A reply on the SNP piece

So the recent piece on the SNP has had some chat on various social media, and one point to come up  was the main narrative from the SNP from here-on-in won’t be one of seeking independence directly, but awaiting a crisis that they can take advantage of to reach their goal. Another of out members replied and we thought it would be good to post here both to get their response and to show how views differer even within the group:


Constitutional tensions will necessarily mount on both sides of the border, while the SNP will be more than happy to play the rhetorical oppositional that labour abandoned. Meanwhile, even as Scotland isn’t a social democratic paradise, the marked differences in how services are run, or more likely talked about (rhetoric again), will prove to accentuate the minor differences that – to those fully enmeshed within electoralism or who aren’t engaged with street politics etc. – will appear huge.

Given a better than expected outcome the SNP might well also really mean to keep to the idea of a Scottish exemption from TTIP despite their earlier commitment, and they might also keep the moratorium on fracking going. Those are two things I doubt would have happened otherwise. They are tactical responses.

The main narrative of the SNP for the next year or two is already in place anyway. “A stronger voice for Scotland” (increased democratic legitimacy), “getting what was promised” (appeals to justice), “an end to austerity”…this is what they are talking about. This *is* the narrative. And it’s so well rehearsed that it came dribbling out of one of their new MPs 2 days into the job.

It’s important to recall that narrative isn’t reality, it is what get said about or despite reality. So the SNP don’t really live up to that narrative, of course not. And while it is important to critique the narrative as mystification it is also important to track what the narrative does – because stories might not be reality but they are real, they have effects. Look at England: the left seem awed by the SNP, while everyone else is shitting themselves.

The Yellow Tory title is also bad narrative. I mean rhetorically its either really effective or it’s really shit. You get one of two responses.

1. Agreement: This usually comes from people who share your analysis already, and so functions only as a kind of affective ritual…it boils down to the in-group identification of “we are constituted as those against the snp because we are against Tories because we are against what they have done and will do”. I’m in that group. But I gain nothing by nodding my head in agreement.

2. Offence: Everyone that identifies as pro-SNP will react to the degree of identification by feeling threatened. This is an empirical point identified by social psychology and elaborated on by heuristical models of cognition. “Yellow Tories” is a short cut. It doesn’t say anything about the SNP or the Tories but relies on a quick, instinctual and affective identification of the sense that if one is bad then the other is as bad by association.

So you’ve essentially hit a nerve, and not because the critique is true… those being critiqued probably don’t care. Their supporters are likely to *feel* – because this rhetoric works at that level – that their values are being attacked and identified with the bad guys. They don’t want to be the bad guys. So they are left with a series of options. The ones that jump out most to me are: a) ignore the critique, b) ridicule it by attacking those making it in a similarly gut-feeling and heuristical way, thereby making the critiques sail amazingly passed each other, or c) entrench into their positions even further. Response c might even underpin a and b, and has been observed, empirically, to be one of the more universal features of cognition.

I admit you might get

3. People look at the critique and say “oh yeh, shit, I better look into this”. If this ever happens I reckon it’s pretty rare.


4. Oppositional groups share the same rhetoric and thereby cohere together assuming they share ideological commonality. Where this works, brilliant. Where it doesn’t… well, the examples are kinda too numerous.

All of which is just to say that narrative is powerful. I’m not about to buy into the snp’s narrative, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t see it as a fiction with real effects that help to compose the situation. It’s the situation we act in, right?

So yeh, reject and critique the SNP – but let’s not suppose to strongly that pointing out that the emperor has no clothes does very much good.


2 responses to “A reply on the SNP piece

  1. Pingback: Post-election thoughts pt1: The SNP | Glasgow Anarchist Federation

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