The fallout from a falling-out

IT’S only natural in a way that a small nation like Wales tends to look for validation and direction from other similarly-sized nations. Scotland is often held up by the national movement as the most obvious model to follow, especially because of its geographical proximity and its political momentum over the past few years

However, as a party, Gwlad has always emphasized that some caution needs to be exercised with all this.

As Wales is a quite different nation from Scotland in many ways, and will have to follow its own unique trajectory towards independence.

Even so, there’s no doubt that events in Scotland will always have some effect on the situation here in Wales.

So we need to watch, observe and learn all we can: adopt good practices from Scotland where possible, but also be aware of any pitfalls so we can avoid them ourselves in future.

It’s not too much of an exaggeration to say that a crater-like pitfall has emerged there right now in the form of the election to choose a new leader for the SNP.

It all started of course with leader Nicola Sturgeon’s shock resignation, setting in train an amazing sequence of similar resignations: the Deputy Leader John Swinney, the Party’s Head of Communications Murray Foot, and now even the party Chief Executive, Peter Murrell (who is also Nicola Sturgeon’s husband).

These resignations and in particular their timings have thrown a huge shadow over the election contest to choose a successor to Nicola Sturgeon, raising fears about its entire validity.

This is a particularly crucial concern in view of the fact the SNP are not just choosing a party leader for themselves as a party – they are choosing a First Minister to represent the whole of Scotland.

The whole good name of Scotland as a nation – and its capacity to manage its own affairs in an orderly and transparent manner – could be in question in view of the absolute car-crash of an election which is going on right now.

The unseemly haste in which the party have set about appointing a successor to Nicola Sturgeon has led to a number of inconsistencies and irregularities.

These irregularities should not only alarm nationalists in Scotland. They should also alarm nationalists here in Wales as well.

They include:

  • The fact that the party’s constitution was ignored to arrange a truncated 4 week contest – which put two of the three candidates at a considerable disadvantage from the start.
  • An admission – half way through the race – that there at least 30,000 fewer members in the SNP than the official figures originally cited.
  • The resignation of its Chief Communications Officer after being “misled by HQ” about these figures when briefing journalists.
  • The fact that its Chief Executive – in charge of the whole election process – also resigned less than 24 hours later.
  • The emergence of information that 78,000 ballots have been sent out to 72,000 members.
  • Stories about former SNP members also being sent ballots to vote in the contest.
  • A sitting MSP breaking party rules by sending out a mass e-mail urging members to vote for the “continuity candidate”, Hamza Yousaf.
  • The fact that GCHQ have been invited to oversee the count, handled by a Southampton based firm by the name of Mi-Voice.
  • Concerns that one candidate, Hamza Yousaf has been regularly fed information about the progress of the count by HQ.

One of the candidates – Ash Regan – has now asked whether members could take advantage of a facility within Mi-Voice to change their votes if they so wished, in view of all these alarming developments since the vote actually started.

But acting Chief Executive Mike Russell has refused such a request even though he is on record as saying himself the election is “a complete mess”.

With only a few days left in the contest, it remains to be seen whether there could even be a court inderdict (the Scottish equivalent of an injunction) to delay or halt the whole election process in view of all the concerns that have come to light.

That might seem to be a huge admission of failure for the SNP. The election travails are but an outward manifestation of a party at war with itself and with reality as well, with the Gender Recognition Bill being a prime example.

But in view of the ammunition that would be handed to the unionist parties and media, should a new leader be seen to have been voted in by means of a tainted process – and the potential damage for the whole independence movement – it might well prove to be the least damaging option to take.

So, what can we learn here in Wales in view of this bewildering fall-out?

A spokesman for Gwlad said the above shenanigans – and the prospect of more yet to be revealed – were deeply disappointing for independence supporters.

“Independence for both Scotland and Wales have always been framed in moral terms in one sense” he said.

“A belief that Independence would be DIFFERENT to the Westminster cesspool,  and that it would lead to honesty, accountability and transparency in our respective nations politics” he said.

“One saying comes to mind here: “If you are going to challenge power, make sure your house is clean”.

He added that it was an example of an established party over time becoming part of the establishment itself, and behaving like the establishment in its contempt of due process and contempt as well towards its ordinary members.

“We are only too aware of that process here in Wales in the way that Labour and Plaid have behaved over the years.”

“Our politics – both in Wales and Scotland – needs a complete re-set” he said.

Whatever eventually happens with the SNP’s election contest, perhaps there is a place to give thanks that Wales is slightly behind in the independence stakes.

Allowing us to take stock of events going on elsewhere and making the necessary adjustments as we move ahead on our own journey.

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