More than just the end of an era

I have been a member of the SNP for over 55 years which accounts for all of my adult life and most of my teenage years. Therefore it is more than just the end of an era, it is the end of a way of life.

There is a sense of loss, of being let down. Thankfully, the advent of Alba has helped to fill a void. Alba is the only party I have ever supported and campaigned for other than the SNP (apart from when I was in New Zealand where I actively campaigned with the movement to change the flag to remove the union jack from the corner).

All my life I have been driven by an unshakable and unswerving passion for Scotland and I have held a strong bias for all things Scottish.

Some of my earliest memories are of my Dad telling me about Scottish history and instilling in me a sense of Scottish values and culture. Our house looked on to the Field of Bannockburn and I remember at the age of five or six being taken on my first Bannockburn Day Rally and being introduced to Hugh McDiarmid and Wendy Wood.

I first got involved with the SNP at the age of 12 through my uncle who lived in Perth. I helped in the campaign there to elect Malcolm Shaw at the 1964 General Election. The SNP had a membership of around 8,000 at this time and only fielded 15 candidates throughout Scotland. I remember it being really exciting with leafleting, fly-posting etc. What struck me though was that everyone was so passionate about independence, even though we were ridiculed and not treated seriously by the press or any of the other parties. However, I was hooked.

[How ironic that now, as members of Alba, we are receiving that same treatment from the SNP].

My Dad introduced me to a couple of family friends, Dr Robert McIntyre and Sandy Milne and I joined my hometown SNP branch in Stirling.

In 1967 (a momentous year for the SNP) Winnie Ewing won the Hamilton by-election and over 100 SNP councillors were elected, including taking control of Stirling Council with Dr Robert McIntyre becoming provost. That same year we formed a new branch – Stirling St Ninians and I was asked to become vice-convener. I had to get a dispensation from the party as I was under 16.

I met some wonderful people in the party from all over Scotland – people I could admire and look up to but felt a sense of kinship with. It was like one big family with everyone being driven by a selfless pride and passion for their country. Loyalty to party and to one another was a given.

I later moved to Edinburgh where I became vice-convener of the Moat-Polwarth branch. I had the honour to work with Gavin Kennedy and Stephen Maxwell from whom I learned a great deal about campaign strategies.

During this time in Edinburgh I got involved in the ill-fated devolution referendum. This was a forceful reminder that there is no measure too devious for the british establishment in order to prevent independence. They were prepared to lie and cheat to prevent getting even the most meagre form of self-government. It also had the impact of splitting the SNP. I have always been a fundamentalist and firmly believed in the mantra “independence nothing less”. However, I could also appreciate the arguments put forward by the 79 group in using devolution as a stepping stone to independence. Nevertheless, I remained loyal to the SNP.

I then moved to Linlithgow in the early 80s and became the branch organiser. I helped to run the branch with Alex Salmond and Kenny McAskill. I remember we used to hold some of our committee / strategy meetings in Kenny’s mum and dad’s house. I got to know Alex quite well and on occasion we would meet up for lunch when we were both working in Edinburgh. A couple of times I met up with him and Moira.

I have known Alex Salmond for almost forty years and right from these early years in Linlithgow I have admired him for his astute political brain, for his understanding of economics and for being a brilliant strategist.

Towards the end of the 80s I was offered a Civil Engineering post in Qatar and I went to work there and then in Abu Dhabi for a few years. Needless to say, I retained my SNP membership but as there was no internet then so it was difficult to keep up to date with what was going on politically.

By the time I returned from my stint in the Middle East, Alex was the party leader and the rest as they say is history.

I returned to the Linlithgow branch and became the branch convenor.

I stood for council a couple of times, spoke at conference and stood for vice-convenor for organisation for the party. I had some ideas that I was proposing to ensure continued democracy in the party by devolving a greater say in policy making to grassroots and branch level.

[It is another piece of irony that all the democracy we had back then has now been removed from branches].

The point I am making here is that we had a genuinely democratic party then where members could be nominated by their branches and constituency associations to stand for national office. Anyone could speak at conference and we had endless impassioned speeches and passionate debates. There was a sense that we were all part of the one ever-growing family.

Scottish history and culture also played a large part in uniting us as a movement.

From this point on the SNP continued to grow and develop under Alex Salmond’s leadership.

There was a bit of a setback when Alex stepped down and John Swinney took over as leader. However, when Alex returned to lead the party, it grew from strength to strength.

The Scottish Parliament was duly set up in 1999 and the SNP made an immediate impact.

Two terms of the Parliament later and the SNP took control with Alex Salmond becoming First Minister and immediately changed the name from Scottish Executive to Scottish Government.

Within seven years he had delivered an independence referendum.

The fear and the lies spread by the british state and (imho) tampering with the vote led to the referendum being lost.

That is when things changed for the SNP when Nicola Sturgeon took over as party leader and First Minister. At first I did not recognise that things were starting to go wrong. Things didn’t feel right at the end of 2014 when in November Christine and I took our seats along as part of an audience of 12,000 to witness the anointing and the raising to superstar status of Nicola Sturgeon. This event had all the pomp and extravagance of a US Republican Party Convention with the razzmatazz and exhibitionism of half-time at the Super Bowl and the shallowness of the Oscars. It had more in common with Hollywood than Holyrood as one by one a host of “celebrities and musicians were wheeled on and off the stage to pay homage to the newly crowned Nicola Sturgeon. The whole charade was presided over and compared by the London based BBC employee, John Nicholson who was staking his claim for a seat on the gravy train for the General Election the following year.

The party membership was flashed up on a giant screen as the number increased. This was largely due to the great migration of independence supporters from the Labour Party. Unfortunately, many of them brought with them the main characteristic that is instilled into every labour supporter – acceptance of everything and refusal to question anything. They put on a new set of clothes and swapped unswerving party allegiance from labour to their new Leader.

I remember as a young Engineer being given the following advice from an older colleague – “if things don’t seem right, it is generally because they aren’t right; not because you are out of step”.

Well things certainly didn’t seem right to me with this circus.

The following year there were further signs that things were going wrong with the run up to the General Election. With the Great Migration of members to the SNP they had many new people to chose from to stand as candidates. Some, such as John Nicholson were even of minor celebrity status. Now, if only the party didn’t have this stupid longstanding rule that any person would have to be a member for at least 13 months before standing as a candidate. Well the answer was quite simple – just tear up the rule.

I was very aggrieved at the time because of this rule and because they did not approve my candidacy without giving any explanation. However, I will not go into this any further as I want to make it clear that my attitude to the present leadership of the party is not driven by any personal grievance.

In any case, the GE proved to be highly successful for the SNP as they won 56 out of 59 seats and what did they do with that incredible mandate? Absolutely nothing. Even Margaret Thatcher would have accepted that as a mandate to negotiate for independence.

Following on from this, with the EU referendum campaign underway, Nicola Sturgeon could be seen rubbing shoulders with and sharing a stage with unionist politicians as part of a united U.K. wide effort to persuade the public to vote remain.

As we know, Scotland voted 62% to remain and England voted for Brexit.

Scotland was going to be taken out of Europe against the will of the Scottish people. Having promised she would not let this happen, this should have been all the ammunition Sturgeon required to use the mandate and set up a referendum. Instead she chose to travel to England and in true quixotic fashion, she attempted to persuade them of the error of their ways in an attempt to have the referendum result reversed. The principle which has rightly and justly been upheld since the advent of the SNP, whereby no one from out with Scotland should have the right to interfere in our affairs should lead us to accept and respect that other countries have the same right. However, this was totally ignored by Sturgeon in her attempts to undermine the settled will of the English people.

Why this act alone did not set off alarm bells all over Scotland is a mystery but Sturgeon pulled another plausible excuse out of her bag of excuses that the time wasn’t right and we should wait until the terms of brexit were known. The happy clappers told us all to be patient and that “oor Nic knows best.

At this point the jury was still out on whether Sturgeon was strategically inept or deliberately trying to undermine the Yes movement. It became all too apparent to anyone with a modicum of perception when during the 2017 General Election campaign she stated categorically that “a vote for the SNP was not a vote for independence”. Ipso facto, it was a vote for maintaining the status quo – in effect, a vote for another unionist party. This resulted in a large loss of seats and coupled with tactical voting by the unionists, saw some of our top politicians lose their seats, most notably Alex Salmond. This begs the question – would the witch hunt have been instigated had he still been a sitting SNP MP?

Thereafter things went from bad to worse with carrots being dangled, empty promises made and mandates squandered. And so it has continued until the position we find Scotland in today.

As we know, Nicola Sturgeon, Lesley Evans, Peter Murrell and the Alphabet women conspired to get Alex Salmond sent to jail. They failed in this quest as Alex was acquitted on all charges.

Now, had everyone accepted this verdict and been prepared to put an end to the matter, the Yes movement could have moved forward together, united in our push for independence.

However, instead of offering an olive branch Sturgeon went into rabid dog mode and proceeded to rubbish the verdict delivered by the majority women jury and to rubbish the testimony of the predominantly women defence witnesses.

Nicola Sturgeon has taken every opportunity to engage in innuendo and direct accusations to attack Alex Salmond. Her scurrilous and libellous comments constitute a clear defamation of his character. In so doing she is showing that she has scant regard for the Scottish Judicial System in that she continues to ignore the verdict of the Scottish Court as delivered by the judge and the jury that acquitted Alex Salmond.

This is a disgraceful abuse of power by Nicola Sturgeon.

She is bringing the office of the First Minister of Scotland into disrepute.

She should be censured.

Nicola Sturgeon has become increasingly bitter and vindictive and has displayed a nasty side to her character which is reflected throughout her followers.

She has allowed and even encouraged her hostility and anger towards Alex Salmond to spread unchecked within the SNP.

She also turned her attention to launching attacks on Kenny MacAskill and Neil Hanvey, two honourable men. Kenny MacAskill is arguably the best Justice Minister in the history of the Scottish Parliament.

Nicola Sturgeon has put ego and gender politics before independence . She has betrayed the SNP and the Scottish people to serve her own career.

If Nicola Sturgeon and other SNP politicians had verbally attacked our enemies in the unionist parties with the same level of venom and vitriol that they now direct towards Alex Salmond and Alba Party members, their claims to want independence would be a bit more credible.

We now have people, such as the hapless Mike Russell calling for unity throughout the Yes movement. Unless he has entered the advanced stages of senility, it surely cannot have escaped his attention that the discord and disunity all stems from the “dear leader”. She could end the vitriol any time she has a mind to.

I apologise is this seems a bit lengthy and long-winded but I felt compelled to set down my experience over 55 years as a member of the SNP.

Membership for over 50 years of other organisations offers some sort of recognition of loyalty but not so with the SNP. They are only interested in your money and your unquestioning support for the leader.

My story is not unique. I know of many others with similar tales to tell. However, my compulsion to tell my story has been driven by my anger and disappointment at what has happened to the party that has been so important to me for most of my life. I feel seething anger, and utter disgust towards the leadership of the SNP due to their lack of interest in delivering independence and due to the atrocious policies they are inflicting on the people of Scotland. Those who have gone before must be birlin’ in their graves to witness such an inept bunch as makes up the present Scottish cabinet.

Notwithstanding, I do feel that there is hope and that hope comes in the form of Alba. This is due to the people involved. As with all matters political it is always down to the people. Those involved with Alba are made of the same stuff as the Nationalists of old. They have drive, determination integrity and passion coupled with political intelligence and are motivated to take action.

Passion is infectious. Once Alba’s intentions become clear, the membership will rise exponentially.

I for one am happy to pledge my ongoing support to Alba in the service of the Scottish people.


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