Some of my best friends are Scottish Nationalists, so what I am about to say is said with the full knowledge that the SNP has many decent people within its ranks. Until the fox hunting farce, its group of 56 MPs had made a highly positive start at Westminster.
Of course, there is much I dislike about the SNP’s platform – from its long-running opposition to the transformative education reforms implemented by Blair, Adonis, Cameron and Gove, to its anti-market leftish moral superiority complex – but Scottish Labour was frequently just as bad on those fronts and these are just my personal predilections.
What is really troubling about the SNP is the way in which it is turning into a personality cult, in which the controlling leadership can say one day that black is white and the next that white is black and the snarling followers online will instantly parrot the line slavishly as though it is gospel.
It is in that context that the decision on fox-hunting should be seen. The party announced that it would after all vote on the issue at Westminster on legislation regarding England, despite this being a devolved subject in which the Scottish parliament has jurisdiction north of the border. Today that has forced the UK government to withdraw the vote on fox hunting.
No vote (of course) was taken at the SNP group meeting at Westminster before the move was made onto English territory. None was required; the decision was unanimous, but of course, because the leadership had decided. Remember that dissent, even criticising decisions of the leadership, is now forbidden (seriously) in the SNP rules.
The SNP until yesterday took a perfectly honourable post-devolution position on this stuff. In February, Nicola Sturgeon explained in a piece for the Guardian, that the party would not vote on legislation that only impacted on England, such as fox hunting. She was very clear about this, until an opportunity presented itself to sow discord in England, infuriating some Tories and delighting some left-wing people who will now look to the SNP for supposedly progressive leadership with Labour in such a mess. This is a dream for the Nats. The SNP exists to break the Union and is never happier than when it can get the English fighting among themselves.
Yet in a truly great national party, one that didn’t just use the word democracy as a slogan and that actually practised it, there would be room for numerous dissenting voices pointing out that this was a cynical move that makes a mockery of the leadership’s claim that they are at Westminster to be constructive.
Not in the SNP, where a 180 degree turn is made and everyone miraculously agrees with the leadership. They know that if they do not they will be flung out of the party.
You can shrug about this and say it is politics. What do you expect? Well, Labour and the Tories even in their periods of pomp had dissenters. Think of Thatcher with the Wets and then Hezza; and Blair with his refusnik Left during Iraq.
In contrast, the SNP has become a creepy personality cult built around a control-freak leadership that is much worse than New Labour ever was.