Former SNP deputy leader: Salmond is “totalitarian” and the SNP “intellectually dumb”

The SNP’s former deputy leader has accused the party under Alex Salmond’s leadership of being “totalitarian” and becoming an “intellectually dumb party”.


The SNP’s former deputy leader has accused the party under Alex Salmond’s leadership of being “totalitarian” and becoming an “intellectually dumb party”.

Having over the weekend questioned the First Minister’s belief that an independent Scotland would automatically join the European Union, Jim Sillars who famously won the 1988 Govan by-election, has used a guest article in Holyrood magazine to attack the iron grip with which the SNP leadership now rules and the failure of its backbenchers to show any backbone.

He writes:

“Today, the SNP is the most leadershipcontrolled party in the UK. If I did not know better, I would easily believe the leaders had been schooled in the old communist party, where the top, the elite, made the decisions and the rest fell into step automatically, with not a word of dissent.

“Totalitarian would be a fair description of Scotland’s majority party.

“It is worth remembering that many MSPs were elected legally, not as outright SNP candidates, but “Alex Salmond for First Minister” candidates, with all that means for who is the boss. That is the relationship that allows the leadership to instruct them to silence on a major issue, no matter that their constituents might like to know their views on NATO membership.

“Dialogue between the people and their representatives is essential in a genuine democracy. Apparently, it is not permitted in the SNP MSP-people relationship.

“The SNP leadership has reversed the fundamental principle of the parliamentary system of government: that we elect representatives, not delegates, who listen, but finally give us the benefit of their opinions leading to decisions taken by them.

Which category does an MSP fall into when told, and obeys, the ‘shut up’ instruction? There is, of course, the intriguing question of what an SNP MSP is to do if a constituent writes and asks for an opinion on NATO. Tell him/her that he cannot say anything?

“This is not the only gripe about parliamentarians: that is, people with views, ideas, principles, consciences, with a responsibility first to their constituents and the national interest to speak and act without fear or favour. The UK parties at Westminster pass that test. The SNP at Holyrood does not.”

Concluding, he argued:

“There is a virtue in loyalty, but if loyalty is taken to a point where an MSP, or even worse, a whole group of them, cannot balance loyalty to party with loyalty to principle and the interests of the people, then it becomes dumb loyalty; and that leads inevitably to an intellectually dumb party.”

His remarks come amidst reports of concern among the ranks of SNP MSPs over the way that Alex Salmond is coming across during the weekly sessions of First Minister’s Questions (FMQs).

Following last week’s FMQs one of Salmond’s backbenchers, speaking anonymously, was quoted in the Daily Record as saying:

“It might seem like a bit of knockabout in Holyrood but on TV he just looks like a bully. Worse, he looks like he’s dodging the question. The tone’s all wrong.”

Responding to the remarks by Jim Sillars, a spokesperson for the SNP has said:

“Jim Sillars is entitled to his view but the record points in exactly the opposite direction – as our debate on Nato membership at next month’s conference demonstrates, the SNP is the only party able and willing to have substantial policy debates for the wider party membership, including MSPs, to engage in and decide.

“We are going to have an excellent debate, including reaffirming the SNP’s strong stance to remove Trident nuclear weapons from Scotland, which reflects the democratic processes at the heart of the SNP.”

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4 Responses to “Former SNP deputy leader: Salmond is “totalitarian” and the SNP “intellectually dumb””

  1. Tristan Price-Williams

    Good old bitter Jim.
    Labour MP, who didn’t get his way over a Scottish Assembly in 1976 and so he flounced off and formed the Scottish Labour Party, which failed to win a seat (including his own) so he flounced off and joined the SNP, for which he won a by-election. He became deputy leader under Gordon Wilson and when Wilson stood down he backed Margaret Ewing; Alex Salmond won, and when Sillars lost his seat at Govan and described his constituents as “90 minute patriots” he flounced off again. Goodness what a lot of flouncing. His wife, Margo MacDonald, can flounce too, having left the party in 1982 and terminating her membership by standing as an independent in 2003.

    Incidentally, Sillars is the one that wants the Scottish government/parliament to indict your ex-leader for war crimes, and have him sent to the Hague using retrospective law. He’s bitter against everyone.
    I’d not pay too much attention to him. He’s barking!

  2. Munguin

    Oh Dear! Every political party has its awkward squad, and
    Jim is a one man band one for the SNP. Clearly the SNP are doing far too well,
    so it’s time to dig up the spectre at every SNP feast. And here is oor Jim to
    be just that, on cue!

    Never been unable to forgive the SNP for spoiling his
    attempt to play Alex Salmond against Margaret Ewing in the 1990 leadership
    contest, with, presumably, him being propelled through the centre to lead in
    the end. Getting your way but nicely! Only like all Jim’s hi-falutin schemes it
    was a total failure.

    Now Jim has to content himself with winging and carping from
    the sidelines and collecting his appearance fees for the Unionist rent-a-quote
    mob. A totally discredited busted flush! They would be much better off getting
    in arch homophobe Gordon Wilson for their anti-SNP trash, a lot more miles
    there I should think!

  3. franwhi

    Totalitarian compared to who ? The guy who took his party and his
    country into war on two fronts – Iraq and Afghanistan – in complete
    disregard of international law and the protests of millions of Uk
    citizens. Aye right !!

  4. jonlansman

    Jim Sillars has form on issues of party democracy. When a Labour MP in 1972, he co-authored a Tribune pamphlet with Frank Allaun and Ian Mikardo, “Labour: Party or Puppet?”, which arguably spawned the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy and the battles of the late 1970s and early 1980s for mandatory reselection and an electoral college for the election of the Leader.

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