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Wings Over Scotland


The Betrayer

Posted on January 31, 2020 by

So that’s it, then. That’s the grand plan.

We’re sorry, but we’d say the game’s a bogey, gang.

Nicola Sturgeon took over as SNP leader (and therefore also as de facto head of the Scottish independence movement) surfing on the crest of a tsunami. Her predecessor – now completely written out of party history in a breathtakingly shameful piece of Stalinist revisionism – bequeathed her an organisation that had more than quadrupled its membership in a matter of a few weeks and was surging towards an election victory of staggering, unprecedented, unbelievable proportions.

But since then, it’s been downhill all the way.

Five years and two months have passed since Sturgeon assumed the office of First Minister on 20 November 2014. Since that day, the people of Scotland have gone to the ballot box on SIX occasions, and on every one the SNP have won a clear victory – in four of those six elections, by a margin of more than 20 percentage points over their nearest opponent.

2015 UK election: 26-point margin
2016 Scottish election: 22-point margin
2017 Council election: 7-point margin
2017 UK election: 8-point margin
2019 European election: 23-point margin
2019 UK election: 20-point margin

(Holyrood has also voted for a new referendum twice.)

And yet the party whose primary/sole reason for existence is achieving independence for Scotland has taken those six resounding mandates in half a decade and delivered absolutely nothing with them. For all those millions of votes, Scotland is not one inch closer to its independence now than it was on 19 November 2014.

But that’s not to say things have stayed the same. Scotland’s situation has become far worse. As of next week, it will have been wrenched out of the European Union against its people’s clearly stated wishes, as expressed by a 24-point margin in 2016.

The SNP sought to save Scotland from that fate NOT by winning Scots the right to make the decision for themselves via independence, but by instead focusing for three and a half years on overturning the clear democratic choice of England and Wales – a strategy both morally questionable and which never had a credible hope of success.

While Sturgeon repeatedly insisted that only a “legal” referendum was an acceptable route to independence, not a single step was taken to establish a legal footing for one to be held. The correct interpretation of the Scotland Act, for which there are numerous learned opinions on both sides, remains as undetermined now as it was when the Edinburgh Agreement enabling the original indyref expired more than five years ago.

That matter could have been resolved one way or the other at any point since – or indeed before – the EU referendum. Had a case been lost we’d have been no worse off than we are now, begging for the grace and favour of a Conservative government.

Or failing a court judgement, the SNP could have used an extremely rare period of arithmetical leverage at Westminster against a comically weak minority government to negotiate a second referendum in return for allowing a relatively soft Brexit deal to pass. (Which was the best-case scenario for everyone in any event – as it is we have the worst one, with the UK facing a hard exit and Scotland without an escape route.)

But the Scottish Government sat on its hands and did nothing but accumulate a pile of worthless mandates while the clock ticked down, and now Scotland stares into the abyss of another decade of destructive Tory rule, denied the protections of the EU, and with the existing mitigatory powers – indeed, perhaps even the very existence – of the Scottish Parliament in grave peril.

This colossal, criminal dereliction of duty lies squarely at the door of the SNP.

The ostensible strategy of using the catastrophic implosion of the UK to slowly build Yes support to some imaginary trigger point where it would become irresistible has failed utterly. Despite years of the most ruinous and shambolic UK governance in history, with indignity heaped on calamity every day, the dial has barely twitched.

We were told that the Brexit vote would send support soaring. It didn’t.

We were told that the arrogant, dismissive exclusion of Scotland from the negotiating table would send support soaring. It didn’t.

We were told that the visible disintegration of almost every promise made by the Leave campaign would send support soaring. It didn’t.

We were told that the election of another Tory government would send support soaring. It didn’t.

We were told that Theresa May’s high-handed rejection of the first formal request for a Section 30 order would send support soaring. It didn’t.

We were told that the Etonian buffoon Boris Johnson becoming Prime Minister would send support soaring. It didn’t.

We were told that his contemptuous dismissal of a second formal request for a Section 30 order would send support soaring. It didn’t.

The SNP were unable to weaponise the most abysmal UK government and opposition in living memory – dragging the UK back to some sort of dark 1970s nightmare theme park and turning it into a global pariah and laughing stock – to generate any detectable increase in backing for independence whatsoever.

And still we’re being promised, like gullible idiots, that the NEXT outrage – this time the actual consequences of Brexit happening for real – is the one that’ll send support soaring. One more time up that hill, troops. Just one more heave. We need only kick in the door and the whole rotten structure of the Union will come crashing down.

Honest. We won’t pull the ball away at the last second THIS time. Just give us one more mandate, one more cosy and lucrative term in office, and we’ll give you your freedom. Really and truly we will. Would we lie to you?

This site has warned for many months that the 2020 referendum Nicola Sturgeon still insisted on promising as recently as last week was not going to happen. Everyone knows it isn’t going to happen. Any SNP politician you ask will tell you privately that it isn’t going to happen. Any claim to the contrary is a bare-faced lie.

That’s why countless senior SNP figures like Angus Robertson, Kenny Macaskill, Pete Wishart and several others have been flying a series of kites this year: preparing Yes supporters to be let down as gently as possible, marched down the hill yet again and told to focus on the 2021 Holyrood elections instead, building support to the mythical 60%+ that will somehow guarantee the UK government’s surrender.

(Although the chances of ever getting near 60% without an actual real campaign are pretty much zero, because if there isn’t a referendum on the tangible horizon the vast majority of normal people simply don’t want to hear about the bloody constitution any more, whether it’s the UK or the EU or whatever. They’ve got lives to get on with. Fix the potholes in their roads and empty their bins. If there’s a vote they’ll pay attention, otherwise you’re just wasting their time hectoring them over an abstract concept.)

But the true reality is grimmer than that. If Boris Johnson had even an ounce of animal cunning and wit about him, he’d give the Scottish Government their Section 30 order tomorrow and watch them panic like headless chickens mad on Red Bull.

Because the cold hard fact is that the SNP is in absolutely no financial position to fight a second independence campaign this year, or next year, or any year soon. Two unscheduled UK general elections have stripped its coffers bare. Hundreds of thousands of pounds from two supposedly “ringfenced” fundraisers for independence have instead vanished into the hungry maw of the party’s seat-winning machine.

According to the most recent published accounts the SNP held just £411,000 of cash in hand at the end of 2018 – even though the 2017 ref.scot website alone had raised at least £480,000 by the time it was suddenly closed down. The current yes.scot appeal is thought to have also raised hundreds of thousands. (Though for some reason, unlike ref.scot’s, its running total has never been displayed on its website.)

Both websites were/are clearly branded as SNP undertakings, so it’s highly unlikely the money is being held by a separate Yes Scotland-type company or similar. If it is, it’s an extremely well-kept secret within the party.

(Yes Scotland itself, semi-interestingly, still exists. Although it shut down its entire online presence a few weeks after the 2014 vote – its website was wiped and its social media accounts fell into immediate and permanent silence – it survives as a “micro-company” with zero registered assets as of its latest accounts on 31 December 2018. Its secretary is Scott Martin, an SNP solicitor who signed off on the large bulk of the company’s spending throughout the indyref.)

Numerous senior SNP sources have told us that any enquiries as to the whereabouts and availability of the “ring-fenced” fundraiser money are met with a brick wall. So far as is possible to establish from public information and investigation, the cash raised in 2017 has – in direct contradiction of what the SNP said at the time – in fact been spent on normal party activities and fighting elections. That appears to us to be something alarmingly close to outright fraud.

Since those accounts were published, that slim £411,000 warchest has subsequently had to be raided for two more elections in the past year (European and UK, estimated combined cost £1.5m+). And of course another Scottish Parliament election – on which the SNP typically spends around £1.5m – looms just over a year away. So barring a sudden major windfall, it’s clear that money’s literally too tight to mention.

In that area, though, large donations to the party have dried up almost completely. Its biggest benefactors – bus tycoon Brian Souter and lottery winners Chris and Colin Weir – haven’t given it any money in years. Souter last donated (and is unlikely to do so again) in 2014 and the Weirs in the spring of 2017, nearly three years ago. As a result, donations in 2018 plummeted from £1.42m the previous year to just £0.32m.

The tragic death a month ago of Colin Weir may or may not provide that windfall by bringing the SNP a bequest, which is where almost all of its sizeable recent donations have arisen. Out of a total of £347,000 in large donations in 2019, for example, at least £289,000 (83%) appears to have come from dead people leaving cash in their will. But the living no longer seem inclined to back the party to pursue an array of increasingly unpopular woke and nanny-state policies and a worsening domestic record.

(Rumours have also long abounded that the Weirs were, let’s say, less than wholly delighted with both the SNP’s deployment of their money and its transparency about it, and about its reliance on them for funding. Their enthusiasm for the party, rather than the cause, is said to be limited, and the absence of donations for either the European elections or a crucial UK election last month would appear to back that up.)

Membership income is also on a steady decline, down by around 20% from £2.74m in 2015 to £2.25m in 2018. A party which normally likes to trumpet its high membership figures hasn’t published any updated numbers for around 18 months, suggesting (in conjunction with the income stats) that the direction of travel is significantly downwards – albeit still more than double every other party in Scotland put together.

The above figures may offer us the most generous of all the possible explanations for the SNP’s lack of any meaningful activity in the field of independence in the last few years. It may be that it simply knows it doesn’t have anywhere near the resources to do justice to an indyref campaign in the next few years, and needs to sit tight and try to somehow build up a fighting fund again.

But there’s also a less charitable view, which overlaps to some extent with that one. As we’ve discussed before, seen from the perspective of its own self-interest the current situation suits the SNP rather agreeably. It has dozens of MPs sitting at Westminster, drawing themselves nice fat salaries, expenses and gold-plated pensions in exchange for almost no practical responsibilities amid the glamour of London, and a very useful amount of much-needed cash for the party in the form of Short Money.

Its domestic hegemony at Holyrood also seems secure. It enjoys a 20-point lead over the Scottish Tories, who are near their natural ceiling of support, and Scottish Labour is withering to a complete irrelevance as anything other than a Unionist block on the Tories. The 2021 election looks like a shoo-in, and even this far out it’s hard to see where any credible challenge in 2026 might come from.

Another indyref, though, might greatly upset the applecart, whatever the outcome of it was. Another defeat could cause serious damage in all sorts of obvious ways – see the history of the Party Quebecois in Canada, which has plunged from 45% in 1994 to just 17% in 2018 after narrowly losing two independence referendums in semi-swift (15 years) succession.

But a victory would be a double-edged sword too. At a stroke the SNP would lose both a huge chunk of its income and its main reason to exist if Scotland voted Yes. It might splinter into left and right factions, and certainly the unifying force keeping together both the party and its voters – many of them currently holding their noses over various policies in the name of independence – would be gone along with the Short Money.

As a political party rather than a cause, then, independence is undeniably a massive threat to the SNP. So the last thing it needs right now, for a whole boatload of reasons, is another referendum any time soon. That silhouette may not be who you think it is.

But if we’re wrong – if we’re being too suspicious and cynical and a 2020 referendum somehow happens – what of the campaign itself? None of the weapons that Unionists used in the last indyref have been disarmed. Indeed, in several respects the SNP have taken the campaigning position backwards in the past few years.

In 2014 this site had a clear and honest answer, for example, to give to anyone who asked what currency an independent Scotland would use – the pound (realistically in a currency union, or at worst via sterlingisation). Since the fumble-fisted fudge festival of the Growth Commission report, though, we can no longer confidently tell people the same thing. We just don’t know what the plan is any more.

Brexit has also muddied the issue of borders, both in terms of the EU and the UK. And the SNP have handed opponents new sticks to beat us with too:

Despite that, it’s still this site’s belief that were there to be a referendum this year, Yes would win it. The case for the Union in 2020 is simply too enfeebled, by Brexit and by other things, to stand up to the scrutiny that an actual campaign forces. But any victory would have very little to do with the efforts of the SNP, and indeed would in large part have happened despite it.

The party has been the custodian of the fight for independence for over 80 years, but through cynical careerism, stupendous incompetence or both, the current leadership has not merely dropped the ball, but punctured it with a garden fork, set it on fire and kicked it onto next door’s roof. The SNP have done far too little, far too late, and it’s incredibly hard to imagine any future circumstances where the odds could be more in our favour than they are now. We HAVE to take the shot while it’s there.

Our big problem, in short, is that when we need the SNP to be this:

What we’ve got in charge of it is this:

This article has avoided repeating some exceptionally troubling allegations that were made to us by several high-ranking figures in the independence movement while we were writing it, because we currently have no documentary evidence to verify them. That may or may not remain the case. But it remains the view of Wings Over Scotland that only a complete change of the aforementioned leadership (and its toxically insular and incestuous modus operandi) offers any hope of success in the foreseeable future.

That’s not an easy road to take. While there are several viable options for a new leader of the party, they’re all at Westminster and finding a new First Minister from the ranks of SNP MSPs is a rather trickier task. The pickings are pretty slim, and it’s tempting to wonder if it’s been engineered that way. But be that as it may, change is necessary.

And we’re almost out of time for that change to happen. The best – probably the only – chance for it will come this April, for reasons that will become clear sooner than that.

We see no merit in wasting our breath between now and then. So we’re going to make like Underworld and take two months off. We’ve saved up a lot of holidays since 2011, working 365 days a year until recently, and it’s time for a proper break – particularly from the relentless attacks against Wings from within the Yes movement, which have dramatically increased over the last year or so in both frequency and intensity.

(Who would have guessed that after surviving a decade of bitter Unionist fury it’d be a bunch of snivelling crybully SNP activists who finally got the 60,000-followers Twitter account of the world’s biggest pro-independence website silenced? It’s a side issue at this point, but an independent Scotland under the current woke-poisoned SNP frankly looks like a less and less attractive place to spend the rest of our lives.)

There may be posts now and then if something particularly significant happens, there’ll still be some social media chat and we’ll probably keep the cartoonist in cat biscuits, but otherwise it’s time to do something else for a bit and see where we are in April.

If the answer to that is “still being led by Nicola Sturgeon and Peter Murrell”, then the reality is that the war is probably lost and it’ll be time to shut up shop permanently. It’d certainly be difficult to see much point in starting a Holyrood list party that could do nothing but stand helplessly by while the SNP squandered yet another mandate.

(It’d be considerably easier to just sit here churning out reheated platitudes year after year and enjoying a modest but quite comfortable lifestyle off the back of the annual fundraiser, but Wings has never lied to its readers and that’s what we’d be doing if we kept going and telling you independence was coming when we didn’t believe it.)

So let’s keep all our fingers crossed that it isn’t that, and that this isn’t the end. But we very much fear that it might be. See you later, folks.

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    3 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

    1. 04 02 20 11:01

      Gather Ourselves Together | A Wilderness of Peace

    513 to “The Betrayer”

    1. G Wilson says:

      You’d almost think SNP politicians were more interested in keeping their lucrative jobs sniping at Westminster than they are in actually governing a nation.

    2. Alan says:

      Stuart
      you asked for funds to support your site. And many were happy to provide, because you do a great service in researching the press statements of the great and good and holding them to account. Stick to that. You’re good at it.
      And stop any attempt to form a political party. Because others are better.
      The argument for « yes » has not yet won over enough people. It will do. But not by you ranting against your own side.
      sorry to say this, because I am a great admirer of your site.

    3. jimjams says:

      Don’t be a fearty. What is life? Life is the Nation. The individual must die anyway. Beyond the life of the individual is the Nation. There. Don’t you feel better?

    4. Keith says:

      Here’s an interesting take on the Press Conference. Copy and Paste if necessary.
      https://theorkneynews.scot/2020/02/04/brexit-day/?fbclid=IwAR02z9KRE9CR8fyhOVwXmjxCtv1QqVf5gLQP3cG3x8J-zb919FZWu9NKy-I

    5. boab says:

      this is laughable! you’ve gone from a mostly quite good fact checking/media analysis site to being a completely opinion based blog in a matter of months, and half the time you seem to overlook your own opinions when they turn out not to match reality. you for example posted your own prediction for the election result got it spectacularly wrong then posted an article the day after claiming how right you were despite it being so wrong i feel bad even pointing it out to you since you seem oblivious to the fact your self… https://wingsoverscotland.com/the-beginning-of-the-twist/#more-113348 the actual result is closest to what you chose as the last possible option that could happen and even then you predicted the tory majority would be tiny/scrape across the line & that the SNP would have launched into a court battle over a S30 by now… none of which has happened but you were right eh? don’t bother coming back!

    6. Al-Stuart says:

      .
      Rev Stuart.,

      I think when Alan above asks you to stop ranting, he is doing it out of love.

      I’m not so convinced that Alan is right.

      Stuart Campbell, you have rumbled Nicola Sturgeon.

      So PLEASE keep on doing what you have been doing.

      Nicola can definitely give a good speech, but there is the aroma of Tony Blair off of her now. She has been rumbled. Contrary to what the English Gold denier Sir Rober Jackamole Sutherland keeps slavering about: that we are all conspiracy theorists with an irrational dislike of Nicola Sturgeon with no facts to back it up, it is a fact that the SNP high command are accepting an annual £1,200,000 bribe of Short Money when they used to have principles that would have told Westminster where to shove its gold. The careers of the SNP MPs and MSPs are more important than IndyRef2. That is becoming an unassailable fact every day Ms Sturgeon procrastinates.

      I think Wings Over Scotland has rumbled the CURRENT SNP high command.

      Stuart, please enjoy the two months off. I suspect you aren’t really going for a holiday, but are preparing for what happens after Nicola Sturgeon is given her jotters.

      Either Alex Salmond will return as SNP leader, or Joanna Cherry will become SNP leader.

      Then your new Wee Blue Book For Real IndyRef2 will be a top read all over Scotland.

      I just hope there are enough Indy minded voters left to coalesce around Alex Salmond or Joanna Cherry after the Murrells have done their Tony Blair tribute act.

      If Robert Jaundiced Sutherland does pop up like his usual whack-a-mole self, he might care to reply to Rev Stuart Campbells article on Hubris before we get Sutherland pontificating about how St Nicola is perfect. Bobby Razzler, Nicola ain’t perfect, she is a very naughty FM and has undone a decade of Alex Salmond’s good work. I am still disgusted by the FACT, as discovered by Stuart Campbell, that Sturgeon et al., have removed ALL reference to Alex Salmond from their website. What a spineless bunch of cowards. What you want in your friends is someone to have your back – not stab you in the back. The sooner certain slavish SNP Fundies wake up to what is going on the better the chance of saving IndyRef from disappearing into a black hole.

    7. Ian Anderson says:

      Stuart

      Since the depression of 2007-2009 I have not been wealthy.
      I have admired your work holding the UK Government, the British Nationalists and the media to account.
      When you asked I donated to support your work.
      Last May I made three donations totalling just short of £140, relative to my income that is a huge amount.
      I strongly concur with Nicola’s assessment, and I suspect going to court successfully or seeking international support requires polling for Yes continuing to rise beyond 52% which is starting to happen.

      Please return to your great work in support of Scottish Independence.

    8. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

      “you for example posted your own prediction for the election result got it spectacularly wrong then posted an article the day after claiming how right you were despite it being so wrong i feel bad even pointing it out to you since you seem oblivious to the fact your self… https://wingsoverscotland.com/the-beginning-of-the-twist/#more-113348 the actual result is closest to what you chose as the last possible option”

      Oh fuck off you silly cunt. Here’s what the article ACTUALLY said. I’ve bolded the relevant part to dumb it down a bit for you:

      “Only a fool would at this point wager a large amount of money on the outcome […] But what of the more decisive conclusions there could be? Let’s quickly run through the four plausible ones (ie not including a Labour majority), in no particular order.”

    9. Alan says:

      This pisses me off. What happened to first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you then you win.

      Don’t get stuck at stage 3. We’re behind you.

    10. Iain says:

      Sorry: I don’t buy this at all.

      I’ve been an active supporter of independence since before you were born, Stu. I’ve been through all the raised hopes, all the crashing disappointments, all the despair, year after year, that the people of Scotland would never wake up realise that the Union is a con. But I never stopped working for the cause, and it is that attitude, applied by thousands, which got us to this point.

      Right now, the prospects are really good. You did an excellent job for a few years, but an activist’s task requires dedication, sticking with it, even when you think tactics advocated by others are wrong. Because there is a common goal: those others are your comrades, and whatever you think, they could know more and they could be right.

    11. grafter says:

      Above…..….keep commenting. We need to continue the dialogue. Nothing stays the same and platforms like this need to remain active.

    12. Al-Stuart says:

      .
      Rev Stu.,

      You are ahead of your time. I also think you are spot on with your article here.

      In all conscience, this must be very hard on good, honest SNP supporters to hear that all their hard work may be being betrayed.

      Stu., you posted your article on 31st January 2020. Shortly after the dud sparkler of a much promised Indy rousing firework display by Nicola Sturgeon.

      Within three weeks of resting your quill, senior politicians within the SNP are starting to think the unthinkable….

      https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-51575899


      I believe tha Scottish Independence WILL happen. But it will NOT be Nicola Sturgeon delivering it. She is too happy accepting all the financial benefits and First Minister flummery and luxury limousines, plus the small matter of £1,200,000 short money of English Gold from Westminster EVERY year as her fee for blocking IndyRef2.

      Nope, the odds are for Nicola to be “retired” by the end of 2020 and someone with more honour to actually put Scottish Independence above their own personal career.

      Stuart, I am very much looking forward to you coming back from your sabbatical. Batteries fully recharged and with a different leader of the SNP in place.

      Rev Stu., your job here on Wings Over Scotland is not yet completed. Not by a long shot.

    13. Chris Kilby says:

      SPLITTERS!

    14. Iain More says:

      Looks like we are going to need Wings for years yet.



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