Doubts are traitors

doubts_traitorsHow gratifying it is to hear Carolyn Leckie speak out for a new referendum “sooner rather than later”. It’s a pity she regards “sooner” as fully a year away. It’s perplexing that she doesn’t seem to think a two-year delay is “later”. But at least she’s showing some of the sense of urgency that has been so pitifully lacking in others.

Of course, Carolyn doesn’t identify the reasons for urgency. She writes of the need to “get the show back on the road”. Which is fine, as far as it goes. But there is no mention of the threat to Scotland from ‘One Nation’ British Nationalism which is what actually makes “sooner rather than later” an absolute and pressing necessity, rather than merely a personal preference.

It is possible, I suppose, that she is oblivious to this threat. After all, most SNP politicians who have offered their views on the timing of our new referendum give the impression of being blissfully unaware that moves are already being made to strip powers from the Scottish Parliament and roll back devolution. Carolyn Leckie would be in exalted company if she failed to recognise what is implied by talk of ‘UK-wide common frameworks’ or warnings that ‘discrepancies’ would not be tolerated in this new ‘One Nation’ British state.

Alternatively, it may be that Carolyn is fully aware of this threat but, again like all those SNP politicians, reluctant to address the issue of how the threat might be dealt with during the two years she is prepared to allow the British political elite to go about locking Scotland into their ‘precious, precious Union’. By not acknowledging the jeopardy facing Scotland, she avoids the need to explain how she would defend against the threat.

Some might be a bit perplexed by this blinkered attitude. And, if they are somewhat concerned that Carolyn Leckie is content to disregard the threat to Scotland’s democracy, then they will surely be profoundly disturbed to find this lackadaisical approach shared by prominent figures in the party which is the de facto political arm of the Yes movement and which is supposed to provide the effective political power that the independence project requires.

But we have to wonder whether Carolyn actually understands the SNP or the role it plays. She’s still talking about providing a “guarantee that voters will be given a post-independence multi-option referendum on our relationship with Europe”. So, either she thinks that the SNP leadership might nonchalantly ignore party policy repeatedly and decisively endorsed by the membership and approved by the electorate, or she imagines some unidentified agency other than the SNP is going to be providing the effective political power for the independence campaign.

Time for a bit of realpolitik. There is no alternative to the SNP. If we don’t have an SNP administration at Holyrood, there will be no referendum and no progress for the independence campaign. It is Nicola Sturgeon who will be sitting across the table from the British Prime Minister when it comes to negotiating the dissolution of the Union. It is politically impossible for the SNP to campaign and negotiate on the basis of a position that is the antithesis of the position adopted by the party by way of its democratic internal processes.

If Carolyn Leckie wants to change the SNP’s position on EU membership then she is free to join the party and work through those same internal democratic processes. What she doesn’t get to do is stand outside the party demanding the same rights as members to participate in policy formulation.

In practical terms, of course, there is no time to do this. Because there is a real and imminent threat to Scotland’s democracy which must be addressed.

Gratifying as it may be to hear Carolyn Leckie speak out for a new referendum “sooner rather than later”, it is desperately unfortunate that she then chooses to turn a blind eye to the political realities of Scotland’s situation.

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12 thoughts on “Doubts are traitors

  1. It’s a strange phenomenon: we persist in holding certain beliefs even when we readily admit – if reminded – that there’s a huge and consistent weight of evidence which makes those beliefs untenable. I’ve seen it on the doorsteps, in SNP colleagues and (I hesitate to admit) in myself: a naive assumption that we live in a more civilised country than most, where politicians on the whole behave honourably and with people’s best interests at heart, where governments would never cynically manipulate our democracy and where they would certainly never use violence against citizens holding contrary political views. Start most people off by mentioning the miners’ strike and the floodgates open, with example after example which gives the lie to our naivety, yet we find it difficult to imagine Westminster turning us into a second Catalunya.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Peter,

    Great post.

    Any discussion on the referendum timing with out considerations of the current threat risk to Scotland is not only problematic….its potentially dangerous for Scotland and its sovereignty. I fear this is symptomatic of not realising the change of Independence question from:

    2014’s – SELF-DETERMINATION…how Scotland chooses to use its sovereignty:
    Current – SELF-PRESERVATION….will Scotland be able to keep its sovereignty?

    This misreading is potentially creating 2 fatal issues:

    1. The public is falling for a Westminster campaign of misdirection of massive proportions. While people are mockingly deriding the Tories for lack of planning at ports (looking for physical things of a real Brexit), the Tory Cabinet has been building the foundations of a new and very dangerous legislative framework. Think of it like a “joining the dots” picture….at the moment we the public only see random dots…The full impact will only become obvious once they link them at the end.
    WESTMINSTER WANTS THE POWER FIRST. It can build all the ports it wants later with Scotland’s oil money.

    2. Once the Brexit Bill is signed, the UK will no longer resemble the UK you have now.
    The ramifications of Henry VIII powers and Ministers’ unfettered ability to make laws without parliament fundamentally changes the UK….(look at any country that has had that power to rule by decree)…It even took England over 150 years, a revolution, and beheading a Monarch to establish the primacy of parliament instead of being ruled by decree.

    I hope the SNP is just playing dead while furiously working behind the scenes….but I fear it isn’t and Scotland will be ambushed by what Westminster is plotting.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I agree with you that the British State isn’t standing still and will be plotting to prevent indyref2 and Scotland dissolving the Treaty of Union. There therefore needs to be a sense of Urgency, which seems to be lacking in the leadership at the moment.

    How do you think we should counter the following issues
    a) Brexit could be stopped, A50 might be reversible, politicslly this may be untenabke but it is still a possibliity
    b) the terms of Brexit are still unknown, although they appear to be disastrous, the voters seem to be unfazed at the moment
    c) the Bank of England will continue to attempt to mitigate the effects of Brexit, and so the real impact may not be obvious until much later, again this does not seem to be getting through to voters
    d) the massive propaganda war being waged against the Scottish people is having some effect, even if it is just creating a fog of doubt

    Whilst the existential crisis and its massive damage to Scotland is obvious to you and me because we understand the implications and can therefore forecast what will happen, the voters are not yet being affected and therefore have not been sufficiently shaken to break their complacency. Although some cracks are appearing in the unionists as more and more are breaking for indy, will it be sufficient and in time before the British State acts to lock Scotland in.

    Interested in your thoughts on this.


    1. Let’s deal with that penultimate paragraph first. You are far from the first person to tell me that “we” understand what’s going on but “the voters” don’t. Lots and lots have the said the same thing. In fact, just about everybody I talk to about politics – and that’s a lot of people – seems to think “the voters” are an uncomprehending lot. Here’s the curious thing! All of the people telling me that they understand but voters don’t, is a voter! Only very, very rarely do I encounter a voter who admits to incomprehension. So, according to the available evidence, I have to conclude that voters understand perfectly well. They just don’t think that OTHER voters understand.

      It’s akin to another common phenomenon. Everybody thinks everybody else is unduly susceptible to the pernicious influence of the media. Nobody thinks that they are unduly susceptible to the pernicious influence of the media.

      The chances of Brexit being halted are so remote as to be hardly worth considering. But, to the extent that the scenario merits any analysis, it doesn’t actually change anything. The British state will still be determined to roll back devolution, emasculate the Scottish Parliament, neutralise the SNP and lock Scotland into the Union. Independence would still be the only way to avoid this. In a very real sense, Brexit is irrelevant. Its significance lies in the fact that the British state has proved its readiness to trample all over Scotland to get what it wants. Revoking Article 50 won’t alter the nature of the British state. It won’t fix the Union, any more than any ‘deal’ might.

      The ‘terms’ of Brexit will never be known. What reason is there to believe the British political elite will suddenly become honest when informing us of the ‘deal’ they’ve done with the EU? They’ll tell the public only what they want the public to know. With the collaboration of a compliant media, the ‘terms’ will be fudged and spun so as to leave people “unfazed”.

      The impact of Brexit will be mitigated. But mostly it will be the impact on British politicians that is minimised. There may be some action by the Bank of England. But by far the biggest efforts will into manipulating what people perceive rather than mitigating what they experience.

      The propaganda campaign isn’t going to let up. Project Fear never ended. It’s going to be ramped up over the coming months. We just have to deal with it. And I see signs that people are getting better at dealing with it. Partly because the propaganda is being ramped up to what are often ludicrous levels, the dishonesty becoming ridiculously obvious, people identify it more and the media lose credibility. At the same time, the Yes movement is developing new and more effective ways to counter the propaganda.

      The timing of the new referendum cannot be dictated by what the British state does, or what we think they’re likely to do. We must choose the time. And the timing must be decided on the basis of what we know with the greatest certainty. There may be such a thing as an ‘optimum time’. But we are unlikely to get general agreement on what constitutes the ‘optimum time’. Which, in part at least, explains the reluctance of Pete Wishart and other Postponers to discuss such matters. But what’s the point anyway? Even if you could define the ‘optimum conditions’ it would be impossible to predict the existence of those conditions up to a year in advance – perhaps more.

      What we can have are the best conditions we can create. The only ‘optimum time’ we can have is the one we make.

      What we know with the greatest certainty are the imperatives driving the British state. Most relevantly, the imperative to secure Scotland by absorbing it into a ‘One Nation’ British state. And we know with great certainty that Brexit provides the British state with an opportunity to satisfy this imperative. THAT is what decides the timing of the referendum. THAT is why it has to be in September 2018.


  4. @ Kangaroo + @ Peter A Bell

    Scotland: Beware the Death Star.

    It just looked like a small moon…. until the empire turned it on and became the most dangerous weapon in the universe.

    This is one of the great parables of power working secretly (but in the open) to weaponize its power to decimate any and all resistance. Originally, no one saw the immense power that Westminster would marshal as part of its Brexit (or extent those powers threaten Scotland). As each week passes, it is becoming more evident that the devastating unfettered powers Westminster are marshaling would be any empire’s wet dream.

    I understand where you are coming from regarding the appearance of voters not being sufficiently shaken by this imminent danger. However, I suspect, it may be more useful to re-phrase this point as potentially what you are sensing is that for all the urgency, the current discussions don’t capture the real risk. There maybe many who subconsciously do, but their default language is not able to move the YES case forward….I.e. lots of ernest energy being spent, but people are exhausting themselves with little gain in momentum.

    YES has an “Invisible Gorilla” problem

    At present, YES is being blinded by the trap of falling back into the language of 2014 Indyref as the default language for discussions.…even those who know the threat is different this time. YES has not honed its language to address the new threat to its sovereignty. (Peter is one of the few exceptions)

    For all the ills and pitfalls of Scotland being in the UK, for over 400 years Scotland has managed to retain its one great weapon…ITS SOVEREIGNTY. However, it now appears, Westminster has used Brexit to give it the tools it never had before to finally attack Scotland’s last fail-safe. Just think of how many discussions you hear that start on any of: Brexit, risks to Scotland’s parliament, only to end in long ideas about how Scotland could be a better, fairer place. Better, and Fairer are fantastic….but if the major risk is Scotland loosing its sovereignty, then what does anything that is not founded on that threat doing as the key language in the debate.

    Hence, the YES public is working earnestly and hard, but not cutting through. As such all the discussions end where no YES points are weaponized…They never gain that rapier like impact where they are able to cut down Westmister attacks. Sadly, YES discussion always end either in frustration or with an inferred warm feeling…but the YES point always requires explanation…those ideas never become viral tweets…they die on the vine.

    As a recent example:
    During the YES East Kilbride “Celebrities for Indy”, the wonderful Hardeep Singh Kohli recanted the story of being on a BBC email effectively blacklisting him and a number of others. I am sure everyone in the audience felt aggrieved. Hardeep Singh Kohli left everyone to infer for themselves the risk…his comment never weaponized the blacklisting so as to gave everyone a unified understanding of how being Blacklisted for holding/expressing Scotland’s beliefs is a political threat to the entire Scotland.

    So, I’ll attempt it:….

    * The Westminster controlled State broadcaster blacklists YES supporters for expressing a view that is inline with the policy of the validly elected government of a member sovereign country.
    * Blacklisting is another example of Westminster is directly attacking the sovereign right of Scotland (and its people) to hold and express its political views.
    * Westminster appears to be gunning for complete and permanent absorption of Scotland into a single state….I.e. this requires the extinguishing of Scotland’s sovereignty.

    Imagine what would happen if EU banned any UK political pundits from forums/media…Or even more public inciting, if English footballers were banned from any team in the UK or Europe. The explosion from the entire English public and media would be off the Richter scale.


    YES needs to move on from a language of self-determination and avoid that default language no longer suitable for the current risks…It is actually damaging to its cause. I would suggest that the following terms are really problematic.

    * “UNIONIST”
    If Scotland’s sovereignty is really under threat, every time a YES supporter uses “UNIONIST” they let Westminster off the hook and don’t communicate the real threat to those on the fence. UNION is where Scotland retains their sovereignty and just pools it with England. Westminster is setting the tools to potentially consume Scotland’s sovereignty whole….That is not a UNION…that is colonization.

    * BRITISH.
    I am increasingly saddened by the continued use of many YES of “British” and “British State”. The English State who politically dominates Westminster uses this term to brush the Union with Englishness. If you are seeking to say you are a separate and sovereign people, and have the right to choose leaving any Union, never give them this free kick.
    I love that Mr Malky is one who is always vigilant on this.

    To get to the real issue and fight this current battle (not the last) the YES movement needs to stop mudding the argument. Stop mixing the core priorities with those that are supporting truths.
    * Future goals…Self-Determination
    * Brexit details…You are not re-litigating Brexit.
    * Indyref arguments.

    YES needs to learn from the EU steadfastness in their Brexit negotiations. Instead, the EU never lost its focus on the primary legal position (the Good Friday agreement). There cannot be a boarder on the Island of Ireland. Leaving it for the UK to define how it wanted to achieve that.


    1. @Tom
      I wrote my below response to Peter before I read your answer. Indeed you are correct Yes needs to stop fighting indyref 2014 and move on to the next battle which is for Scotland’s very existence. There are too many complacent types and disinterested voters as my reply sought to highlight. We need a major shock to shake them out of their stupor. How to do this is the real question.


      1. @Kangaroo

        the numbers of “complacent types and disinterested voters” may have something to do with the general feeling that this is Indyref 2. Where is the compelling case in that. Does Indyref 2 make you want to get up out of bed and take to the streets?

        I would suggest that a successful campaign needs it key organizations and supporters to play differing but interlinked roles.
        – Key players/organisations who have access to the bully pulpit need to layout the reasoning for the the urgent protection of Scotland’s Sovereignty….to build the shared YES rhetorical position.
        – Public supporters then get to use the space this opens up, and the ability to use weaponized grabs (that don’t have to be continuously explained).

        Its time for the YES movement to be brutally honest. It is from this honesty that YES can get the sharp and pointed rallying cries that can both:
        – Make Scotland’s people excited to fight for their sovereignty; and
        – Defeat the no case by removing their oxygen and their deceptions.

        Sadly for those who already see the risk and feel that they are tilting at windmills, the only way the general public will become aware is either an event that threatens Scotland’s sovereignty or the long slog of building awareness by pushing your vision.

        It isn’t helped by key players downplaying the events that are already occurring that show the frightening potential of powers Westminster has been accruing. There are points in every moment where people have to be brave, risk backlash, and illustrate the real threat.


        In response to your reply to Peter: Have you ever just asked you grandson straight up front.
        “Would you be happy if within 6 months Scotland would
        cease to be a country, have any parliament, and
        be assimilated permanently within England as a region?”

        What would they do?
        Would they vote for independence if that was the case?
        How many details of the future independent Scotland’s arrangement would they need fully answered?

        YES needs to set the terms of the debate clearly and up front. Once you have the base principle down…then define the rationale as needed. There is a saying that the ground is as comfortable as you are tired. The level of threat to Scotland determines the level to which all the subsequent questions need to be answered (or if they are even asked).

        I do understand why your grandson may not see any risk. Remember, Westminster is all too happy to look incompetent on Brexit. All this negative news is social media click bait. It is a permanent distraction from what Westminster is really doing. You won’t break that by starting from the small details. I may be more fruitful to start from the big idea….this gives him the tools to see for himself when news items may be one of the jigsaw pieces to the risk you see.


      2. @Kangaroo

        …………..Continued from above…..

        Basically with your grandson, you are looking for a way to harness the way he consumes information and interactions with others.

        Social media and the rise of viral content is really a digital form of “The Society of the Spectacle” (you may be more familiar with its much earlier precedent “The Shock of the New”). This has morphed and supercharged to a point where people are now permanently distracted by the next shiny object…However, as most people are permanently in a stream of ephemeral content, they never build any context.

        However, this constant distraction can be counteracted by constructing a kick-ass meta-narrative…(a new context). People want to be excited. As such, the big idea still has power. However, it needs to be both compelling and consistent with the details that flood their feed.

        If the story is strong enough it becomes the filter through which details are understood.


  5. A really good answer. I agree with what you are saying and I don’t want to be seen as feeling superior to others because I consider everyone to be equal. However how do we get it across to the non political voters. I had my grandson out here in the last few days and I can tell you he is totally ignorant about what’s going on. It is people like him that I was referring to. They are just not interested, even when you shout at them, they haven’t a clue what the impact of Brexit or anything else will be on their day-to-day existence. Their ignorance is worth the same as our knowledge when it comes to a vote.

    The sense of urgency in your writings to have an indyref soon is palpable, but if my grandson is typical it will be a long uphill struggle to convince disinterested types to vote Yes. I had words with him but I just got a glaikit look back as if what I was saying was incomprehensible, in other words “Thats not going to happen Westminister would never do that”. We need something to really shake them to their foundations.


    1. @Kangaroo

      Have you ever just asked you grandson straight up front.
      “Would you be happy if within 6 months Scotland would
      cease to be a country, have any parliament, and
      be assimilated permanently within England as a region?”

      What would they do?
      Would they vote for independence if that was the case?
      How many details of the future independent Scotland’s arrangement would they need fully answered?


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