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No left turn

This might shock a few people.

I was a member of the Conservative Party for much of my adult life and voted that way in the majority of the polls since I cast my first General Election ballot in 1966. I did so because at that time it suited the shape of my political philosophy; pro free enterprise, against public ownership, but pro health and welfare. But through all those years, I was a strong believer in the right of Scots to manage our own affairs, within  the context of a United Kingdom if possible. That is to say I wanted to keep the Queen but cut as many ties with Westminster as possible. In 1978, and again, 20 years on, I voted for devolution.

In 1997, I was content with the inevitable coronation of Tony Blair, because he was committed irrevocably to a Scottish Parliament. I was content with that outcome, but I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t happy at all that year. On May 3, the  day that Tony and Cherie moved into Downing Street, I was widowed. It was shattering, and politics were irrelevant at that time; everything was irrelevant at that time.

A few months later, as I began to adjust to my new status, I found myself reappraising my life completely. I became a full-time novelist. I began to spend more time working in Spain. I reviewed all of my personal values, my belief structure, everything. I resolved to be a different man. I resolved to be a better man.

It was against that background that I took a fresh look at my political allegiance, and came to the conclusion that the Tory Party and I had reached an impasse. I was fully committed by that time to an independent Scotland, and the Conservatives, or what was left of them, were implacably opposed. So I called Mike Russell, who was then the Chief Executive of the SNP. He invited me to visit him in his office. We talked about the Party and about what it meant. I remember very clearly him saying, ‘Belief in Independence is the sine qua non for membership.’

And so I joined, publicly, to the public sneers of someone I’d thought was my friend, and yet who lacked the courage to put his name to them, preferring to be quoted as ‘A Conservative Spokesman’. I joined a party that made me feel comfortable, because it was a broad church, but one with a single God, Scotland the Nation. I wasn’t naive. I had no unrealistic expectations, I didn’t believe that Alex Salmond would ever achieve an absolute majority in Holyrood, and so secure a formal independence referendum, recognised by a Tory Prime Minister. If you’d told me that Nicola Sturgeon would lead the party in securing 56 Westminster seats out of 59 in 2015, I’d have asked you what you had inhaled or ingested.

Yet it all happened. The broad base of its membership united in protest. Not, in my view, against the referendum result, but against the way in which it was fought, and against the Scottish politicians who were perceived to have betrayed their own people by allowing themselves to be swept aside by their collaborating London leadership, culminating in the notorious vow. That’s what I signed up for, and viewed in simple terms, it’s a triumph.

What I didn’t sign up for was a leadership of the hard left. I didn’t join a party whose leader puts her own political philosophy above the prime objective, Scotland the Nation. I didn’t join a party whose Westminster front-man declares that the SNP is the real HM Opposition. That’s not Nicola’s right, and it’s not Angus Robertson’s job.

The First Minister’s function is to deliver in Holyrood the manifesto that saw Alex Salmond elected in 2011. She has no role in Westminster. The SNP parliamentary group shouldn’t be seen as her puppets, and it isn’t there simply to make Labour look bad. It is there to deliver independence by agreement, or more realistically, to secure the best possible post referendum settlement from a Tory government with an absolute majority.

It has become fashionable to deride Alex Salmond, now that he’s out of meaningful power. Those who do so forget that his great skill and indeed his great challenge was to draw into the SNP people from across the political spectrum, and unite us behind a common cause. He didn’t do that by linking metaphorical arms with Len McCluskey and his ilk or by stupid grand-standing.

Very quietly, the Scottish Conservative Party, which I predict will soon ditch that name and return to being the Scottish Unionists, is reinventing itself under a hitherto derided leader and a very capable deputy. Scotland will never be a one-party state. If the present SNP leader focuses on supplanting Labour as Scotland’s left-of-centre Party, she may be in for an unpleasant surprise in next year’s Holyrood Election.

Stay on message, Nicola and Angus, and remember that you represent all of us who put you where you are . . . or where you think you are.

Categories: Politics
  1. Diana
    June 21, 2015 at 12:16 pm

    As mothers are wont to say, “Be careful of the company you keep”. The behaviour of some of the SNP activists certainly gave me cause for concern.

    • June 22, 2015 at 7:44 am

      Name one. Mum. Did you have a close-up view of this or are you relying for your information on the xenophobically racist London media?

      • Big Jim
        June 22, 2015 at 3:59 pm

        How about the SNP election agent who called Charlie Kennedy a Quisling for daring to oppose independence? Only a complete moron would use a word like Quisling against somebody because they dared to disagree with independence.

      • June 23, 2015 at 7:33 am

        Yes Large James, that was not right and the idiot involved has been drummed out of the Brownies. However could the condemnation of an entire movement on the basis of one clown not be seen as moronic also? Every political party has its share of bammers, but the New Age media are making them more apparent.

  2. June 21, 2015 at 12:38 pm

    Couldn’t agree more my friend

  3. June 21, 2015 at 1:06 pm

    Tony Blair’s CORONATION (what a great quote)

    You may find this of interest.

    Take care,


  4. Justin Fayre
    June 21, 2015 at 1:49 pm

    Oh Quintin..I never thought I’d be disappointed in you but I have to say it hurts when you find your idol comes away with such ‘tommy-rot”
    The reason that the SNP produced such a tsunami was quite simply because their candidates particularly Tommy Sheppard and George Kerevan argued for the victims of your so called ‘ free enterprise’. I will forever argue that it was this ‘free enterprise’ or neo-liberalism that caused today’s manufactured need for austerity.
    It was this quest for social justice that resonated, not only with the people of Scotland but also with the test of the UK, as witnessed by the reception received by Jeremy Corbyn at the Labour Leadership Hustings.
    I will always have lots of time for people of aspiration but not if it means trampling on the decent hard working people who are now having to scrape by on poverty pay as it is.
    So I hope that Nicola and the rest of the 56 continue to uphold the mantle deserted by New New Labour in their quest to beg for Tory Votes.
    Oh and Diana, do you have any examples of the behaviour of the SNP activists that caused you concern?

    • June 21, 2015 at 3:30 pm

      I have editorial control over this blog and could have deleted all that with a single touch. But I won’t. I’ll let it stand in all its patronising naivety. I won’t even delete the two words that I find most objectionable, even though you use them while hiding behind an obviously assumed name.
      As it happens I voted for George Kerevan in full knowledge of his political past, but not in spite of it.
      You seem to believe that those who perceive themselves to be left of centre have a monopoly on social conscience and that they are the only ones who care about social justice.
      The fact is, that objective can only be achieved through the creation of wealth something that previous left-wing UK governments proved singularly incapable of doing. The governments of Attlee, Wilson, the unelected Callaghan and the unelectable Brown each left office having raised unemployment and the national debt. That’s why the UK majority, whom you detest, have an unfortunate habit of electing more Tory Governments than Labour. They vote with their pockets and with the implicit understanding that before wealth can be redistributed it has to be earned. That’s a fundamental rule of politics and it is one from which the SNP has been exempt until now, since it hasn’t had to raise its own revenue. Soon it will have to; only the extent remains to be determined. When that happens, normal rules will apply, and its leadership will be subject to market forces. That’s my real worry about Nicola; either she doesn’t understand any of that or she doesn’t care.
      Oh yes, and two other points:
      1) Nicola isn’t one of the 56. She’s an anomaly. She doesn’t carry any personal Westminster mandate and so has no obvious right to instruct or even influence those who do.
      2) Proper political parties don’t beg for votes, they win them by offering sensible, electable policies.

      • Justin Fayre
        June 21, 2015 at 8:13 pm

        Now that the red mist produced by the term ‘free enterprise’ has cleared
        I can understand your displeasure. That however does not make me naive as you stated.
        1. I did not deliberately intend to post under an alias. I used this ‘ auto fill’ believing it would show my name. Apologies.
        2. Unfortunately you have made several wrong assumptions.
        A. I do not detest Tories. I used to be an old school Tory myself in a past life. Someone who recognised the damage to the fabric of society caused by extreme right wing neo liberalism and changed outlook pretty darned sharpish.
        B.I would like to think of myself as well read and open minded. And without wishing to cause further offence, ideological austerity is stretching the fabric to breaking point.
        Looks like we’ll need to agree to disagree but. as,someone who works with the victims of ‘rip off’ Britain on a daily basis I hate the term ‘ free enterprise’
        Hopefully in an Independent Scotland. Genuine wealth creation and an element of social justice will prevail.

        Thanks for not deleting me. I’m sure it would be extremely painful

        Andy Nimmo

  5. June 21, 2015 at 6:17 pm



  6. June 21, 2015 at 9:22 pm

    Thanks Andy. It’s good to know with whom you’re disagreeing fundamentally. I’ve never seen damage caused to modern Britain by extreme right wing neo-liberals, but that may be because I have no idea who the fuck they might have been. However I did have a close-up view of the damage caused by the incompetent union-bullied left-wing governments of the seventies, the people who had to go cap in hand to the IMF, and who opened the door for Maggie.

    • Justin Fayre
      June 21, 2015 at 10:07 pm

      I think we’ve both got the same objective – a successful, wealthy and proud small country.
      Just different views on hpw to obtaining it.
      I’m all for empowering people at the bottom by giving them a boost and letting them feel as if they’re contributors.
      Left wing pie in the sky? Who knows.
      To me we’re living in ‘topsy turvy’ times.
      My beloved Denmark seems tp be lurching to the right whereas your beloved Spain seems to be lurching to the left.
      Does ma heed in so it does

    • Justin Fayre
      June 21, 2015 at 10:10 pm

      Oops please forgive the typos.
      Fingers too big for keys

  7. June 22, 2015 at 6:24 am

    Spain has a thing called Podemos, ‘We can’, a supposedly spontaneous left wing group set up by a couple of idealists. My beloved Catalunya has its independence movement, which has become cross-party. Spain lurches all over the place, often at the same time, but there is one underlying belief among the electorate regardless of orientation. A friend of mine expressed it perfectly; ‘All our politicians lie, and all our politicians are corrupt.’ Even the Podemos bandwagon hadn’t rolled very far before one of its top guys was embarrassed.

    • Justin Fayre
      June 22, 2015 at 8:00 am

      I was lucky enough to have a week in Gran Canaria one week after their elections ( I saw my Caley lift the cup in an Irish Bar in Puerto Rico). From what I gathered all the Canary Islands elected left wing candidates.
      Despite tthis, all the talk was of the Mayor of Barcelona who, please correct me if I’m wrong, has a touch of the Nicola’s about her.
      Off Topic and stop me if you’ve heard this LOL.
      ‘This guy sadly passes away and arrives in Limbo to be met by Paul, ledger and other paperwork in hand.
      “Welcome stranger to the halfway point in your final journey. We have two destinations for you to choose from, ‘Upstairs’ or ‘Downstairs’ but we like to give our travellers a guided tour of both destinations first. So where to first up or down”. . . . . . . .

      (Yes, Andy, I’ve heard it, and many similar versions, one with Bill Clinton as the newcomer. That one ended, ‘Tea-break’s over, back on your heads.’ Consider yourself stopped. Ed.)

  8. Fergus
    June 23, 2015 at 9:01 am

    Applies to every country in the world. They all lie and they are all corrupt. I’m in France. The Prime Minister, who, incidentally is Catalan, did a blinder the other day. Private jet with his kids to watch a football match in Berlin and he called it an “official visit” because he had an “appointment” with Michel Platini. Skinner doesn’t believe in coincidences and neither do I. He has since apologised and paid the fare for his children but not his own. That’s “expenses,” we pay for that. Yours truly, losing faith.

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