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Did ye, aye?
Yousaf's position on breaking up the UK is mince. It should be treated as such. Plus: the spread of the SNP's 'colony' crap is finally being called out.
This is now Humza Yousaf’s position on how the UK will break up:
“it will be absolutely, abundantly clear to people, if they’re voting for the SNP, they are voting for Scotland to become an independent country to support that proposition.
“It doesn’t just give us a mandate to seek negotiations with the UK Government, it actually gives us a mandate to get on ourselves as the Scottish Government to lay the foundations of a newly independent state.”
It is utter mince.
He claimed yesterday that he could start dismantling the Union the day after the general election if the SNP wins the most seats. That could mean Yousaf having a disastrous election, the SNP losing dozens of seats, potentially with the support of a little more than a third of Scots and using that as the basis for a massive constitutional crisis. Humza’s suggestion that he could send envoys to European capitals to gain recognition of a new state on this basis is laughable.
Why take such a daft position?
Yousaf is trying to reframe the election. The sands on which the SNP’s past successes have been built are being washed away by time. The Conservatives are in a deepening political crisis and are no longer a credible bogeyman. The Labour Party looks set for a big win and offers an alternative, safer route to change. With every day that goes by, the SNP look far less like the answer to any question voters are asking in the election to come.
Yousaf can only fight the election on the constitutional process because he has no retail offer. The SNP’s record and Yousaf’s personal standing as a minister is abysmal. Just today there was a reminder that his management of the NHS was worse than the Conservative government. I say constitutional process because the SNP haven’t yet been able to renew the retail offer on independence. For example, Stephen Flynn said we need to leave the UK because of rising interest rates, forgetting that his policy is to leave control of interest rates in London, but without any political representation.
Yousaf isn’t strong enough to tell his party what they don’t want to hear. In TV studios the First Minister will recognise that the polls show Scots don’t want to leave the Union. Having only won the votes of half his party, and having had a disastrous start to his tenure, he simply doesn’t have the standing to tell them the truth: Scots don’t want what they are selling, they don’t have a workable plan for breaking up the UK, they need to stop talking to themselves.
Ultimately, these all amount to the same thing: weakness.
Moving the goalposts - from Sturgeon’s test of winning 50% +1 of voters to selling a huge loss of SNP seats as a mandate - is an admission of defeat. It is an attempt by a failing leader to avoid the question this newsletter posed in the last edition: how does a movement that claims to be the sole legitimate voice of Scotland continue when it is clear it no longer has the support of Scots? His answer, it seems, is to pretend a minority is a majority.
The most important thing here is that this isn’t a serious process, they don’t have a serious plan, he isn’t a serious leader and so it shouldn’t be taken seriously by anyone. It is not worthy of serious debate. Like all attention-seeking, it is best ignored.
When Yousaf pretends that he has set out a plan for taking us out of the UK the response should be ‘did ye, aye?’
Calling Out Colonial Crassness
There are consequences to the SNP’s lack of seriousness. One is that your rhetoric has to become more extreme to keep the true believers believing and to encourage them to squash that doubting voice in the back of their minds. Speaker after speaker beseeched activists to believe a bit harder. One speaker urged the crowd to shout ‘Scotland!!!’ louder and louder.
These were scenes from a compound, not a campaign.
It was an extraordinary mistake for Yousaf to platform a Wings Over Scotland columnist who invented the whisky export duty myth and the head of Believe in Scotland, an organisation specialising in misinformation on Scotland’s public finances. The first used his time on stage to share a new conspiracy theory about opinion pollsters hiding the true level of support for leaving the UK. The second urged members to stand on motorway bridges and wave flags.
Increasingly, the words of the unhinged fringe of nationalism is creeping into the mouths of the leadership.
One example was SNP Westminster Deputy Leader Mhairi Black comparing Scotland’s journey to those of former colonies - something other leading SNP figures have been saying lately. Listening to her I was reminded of an old piece by my friend Greg McClymont taking on the myth of Scotland as a colony when we were, in reality, the coloniser.
For once, this offensive nationalist trope has been widely called-out. Sunder Katwala, who has an excellent new book out, posted an interesting thread in response:
“To cast Scotland as a colony is an indefensibly cartoonish account of the history of Scotland, Britain and Empire. We can't change the past now, but we should try to engage honestly with it.”
In case you missed it…
The newsletter has two new regular sections:
NoN Issues - a new occasional podcast looking at the changes Scotland needs that are too often overshadowed by the constitutional debate.
NoN Sense - a new service taking on the myths, misinformation and madcap conspiracy theories put about by nationalists.
Suggestions for topics to cover in either of these sections are gratefully received.
Culture Corner: History
I could think of only one poem that could follow what is written above. It is by the great Langston Hughes, himself a descendant of Scottish slave owners. It is very short and titled History:
The past has been a mint
Of blood and sorrow.
That must not be
True of tomorrow.