Comedy is at its best when it reflects tragic reality. In the tragedy of Scottish politics, the comedy is becoming absurd. The SNP, mired in a civil war that is very much the Judean People’s Front against the People’s Front of Judea, are now seeing the arrival of the Judean People’s Front crack suicide squad, as always confident that “that will show ’em”.
For years the SNP have shared, encouraged and supported Wings Over Scotland, a Nationalist website run by Reverend Stu Campbell (residence Bath, England). It is the most viewed political website on Scottish government computers. And it is a sewer of outlandish comparisons, whataboutery and misinformation.
The SNP were all too happy to support Wings, until they came out against the Sturgeonite faction by supporting Alex Salmond’s allegations. To his credit, Campbell has done a lot of investigative work which has undermined the credibility of the Sturgeonites, and has been quick to challenge the party on issues such as the GRA, the party’s record in government, the Salmond affair, and the SNP’s commitment to illegal referendums.
The Sturgeonite response has been typically Stalinist. All records of involvement with Wings Over Scotland by SNP members are being rapidly deleted, tweets and posts have been erased and pictures altered. A full purge in a desperate attempt to distance the SNP Sturgeonites from the Salmond loyalists.
This move underlines the fundamental hypocrisy of the SNP. They were happy to champion this source of calculated misinformation, that has inspired a considerable portion of the hate and anger that has gripped our country for the last decade, until they themselves became the focus of the site’s attacks. Now they call out Wings, not for the damage it has done to Scotland, but because of the damage it is doing to the SNP. They would never have done so if Wings was on the side of the Sturgeonites.
This factionalism represents a significant escalation in the civil war that has gripped the SNP. Previous purges have been limited within its political elite, targeting politicians like Joanna Cherry and other Salmond loyalists. This fighting, while damaging, has largely been contained.
But now, the civil war has reached the grassroots. The fight is no longer between SNP hierarchy on the benches of Westminster and Holyrood, but between an increasingly deranged party orthodoxy and a popular, influential and far-reaching grassroots organisation. Many of those grassroots were already teetering on the cliff edge of loyalty and trust in the SNP, upset at the party’s glacial progress towards a second referendum. This will only push them over the edge.
An observer might look at this and wonder. Why encourage electoral suicide by widening a civil war to the grassroots when you are already seen as detached and aloof? Wings, for all the ludicrous misinformation it spreads, still has significant power to target voters.
The SNP are alienating their most committed voters right when the party is coming under pressure on all fronts. From the suppression of the OECD report into Scotland’s educational performance, the failure to provide adequate COVID PPE, defeat on business rates, cutting farm subsidies and crippling the hospitality sector (and that is just today’s headlines). How much more damage when Salmond gives evidence in a few days? This is a fight the SNP could not afford to start. But, they started it anyway.
I know that it may be easy to dismiss these events as nothing more than a spat on Twitter, but they speak to so much more. They speak to a bloated arrogant party at war with itself, and now at war with its support base. Each step the SNP has taken to appease the factions has backfired and only driven them further apart. They seem incapable of holding themselves together because, after 14 years of governmental shambles, they are being exposed.
The battles the SNP will have to endure in the coming months are escalating rapidly; the Salmond Affair is coming to it’s first peak, the OECD report might be published, campaigning will start by the opposition, and the road to recovery from the pandemic is still long and hard.
For this war, the SNP will need all the soldiers it can lay its hands on, but they have purged the officer corps and are now targeting the infantry. Their battlecry is nothing more than an empty promise.