Murray Foote is the newly appointed chief executive of the SNP. He’ll need a skin thicker than that of any known human or animal. Most of the Scottish press, of which he was for many years a senior player, is gearing up to help Labour win the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election. It will then move on to attempt to crush the SNP’s chances at the forthcoming general election.
As Scotland puts the damp summer of 2023 behind it, the nation can look forward to the bloodiest of battles between Holyrood’s SNP-led government and Scotland’s unionist and Right-wing media. No innuendo, no slur, no baseless implication, no incredible association, no vortex of spin, no petty error, no personal failing, no unprecedented stretch of the imagination, no rumour bereft of any substance, nothing that might be employed to undermine the elected government at Holyrood will go unemployed.
That the SNP is at its weakest point of the past twenty years is undeniable. This is an ideal circumstance for the British press. Once it sees a man, or woman or organisation is down and in trouble, it has no hesitation in putting in the boot, to help ensure the victim never gets up again. On occasions such as these the lines of Humbert Wolfe’s poem, The British Journalist, come to mind.
You cannot hope
to bribe or twist,
thank God! the
But, seeing what
the man will do
no occasion to.
Nothing that happens in the media war will surprise Murray Foote. But his tenacity, guts, perseverance, resolve and true grit will be tested like never before. Not only is he expected to revitalise the SNP’s public standing, put its election-fighting machine back in tip-top order and persuade supporters to part with money to fund the general election, but he also has to deal day in day out with all the slings, arrows, grenades and precision guided weapons coming 24 hours a day, every day, from the newsrooms of Scotland.
The hardest part of doing all that will be revitalising the SNP’s public standing. The party has been in power a long time. Along with many successes and delivering on manifesto commitments, it has of course made mistakes, some minor, some very big indeed. In that respect it is no different from any government in any democratic state in history. Expecting the public to give incumbent governments credit for things they have achieved is rarely a successful strategy. Much as politicians find it hard to comprehend, voters owe them nothing.
On Scotland’s side
Foote has a mammoth task. He can take heart that Humza Yusaf appears to be slowly winning a personal support base across the electorate. He can take heart that Stephen Flynn has proven himself a successful SNP leader at Westminster. He can take heart that polls show that around half of all Scots want independence. Above all, he can take heart that his party has a unique proposition for the voters. No other party can credibly claim the positioning the SNP can. It’s the most positive, most persuasive, most rational and most emotional proposition. It is that the SNP can say what the Lib Dems, Tory or Labour can’t credibly say. It can say we’re the SNP and we’re on Scotland’s side.
In his recent book “The Crisis of Democratic Capitalism”, the Financial Times’ Chief Economics Commentator, Martin Wolf, sets out an agenda for rescuing liberal democracy from the forces of political extremism that threaten its survival as a global political ideology. Part of his remedy involves the media and he writes;
“We must have a media that supports democracy rather than destroying it.”
That applies as much to the media in Scotland as anywhere else on the planet.