Being cynical

sic_cwSomebody has to ask the awkward questions. As others eagerly jump on the bandwagon with the flashy Yes paint-job, somebody has to be the one asking who’s driving the thing and where they’re taking it. While others are beguiled by the slick marketing, somebody really needs to be taking a less starry-eyed look at this project.

We’ve been here before. This is not the first time the Scottish Independence Convention (SIC) has attempted to assume a role at the head of the Yes movement. And it’s not the first time I have expressed reservations about its suitability, as well as doubts about the need for such an umbrella group. As far back as February 2016 I was voicing concerns about what appeared to me to be an attempt to “seize ownership of the Yes movement and bring it under the control of factions whose support for independence is conditional on a narrow policy agenda”.

At that time I wrote,

I have always maintained that it would be useful if some organisation or group emerged as the entity around which the wider Yes movement could coalesce. But I never envisaged this as resulting in a top-down organisation. What I felt would be useful is a body able to represent the Yes movement at a national level. Something akin to what we had with the official Yes Scotland. It is important to understand that Yes Scotland had a very limited role in the first referendum campaign. It set broad strategy parameters, coordinated speakers, and dealt with the media at a national and international level. But it was merely the tip of a huge iceberg made up of hundreds of almost totally autonomous groups.

My thinking on this has changed considerably in the intervening two and a half years. As the Yes movement has developed and matured over that time, I have come to be firmly persuaded that it would be fatally altered by the imposition of a formal management structure. This would inevitably (and irrevocably?) transform the Yes movement from an amorphous network of autonomous grassroots groups, to a regimented hierarchical organisation under centralised control. And, for all the protestations to the contrary, this is what the people pulling the strings at SIC intend.

Who are those people? Just over a year ago I referred to a “clique of passionless technocrats, supercilious intellectuals and dogma-bound radicals which has recently sought to claim ownership of the Yes movement to the exclusion of any and all who decline to embrace their narrow agenda”. Despite the lick of fresh paint applied to the facade, nothing has changed. The sales pitch may be new, but the product is the same as it has always been.

Is it a product the independence cause needs, or would benefit from having? I am sceptical. Somebody has to be. The purported aim is to set up a “campaign body [which] will provide the Yes movement with media handling, strategic support, resources, messaging and the administrative capacity”. This “campaign body” is being presented as if it is merely a tool to be used by the Yes movement. But there is no visible means by which the autonomous grassroots groups can access this “campaign body”. The SIC has very adroitly acquired the endorsement of major groups and prominent individuals. But I’m left wondering if any of them have seriously considered the implications.

When SIC talks about media handling, does this mean a facility by which Yes groups can access the mainstream media? If so, how would that work in practice given the size and diversity of the Yes movement? If not, then are we to assume that SIC proposes to ‘handle’ the media on behalf of the Yes movement? In which case, how would that work in practice given the size and diversity of the Yes movement?

When SIC talks about messaging, what message are they referring to? Whose message> Who decides what that message is? How do they propose to reconcile the differences and/or represent the nuances within the Yes movement? The independence campaign certainly requires a clear, concise and consistent message, as well as the means to focus on that message. But is the SIC the appropriate body to formulate and promulgate that message?

When SIC talks about administrative capacity, who exactly is going to be doing the administering? And what do they intend to administer? Is SIC to have administrative control over the entire Yes movement? How would that work? What of the Yes groups which decline to be administered by SIC? Which is the ‘real’ Yes movement – the bit that’s administered by SIC, or the rest? Can it possibly be healthy to have a situation which gives rise to such questions?

I will be accused of being cynical in my attitude to SIC. I make no apologies. I am cynical for a reason. I am cynical because I recognise the realities of politics. And because I am am acutely conscious of the potential cost of being naive. The Yes movement is a massively powerful political force. We should be constantly wary of those who seek to harness that power for their own purposes.

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15 thoughts on “Being cynical

  1. It would appear that SIC doesn’t even know how it works. I’m currently engaged in a twitter conversation (extract below) discussing SIC’s Memorandum of Understanding. It’s seriously flawed and interpreted in creative ways.


    ME: … Please explain why your quorum is 30% of the no. of groups (currently 19 so = 6) but your co-opted members (currently 14) all have voting rights too. Looks like if just 6 like-minded co-opted members meet they can decide to add other co-opted members. #Democracy

    SIC: Hi. Our co-opted members do not actually have a vote. Rather, they act in an advisory capacity. – stewart

    ME: … Article 6.7 “…The Convention may appoint any other person it
    feels appropriate to sit on the Convention. Any representative appointed under this clause will have the same role, responsibility and a vote on the Convention as the existing Partners.”

    SIC: 6.7 refers to the executive committee and selected by voting organisations for general running or the SIC, anything larger or important still needs to go through the voting orgs. Shona

    ME: … Where in the Memorandum of Understanding does it stipulate that 6.7 refers only to the executive committee?


    The conversation is here:

    SIC’s MoU is here:

    Liked by 3 people

    1. UPDATE: SIC Convener David Thompson has confirmed that the MoU contains “drafting errors” that will be raised at the next SIC Council meeting. 6.7 is wrong. Co-opted members do NOT get a vote.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Agreed. It appears that this organisation has little to protect it from infiltration by a fifth column.

    Murphy’s Law: “If it can go wrong, it will go wrong”.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Reblogged this on Ramblings of a 50+ Female and commented:
    I’m cynical, too. If they are going to be there for the Yes groups to go to for information or help, then fine, but they should not be there to dictate. I will wait to see what more they have to say before I decide to support them.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. While there are quite a number of prominent members of the SIC that I often find myself in agreement with a range of political issues, I still don’t want them running the show because they all have agendas which might (probably will) bring them into conflict with the only agenda I want the Yes movement pursuing, namely Scottish Independence.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Can’t say I’ve been impressed with what they have to say, so far. Quite the contrary. The three Communications I’ve seen from them so far I have found to be quite arrogant in their outline of how things are going to be under THEIR ‘umbrella’… If it was just poor communication then I can only say, it doesn’t auger well for them being the ‘go to’ messengers they purport their role to be. :-/

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Surely the Scottish Independence convention couldn’t be anymore limp wristed than Blair Jenkins. Im gonna find out a bit more before if I decide to be cynical. Or I hear a better plan.


  7. I can see how we’ve got nowhere in relation to becoming independent over the last 300 years or so.


  8. The blunt truth is that only the SNP can lead and organise the campaign, albeit as part of a larger constellation of yes groups.
    No more woolly arms length pretence of any other organisation to front it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is the nub of the matter. The Yes movement can only achieve the necessary focus and discipline by taking its lead from the SNP. Of course, this requires the SNP to provide the lead in the first place.


  9. Peter

    I think some have a fundamental misunderstanding of the YES movement.

    They want to be generals and like Nepoilan orchestrate their troops (yes I said “their troops”). Instead YES is like a social football team that just spontaneously started a game in a Scottish park amorphous massive and relentless.

    Actually with your opponent’s known tactics, one of YES’s greatest assets is that it is not networked from a central command. It is so hard to capture the supply/communication lines if they don’t exist. In effect, YES is a mirror of the disaggregated structure akin to the French Resistance.

    The centralised “Generals” model also fails as it can not understand or deploy the real strengths within the movement. YES is blessed with natural talents that don’t fit within an organised structure…actually organised structures would push these people out as they are too “risky”.
    – Wings is a relentless attacking player…he is small, nimble and appears to fear no one.
    – Phantom Power – a one person star maker
    – WeeGingerDug is part of its social heart…his gift for story draws you in only to whack you between the eyes.
    – YES has those with a brutal tongue not fit for polite publications but perfect at evicerating imbeciles.

    With in this swirling mass of Scottish creativity and drive sits its political arm. YES has very cleverly siloed its political arm (SNP) from the broader YES public who are independent with their own agency. It must frustrate Westminster (and their media acolytes) no end that YES’s political arm is able to keep so much clean air.

    Of course, YES does have an organised team and any other political party would give their left arm to have that level of skill.
    Nicola Sturgeon as First Minister is an amazing tactician
    Michael Russell – is skilled and precise
    Mhairi Black…it is rare to find someone so inspirational

    The SNP has not removed anyones agency or sought to control others. YES should be wary of any organisation who seeks to upturn the entire movement just because they want to be in charge.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I have taken the liberty of editing your comment. You make some very important points. It would be a pity to have a spelling error distract from those points.


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