Monday, 7 May 2012

Why Did The SNP Fail In Glasgow? Mainly Sectarianism

In Thursday's elections, the SNP was the clear and outright winner. In terms of bottom-line number of councillors, it won. In terms of increase in councillors (424 v 394 for Labour,  219 Others, 115 SCUP, 71 Liberals - now down to 70 already) it won. In terms of increase in councils controlled, it won. 

It outpolled Labour across the country, to become indisputably the only truly National Party in Scotland. The graphic below, from the SNP, shows that the Party is represented in almost every nook and cranny in Scotland. 

Wards represented by at least one councillor
Clockwise from top left - SNP, SLAB, Liberal, SCUP

The Labour party were left as a pathetic rump, a central belt party with a few pockets of support in the provinces. Massive swathes of Scotland is a Labour-free zone. Massive swathes are Tory-free zones. Pretty much the whole country doesn't have a Liberal councillor. 

Labour still haven't won a Scotland-wide election since 2003. 

But what they did do, almost unbelievably, was to take the glittering, shining prize of Glasgow City Chambers - retaining their majority. They also kept their majority on North Lanarkshire. They took control of Derek Mackay's Renfrewshire Council, as well as West Dunbartonshire. 

These places all have something in common: they are Western Scotland councils. 

There are three main reasons why the SNP did less well here than they did in the rest of the country. 

Perceived anti-Catholicism and anti-Irishness

It is in Western Scotland where the SNP have always struggled. In the historic General Election of 2011, which changed Scotland for all time, the SNP finally made elusive gains in the West. They took Labour bastion after Labour bastion, decimating the Labour Party and destroying forever its pernicious and malevolent control of the West. 

And immediately they did so, they took an apparent decision to alienate themselves from a huge, politically-active sector of the population which tends to vote en bloc. 

The Offensive Behaviour etc. Bill was ill-judged, and covered the SNP with an old taint: that of anti-Catholicism. It barely matters whether or not the Bill was conceived out of anti-Catholicism: the perception is what matters. 

To a huge swathe of the West of Scotland, the Catholics of Irish descent, who had months earlier voted overwhelmingly for the SNP for the first time, the old suspicion that the SNP did not have their interests at heart was hardened. 

The Community Safety Minister, Roseanna Cunningham, then made the breathtaking admission that she proposed to jail anyone who made the Sign of the Cross. This reinforced the perception. 

The Bill - seen as being aimed squarely at one section of the community and one alone - destroyed the SNP's reputation in one fell swoop. Mass protests emerged at soccer matches, and demonstrations against the SNP and its Bill took place. 

Celtic fans demonstrate against the SNP's Bill in Glasgow 

Just as soccer fans destroyed the authority of Thatcher's extremist government in Scotland in 1988, when Celtic and Dundee United fans in Hampden Park gave her such a vicious verbal kicking, the talk on the terracing was that the SNP had shown their "true face".

Thatcher never recovered from the Red Card in 1988

I don't believe that the SNP is anti-Catholic or anti-Irish. If it was, I would not have been a member of the party. If it was, it would not be publicly in favour of abolishing the Act of Settlement. 

But by the time the Bill had gone through, it mattered not. People believed that the whiff of anti-Catholicism which had hung around the SNP, carefully fostered by Labour lies and rumour, was too strong for them to ignore. 

This mattered. On Thursday, election day, as I walked up the Gallowgate to go to Celtic's Premier League match against St Johnstone, the lamp-posts were festooned - as they have been all season, with stickers. One particular sticker shows a cartoon boy in a Celtic shirt waving a huge Irish flag. A shadow falls over him. He looks up, to see a giant hand holding a rubber stamp ready to label him a bigot. The cuff of the shirt has the legend "SNP" on it. 

The implication is obvious. And the sticker itself ubiquitous. It is on every lamp-post on the walk from Glasgow Cross to Celtic Park. It is on support poles and walls inside the stadium. 

There will be very few Celtic supporters who will not have seen the sticker giving the clear message: "the SNP classes you as bigots and wishes to criminalise you - not because of what you do but because of what you are".

It is intensely damaging to the SNP - a hammer blow to its reputation amongst this community in Glasgow, and it is folly to ignore the impact of the anti-SNP campaign (particularly when the Committee convenor, Christine Grahame, faces undenied accusations of anti-Catholic motivation). 

The SNP cultivated the Irish Catholic vote in 2011. It was rewarded with unprecedented success in our Western Scotland heartland. 

For 2012, the SNP alienated the Irish Catholic vote. It was rewarded with fewer gains than anywhere else in Scotland, and the psychological disaster of increased Labour control.  

They must, must learn this lesson. They have just over two years to build bridges with our community - because if they continue to alienate the Catholic vote, they lose the referendum. 

The old "One Scotland, Many Cultures" slogan is now used bitterly as an example of how the Government seems happy to celebrate all cultures. Except one. 


The SNP leader in Glasgow is a first-class local Councillor, a woman who has already given so much to her community, and who has more to give. 

She is collegiate - ready and willing to listen to the advice of colleagues, and a popular figure within the local SNP. A retired teacher, she is active in the community and the party, where she has experience of being Nicola Sturgeon's election agent. 

Unlike Gordon Matheson, the Labour leader, she has the support of her Group on the Council. In order to give the SNP their best chance of winning popular support, their manifesto was written on a wiki basis, seeking contributions from citizens of all political hues and none throughout the City. It was a fantastic idea. 

She said that, although she was leading the SNP into the elections, she didn't know if she would lead the Party after the election. This showed honesty and humility - the SNP will choose their Group Leader after the election. 

These strengths and achievements were turned into negatives. The Herald was particularly vindictive in a manner which suggested a personal problem rather than a genuine critique of politics. She was treated as a doddering OAP who had lost her mind. The Herald displayed a sickening, disproportionate degree of ageism. There are plenty reasons why they could have argued Councillor Hunter wouldn't have made a good Council Leader. Her age simply isn't one of them. 

She was also targeted in a personal and bullying fashion by a jealous SNP member on his blog. He attended hustings after which he mocked her openly, and then suggested (seriously) that the SNP make him Group Leader. The fact that this mentally-ill former activist received only a single, solitary vote in his selection meeting, and that he was widely despised for his oddball, Walter Mitty behaviour and causal racism didn't seem to occur to him. 

So, undermined, inaccurately and unfairly, in the press as an old fool, and undermined by someone who should have supported her, Hunter lost out on the Council Leadership. She will surely resign as Group Leader, but shouldn't feel obliged to. She made gains - smaller than expected but still progress. 

The big problem with the leadership is that while Labour had big names, heavy hitters and people one could instantly recognise, the SNP didn't, really. Part of the problem was that so many strong councillors were elected to Parliament last May - people with massive personal support who could bring a personal vote with transfers (James Dornan, John Mason spring to mind). 

The SNP slate was often very young, and mainly with little experience of public service. It was quite a shallow pool, and at least one candidate had been a party member for only a matter of months. Ultimately, people often voted for the names they recognised - and they recognised Labour's names and a few Glasgow First names. I was impressed with the quality of the SNP's candidates, there are many unelected who should have been elected (in Govan, in particular, a huge tactical error in fielding three candidates saw only one elected. Two candidates would both have been elected). 

Naked Sectarianism from Labour Party

So, today the Red Flag flies over the City Chambers once again. In reality, it should be an Orange one. 

With opinion polls showing that the SNP were polling ahead of Labour, a panicked Gordon Matheson sought a meeting on the Monday before the election.

A SCUP candidate in Glasgow has confirmed the reports of Glasgow-based journalist Gerry Braiden that in that meeting, in the Evangelical Church, Matheson said he would allow the fascist bigots of the Orange Order free reign to march in Glasgow's streets in return for their recommendation to the slabbering, knuckle-scraping hordes of bigots that they vote Labour. 

Labour is the party of Orange fascism

Glasgow City Council policy is, and has been for some time, to reduce the number of fascist and sectarian parades which disrupt traffic, offend the sensibilities of the citiens, and attract drunken vermin to follow them, staggering through the streets of the city, and presenting the most appalling image of our city to visitors and locals alike. 

At the meeting on Monday, Matheson unilaterally declared to the bigoted, anti-Catholic Orange Order that he would change the policy in return for their votes. 

There we have it: Matheson throws all principle and any residual scrap of decency and tolerance out of the window for his political gain. This greasy apparatchik, who stands accused of ordering the bullying of vulnerable people, is happy to jump into bed with the shaven-headed, tattooed, swivel eyed thugs of the fascist Orange Order. 

Three Reasons

Three reasons why Labour held Glasgow. One which shames all right-thinking Labour members and reduces the Labour Party to thuggish collaborators. One which will often happen: journalists see a target and enjoy hammering it. And one which the SNP - if it truly aims to be a National Party for all of the people of Scotland - must sort. 

A perfect storm.


  1. The irony here is that the people the legislation is aimed at helping is the victims of bigotry - catholics.

    If they prefer to live in a Scotland with bigots for all time then that's their decisions.

    They need to grow brain cells to match the size of their poor decisions.

  2. Excellent article Tommy.You nailed it exactly.As a member of the Irish Catholic community in Glasgow I have voted for the SNP for the last number of elections.I did not vote for them in these elections to voice my disapproval of the Football bill and their proposed redefining of marriage.As you rightly point out perception is everything and the offensive beh.bill was seen by many in my community as an attempt to silence Irish expressions of Identity.There were already enough laws to deal with sectarianism but the courts had repeatedly thrown out cases involving Irish songs pointing out that they are not sectarian.

  3. Please drop the derogetory "mentally ill" bit. It undermines your argument. Otherwise excellent polemic.

  4. Would the "activist" who modestly suggested that he should be the SNP leader be George Laird?