scotland are under surveillance? Publish the findings on Newsnet Scotland.

8. Walk away from Westminster. Announce that the SNP will no longer contest Westminster seats. This will resonate powerfully with Scots and will be the first stage of Scotland ending its association with London. Explain why – that Westminster is a waste of time and resources and that the SNP can achieve nothing there, even if they win every single Scottish seat. Leave Westminster to the New Labour piggies as their path to peerage. This handful of Scottish seats is a potent symbol of the slavish incorporation of our political class into a greater political establishment. England has refused to accept it in Europe. Why should we in Britain?

9. Fix the message. Ruthlessly, relentlessly and repeatedly push the following positive and negative messages in front of every offered microphone:

A. Independence is the only way to stop the proposed cuts to Scotland's pocket money. The cuts stop the moment we become independent.

B. The Tories have no respect for Scotland. They never did. They never will.

C. New Labour is not the answer to the Tories. The SNP is the only major party with Scotland’s interests in mind. The SNP = Scotland.

D. The Labour Party that gave us the National Health Service is dead. New Labour is the party of Tony Blair, greed, corruption and illegal wars.

E. New Labour corruption is killing Glasgow.

F. New Labour is a British party, not a Scottish one. New Labour is keeping Scotland in the UK for its own political ends. New Labour is a self-serving UK political party whose only goal is power for power’s sake. Joining the Labour Party is a career move. Most people in it have never had a real job.

G. New Labour's policies are the root cause of Britain’s financial woes. New Labour must never be trusted with power again – in London or Edinburgh.

H. New Labour let in the Tories, walking away from forming a perfectly viable UK government, just to keep out the SNP.

I. The UK is having a referendum on its voting system. Wales will get a referendum too. Where is Scotland's referendum? What is London afraid of?

J. Norway is our model. Same population size. Same landscape. Same climate. Same economy. Forget Ireland. Forget Iceland. Forget Australia. NORWAY.

That's only a start. There is so much more.

If for no other reason, these steps will give a good boost for party morale, which will be sorely tested in the times to come. You don’t win wars by ignoring your enemy. We are not children or saints: counter-punches have their place. As does creative attack.

The SNP is now fighting for the very soul of Scotland.

It’s time to get radical.


Anonymous said...

Great post.

One question. How can the SNP be the party of government AND a radical group of activists campaigning nonviolently for political change?

Isn't what you're calling for a new movement for Scottish independence OUTSIDE the core party?

OutLander said...

Greetings Anon,

Sorry if I did not make myself clear.

The activists would not be protesting nonviolently against the Scottish Govt, but against the UK authorities, who are still the ultimate power in Scotland.

Whether the protest is in England or Scotland, it forces the police to reveal how much force they are prepared to use against peaceful Scottish protestors to maintain unjust, immoral UK laws.

If the protest is on Scottish soil, the goal is to make the Scottish police realise that they are Scottish, not British.

Any police violence or arrests of peaceful protesters would expose the lack of consent in the UK government's authority, thus diminishing the legitimacy of UK authority. That is exactly what Gandhi did in India.

The moment a policeman or soldier says "I refuse to do this" it's all over.

I take your point that perhaps SNP activists engaging in nonviolent protest such as sit-ins or media stunts in Scotland would perhaps undermine the authority of the SNP Government. But that does not take anything away from the necessity of what I am proposing. It only argues that another group outside the SNP should be doing it.

Alex Porter said...

loads of good points in there Outlander.

I like your ideas about NewsNetScotland. I think this is a resource that could and should be developed. An alternative media strategy should be considered as top priority. Word gets around, readership grows and the mainstream agenda is forced to shift. Alternative is a shrewd way to deal with the meanstream - it must be cleverly used!

Yep, as your comment expresses all creative disobedience should be non party political and NGO media people and activist cells should be looked at.

BBC and breaking the law is a dodgy area too. Perhaps the SNP could discuss its legitimacy and sympathise with activists..

Glasgow. Mmm. I think and have for years thought that the party should give benefits advice. Maybe the SNP should help people claim benefits that they don't know they're entitled to - that would make a lot of people believe in politics again!

Again, freedom of info requests and publication on NewsNet is excellent thinking! This needs to be done!

Walking away from Westminster. You know - I think this might just be the time for planning such a radical move! It's all in the timing though. I think that the cuts are going to cause serious social unrest. At that point the trade-unions are going to try and shore up Labour support by attacking the Tories. When it gets to fever pitch, the SNP could then walk out shifting the blame dramatically and indelibly from the Tories to Westminster itself. That could well be a defining moment and well worth consideration!

Like the campaign list too.

Bursting with energy - I agree it is time for radical moves. The strategy needs to be refined but ruthlessly implemented.

The party should definately be going all out to win Holyrood and can only do it by going for independence now!

Pressure needs to be put on the SNP leadership to ready itself for some serious politics! We must be cautious not to seem too radical whilst actually being radical!

OutLander said...

Greetings, Alex,

Good comments.

'We must be cautious not to seem too radical whilst actually being radical'

That, my friend, is always the challenge. But as Joan McAlpine recently said (coincidentally) on her blog, 'there is nothing more radical than breaking up the UK.' (I paraphrase).

Since the UK Govt is using radical means to head off Scottish independence, it's only polite to repay the compliment.

A big goal in all of this of course is to engage ordinary Scots in politics.

Radical political activism is a heady brew that is so much more rewarding than just voting every few years. It puts the power back into the hands of the people.

It energises and engages ordinary citizens to say 'I've had enough' and to do something about it, knowing that the goal is achievable, rather than just leaving it to the politicians. It throws up community leaders who learn how to effect change.

It is above all exciting.

Anonymous said...

I agree on many points.

Norway, Norway, Norway. That's the only country the SNP should ever have compared Scotland to.

Winning the hearts and minds of Glasgow is key to the independence cause.

OutLander said...

Greetings, Anon2,

It does make you wonder about Alex Salmond's comparisons of Scotland to Iceland, Ireland, Australia, etc.

It's as if there was no similar country to use as a model and he was casting around for a country that would make Scots realise what we will become after independence.

Yet behold, across the North Sea, there is the nation with whom we share so many things, including many words in our Gaelic and Scots languages, and much DNA.

The only reason I can see is that he feels like he's been talking about Norway for decades and nobody has been listening, and by mentioning a new country it helps him penetrate the Unionist elevator music we call the mainstream media in Scotland.

D. D'Advocate said...

Great article, but the weakest point is getting Scots to boycott the BBC license fee. It is delightfully out-of-the-box, but it will just reinforce the 'Scots are tight-arses' stereotype.

OutLander said...

Greetings Mr Advocate,

What a strange comment. Why on earth would others' misguided stereotypes of Scots even matter? Who cares?

The goal of the BBC licence boycott action would be to politicize millions of ordinary Scots on an issue that directly affects the quality of their lives in a number of tangible ways, leading to a mass re-engagement with politics, and a collective rejection of British identity.

By your reckoning, the French resistance should have not resisted because it would have only confirmed the opinion they were sure others held of them as being surly.

Or maybe Gandhi should have avoided the tactic of civil disobedience because the British might have their prejudices about lazy Indians confirmed.

Want me to go on? Rude Americans, uncivilized Irish, primitive Africans...

The target audience of such political action is never the actual authorities, but the people taking part in the action themselves.

Anonymous said...

The argument for SNP presentation to Westminster died with devolution. Participating in it leads to the accusation of recognising it's legitimacy as witnessed by the recent PM question from Angus Robertson about defence spending when Cameron shot him down by saying that he was campaigning for Scottish independence yet wanted British forces in Scotland. Besides, what little influence the SNP can have in Westminster, considering the corruption involved and that 70% of the laws passed is to implement EU directives, what is the point of being there?

As to 'radicalism', there is another reason why it needs to be done. That is to totally demoralise the unionists and to alienate them from mainstream Scottish society. As can be seen in the forums of the likes of where they are given free reign, their anti-Scottish poison is pretty disgusting. If that poison can be exposed to a wider part of Scottish society, then their lies will not be believed and their credibility lost.

Anybody who has any moral qualms about that had better look up the history of unionism in this country and see that this is exactly what they have done themselves.

As to this 'radicalism', there needs to be discipline, no violence, no disruption to the wider public and certainly no destruction i.e. physical graffiti. There can't be anything to give the other side any ammunition. This lesson was learned by Gandhi and the American civil rights movement in the sixties. A few examples of what I mean is stunts like the ones done by the Fathers for Justice campaign that generated a lot of publicity and to erect placards that be attached to lamp-posts that can be removed without damage and therefore can not be constituted as damaging to public property.

OutLander said...

Greetings, Anon3,

Excellent comments.

As for me, I have many ideas for campaigns that are all winnable, but I certainly won't be posting them here.

Tocasaid said...

Agree with a lot of what you say. As someone though who makes daily use of BBC Alba's excellent services in the shape of Gaelic television, radio, internet and educational material then I have to ask, what is the alternative to the Beeb?

It aint perfect, that's sure. But for quality product - who can compare? - and for attention to those of us who don't fit neatly into the Daily Mail's Britview such as Gaelic speakers, the BBC can't be faulted. I'd challenge anyone to find a progam of comparable quality to BBC Alba's Eorpa for news and current affairs.

I know many who've worked for the BBC in Gaelic and English who aren't little Englanders. Maybe we should take control of it instead of turning it off?