A truly out­dated politi­cian

The Courier & Advertiser (Angus and The Mearns Edition) - - NEWS OPINION - Alex Bell

Pete Wishart is the kind of phony na­tion­al­ist that blights the in­de­pen­dence cause. Loy­alty to the SNP above hon­esty may make for a me­dia-proof po­lit­i­cal party but it doesn’t make for an in­tel­li­gent con­tri­bu­tion to your na­tion.

Mr Wishart be­came an MP in 2001 and since then has been im­pec­ca­bly loyal to the party ma­chine.

Had HQ told him the moon was made of cheese, then he’d have gone out on so­cial me­dia and yelled ched­dar lu­nacy to the world.

This must have seemed en­joy­able when the party was on the rise but at the last elec­tion he kept his seat by only 21 votes, a shock which seems to have awo­ken a chro­mo­some of doubt.

Last au­tumn he no­ticed that the pub­lic had be­come weary of con­sti­tu­tional talk.

Last week he wrote the party needed to ad­mit to mis­takes and ask it­self hard ques­tions, and called for that beloved op­tion of un­de­cided, or trou­ble­some, politi­cians – a de­bate.

Mr Wishart used his priv­i­leged po­si­tion as MP, on a big salary, and as a party grandee, to ques­tion pre­cisely noth­ing of what the lead­er­ship told him in the past.

In never ques­tion­ing, he is as re­spon­si­ble for what he calls the “out­dated” white pa­per as any­one else in the SNP.

He and the ranks of obe­di­ent ser­vants are re­spon­si­ble, among other fac­tors, for los­ing the 2014 ref­er­en­dum.

In­ept

Their lack of cu­rios­ity about the details of what they pro­posed led to a party woe­fully in­ept in its in­de­pen­dence pitch.

We shouldn’t dwell on Mr Wishart, a man who has sud­denly de­cided that an orig­i­nal voice might be a good way to win dull of­fice (the de­pute leader of the SNP) be­cause there are other run­ners in this field.

James Dor­nan MSP says he’d make a good deputy be­cause Indyref2 must be held soon, and the party should be ready – pre­sum­ably im­ply­ing that with­out his acute anal­y­sis, the party would miss the mo­ment.

Does he re­ally think Indyref2 is close? That alone should dis­qual­ify him from any of­fice.

If the ev­i­dence isn’t there in a slowly slid­ing sup­port for Indy and the huge wave of voter hor­ror at snake-oil-sell­ing politi­cians, then it should be writ large in the be­hav­iour of the dis­ci­plined team who got him, and so many, to the first ref­er­en­dum. The team have quit.

The rea­son there is a race for deputy leader is be­cause An­gus Robert­son has re­signed, some months after los­ing his seat.

If he thought Indyref2 was close or winnable, would he have done that?

What about the two sharp lads from HQ in 1997 – Kevin Pringle and An­drew Wil­son?

Mr Pringle works for Mr Wil­son’s PR com­pany, and Mr Wil­son is made to de­lay a year be­fore he can pub­lish his eco­nomic anal­y­sis of Scot­land.

These peo­ple aren’t yet 50, but they are not des­per­ate to stay on the Indy bus they did so much to build.

Mean­while the ex­iled king, Alex Sal­mond, is in the pay of a Rus­sian ca­ble TV chan­nel – a ca­reer choice un­likely to en­dear him to swith­er­ing vot­ers in Scot­land.

Mr Wishart’s con­cern for ques­tions and de­bate should have been there 20 years ago, when he first stood for the party. Had he been cu­ri­ous then, the white pa­per might have been a lot better.

He should have asked about the true eco­nomic sta­tus of Scot­land.

He should have ques­tioned the weirdly counter-fac­tual line about seam­lessly re­main­ing in the EU after Scot­tish in­de­pen­dence.

And if he hadn’t spent his time on these ques­tions, he might at least have given the Scot­tish peo­ple – those very peo­ple whose lives he wanted to change pro­foundly – a sense of why he thought that change was good.

Real de­bate

If Pete Wishart wants a real de­bate, I’ll hap­pily have it with him.

We can tease out what op­tion he thinks is best for the cur­rency, what the bud­get deficit will be in Year One of in­de­pen­dence, or how the NHS will be better after in­de­pen­dence.

Though the SNP are con­tent to think any critic is sim­ply a union­ist in dis­guise, I make this of­fer in the gen­uine at­tempt to let Scots into the de­bate about our na­tion’s future.

The peo­ple are locked out when the de­bate con­sists of ri­val lines of spin or the loyal recita­tion of fan­ci­ful ‘facts’.

It’s hard enough to un­der­stand mod­ern pol­i­tics, so dom­i­nated as it is by eco­nomics, but harder still when the SNP, like Brex­i­teers, refuse to en­gage in rea­son­able dis­cus­sion.

If he doesn’t fancy a chat, then Mr Wishart might want to start his new ca­reer as the hon­est bro­ker of the SNP by draw­ing up a Year One bud­get for an in­de­pen­dent Scot­land.

He has all the re­sources to hand, as chair­man of the Scot­tish Af­fairs Com­mit­tee, it won’t cost him a penny.

It will show in stark num­bers the is­sue is not the le­git­i­macy of Scot­land as a na­tion or the in­com­pe­tence of West­min­ster, but the com­plex­ity of im­prov­ing Scot­land while op­er­at­ing with sub­stan­tially less money, and the chal­lenge of find­ing a work­able cur­rency op­tion.

Ad­mit to that Pete, and you de­serve to call your­self a real na­tion­al­ist.

“Their lack of cu­rios­ity about the details of what they pro­posed led to a party woe­fully in­ept in its in­de­pen­dence pitch

Pic­ture: Steve Macdougall.

Pete Wishart: “Loy­alty to the SNP above hon­esty may make for a me­dia-proof po­lit­i­cal party but it doesn’t make for an in­tel­li­gent con­tri­bu­tion to your na­tion,” ac­cord­ing to Alex.

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