Scotland on Sunday is in full unionist attack mode today, in the guise of objective journalism. Read it and the Sunday Herald side by side and you might wonder if they published in the same country. Kenny Farquarson is in his Cassandra mode, tapping the side of his nose knowingly and making confident forecasts about SNP defence policy changes, and keeping the kind of company that goes with his theme – George Robertson and Jim Murphy.
I have to say that little in the Mitchell Report will come as a surprise to anyone in the party: the age profile of activists, the strands of opinion on defence issues and on NATO. Anyone conducting or consuming a review of grass roots membership views and their demographic profile in any major British political party and expecting to find a monolithic consensus on fundamentals of policy or a party comprised of young activists was going to be disappointed.
I know from my own writing on the nuclear issues, on defence matters and on the monarchy (I’m in favour of retaining the Queen) – and the responses to them - that my core beliefs on these matters are not uniformly shared across the SNP. Like any social democratic party, the SNP is centre left, and by definition contains some views to the right of that spectrum.
Compared to the deep schisms and near anarchy of the three unionist parties, the SNP is an oasis of consensus and rationality.
The nuclear issue and NATO are defining issues for me, but since no other major party is anti-nuclear or anti-NATO in its policy, if that policy changed I have nowhere else to go, except to some fantasy land of a re-grouping of the left in a new party committed to Scotland’s independence before the referendum. So I will stay with the party to independence, whatever shifts it may or may not make in policy.
However, I have hopes - but not high hopes - that the SNP will move swiftly to a decisive restatement of policy on defence and NATO – the policy is clear enough – and will comment on the Mitchell Report. Perhaps it won’t, and will feel it more appropriate to keep its eye on the independence ball. I will understand that priority, but be disappointed.
If the SNP were to abandon its non-nuclear stance and compromise on NATO, it would lose part of its soul, and as the only major British party with a soul, that would be sad, and realpolitik would reign supreme.
And though they spoke with the tongues of men and of angels they would become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
(with apologies to Paul, to the Corinthians, to James Mason and Carol Reed.)