RECENTLY the SNP have been getting some flak for not being left-wing enough. Personally I’d love the SNP to be a whole lot more left-wing.

I’d love for them to announce a policy of nationalising large Highland estates without compensation and turning them over to local communities. I’d love for them to say that in the event of independence they’d set up a new Scottish currency and tell George Osborne’s Treasury where they can stick the UK’s national debt. I’d love for them to decide to abolish all tax and charitable breaks for private schools and impose a new tax on private education earmarked for spending on schools in the poorest parts of Scotland. I’d love for them to announce that they’re going to tax the well-off until their eyes water and invest the receipts in the Easterhouses and Craigmillars which ring the tourist-trap centres of Scottish cities with their wine bars and sushi restaurants.

But none of this is going to happen. I wouldn’t expect the SNP to adopt strongly left-wing policies any more than I’d expect Ukip to set up a branch in Bucharest to encourage more Romanians to settle in the UK. Ukip are a party that is defined by its hatred of immigration, and the SNP is not a socialist party, they’re a party dedicated to the proposition that Scotland should become an independent country. Everyone knows that, or ought to. There is nothing intrinsically socialist in the notion of Scottish independence.

But it’s also true that Scots have, or at least pride themselves on, a more collaborative and cooperative approach to solving social issues. If we’re aa Jock Tamson’s bairns then we all have a collective responsibility for one another’s well being. Scotland is poor if Scottish people are poor, and if a single inhabitant of Scotland suffers in poverty and deprivation then our entire society suffers as a result. For many Scottish adults our politics were forged as weapons in the struggle against Thatcherism.

The SNP are a mildly social democratic party to the left of Labour, in no small measure because over the course of the last couple of decades Labour has moved sharply to the right. Just because the SNP are to the left of Labour doesn’t mean that anyone can expect Rise-like policies from the SNP that are going to herald the empowerment of the proletariat and the downfall of capitalist exploitation. It’s not going to happen.

The SNP aims to be a party for all of Scotland, and it believes that the best way to achieve independence is by the slow and steady demonstration of competence. That’s what has got us to the point where the idea of independence is now the pivot around which Scottish politics revolves. Just 30 years ago independence was the preserve of dreamers, fantasisers and devotees of marginal parties. It’s right that the SNP’s strategy should be subject to scrutiny, but you can’t deny that it’s working. Even after the 2014 referendum independence is still firmly on the agenda.

Scotland has massive problems of poverty, inequality, disempowerment and deprivation. There are more kids who’ve been taken into care in the north of Glasgow than in the entire Netherlands. For too many Scottish communities, hope is something that belongs to someone else, an alien experience pertaining to people who have a future to look forward to. For generations, all that people in Scotland’s poorest communities had to look forward to was more of the same, or if they were really lucky an escape down south.

We live in a land where emigration is described as a benefit of Union, and we are supposed to be grateful for the chance to flee from the towns and villages that were our homes to go and be productive in the economy of the south-east. No jobs, no prospects, no future, no hope. That’s the cold dish of Union served up to the people of Scotland for generations, and it’s a diet that reared generations of lost souls and broken spirits. The wounded still walk amongst us and it’s not wrong of anyone to point that out. If we don’t want independence in order to salve our wounds and heal our sickness, then we have no right to independence at all.

And part of our sickness is that we live in a land with a media that is as representative of Scotland’s political realities as the great Highland estates are representative of Gaelic culture. That’s the reality within which the SNP must operate. Scotland is possibly the only country in the world where right-wing media commentators attack a social democratic party for not being left wing enough. The reason they do so is because they know that the more a party can be portrayed as being on the far end of the political spectrum, the easier it is to demonise it, and to demonise the entire idea of Scottish independence. Anything which portrays the SNP in a bad light is grist to the Unionist mill that crushes Scottish hopes and aspirations.

That’s why heartfelt articles by Yes voters which criticise the SNP for not doing more to combat poverty are hailed with yoongasmic glee by those politicians whose parties have had most power to do something about Scottish poverty, and who have presided over the economic and political system that has left so many Scots in poverty. They have no intention of doing anything to solve the structural problems which have created Scottish poverty, but they’ll seize on any stick that can be used to beat up the Scottish Government.

They have no intention of giving the Scottish Government the powers it needs to make the radical changes that Scotland requires in order to cure our country of the blight of poverty. The excluded go hungry and the homeless sleep on our streets to the accompaniment of the whines of Unionist hypocrisy.

Independence would be the radical change that all of Scotland needs. Independence would bring about a radical realignment in Scottish politics. I’m going to stick with the slow and steady path to competence, and then we can do radical things once we’re free of the dead hand of a Unionist system.