The following letter was written by Julia Pannell and published in The National on the 27th October 2020 under the title ‘Venomous responses to new parties won’t stop us campaigning’
DEJA VU on the criticism of the new parties from L McGregor and others, but they miss why the Independence for Scotland Party (ISP) and others were set up. It is denigrating to dismiss anyone as a “has-been” with an inflated ego or the new parties as silly fringe parties (I have yet to work out what Brian McGarry’s “wannabe middle-men and women” are – Letters, October 26). It is particularly offensive to be described as Unionist fifth columnists, shills, etc. We are not. We also are fighting for Scotland’s independence. When you show such venom to those who disagree with you, you don’t encourage us to shut up, if that was your intent.
One of the reasons the ISP was set up is the suspicion that there will be no independence if it is left to the SNP. The idea the SNP have some secret plan they are not telling so as not to alert the UK – don’t you think the UK are gaming every eventuality as it is? Can you imagine the SNP giants of the past getting the four mandates the SNP has (so far) and doing nothing with them? And who in government has promised that if the SNP wins a majority of votes, not seats, we’ll get a referendum? If they did promise it, why would they stick to it? And what counts as an SNP vote? Is it just the first-past-the-post (FPTP) vote or can we add in the SNP’s list vote? If it includes the list, the Unionists may well say it is a double vote by the same person, so doesn’t count.
The new parties offer different options from the SNP, but crucially put independence at the forefront, as the SNP used to do before independence became a soundbite. The ISP has policies such as a halfway house on Europe (EFTA, EEA, then consider full EU membership), a commitment to a green transport policy which works for rural areas (something the Greens have not yet come up with, at least not as far as the poor hapless rural motorist is concerned), a more cohesive transition for pupils with additional support needs reaching adulthood, and local government reform, as well as recognising that some things are a matter of conscience, not the party whip.
I might understand the writers’ wrath if they ever told the Greens to step aside. Aren’t they possibly taking votes from the SNP on the list? But it is the Greens who have been trying to keep the SNP’s feet to the fire on policies like serious land reform, rent control, tenant protection and so on. That is what the ISP hopes to do if elected, to keep the SNP’s feet to the fire firstly on independence, then on other major issues when the SNP have lost their way.
It is a tired argument to say we can leave these things till after independence, because some of the policies the SNP is promoting now are extremely divisive and worrying for many, and will shape the government for the next five years. The Scotland which emerges may not be what many of us want, not even many SNP voters. And if we are supposed to leave policy differences aside, why don’t you tell the SNP to leave its niche agendas till after independence?
We all have our reasons for having left the SNP and joined new parties, but much had to do with discontentment at its policy lurches and the fact they have kicked the independence can down the road. For most of us, it was not with any idea of getting a great salary and a pension. And why not level that accusation at the SNP newbies who have hopped on board and are trying to use the majorities built up by perfectly sound sitting SNP MSPs to muscle them out of the way? Why are they not chancers?
Can any of the critics explain to me how “Both Votes SNP” is not a complete waste of time, as most of the SNP list vote will go down the drain unless the SNP make a real hash of FPTP? As it is, the vote next May is the SNP’s to lose. They can win a majority on their own. Ironically though, their inaction on independence and concentration on boutique policies are the biggest threats to them winning.