Margaret Lynch is a former director of the anti-poverty charity War On Want, a former volunteer with Glasgow Women’s Aid and Strathclyde Rape Crisis Centre, founded the SNP Women’s Pledge and was elected to the Policy Development Committee of the SNP by the party’s members four months ago.
I’ve been a political activist for all of my adult life, firstly in the Labour Party for almost 20 years and then in the SNP for the last 23 years, and all my core beliefs and values have remained pretty constant throughout that time.
I’m a left-of-centre democratic socialist, internationalist and and feminist.
A fair number of the folks that I was closest to in the Labour Party eventually ended up in the SNP – no real surprise, as we were labelled “Trot-Nats” by Brian Wilson when were in the Labour Party.
Unlike many Yessers I have the highest regard and respect for Brian – he is a values-driven politician and someone that I have always admired. The kind of country that Brian and I both want to live in would be remarkably similar. We just disagree about the route map of how to get there.
This is also true of my many friends who are currently choosing to remain in the SNP. There are really good and decent people who will stand with Nicola – notwithstanding recent events, I think that at heart, Nicola is a good and decent person herself. But my point of departure arose because of the conflation of a number of different factors all profoundly affecting politics in Scotland.
A critical problem has been the weakness of Labour and its inability to provide robust opposition to a government that has essentially held the reins of power too long. There is something about power which tends to affect the character of those who hold it. Any party which is in power unchallenged for 14 years develops a kind of political myopia which blinds it to the need to take account of its base and accommodate the views and opinions of the broader constituency which brought it to power in the first place.
Their leaderships tend to forget that internal debate is crucial to the formation of policy – and instead of welcoming constructive debate, they target those who voice dissent.
When you then throw into the mix policy capture of the SNP leadership by an extreme transgender ideological faction which has driven government policy for the last few years, you get an administration acting to the great detriment of women and girls.
The inability of the SNP leadership to accept the simple distinction between sex and gender has led them into very troubled waters and has done real harm. It has led to vulnerable women in prisons being subjected to sexual assault by men who “identify” as women, to a local authority adopting a “gender neutral” approach to domestic violence which saw funding removed from Women’s Aid groups because they refused to admit men to refuges or work with perpetrators.
Lastly and perhaps most ludicrously it’s seen a situation arise where crossdressers – but not real women – are protected by a Hate Crimes Bill which omits misogyny from the list of prejudices it seeks to prohibit.
The response of the SNP leadership to those women who did try and constructively engage within the SNP around these issues was genuinely shocking. They stood by and watched prominent female SNP elected representatives be hounded and abused, and said nothing. They colluded in attempts to prevent the selection of gender critical candidates using all manner of chicanery.
And when a large number of us were elected by the grassroots membership to the NEC and various policy and conduct committees of the party last November, they just ignored us, snuck most of the rejected candidates back in through the back door, threw away the party rulebook and ploughed on regardless.
All of this could have been avoided. We could have conducted a sensible and informed debate around the rights of transgender people and the rights of women, and come up with practical and reasonable solutions on how to accommodate both. But instead, lazy virtue-signalling and pandering to a tiny clique of a few dozen extremist gender ideologues among a party of tens of thousands of members was deemed to be more important than addressing the very real concerns of women.
The irony of Alex Salmond presenting a solution to our problems has not escaped me. Some feminists think this is a bridge too far. But what I know is that Alex Salmond’s political survival now depends on him demonstrating at all times and to all people that he can be trusted in women’s company and to defend women’s rights.
Nicola, who I have long admired and liked, has demonstrated over and over again that she CANNOT be trusted to defend women’s rights – and in fact would throw them under a bus in a heartbeat to gain the support of the fanatical youth wing of the party, and the Greens who appear to care less about the environment than they do about bedding down Queer Theory in Scotland’s political institutions.
What drew me to join Alba was the tactical opportunity it presented:
– to ensure that there’s a party which will protect women’s rights in Scotland, and provide a safe harbour for those of us who want independence to cast our votes in the coming election without betraying our sex.
– to act as a countermeasure to the malign forces which have propelled the SNP leadership towards an agenda which is dismantling women’s rights, to speak out on the matters which affect us, and to retain safe spaces and representation.
The electoral system in Scotland means that if I cast my second vote for the SNP it will likely either transfer to a candidate who will act against my interests as a woman, or enable the election of an MSP from a party that opposes independence.
Lesley Riddoch recently stated that using the second vote to prevent these outcomes felt like “gaming” to her. But the political system is the way it is, and if there is a means of approaching it tactically to advance and restore women’s rights then I’m up for using it, whatever you call it. The issues facing women and girls are too important for us to hold our noses and look the other way.
My hope is that in the wake of these events, and hopefully with the election of some Alba members to the Scottish Parliament, that at last Nicola and the SNP leadership reach a point of humility and accept the need to collaborate with others who want to see an independent Scotland.
Hubris has been far too much in evidence of late, on all sides. Alba gives us a chance to move on. We need to get to a second independence referendum – so that we can then focus on the issues that really matter.
That’s not just the rights of women and girls, but also the crusade against poverty and inequality which to its credit the SNP has been tackling, but with one hand tied behind its back. I want an end to Universal Credit, to the hostile system for asylum seekers and refugees, to the underfunding of our public services and to Brexit.
So whilst my core values as a democratic socialist and feminist haven’t shifted much in 40 years, politically speaking I’ve become a serial monogamist. And as so many are saying, that’s not because I’ve left the SNP. It’s because the SNP left me.