:: Wednesday, September 24, 2003 ::

Where are the 'Tartan Tonies' taking the SNP?

Where are the 'Tartan Tonies' taking the SNP?

The Herald today sees Ian MacWhirter refer to Scottish National Party leader John Swinney as "the architect of Bradford and Bingley nationalism". He sure is a charisma free zone. But the uninspiring leadership of Mr Swinney is just one of the reasons for the current problems of the SNP. The SNP meet for their conference today in Inverness. Conferences can be used to rally parties who are doing well, witness the lib-dems this week basking in the glory of Brent East and record opinion polls. But they can also draw attention to the problems a party has.

John Swinney will surely win against Bill Wilson, who is challenging him from the left. But the current existential crisis of the SNP won't go away. The problem is that the SNP doesn't know what kind of party it is. It used to be to the left of centre, but Swinney and his acolytes like Sturgeon, MacAskill and the appalling Mike Russell, are dragging it to the right at a relentless pace.

They want to play up to the rural north-east political base of the party. They want to reposition the SNP as a safe pair of hands. "We want to be a party of government not a party of protest" is Swinneys current mantra, as if the two were mutually exclusive. Sound familiar? Yes it's 'the project' Caledonian style, the blairisation of the SNP, the birth of the "Tartan Tonies". They may even want to drop the idea of independence altogether and go for what is being called the "Catalonian option" of greater autonomy.

This could tear the party apart. The Scottish Socialist Party is certainly putting pressure on from the left, taking big chunks of the SNP vote away on May 1st and calling for an independence convention. Tommy Sheridan is speaking at a conference fringe meeting this week. The Tories and Labour are also piling in and kicking the SNP when it's down.

There is a generation of Scottish Nationalists who found their politics during the Thatcher era. They think Scotland should be independent so that it can pursue a more socially egalitarian political course. Many of them would describe themselves as socialists. Of course Thatcher damaged working class people in many parts of England too (the north-east and north-west particularly) but, for better or worse, Scotland has a national consciousness that these areas lack. Many of this generation now face membership in a right-wing party that does not even support independence. There is no doubt that many will find their way to the SSP.

In truth it is impossible to call for or deliver independence within the framework of modern capitalist globalisation. "Independence in Europe" is increasingly becoming a tautology. The EU has ever greater power over questions such as public spending and public ownership. EU accords enforce privatisation of public services such as phones and power. The euro sets limits on public spending. The European constitution will further erode democracy in the EU. It is against this background that the Swedes voted to stay out of the euro.

There can be no strategy for Scottish independence that does not include a strategy against big business, corporate globalisation and those who really wield power in Scotland, the UK and the EU.

There can be no independence which is based on isolation either. As well as a new vision of independence, a new type of internationalism needs to be reforged, an internationalism from below that respects national rights, that cherishes peace and justice.

:: Alister | 2:52 pm | save this page to del.icio.us Save This Page | permalink⊕ | |


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