Do Or Die Day

If last night’s First Leg of the Play-Off Final proved anything, it is that Rangers are a Championship side and no more than that.

I have been saying to people that the euphoria over victories against Queen of the South and Hibs is baffling, given that Hibs were only surmounted because of their woeful inability to convert several stonewall chances.

Motherwell proved to be an entirely different obstacle and once again exposed the inadequacies of this Rangers team.

The frailties that have been a feature of the Light Blues’ performances over the past few seasons were on show last night – and resulted in a very difficult deficit for manager Stuart McCall and his shattered players to overcome on Sunday.

Poor defending and careless distribution, along with suicidal positioning, allowed Motherwell to score three goals before a late McGregor reply gave Rangers a little hope going into Sunday’s second leg. The premature promotion celebrations were suddenly put on hold and the nightmare scenario of another season in nowheresville crept like a dark shadow over a hushed Ibrox.

Sunday is do-or-die for Rangers and for the troubled regime which only took power two months ago. The prospect of selling season tickets for another season in the Championship to an already heavily-depleted support is as attractive a proposal as being given the job of selling de-icer in Dubai.

The pressures on Rangers don’t go away even if Stuart McCall pulls a very big rabbit out of the hat at Fir Park. Arguably, it is a much more difficult job for the King consortium as they will have to invest heavily in a squad that can compete.in the Premiership – and by compete I mean survive. The level of investment required to mount a serious title challenge is way beyond Rangers at this time, hence the seven year plan often referred to.

Motherwell may be the second bottom team in the Premier division of Scottish football. But they have so far proved that there is a difference in quality between the divisions and that Rangers will have to take some very big steps to enter and stay in the top flight. Give them their due, they beat Rangers in a professional,clinical fashion and thoroughly deserved to take the lead back to Fir Park.

Arguments rage over who is to blame for the debacle that has been Rangers’ poor performances, performances which have seen the side come third in Scotland’s second tier. Some fans still blame Ally McCoist while others say that Stuart McCall has had enough time to improve things far more than he has.

One thing is certain. If the Rangers players do manage to  pull it off on Sunday it will be a monumental feat. But if those players are still very much the team that Rangers rely on in the Premiership, then it will be a monumental disaster.

Forget Helicopter Sunday. Sunday’s match will be Do Or Die Day.

Given what is at stake, that may be literally for The Rangers.

The SNP – A British Political Success Story

Following on from my blog on a new era in politics, I want to specifically address this to the issue of the SNP.

A remarkable thing happened at the recent General Election in that a party who were supposedly sworn to seeing Scotland leave the UK suddenly found themselves to be the third biggest force in Westminster.

I believe there is prophetic import in this – after all, Scotland leading the Union is a message I happily preach a great deal. Having said that, Sturgeon’s Stormtroopers – or should that be Salmond’s? – are not the fulfilment of this vision.

They could be a sign of it, though.

The SNP’s Westminster success is maybe not altogether a surprise but it is very possibly an unwelcome development for the SNP strategists to deal with following on from other electoral highs in recent years. It shows that the fervour shown by nationalists last year has not abated but there is something much deeper going on here than a William Wallace renaissance.

Much of the voter drift to the SNP has come from disaffectation with Labour in particular and of the present political system in general. People want change and they want it at a much deeper level than politicians are prepared to give it to them. The SNP shrewdly became a conduit for that type of thinking and channelled it into separatism. People went along with this but only because it was radical change. It means, however, that there is a soft underbelly to SNP support that is recently procured from other parties. These people might not be Unionists but their prime motivation is not to have a Scottish independent republic but to see radical transformation culturally, socially and politically. The question is will these people trade their new-found nationalism for a better alternative that brings changes they desire but within the structure of a United Kingdom?

Make no mistake – the disillusionment with Westminster politics is real and it is ingrained. It will not be assuaged by cosmetic overhauls or meaningless rhetoric. It will not be eradicated by tweaking the system but by ripping much of it up and starting again.

In a nutshell, the SNP has gained massive populist support because of a deep and as yet unslaked thirst in many for social justice and a fairer society.They have addressed this need by promising a radical alternative but they have conscripted those seeking social justice and dressed them in nationalist uniforms. The more gullible have become convinced that leaving the UK is the answer but the challenge for Unionists is to convince people that their desires for a fairer society can be met in a vibrant Union. A compelling reason is the argument that justice and equity should be equally enjoyed and experienced in every corner of the British Isles, not just in Scotland.

rampant shieldTaking the parochial and narrow-minded path of nationalism is not social justice or equality – it is its polar opposite. Nationalism breeds hatred and a sense of racial superiority when it is not founded upon concepts of service, equality and fairness.

Perhaps the 56 SNP MPs elected to Westminster are the key to eradicating this ugly and racist nationalism that we see in so many SNP supporters. By being obligated under oath to serve a wider community than their own, maybe these representatives of Scotland will catch a sense of destiny as well as responsibility. They might just see their role as it truly is – to bring transformation and much-needed change which will not only elevate Scotland but will also benefit and enhance our neighbours in the UK.

They might also see that the system at Westminster is far more equitable than their propaganda claims.

Yes, Westminster needs changing but so does politics in general. This can only come through societal and cultural transformation. The old partisan spirit and hostille attitudes have to go. Everyone must work together to lift the nation out of the decadence and despondency it is mired in.

The 56 can be a catalyst for change. Or they can be the bunch of nasty See-you-Jimmies many expect them to be. If they see themselves as 56 Wallaces down to force Proud Edward to think again, they will meet Wallace’s fate. Metaphorically speaking, of course. They will also see that the Confessor is long gone, just like Wallace.

As Alistair McConnachie pointed out in his recent excellent blog, the SNP are now a big part of the system. The curious thing is that they now stand to lose much more than they could possibly gain by extricating themselves from that system. Ironically they are now integral to the system they claimed to despise, their electoral triumph being a true success story of British politics. This has also created a whole new wing of the party which has different objectives and purposes than the Holyrood MSPs.

It might be too early to suggest a name change but it will not be long before it dawns on the wiser heads in the party that the Westminster they hated so much has afforded them an opportunity they could never dream of.

It is how they deal with this that will determine if they have any say in the future. It will very much go against the grain for hardcore separatists to hear it this early but the simple truth is that there is a far better option now available.

That option is vastly superior to narrow-minded separatism. It is Scotland fufilling its destiny as chief of the nations.

A Light Amidst The Gloom For Scottish Unionists

Alex Salmond’s Scottish lion may have roared yesterday but it will be a toothless one when it enters the real lion’s den at Westminster.

Thanks to the late surge to the Conservatives predicted by yours truly, the 56 SNP MPs will constitute a tame moggie when it comes to Westminster politics.

Salmond and his sidekick the First Minister (or the other way around if we are to believe the spin) walked straight into one of the oldest traps in the book with their supposed victory yesterday.

By that I mean they were lured by the prospect of power to commit heavily to a system they hate. This makes them part of the system and gives them a great deal to lose. A similar strategy worked in Northern Ireland where being part of the apparatus of the British State has cooled the Home Rule ardour of Irish nationalists.

The SNP is now the third largest party in the Commons and that is prestige undreamed of for Salmond and Sturgeon only a short while ago.

Crucially, however, it is not much in terms of power and clout with the Tories in command of the Commons..

Furthermore, with widespread perception that the prospect of a Labour-SNP alliance was enough to scare many English voters into the arms of the Conservatives, it means that many in the Labour Party and those who voted for them will deeply resent the SNP presence at Westminster.

Of course it could be said that a comprehensive Tory victory plays into Salmond and Sturgeon’s hands, strengthening the case for a Referendum. But it makes the Westminster power play look like a totally pointless and even petty campaign. It is also a slap in the face to those voters who sent Salmond’s army down south to shake up Westminster and make the UK Parliament think again.

In essence, what is the point of standing for Westminster if your real aim is to leave it? A point used to obviously devastating effect by David Cameron and one which won him a second term.

The independence card is all that Salmond and Sturgeon have to play now. They could, of course, try and be the disruptive force in the Commons but that will only alienate people more. This includes even those who voted for them. These people have been promised massive change and when it becomes crystal clear that they are not going to get it, then the tide will turn.

If the meteoric rise in SNP fortunes tells us anything, it tells us that decades of ingrained support for one party i.e. Labour, can be undone very quickly.More importantly, it tells us that 21st century political allegiance is a much more fluid entity.

In short, the vast support for the SNP can vanish very quickly if they are shown to be impotent and incompetent.

It’s easy to get support as the maverick, the outsider challenging the corrupt and decadent system. But when you become part of that system then you become susceptible to the dynamics of that system. The 56 SNP MPs had better be very good at their jobs and completely free from sleaze and scandal or they will become part of the problem that voters want changed.

It could be argued that the strategies of Salmond and Sturgeon are playing right into Establishment hands. The House of Commons will be a showcase for the pettiness, spite and grievance-based politics for which the SNP is so well-known in its own back yard. If the mask slips and the hate seeps through, people will see the real Scottish National Party for what it is.

Voters are fickle and increasingly so as old-fashioned political allegiances are not what they once were. This is why there really is not much to fear from the crushing victory that wiped out the UK parties in Scotland yesterday.

Unionism will prevail but not because any Unionist party strikes a fatal blow to the rampant nationalism of the SNP.Neither will Establishment machinations be what brings the SNP down.

When it comes to adversaries, the SNP will prove to be its own worst enemy.

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