THE mood at this year’s SNP annual conference in Glasgow has been described as residing at a point somewhere between subdued and doleful. Some fanciful explanations have been advanced to explain this mood of tristesse. Certainly the main thoroughfare of the cavernous SECC has lacked the sense of festival and jubilation that has characterised the atmosphere of the events in the years following the 2011 Scottish election when independence first broke into the category marked “achievable”. This, of course, can be explained in part by the decision this year to hold the conference at the start of the week rather than at the end when people are, well … more susceptible to a degree of merrymaking.

In the six years that have elapsed since then there has been an unbroken timeline of optimism and, occasionally, euphoria. The delight of winning a previously unthinkable majority at Holyrood was rapidly followed by the runaway momentum of the referendum campaign.

The 100,000 new members gave the next few conferences the aspect of a rally, a development which was disparaged by media professionals and commentators as populist. It gave rise to the word “zoomer” to describe those who were deemed to de deficient in sophistication.

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At any other time this conference too would have been attended by a feeling of joy unconfined. The SNP remain in comfortable control of Holyrood and at two successive UK elections have gained more seats than all of the pro-UK parties combined. The loss of 21 seats at Westminster in 2017 was a serious setback but I still recall Alex Salmond unwilling to dare to think that his party could win more than 20 UK seats in 2015. Before then the party held six.

Ironically, the chaos of Brexit which ought to have worked in the SNP’s favour has perversely relegated the UK constitutional issue to a position below our future relationship with Europe. Crucially it has allowed Theresa May a convenient excuse to withhold Westminster consent for a second referendum. She and her Scottish representative Ruth Davidson have dressed this up to include the narrative that a majority of Scots do not want a second referendum. The problem with this line is that it is based merely on opinion polls commissioned by Unionist media outlets.

In four successive national elections on either side of the Border, a pro-independence majority has prevailed in Scotland.

So, having decided that this year’s conference is a subdued and lacklustre affair attempts are being made to search for analyses that will fit this narrative. Thus the Yes movement must become more “centrist” and ditch the radicalism that has fuelled the optimism and advances of the past few years. This is obviously because such optimism was fuelled by the zoomers whose opinions must be disregarded and dismissed as inferior.

It’s also been suggested that the SNP has lost its sense of “grievance”. And a sense of “grievance” is a bad thing because who knows where that might end? It conveniently skims over the fact that the entire Labour movement was founded on a collective sense of justifiable grievance. This held that for too long UK society was run by a privileged few for the primary benefit of a few. It is why the slogan “for the many not the few” has resonated so much in the recent re-emergence of the Labour Party as an electoral force.

A THEME is beginning to develop here and supporters of independence need to be aware of what lies behind it. The class that has traditionally made the arrangements for managing the UK always becomes fretful when anything resembling a revolt begins to emerge. The most serious challenge to its hegemony in 300 years after the growth of the trade union movement was the emergence of a broad-based Scottish independence movement. Thus they attempted to dismiss its adherents as unsophisticated rustics who didn’t know what they were talking about. Now they are urging the SNP and the wider Yes movement to embrace “centrism”; to be more “reasonable”; to ditch the anger.

Yet the reason why so many Labour Party supporters in Scotland began to embrace the concept of independence was because they felt their party had lost its anger. Little changes in the face of a centrist and reasonable approach. For “centrism” read being “well-behaved” and “knowing your place”.

There are simply not enough SNP supporters residing in Scotland to deliver independence. It only became a possibility when former Labour supporters felt that it offered the promise of authentic and meaningful societal change. This had nothing to do with anti-Britishness or antipathy to England. For many it rested on a sorrowful acknowledgment, a slow realisation over two decades that the promise of 1997 and Tony Blair had evaporated in a mist of acquiescence; of accepting that radical change was too difficult: best not to scare the horses too much and then wait for a coat of ermine and a seat in the House of Lords.

The SNP and the wider Yes movement must resist all the siren voices luring it towards “centrism” and “reasonableness”. What would be the point of joining a party that strives merely to be like all the other parties? Let’s not forget how Brexit – ruinous, fearful and xenophobic Brexit – came about. It was a mere tactic by a vulnerable Conservative Prime Minister to placate the medievalists in the scarecrow wing of his party. It was then seized upon by rich Tory cynics as a means of advancing their own careers secure in the knowledge that their personal and family fortunes would insulate them from its consequences. It is chiefly supported by people who think that there are too many foreigners in the UK and has encouraged others to advance their anti-immigration instincts. It has been seized upon by big businesses who see in it an opportunity to curb trade unionism and workers’ rights.

When Brexit finally happens the UK will be a colder and less compassionate place. It will embrace the nihilistic “survival of the fittest” doctrine so beloved by Margaret Thatcher and her acolytes. Set against that a “centralist”, “well-behaved” and “reasonable” approach will achieve nothing. When this occurs it must find an independence movement that has lost none of the anger and thirst for radical change that made it so attractive to those of us on the unruly Left.