THE late and unlamented Enoch Powell is famous for his dictum that all political careers end in tears (his own included).

Time will tell if Scotland has seen the last of Angus Brendan MacNeil, who was summarily expelled from the SNP last week after serving as MP for the Western Isles since 2005.

True, Angus has made a career of being a political maverick. Nevertheless, as I can attest from my time with him at Westminster, he is passionate for Scottish independence (top of my list for attributes), a good comrade, politically effective (he keeps winning), and someone who has not gone native in the dank corridors of the House of Commons.

Would that we could same the same for some of his erstwhile colleagues. If the SNP do not know what it is losing in MacNeil, then it is a party destined for the proverbial dustbin of history.

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We live in an era when elected politicians are routinely trashed – chiefly by media commentators (I raise my hand) and members of the political class themselves. So I think we need to pause occasionally to give credit where a little credit is due.

Angus has represented the good folk of Na h-Eileanan in a far off and uncaring London at considerable cost to himself and his family. Yet I never found him anything less than cheerful, even when being trashed by a politically partisan UK media. His interventions in the House are always a joy to listen, too, and are without the boring pretentions of some fellow MPs.

Alas Angus has a dangerous defect for a member of the SNP these days – he has an awful habit of speaking his mind. Since when did elected members or party stalwarts get the idea they were there to think or have opinions? Surely they realise their job is to shut up and give the leadership standing ovations at conference (assuming the leadership has actually convened a conference).

Expressing any view outside the ones written by faceless, callow young special advisers is not part of the job description.

Angus’s real sin was to keep up a withering, semi-public criticism of the absence of a Plan B should Nicola’s (below) call fail for whoever was Tory PM to grant a second referendum. Unaccountably, Angus – not to mention a lot of the movement – remained sceptical that said PM would play ball with Holyrood, especially if there was a snowball’s chance in Hades for a Yes result.

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Worse, Angus was critical of all variations of the “ask politely” strategy, especially going cap in hand to the Supreme Court – an institution especially created to defend the constitutional status quo.

Of course, when the SNP leadership plan hit the buffers at around 200mph – tipping out Nicola and assorted cronies – Angus Brendan got no thanks. Rather, he got his P45.

I’m not party to what occurred in the now infamous altercation between Angus and the chief whip, Brendan O’Hara. I do know the SNP Westminster group is good at sweeping sleeping dogs under the carpet. But then Angus is no sleeping dog. Suffice it to say he was for the door whenever a suitable excuse came along.

The expulsion of MacNeil is a symptom of the crisis in the SNP and (to a degree) the movement. The indy movement is an insurgency, not a respectable Sunday school outing. We certainly need to march together but that does not preclude dissent or debate.

Had the movement been prepared earlier both to challenge the “indyref2 is around the corner” mantra, and to demand better accountability on how campaign funds were being used, we might not be in the present cul de sac. Shooting messengers such as Angus merely compounds the problem.

The SNP remain the premier and dominant section of the mass movement. But dominant political parties can disappear if they take the wrong road. Witness the fate of Parnell’s Irish Parliamentary Party.

THE SNP of late have become a mite careless of its dissenting voices. Margaret Ferrier made a grave misjudgement in getting on a homeward-bound train from London after testing positive for Covid.

But the haste with which this hard-working, ego-less and fearless indy supporter was dumped indicates a leadership mentality that is over-occupied with respectability. Margaret was another SNP MP who hated Westminster.

Then there are the Alba dissenters. Who doubts that Kenny MacAskill is an extremely effective performer at Westminster, while still spending more time campaigning back in Scotland than the average SNP backbencher.

Fortunately, as the UK General Election looms, there are signs of a little more co-operation between SNP and Alba MPs. And about time too. Scotland needs a united front at Westminster as well as at home.

I am at risk of sounding platitudinous. Politics is a hard game and I understand the deep-rooted divisions that have emerged in the independence movement. Anyone who knows our long history understands that divisions and egos are never very far below the surface.

But none of that precludes uniting in action in face of the common enemy – an implacable British state and its attendant media and security apparatus. With the post-Brexit UK economy desperate to hold on to Scotland’s energy wealth and foreign currency earnings, our movement has no option but to pursue united action – despite the big egos and despite the real policy divisions.

The solution to divided political positions is good, old-fashioned public debate of the kind the movement – and especially the SNP – has lacked since 2014. If calling a meeting of the whole movement a “convention” upsets some folk, then call it something else. A festival?

But let’s get talking at a grassroots and an elected member level. Parley has an odd way of exposing what is unimportant and fostering practical action.

However, some leadership is required. Angus Brendan has been very critical in public of Humza Yousaf. Well, Angus is Angus. But Humza is in a unique position to galvanise and re-unify the indy movement. If he pretends it is business as usual, then the whole movement will suffer.

Nicola Sturgeon has blithely announced she will brook no reconciliation with Alex Salmond. But, for good or ill, Nicola is out of politics while Alba are definitely still around. Humza cannot afford to ignore Alba or allow the rift with Salmond to expand. Why not more SNP-Alba co-operation at Westminster?

Humza must promote greater practical co-operation across the indy divide or watch the movement suffer.

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We likely face a weak Starmer Labour government after the General Election. We can exploit that weakness to Scotland’s advantage only if we are united. Otherwise, Labour will operate a divide and rule policy north of the Border.

That is the stark choice we face. Perhaps it is time Humza had a few private meetings. Humza Yousaf, it is time to lead.

As for Angus Brendan, I hope we have not seen the last of him. If he runs again in the coming General Election – and he says he will – then the indy vote will be split with an “official” SNP candidate. What possible gain is there in that for anyone except London Labour and its Scottish branch office. Over to you, Humza.