Jim Sillars: The ego has crash landed

Jim Sillars, who was once the deputy leader of the SNP and who is a former, with the stress very much on former, leading light in the Scottish independence movement has issued an open letter to that movement that he turned his back on after it failed to accept his own estimation of himself as a powerful and sage seer, in which he asserts that the war in Ukraine has made any talk of another Scottish independence referendum, “foolish”. Jim Sillars’ latest angry and unhelpful intervention in a long line of angry and unhelpful interventions comes after the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Patrick Harvie, the co-leader of the Scottish Greens insisted that plans for a second independence referendum next year remain on track and that the Scottish Parliament will shortly approve measures to enable the referendum to be held on schedule.

Jim Sillars now spends most of his time and energy providing Scotland’s overwhelmingly anti-independence press with stories which they hope will undermine the independence movement and weaken the political pressure on the British Government for another independence referendum. In January last year Sillars called on Nicola Sturgeon to “deprioritise” a second independence referendum and focus instead on the economic crisis caused by the pandemic.

In May 2019, Jim harrumphed that it was “impossible” to vote for the SNP in that year’s European elections because of its stance against Brexit. Last year Sillars, a long standing critic of the science behind anthropogenic climate change despite having no scientific credentials of his own, urged the First Minister to eject the Scottish Greens from the Scottish Government and not to give in to what he termed “scaremongering” about climate change, but instead to press ahead with the extraction and exploitation of fossil fuels from the North Sea.

It recently came to light that in last year’s crucial Holyrood elections, Jim Sillars funded the campaign of the Labour candidate, the rabidly anti-independence Jackie Baillie in a crucial Holyrood Constituency contest which was vital for the SNP’s hopes of securing a majority in its own right in the Scottish Parliament. As it turned out, Baillie held on to the seat against expectations, thanks to a concerted tactical voting campaign organised by the British nationalist right, and the financial aid supplied by a man who fancies himself as being influential in pro-independence circles.

Sorry Jim, but you gave up any right to lecture the SNP, the Greens or the wider independence movement on strategy and tactics when you decided that you wanted to deprive the SNP of an absolute majority in the Scottish Parliament in order to ensure the election of a woman who is one of the most fervently anti-independence and knee-jerk apologists for British nationalism in the Labour party in Scotland. So if you want to send any open letters on the topic of independence to anyone Jim, send them to Jackie Baillie, because she’s about the only person left who thinks that you have anything worthwhile to say. The rest of us who support independence, whether we support the SNP or not are not about to take advice on how to attain Scottish independence from a man who demanded that a second independence referendum should be “deprioritsed” and who backed the re-election of an anti-independence MSP who rejects the mandate of Holyrood to hold another referendum.

Sillars thinks that the war in the Ukraine and the tide of refugees fleeing the country, a number which now exceeds three million, has radically changed the geopolitical situation, necessitating a complete reboot of the case for independence. The war in Ukraine and the changed geopolitical situation that has resulted from it has certainly shown the foolishness of Jim Sillars’ belief that an independent Scotland should continue in its own version of the British nationalist delusion that is Brexit and should not attempt to forge closer associations with our friends and allies in Europe. It’s the policy of the SNP and the Scottish Government that an independent Scotland should be a member of both the EU and NATO. That gives Scotland the exact same security guarantees as Denmark, Belgium, or the Netherlands.

It’s Jim Sillars’ vision of independence which is now in need of a complete reboot, the existing position of the Scottish Government that an independent Scotland should seek to join the EU as quickly as is practical has been vindicated by the agonies of Ukraine. It’s not the SNP or the Scottish Government which wants an independent Scotland to stand isolated and alone in an uncertain and frightening world, that would be Jim Sillars. It’s not the SNP or the Scottish Government which wants Scotland to increase its dependence on fossil fuels and to deny the reality of climate change, that would also be Jim Sillars. Jim Sillars is a lonely and angry voice, punting a version of independence more suited to the politics of a previous generation. He is hopelessly out of touch with the concerns and interests of that younger generation of Scots, a large majority of whom support independence and whose support is vital if we are to win that second independence referendum that Jim Sillars seemingly does not want to have any time soon.

Jim also demands that there should be no talk of another independence referendum until such time as there is a substantial and sustained majority for independence in the opinion polls. It might be churlish to point out to Jim that we would stand a better chance of building that sustained majority if he were to stop trying to undermine the Scottish Government and the only two pro-independence parties with representation in the Scottish Parliament at every turn. Just a wee suggestion there.

I have no idea why a man who was once a passionate advocate of Scottish independence, whom I saw speaking eloquently about the need for independence in a church hall in Carntyne during the 2014 referendum campaign should have morphed into an angry and bitter contrarian who parrots the anti-referendum attack lines of the Labour party and the Tories. What I do know however is that if we were to act on the advice of Jim Sillars, Scotland would never become independent. Sillars is no longer an advocate of independence, he’s just another source of anti-independence and SNPbad stories for a Scottish media with an unceasing appetite for anything that might help to fend off Scottish independence. Whenever you see a news story telling you Jim Sillars’ latest pronouncement on Scottish independence, it is best filed under “ignore”.

I’m afraid updates to the blog will be a bit intermittent this week as I am battling a bout of post-stroke fatigue which isn’t being helped by the fact that I fell a couple of days ago and injured my right arm, which is the one that works. It wasn’t a bad fall or a bad injury, but it was a reminder that I need to be more careful. I tripped on the steps because I wasn’t paying attention. I have no instinctive sense of where my left foot is, and have to look at it to know where it is. I wasn’t looking. I thought it was securely on the step but it turns out that it wasn’t, so I fell and hurt my arm when I put my right hand out to break my fall.

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