How confident would you be to go against the grain in Sturgeon’s Scotland? What if you said something mildly controversial? Or flippantly shared a meme on social media? You’d be lying if you said ‘yes, totally confident here’, especially if you are employed in the public or third sector.
The SNP’s most mesmerising confidence trick is to somehow portray themselves as the anti-establishment political party de jure. Usually in direct contrast to what they perceive as the crumbling edifice of the traditional Victorian Ancien Regime in Westminster. Holyrood, however, is the Aquinian city on a hill, post-modern, with a post-modern, third-way party at the helm.
To be anti-establishment requires the ability to speak freely, question and, yes, on occasion, say something controversial to move the discussion forward, shine a light on a prickly subject or just to poke fun at it, something that the SNP is starting to deny to us to serve their political ends and narrative.
Instead, in Scotland, we are offered the bland smorgasbord of inane, tick-box, state-sanctioned, cookie-cutter opinions of the SNP with no deviation from their norm. Even worse is the selective picking of narratives because the SNP unquestioningly agree with them to the point where the degree of consensus and moral certitude within the party is ludicrous and I believe can only be enforced by a dangerously hierarchical leadership at the helm.
Recently, incidents in George Square have illustrated this. On the 17th of June, there was a counter-protest against Black Lives Matter and No Evictions Glasgow, caused by the mere discussion of the removal of statues from this location, probably exacerbated by the languid ‘covid malaise’ that we are all under at the moment. However, the First Minister and her collegial cohorts were quick to tweet that the counter-protesters were mere ‘thugs’ rather than perhaps discussing that they might, as a group, have a genuine grievance and feel that their history and identity was perhaps under threat? Some of the silent majority in the nation may even have a degree of sympathy with them, but to say so would be heresy and mean banishment for an SNP politician
However, those protesting for Black Lives Matter and No Evictions Glasgow were encouraged to ‘make your voice heard’, albeit online if possible, according to the First Minister’s supportive Tweet. One group’s cause is universally perceived as an absolute moral ‘good’ that is beyond questioning, the other group is hobbled, sidelined, criminalised and their views cannot even be discussed and are essentially ‘no-platformed’ by the Scottish Government
Elements of the state with a modicum of independence, such as the Scottish Police Federation, do fight back from time to time. In a letter to the Scottish Government, they were taken to task for their blatantly hypocritical attitude to the two groups of protestors from opposite ends of the political spectrum for this one issue: ‘The public cannot expect the police service to turn a blind eye to those who break the law in the name of a particular cause whilst demanding different treatment for opponents’.
Nicola’s SNP colleagues further reinforced the narrative:
Not only is the SNP policing certain opinions in our civic spaces, but their tendrils have also reached social media in Scotland as well. This is equally worrying, given that it was supposedly going to be the one place where freedom of speech could romp free in the electronic sunlit uplands, unbound by constraints.
I was first aware of this change, when Mark Meechan, aka Youtuber Count Dankula, made a video of himself training his girlfriend’s pug to do a Nazi salute and was convicted in a Scottish court of ‘inciting racial hatred’. Was the joke in bad taste? Yes. Was it funny? No, not really. Should it have gone to court? Absolutely not.
Recently, Police Scotland have been investigating people for doing the ‘George Floyd Challenge’. Worryingly, one person was allegedly reported for this after posting to Snapchat, a social media site which is more like a messenger service rather than Facebook. Again, utterly tasteless, but should a private joke have gone so far to involve law enforcement and potential ruination of someone’s career and life? No.
The proposed Hate Crime Bill (Currently at Stage 1 in the Scottish Parliament legislative process) would further enhance the Scottish Government to become an aggressive regulator of its citizen’s free speech and introduce a whole suite of new offences, including possession of material only likely to engender hatred. Of course, the level of offence is dependent on the person viewing the material in the first place, which is a dangerous precedent to begin with considering some people need content/trigger warnings now before watching a TV show.
Indeed, we’re almost in the realm of ‘pre-crime’ here, not unlike the dystopian 2002 film Minority Report, where a group of ‘precogs’ could witness criminal activity before it could even happen and a team would arrest the perpetrator even though no crime had been committed.
Doing some research for this article reminded me of something. There has been a meme circulating for some time called ‘NPC’. NPC is a term borrowed from computer gaming and is short for ‘non-player character’. These are characters that you can interact with within a game and they respond with a limited, staid, scripted response, placed there by the developers. Not capable of anything else because they have never been programmed for anything else.
This is the SNP and their politicians now; certain subjects will be met with a standardised response and are viewed as a total benefit to society even if almost nothing truly can be in this messy, overly globalised society we live in. I expect that if you provided an SNP politician with evidence that uncontrolled immigration is not an unqualified good all of the time in all of the places or that people should sometimes be responsible for feeding their children for six weeks a year, they would just blink at you like an automaton waiting for input from its master, unable to respond, much like an NPC in a computer game, while spouting the same scripted response when you try to interact with it.
These proposed rigid laws and social policing of thought, stifle us all and in the long term will benefit no one, as what is happening at the moment is merely the thin end of the wedge and pressure groups have a horrible tendency towards mission creep as they tick off objectives and never disband due to their internal inertia.
But the arbitrariness of how the SNP support and nurture certain causes, while utterly condemning others, which at the very least, will contain a kernel of genuine concern is a damning indictment of their narrowness of vision and inability to see nuance and puts paid to their biggest lie: that they represent all of Scotland, not just the societal segments that they ideologically agree with.