“NOW I will tell you the answer to my question. It is this. The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from the oligarchies of the past in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites.” – George Orwell, 1984

It's reasonable to predict that more than a quarter of a century will have elapsed by the time the SNP may be forced to relinquish power in Scotland. At this point and with the guarantee of another four years in government, only the prospect of full independence – that which they claim is their heart’s desire – offers the best opportunity of removing the SNP from office. Or maybe not.

There’s a rather sentimental belief about the party’s shelf life among independence supporters, especially those who’ve been alienated by the party. It suggests that if the SNP have failed to deliver an independence referendum by the time of the next Scottish election in 2026 then so many of their supporters will have run out of patience with them that they’ll desert them in multitudes. It’s a sweet and sincere thought, but one that doesn’t really bear much scrutiny.

It only really works if, by then, the Rip Van Winkles in the Scottish Labour Party have emerged from their two-decade long slumber and found a competent leader, driven by personal conviction and possessing some of the party’s old values. It also fails to acknowledge just how artful and resourceful the SNP is at gathering power to themselves.

Underpinning this is how adept the party has also become at commandeering every passing domestic and international crisis and using it to explain why the time may not be right for a referendum, even as they proclaim independence to be their sacred belief. George Orwell would have cited this as an example of double-think: the art of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.

It helps also that the government next door with each passing day is coming increasingly to resemble a gangster operation. Boris Johnson’s Conservatives have become so decoupled from what were once considered accepted mores of decency that it gives succour to the world’s edgier regimes who traditionally get a bad press from the civilised world.

“You might think we’re bad, but have you seen Britain lately?” The concept of using prison-ships to transport undesirables to Van Diemen’s Land in the 19th century has been updated by these Conservatives. First came the hostile environment they created to remove the Windrush Generation and now this has been followed by its truly evil Rwanda policy. The UK Conservatives seem to have embarked on a new strategy where their malfeasances and iniquities now occur so often that the English public has been anaesthetised to their collected effects.

Simply not being like Boris Johnson and Priti Patel purchases a significant stretch of motorway for the Scottish Government.

Those who fondly imagine that the SNP will disband once independence has been achieved and that its senior executives will step away from the administration of Scotland haven’t really been paying attention these last 15 years. This party has built a formidable and elaborate system of patronage that has insinuated itself into every agency by which the state is governed, deploying every instrument and lever. The most potent of these is money.

Controlling the purse-strings over such a long period of time permits you to provide finance for selected academic and specialist research bodies to bring about desired narratives. We’re seeing this in the very lucrative addiction research sector as a means of avoiding the cost of doing what really needs to be done in reducing drugs mortality rates: establishing rehab centres. It was also evident in the huge grants that maintain the financially rewarding anti-sectarian sector.

Those 15 years in power – with the reasonable prospect of another ten – permits you to have your placemen all over those so-called arms-length bodies which maintain the house-keeping of civic Scotland: the health boards; the education boards; Police Scotland and, most recently COSLA where an SNP councillor has become the new president, the top role in Scottish local government. It’s the first time in the organisation’s history that a party appointee has been appointed to this role.

In those 15 years the SNP has created and maintained an access-all-areas space for lobbying firms to cajole and advocate on behalf of secret clients. Some of these firms provide soft landings for those SNP and other party figures who are resting between political appointments. Occasionally, the links and connections are exposed if you have the eyes to see and the ears to hear. The sell-off of a large chunk of Scotland’s marine assets to the global energy cartel for a fraction of these conglomerates’ annual profits shows what can be achieved with platinum-card access.

The SNP’s other astonishing achievement is by subsuming the chief identifying characteristics of all the other major Scottish parties into a sprawling managerialist whole. Scottish Labour has already given up thousands of its supporters to the SNP by wrapping itself tightly in the Union Jack. All the SNP has recently had to do is condemn Boris Johnson at regular intervals while Keir Starmer sleeps on.

The Greens meanwhile have been wholly annexed by the SNP in a bloodless coup achieved with little more than a modest wage increase; a couple of twilight ministries and the occasional seat beside Nicola Sturgeon when she deems it to be efficacious. The Tories’ traditional roles of condemning trade unions, loving the Queen, embracing nuclear weapons and fantasising about NATO are also currently being annexed by the SNP.

This is a remarkable feat by the SNP and one which will transfix political scientists in the ages to come: the art of making traditional politics obsolete by creating a rainbow super-party of all beliefs … and pretending that elections still matter.

“It was a bright, cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”

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