Robin McAlpine: Nicola Sturgeon is alienating the indy movement and trampling on decades of SNP foreign policy over Russia

CommonSpace columnist and Common Weal director Robin McAlpine says Nicola Sturgeon has linked arms with Theresa May on British foreign policy over Russia and it does not bode well for the indy movement

A FEW years ago when I was deeply involved in the campaign to stop the SNP reversing its position on Nato membership, one of the arguments I made forcibly was that Nato is not a 'club' but an ideology.

I said to many people that if the SNP signed up for Nato, it would be a matter of time before the SNP leadership started reading out the agreed Anglo-American line on international relations.

"How disgraceful!" answered the party’s Nato advocates. "We're so utterly principled in this party that we will never bend the knee to Nato, the US State Department or the Foreign and Commonwealth Office."

Nicola Sturgeon has linked arms with Theresa May and Boris Johnson to throw up a ring of 'Great British steel' around 'this island nation' to repel the 'red menace'.

And here we are, five years later, and Nicola Sturgeon has linked arms with Theresa May and Boris Johnson to throw up a ring of 'Great British steel' around 'this island nation' to repel the 'red menace'.

No nuance, no curiosity, just full, enthusiastic compliance with the establishment line. How delighted the Daily Mail types have been to use Nicola Sturgeon as an image of British patriotic loyalty – not like that ‘traitor’ Jeremy Corbyn.

But that wasn't enough. Good patriots like the SNP leadership are ready to name names. They are ready to accuse their own movement of being infiltrated by Russian assets, even though they must surely know that this apparent 'admission' will be thrown back at us forevermore.

Sturgeon has never hid her disdain for what you might call the 'Wings/RT/Wee Ginger Dug' section of the movement, but for the leadership to participate so fully in setting up a newspaper article pointing the finger at them is new territory. I mean, if the SNP leadership thinks this problem is big enough for a front page story, what are we going to say when the Daily Mail or the Scotsman puts it on the front page in future?

And I don't think she understands just how substantial that proportion of the indy movement is. But it's not just the 'anti-BBC' people she seems more than happy to alienate.

The SNP leadership are ready to accuse their own movement of being infiltrated by Russian assets, even though they must surely know that this apparent 'admission' will be thrown back at us forevermore.

The anti-nuclear and peace movement has been an absolutely fundamental part of the independence movement, CND in particular investing enormous amounts of time and resource to making the case that independence is the fastest route out of the UK's unjust foreign policy position.

It's not just the activists; this view is shared fundamentally by such a large part of those who support independence. For many, it's the reason they support independence.

And finally, that's why this is yet another error of very substantial magnitude that's been made by Sturgeon – because it's also a fundamental principle of the SNP. From its inception until now the SNP has believed that Britain's militaristic foreign policy is not good for Scotland.

On domestic policy the SNP may have veered occasionally left to right or right to left on this issue or that issue – but it has always been solidly and consistently opposed to aggressive UK foreign policy stances.

From Suez to Vietnam to the Falklands to the Balkans to Iraq (twice), many decades of SNP values are being dumped. Even when the SNP inclined to agree with British military action, it still sought to be a sensible, restraining force.

From its inception until now the SNP has believed that Britain's militaristic foreign policy is not good for Scotland.

I was really taken aback with the tone coming from Sturgeon throughout this; I will admit to then being in a state of shock when I saw the Sunday Herald. I started to think I must be overreacting.

Then I had to go and get some messages. I bumped into three people in the Coop who are local party members or strong sympathisers. And no, I wasn't overreacting. There is genuine anger at this.

I had written more of this column looking at the impact that the seeming expanding gap between the SNP leadership and the rank and file of the movement is likely to have on our prospects of achieving independence any time soon.

But me, my team and our many contributors have just spent the best part of two years working extremely hard to do the most helpful, positive and constructive work we could by trying to work through and resolve what many see as weaknesses in the policy case for independence.

We published How To Start A New Country last week and it is selling very fast indeed. That tells me that there is a large community in the independence movement which also wants a positive, constructive approach taken to independence, that wants to work towards a cause. 

I think they’re being let down - and I think the events of the last week are just one more sign of that. But there is nothing I or anyone else seems to be able to do to persuade those who are supposed to lead us to really lead. 

So I have concluded that all I can do is suppress my anger one more time, say no more about this matter, pretend it didn’t happen and instead somehow push on with a positive and constructive attitude no matter what others do.

Just don’t mistake silence for consent. This can’t continue if things are to hold together. 

Picture courtesy of Documenting Yes

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