The madness of lockdown has produced many disturbing side effects but none more so than the narrative being pushed by the anti-Boris chorus in the media – that of Nicola Sturgeon’s competent leadership during the pandemic. This is the modern equivalent of the 1930s trope about Mussolini making the trains run on time. I use the comparison deliberately. The North London intellectuals applauding Sturgeon for her anti-Brexit stance are deluded. The first response of the Sturgeon administration to Covid-19 was to attempt to suspend trial by jury. Prior to that they had fought tooth and nail to bring in culturally Marxist legislation to appoint a ‘state guardian’ for every child in Scotland to oversee how parents bring up their children. Their main effort during lockdown, aside from spinning the factually unsupported story that Sturgeon’s carefully differentiated approach to tackling Covid has been superior, has been an attempt to crack down on free speech via a scarily open ended Hate Crimes Bill. For me the low point came when Alyn Smith, the SNP’s shadow foreign secretary was caught on camera allegedly intimidating a constituent by warning her that she was a known troublemaker and on an SNP database. Sturgeon and her separatist friends are really not nice people and should be anathema to the BBC/Guardian intelligentsia.
Despite all this, for the first time opinion polls are showing a majority for separation and the bookmakers are currently quoting the SNP at 5/6 on to form a majority government in Holyrood next May. It is looking increasingly likely that 2021 will see the Battle for Britain. Some Scottish opposition parties burying their heads in the sand and attempting to portray the election as ‘not about independence’ and ‘focusing on the SNP’s domestic failures’ only reinforce the sense of the impending partition of Britain.
Into this phoney war steps one George Galloway. Yes, that George Galloway, the left-wing firebrand who was too hot for Blair’s Labour to handle, the advocate of extreme causes in Iraq, Palestine and Ulster and, less controversially, the star of Celebrity Big Brother. Three weeks ago he raised his standard as leader of a new political party, the Alliance for Unity and started preaching his simple message that all anti-nationalists – the word ‘unionist’ is troublesome for Roman Catholics like Galloway – must come together to field one single pro-union candidate in each constituency seat and support cross-party Alliance candidates in the (AV system) list seats to rid Scotland of what he sees as the heirs of the 1930s fascist parties. (And the SNP was in fact founded in 1934 with the explicit intent of being Scotland’s answer to Mosley’s black shirts). It is at this point that I should declare an interest. I was one of Galloway’s early recruits and am now Deputy Leader of the Alliance for Unity. I remembered George as the most effective debater by far on the anti-separatist side in the 2014 independence referendum. And like many people from all points on the political spectrum I was despairing at the utterly abject appeasement of Sturgeon by the opposition at Holyrood since 2016.
Readers of The Critic can judge for themselves whether I am also an extremist in the Galloway mould. As a (fledgling) politician it is both an advantage and a disadvantage that after writing two semi-autobiographical books and thousands of words in articles on diverse topics, people, if they are interested in me at all, can know pretty well exactly what my views are. And it would fair to say that, although deep down our basic values are probably quite similar, there is not a lot of common ground between me, a Toryish, landowning, ex-army officer and George, a committed socialist.
That seeming lack of cohesion was initially seized on by our enemies as proof that the whole project was doomed to failure. But it is in fact a strength as it demonstrates the breadth of the grassroots movement building momentum to drive Sturgeon out of office. We agreed very early on that there was no point in trying to agree a manifesto bar one very simple policy commitment: to defeat the SNP and their Scottish Green allies in order to enable a pro-union government of national unity. When probed, we can truthfully say that a manifesto is not that relevant in the context of Holyrood – barring a miracle, none of the other pro-union parties have a cat in hell’s chance of putting their programme for government into practice, except as part of a coalition, anyway. And there is no requirement to defend each other as we can rightly assert that we are combating the groupthink that has bedevilled politics by fielding independently minded candidates who will bring experience from all walks of life, to leaven the brash young people in suits who sit there at the moment, by sitting in the Parliament as independents. Yes, that’s right, our other policy is that all A4U candidates will be free to vote according to their individual consciences as MSPs – democracy closer to its Athenian origins for the Athens of the North.
All new political parties say that they are introducing a new type of politics but I think we must be the first party in history to promise in effect to dissolve our party as soon as we are elected. The early signs are that people like what they are hearing. After three weeks we had more followers on Twitter than the Scottish Liberal Democrats and momentum is continuing to build. The challenge is probably not in persuading the electorate that Scotland deserves better than the separatists’ authoritarian one party state but in persuading the older unionist parties that, if we are going to restore neighbourliness to the UK and especially to Scottish communities, the pro-union parties really are ‘better together’ in what promises to be a bitter fight.
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