I assumed that a political party as astute at communications as the SNP would be familiar with the term â€˜damage controlâ€™. But, given Joan McAlpine MSPâ€™s Daily Record column today, it seems such political acuity hasnâ€™t filtered down to the backbenches.
In her column, McAlpineâ€™s compares the union to a â€œmarriage of a talented, well-educated girl with good prospects and her own income, to a domineering manâ€. Â A man who thinks she â€œcan’t be trusted to manage her own moneyâ€ and who will cut the pin money â€œif she gets uppityâ€. But fear not gentle reader. For Scotland eventually â€œrecognises the relationship for what it is – an abuse of powerâ€.
Coming just over twenty-four hours after the Sunday Heraldâ€™s revelations alleging how Bill Walker MSP mistreated his three ex-wives and step-daughter, McAlpineâ€™s invocation of spousal abuse and control is utterly crass. Comparing politics to domestic violence is at best tasteless, and at worst deeply insulting. Â Labour MP Owen Smith apologised for making similar comments in 2010, and I think McAlpine should do likewise, instead of declaring herself proud of such ill-thought polemic.
And it was all going so well. It was even going well in yesterdayâ€™s Daily Record feature, where McAlpine herself states:
â€œWe all want a more successful, fair and equal country where everyone shares the success.
â€œThatâ€™s what Daily Record readers want and what I want as well but you canâ€™t make the case for that by moaning â€“ you have to be positive.â€
So whereâ€™s the positive agenda? I donâ€™t think I need to remind the SNP of their ‘women problem’ facing them when it comes to a vote on independence â€“ plenty of others have catalogued it. I suspect however successful the local election results in May, the new troops of SNP councillors will remain male, pale and stale.
I know there are SNP members, both activist and elected, who care deeply about the problems facing Scottish women. But when I read drivel like McAlpineâ€™s column, it just leads me to think that the only goal for too many nationalists is independence and independence alone. Not day 2, or year 2, or the second decade after independence.
Despite Nicola Sturgeon noting yesterday that independence is the means and not the end, such distasteful and negative comparisons like those drawn by McAlpine between Scotland and England makes me think that for some, winning the referendum is the only thing that matters.Â Scottish passports as more important than supporting the 1 in 5 women who experience domestic abuse in their lifetimes. Saltires given more prominence than getting rid of the 12% gender pay gap. Wrangles over the constitution instead of righting the wrong of child poverty.
It may seem the Scottish people are now more receptive than ever to arguments for independence, thanks to the Scottish Governmentâ€™s ability and expertise, and its positive and progressive outlook, but women remain more dubious. Â Lesley Riddoch rightly identifies the turn-offs: â€œconstitutional nit-picking and ego-ridden banterâ€, instead of the big ideas and ambitions that drive politics and change. McAlpineâ€™s column is yet more ill-put grievance, when the SNP needs to keep talking about vision and ambition.