Less than a fortnight ago, this site warned that our SNP chieftains would be more than chuffed if they somehow managed to achieve ‘Independence Within the UK’. Bring it on, Jaggy argued. By selling their nationalist souls through signing a New Union Treaty, the Sturgeonistas would create a brilliant opening for Alba. Never did I imagine that one of the new breakaway party’s two MPs would be the first to publicly embrace this oxymoronic objective. Shameful betrayal of the cause is how I read it.
Basically, half of the Alba grouplet at Westminster has suddenly come out of the constitutional closet and declared it would happily settle for Home Rule for the foreseeable future. Like a latterday Gladstonian Liberal, Kenny MacAskill used his weekly column in the Scotsman this morning to assert that all Scots should unite under this threadbare banner:
Building a coalition to expand the powers of the Scottish Parliament without breaking the Union must surely be possible…undermining neither independence nor the Union but yet facilitating necessary progress for our land.
Building a progressive nationalist-unionist coalition? Is that what he and Neal Hanvey defected from the big, useless SNP phalanx at Westminster to do? If he’d rattled out this column sooner, Mr MacAskill wouldn’t have needed to go to the trouble of crossing the floor. He’d have lost the party whip anyway. One thing Ian Blackford and his fellow trough hogs are brilliant at is keeping up the pretence that they’re seriously plotting to break up Britain – even when they’re serving as members of the joint Security and Intelligence Committee of the UK Parliament!
Apparently, Mr MacAskill’s “good friend”, the former first minister Henry McLeish, used to advocate ‘Independence in the UK’ long before the former MEP David Martin started punting this notion recently. The pair of them did that, of course, because they’re both lifelong stalwarts of the Labour Party, one of the last lynchpins of the archaic Anglo-British state. They realise that the whole edifice of the semi-feudal entity, to which they’ve sworn undying fealty, is crumbling fast. Something needs to be done rapidly to prevent its wholesale collapse, they sense. As evidently does Gordon Brown, whose ghostly presence has reappeared in recent weeks to implore William and Kate to keep their Kingdom United.
This pathetic failure of a PM, who did his doctoral thesis on James Maxton, loved to imagine himself as a latterday Red Clydesider – even though he had a comfortable upbringing in a Kirk manse in Kirkcaldy. Sadly, Kenny MacAskill, who hails from Linlithgow, has succumbed to the same back-to-the-future retro socialism. A few years ago, the former Justice Secretary penned a book titled Glasgow 1919: The Rise of Red Clydeside. And he harks back to this period as he seeks to make his feeble case for independence within the UK:
The ‘Red Clydesiders’ of the Independent Labour Party expounded it a century ago with both George Buchanan and Rev James Barr lodging Bills in Westminster to achieve it. Then as now much was left unsaid or unspecified with defence and foreign affairs remaining with the UK but with literally everything else being devolved to a Scottish Parliament.
Devo Max? Is that what Alba is really about? Strange then that its website declares a commitment to “Independence for Scotland as an immediate necessity, and overwhelming priority”. It certainly seems at odds with Alex Salmond’s first weekly video update for founding members of the party, where the message was seize the moment and strike for independence now! Good to see him back in a gung-ho mood. Nonetheless, there’s no disguising how fragile this fledgling political force is.
Coming hard on the heels of failure to make any breakthrough in the recent Holyrood election – which cannot be blamed entirely on the BBC blackout – I reckon many Alba members might, on reading Kenny MacAskill’s cretinous column, wonder what the hell they’ve signed up to. If they continue to be lion rampants led by donkeys, they’ll have had all their fighting spirit knocked out of them before their inaugural party conference this autumn. And they won’t be consoled by the dishonourable Member for East Lothian’s reassurance that he hasn’t fallen head over heels for Home Rule:
It’s not my first preference as I remain committed to sovereignty for Scotland, including the right to choose on critical issues of defence and foreign policy. Removal of nuclear weapons and even membership or the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) or EU membership are restricted, if not precluded by it.
The problem is that we’re at a constitutional impasse in Scotland where not only is the nation deeply divided, as polls continually show, but Scottish politics is stultifying as a result of it. Indyref2 remains the main debate yet has been rejected by Westminster and deferred indefinitely by Holyrood. Something needs to be done to break the logjam and move the country on.
Move the country on? Wasn’t that what Alba was created for? Or were the mockers and snipers correct when they dismissed it as just a vehicle for Mr Salmond’s vengeance? Well, you’ve certainly clarified one issue, Mr MacAskill, it’s time for you to move on. Or at least move aside and let someone unequivocally committed to full national sovereignty for Scotland lead the Alba Party. Preferably a passionate, charismatic leader who will, like Macdiarmid, “hae nae hauf-way hoose, but aye be whaur extremes meet”.
Jaggy sought to demolish David Martin’s arguments for ‘Independence within the UK’ in an earlier post, now even more essential reading.