NICOLA Sturgeon’s response after the SNP held on to Glasgow City Council last Thursday was both spiteful and disingenuous. “Labour threw the kitchen sink at Glasgow and yet they still can’t defeat the SNP,” the First Minister said.

Glasgow’s ruling SNP group know all about kitchen sinks, of course: on their watch these stalwart household appliances were a common feature of the city’s overflowing rubbish dumps during last year’s strike by refuse workers. The SNP’s reaction to that strike, as espoused by the council leader, Susan Aitken was to accuse trade unions of fascist behaviour. And besides, she said, Glasgow wasn’t “a uniquely dirty city”.

Ms Aitken’s leadership of Glasgow these last few years has turned large parts of the city into a wasteland. Nowhere is this more evident than on Sauchiehall Street where the lights have been going out one-by-one on iconic retail sites for several years now. The only growth Glasgow has witnessed in this period has been as a location for several Hollywood action movies. Perhaps Ms Aitken is now aiming for those apocalyptic, end-of-the-world films where groups of bewildered survivors wander through the crumbling remains of their city after a plague has wiped out most of humanity.

The First Minister’s defiant howl last Friday masked the true reality of what had happened in Glasgow. The ruling administration had come to within a whisker of being ousted by a party whose national leadership epitomises mediocrity and intellectual sterility. The SNP’s abject stewardship of Glasgow should have ended in defeat last week. That they hung on by one seat was due more to the fact that Scottish Labour have become so transfixed by the Union Jack that many of their former followers still feel they can’t vote for them.

And so, another national election has delivered another overwhelming victory for the SNP. By my reckoning that’s 11 elections in four different jurisdictions on the trot for the Scottish Nationalists. In Scotland they are virtually untouchable, being opposed by two parties whose elected members and leaders are now merely stealing wages to maintain the pretence that Holyrood presides over a functioning democracy. Until Scottish Labour finds a leader who can make a mature contribution to the country’s constitutional debate this impasse will continue.

After 22 years of doing little more than provide Patrick Harvie with a world-class pension, the Scottish Greens might have delivered something useful by now in chivvying the SNP out of its bizarrely lethargic approach to seeking independence. Instead they’ve been bound by a vow of silence in exchange for a couple of junior ministerial positions. And to think we all thought that the system of patronage which once produced rotten boroughs had disappeared with the 1832 Reform Act.

Perhaps the Scottish Labour Party did expend a substantial amount of money and energy at regaining Glasgow, but it’s doubtful their budget comes anywhere near the annual £1m the SNP spends on advisers and spin-doctors. Alongside providing edgy backdrops for fantasy action movies, this appears to be one of the few other areas of Scottish growth in the devolved era.

These party fluffers and agitators were all over social media in the weeks running up to the council elections. Many of them once purported to scrutinise the actions of this government; now they are good for little more than opening doors and fetching sandwiches for people who’ve laughingly been accorded full ministerial status and whom they once regarded as barely literate.

In these wretched circumstances where political opposition has been all but extinguished, responsibility falls upon the print and broadcast media and upon SNP dissidents to hold the Scottish Government to account. The SNP have already been in power for 15 years and few would bet against them reaching a quarter of a century. Few would be willing to bet either on their oft-stated pledge of holding a second referendum on independence before the end of next year.

There are many reasons to doubt the SNP’s ability or desire to pursue a referendum. Not the least of these is the absence of any fully-realised policy or even thinking around the currency issue, without which anything substantial about Scotland’s future relationship with the European Union is entirely redundant. The current Northern Ireland border dispute which has acted as a wrecking-ball to the governance of the Six Counties demonstrates the need for a detailed policy on an independent Scotland’s future border arrangements with England. Yet, there’s been nothing about this either.

Joanna Cherry is the only SNP politician who has demonstrated any acuity on such issues. But, after a campaign of bullying, intimidation and misogyny – orchestrated by senior figures in her own party – she was demoted.

The ordeal suffered by Ms Cherry has befallen many others within the SNP who have dared to criticise the merciless authoritarianism of Nicola Sturgeon. Many SNP activists have rushed to proclaim their feminist principles over the Roe versus Wade abortion debate in America. Yet they all chose to remain silent when their colleagues were being threatened with sexual violence on social media and bullied at Holyrood and Westminster for trying to defend women’s sex-based rights in the GRA debate.

At a less toxic level the orchestrated abuse directed at supporters of Scottish independence for daring to criticise the party’s con artistry in seeking a referendum has also intensified. And if you attempt to ask questions about the unexplained disappearance of £600k in party donations, or their incompetence around the CalMac ferry contracts you are reviled as a Red Tory or a Unionist plant.

The cabal of party loyalists who maintain the SNP gravy train also have questions to answer about their no-great-mischief-if-they-die policy towards Scotland’s elderly and infirm in the early days of Covid. Yet that too draws a pathetic response from the desperadoes on the party’s scarecrow wing who are seeking favour from “the boss” and the prospect of a considerable pay-day at a level beyond their talents in the real world.

The professional SNP is a vicious and pitiless organisation which proceeds on a ruthless system of patronage. They have disfigured what was once an optimistic and celebratory venture and damaged the overall cause of independence. It’s possible to revile this party and yet remain faithful to self-determination.

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