Will identity politics zealotry on both sides scupper the SNP-Green deal?

First of all, thanks for all the kind words about the podcast with Maggie McNeill the other day.  It turned out to be extremely timely, because as you may have seen in the Scotsman today, the SNP’s plans to introduce the Nordic model on prostitution law may end up scuppering the proposed deal between the SNP and the Greens on a programme for government. 155 members of the Green party have written an open letter to Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater, citing the Nordic model as one of the main reasons for not pushing ahead with a deal.  If you’d like to learn more about why there is such strong opposition to the Nordic model, you can catch up with the podcast HERE.

But it won’t surprise you to hear that the other main objection to a deal raised in the letter is the SNP’s supposed “transphobia”.  It’s difficult to know whether to laugh or cry about this, because whatever position you take on the trans debate, it’s beyond all credible dispute that the SNP leadership have come down decisively on the side of trans activism. To still accuse them of transphobia, even after Nicola Sturgeon’s notorious “hostage video”, even after the treatment of Joanna Cherry, smacks of zealotry and extremism. What more are they supposed to do?  Are they supposed to expel or hound out of the party every single SNP member that holds gender critical views?  Incredibly, it appears the answer is yes.  Dare I say it, some Green members seem to be liberally partaking of the parfum d’obsession.

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Over the last 24 hours or so, I’ve taken a complete break from moderating comments on this blog – I haven’t even read the comments that have come through to my inbox, so apologies if you’re innocently caught up in this and are still waiting for your comment to be approved.  I’ve once again reached saturation point with the whole thing, this time because one of our long-term regular commenters has been having a bit of a meltdown on the basis that not all of his comments have been approved quickly enough for his liking.  The nadir was reached a few days ago when he attempted to post an epic rant that literally accused me of being Stuart Campbell (!).  He also sent me a long email a week or two back that was chummy in tone, but that basically tried to dictate to me what my moderation policy should be – and that just ain’t on.  Anyone is welcome to post comments here (well, apart from two or three specific individuals who I’ve told are not welcome), but whether comments are approved or not is entirely at my discretion.  That’s a feature, not a bug.  

I probably would have responded to the email eventually, but finding the time became a bit tricky because the same person continued to attempt to post multiple War and Peace length diatribes every day, and I had to wade through those and decide what to do about them.  To give you a general rule of thumb about the sort of comments that are at risk of not getting through, obviously I have to be careful about anything that may cause legal problems or that contains extreme swearing.  But there’s a broader category of comments that waste my time in some way or another, because the only way I can realistically publish them is if I take the time to reply.  For example, personal attacks on me, attempts to troll me, or determined attempts to call into question the factual basis of the blogpost that is being commented on.  It’s one thing if stuff like that appears elsewhere on the internet, but if I allow it to appear here without any rebuttal, that can be taken (wrongly) as tacit acceptance on my part that the comments are valid.  So a lot depends on whether I have the time to reply at any given moment, and if I don’t, it’s not unusual for me to keep a comment in the moderation queue in the hope that I’ll have time later on.  But obviously if the comment contains paragraph after paragraph after paragraph of trolling or attacks, there’s a much greater likelihood that I’ll never have enough time.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about.  I recently wrote a blogpost that pointed out that the SNP had asked voters to use the 2017 Westminster general election to give them a “triple lock” mandate for an independence referendum. The commenter in question posted a long comment – which I reluctantly approved – that falsely claimed that the SNP manifesto did not mention anything about a triple lock mandate, and that he would not have voted SNP if it had.  I politely told him to read the manifesto again – and he responded with another epic comment insisting that he had checked the manifesto and that the words weren’t there.  He supplied lengthy quotes as supposed ‘proof’.

Here’s the thing, though: I actually went to the SNP’s manifesto launch for the 2017 election in Perth.  Everyone who attended was given a free copy of the manifesto, and I clearly remember reading the triple lock section while I was actually sitting there.  I didn’t have time to set the commenter straight by searching for the manifesto and trawling through it to find the relevant passage, but nevertheless I knew for a fact that he was misleading people.  Was I really supposed to approve, without rebuttal,  a comment that a) was factually inaccurate and b) would have falsely left me looking either deluded or like a liar?  For the record, here’s what the 2017 manifesto actually said – 

“Last year’s Holyrood election delivered the democratic mandate for an independence referendum. The recent vote of Scotland’s national Parliament has underlined that mandate. If the SNP wins a majority of Scottish seats in this election, that would complete a triple lock…”

However, by far the biggest problem in recent days has been the sustained attempt to propagandise away the legitimate concerns about the £600,000 that was donated to the SNP’s “ring-fenced indyref fund” and that mostly appears to have been spent on other things.  A recurring theme has been “if the police decide to take no action, that means the allegations are baseless and those who have made them must apologise”.  My tolerance for that kind of nonsense is practically zero at this stage.  Not all breaches of trust reach the threshold for criminality – indeed the vast majority don’t.  What the police do or don’t do is essentially irrelevant to the question of whether members’ trust has been betrayed in this case.