The only news in town today is of course the reported arrest of the former SNP Chief Executive Peter Murrell as part of Police Scotland’s investigation into the party’s funding. The first thing to stress here is that with an arrest this matter is part of an active criminal investigation which means that we all must respect Contempt of Court restrictions. This means that everyone must refrain from speculating about the guilt or innocence of the arrested person and may not do anything which could lead to the identification of anyone that the judge has allowed to remain anonymous. It is also against the law to share any evidence or facts about a case that the judge has said cannot be made public. This means that extreme caution must be used when commenting about this case, because this is a live police investigation and it is imperative to avoid prejudicing any possible court case or prosecution that may result from the investigation. However given the likelihood that certain individuals will attempt to use the comments section of this blog in order to mouth off about Peter Murrell, and social media is currently full of the usual suspects who are taking unseemly glee in this development, I have reluctantly decided not to permit comments on this story until more information is available and there is greater clarity about what is or is not legally permitted to be discussed in public.
However it is permissible to talk about the wider political ramifications of this story. There can be no doubt that the SNP, the Scottish Government, and the wider independence movement are in for a torrid time over the coming weeks and months. The British nationalist parties and their media allies will weaponise this story in order to attack the entire idea of Scottish independence. There will be massive and wall to wall coverage of the story and British nationalist commentators will rush to pronounce that it’s all over for the SNP and for Scottish independence. In the short term the only political beneficiaries will be the Labour and Conservative parties who will spin any gains they may make at the SNP’s expense as ‘proof’ that Scotland has gone off the idea of independence and that there is ‘no demand’ for another independence referendum.
However, as I have pointed out in the past on numerous occasions, the desire for Scottish independence is not a creation of the SNP, it is a product of deeper structural shifts within the nature of the British state, the failure of devolution to protect Scotland from Conservative governments which is what it was sold to Scotland as being able to do, the unwillingness or inability of Westminster to reform itself in any meaningful way, the decades long erosion of a sense of Britishness as a shared identity, and the rise of English nationalism. None of these factors are affected by any internal developments within the SNP, and once this legal case has passed they will reassert themselves. Scottish independence is bigger than any individual no matter how powerful or influential, and it is bigger than any single organisation or political party. The campaign for Scottish independence survived the massive media attention of the Alex Salmond case and subsequent developments, and it will survive this too. In the meantime it remains crucial that someone continues to make the case for independence and to focus on that bigger picture about why independence remains crucial for Scotland’s future and that is what I intend to do.
Unfortunately I have had some personal issues, the timing of which could not be worse given today’s news. I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I had received some worrying family news. My mum has now given me permission to mention more details about this in public. She was recently diagnosed with cancer in her left eye. We had originally hoped that the lesion the scan had identified was not cancerous, but sadly it turned out that it was and we were told that the only way to treat it and to prevent the tumour from spreading was surgery. This week she had an operation to remove the tumour, which entailed the loss of her eye. For a while there was the possibility that the surgery would have to remove part of the eye socket and the surrounding bone as well, which would have been quite disfiguring, but thankfully this proved not to be necessary. The surgeons are hopeful that they caught the cancer early and have dealt with the tumour before it spread. The operation was successful and my mother is now recovering. However she is in her 80s and has just had major surgery which has left her without an eye, and she has experienced issues with her other eye, and has recently had other health problems, unrelated to the cancer in her eye, which caused her to be hospitalised for a week, so naturally it’s a deeply worrying time for the family and of course I am preoccupied with this and not really able to concentrate on political matters like I should. My mum is expected to get home from hospital today, so I want to spend some time with her and will be taking a few days off.
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