In yesterday’s Scotland on Sunday, Eddie Barnes had a long piece discussing the thinking of the SNP as it now is. This is frequently misunderstood, or even caricatured, outside Scotland and particularly London – while there are still echoes of the ‘fundamentalists v. gradualism’ disagreements (and reason to think that still has some traction with the party’s grass-roots members), that is 15 years or more in the past. What the SNP has clearly been talking about for the last eight or 10 years is self-government, what difference that would make, and the institutional arrangements needed for it. This might – but need not necessarily – involve formal statehood and sovereignty as it’s understood in international law. Barnes’s article is the first time I’ve seen that seriously discussed in the mainstream press. It’s available here, and is well worth reading in full.
This stuff is not exactly new, though. In 2004 Kenny MacAskill set out these issues in an interesting pamphlet called Building A Nation that certainly didn’t get much attention outside Scotland, but which is well worth reading even now (it’s available here). A new book edited by Gerry Hassan and Rosie Ilett, Radical Scotland: Arguments for Self-determination, just published by Luath Press, articulates a similar point of view in more discursive terms. (Details of that are here, and it can be ordered directly from the publishers or here.)
This strand of Scottish nationalist thought has underpinned the SNP’s development for some time, and so has to be regarded as an important element of their electoral success. Even if it’s hardly likely to be the stuff of common conversation in the pubs of Perth or the closes of Kirkcaldy, it explains the reach of the SNP into much of Scottish intellectual life and the commitment of many of its activists. It needs to be taken seriously to understand the current debates.