SNP should take Lisa Cameron's criticisms seriously after her defection to Conservatives – Scotsman comment

Former SNP MP Lisa Cameron’s claims that there was ‘no room to debate or improve things’ and Scotland is being ‘marched in a circle endlessly’ on independence deserve a hearing

According to civil servant John Colville, Winston Churchill once quipped “anyone can rat, but it takes a certain amount of ingenuity to re-rat”, referring to his switch from the Conservatives to Liberals, then back again. His defection was one reason why many Tories did not want Churchill to lead the country.

Defectors will always struggle to be trusted by their former fellow-travellers. So there will be nationalists whose reaction to Dr Lisa Cameron’s decision to quit the SNP and join the Conservatives is to dismiss anything she says; and, of course, some unionists have leapt upon her criticisms of her former party, eagerly proclaiming them to be the gospel truth.

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But, whatever your views, it is worth giving her reasons at least a hearing. After all, SNP stalwarts who decide independence is a mistake are not exactly common. Unfortunately, to date, the main reaction from SNP politicians has been to belittle and denigrate her. Meanwhile, threats from ‘cybernats’ have forced her to go into hiding.

In an exclusive interview which we publish today, Cameron explains why she left the SNP, with her treatment by her former party colleagues and the effect this had on her mental health a central theme. She also makes points telling points about the party and the effect of the years of independence campaigning.

Pointing to the deposit return scheme fiasco and the failure to keep a promise to dual the A9 road, she spoke about her feeling that “we’d gone from a government that was very competent to one that was not listening to the people in Scotland, not meeting their needs anymore and going in the wrong direction”. In 2014, the SNP had seemed like “a big inclusive tent”, she said, with room for people with differing views, but it gradually turned into a “small caravan”.

As the tolerance of dissent from the party line decreased, she felt constrained by party orders that “you wouldn’t disagree with the leadership, you wouldn't criticise, and I just felt there was no room to debate or improve things”. On independence, she said Scotland was being “marched in a circle endlessly”.

This provides further evidence of the damage caused by the SNP’s apparent policy of ‘wheesht for Indy’, in which their own politicians were urged to stay quiet about issues that might damage the party’s central cause. Thankfully this has started to collapse in recent months.

For nationalists to dismiss Cameron’s criticisms is to take the easy way out. More thoughtful SNP politicians should instead use them to engage in self-reflection. Ignoring problems as they grow while marching around in circles on one issue is a recipe for bad government – like, in our opinion, the one we currently have. Democracy thrives on debate, not vows of omerta.

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