Loose talk

A few days ago I chided a fellow pro-independence blogger for “peddling the idea that the mandate for a new independence referendum is entirely conditional on Brexit”. It is bad enough that we have the British media distorting facts and deceiving the public without sections of the Yes movement parroting the British state’s propaganda. And it’s worse still when the disinformation is coming from a senior SNP politician.

Writing in The National, Pete Wishart says,

Such is our endorsement of a People’s Vote that we have unconditionally given our support to a second EU referendum, regardless of its outcome, and without any guarantees for our nation or acknowledgement of a future vote in Scotland. Without the inclusion of a set of conditions we could be expected to “respect’” the outcome even if it meant that Scotland was taken out of the EU against its will again.

If somehow a People’s Vote is successful we remove the very conditions that makes Scottish independence a majority position amongst the Scottish people. Critically, we also remove the specified condition of the current mandate included in our manifesto in 2016.

Why a People’s Vote causes all sorts of problems for independence

Two paragraphs. Two seriously misleading statements. The assertion that Brexit was “the specified condition of the current mandate included in our manifesto in 2016” is just plain untrue. As I pointed out in that previous article,

This is based solely on a single phrase abstracted from a section of the SNP’s 2016 election manifesto – “taken out of the EU”. But it doesn’t just say “taken out of the EU”. It says “…or if there is a significant and material change in the circumstances that prevailed in 2014, such as Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will” (my emphasis). You can’t pretend those words aren’t there just because it suits your argument.

A bad place

Don’t take my word for it. Read the SNP 2016 Manifesto for yourself. There is nothing vague or ambiguous about the relevant paragraph. It is perfectly clear that being “taken out of the EU” is merely given as an example of “significant and material change”. The clue is in the words “such as”.

I’m not sure how the myth of Brexit being a “specified condition” got started. I do know that the British media apply themselves diligently to promulgating such myths. And I can understand this. That’s their job. They manipulate public opinion by manipulating the facts. Being part of the British establishment, it is entirely unsurprising that the British media spin stories in whatever way best serves the interests of established power.

What I find inexplicable is that Yes supporters should go along with the deception. I can’t believe that they are knowingly aiding and abetting the British state’s anti-SNP propaganda effort. Although this may be true in a very few cases, for the most part the best, if nonetheless profoundly regrettable, explanation is mere intellectual indolence. Laziness! Checking facts is a task. Questioning one’s own assumptions and preconceptions doesn’t come naturally. It calls for a conscious effort. Not to mention awareness that healthy scepticism begins at home. Questioning all media messages is important. Being prepared to question one’s own understanding of things is crucial. But going with what you ‘know’ is easier. Following your prejudices requires less effort than interrogating them.

In an ideal world, everybody in the Yes movement wouldn’t make a statement such as ‘Brexit was the specified condition of the current mandate included in our manifesto in 2016’ without asking themselves if this was correct. It’s a useful habit to acquire. For SNP politicians such as Pete Wishart, it should be instinctive.

Certain statements should ring alarm bells. They should immediately prompt questions about accuracy and veracity. And about advisability. No professional politician or competent political campaigner should ever make a statement without first asking themselves whether, and how, it can be defended. Which means asking how the statement will be misrepresented by their political opponents and hostile media. For political campaigners, statements about the aims and purposes of the campaign call for particular care. Politicians must be particularly cautious with references to party policies and positions.

As Pete Wishart stated that the SNP has “unconditionally given our support to a second EU referendum, regardless of its outcome, and without any guarantees for our nation” those alarm bells should have been deafening. Is this really the party’s position? How likely is it that an astute political operator such as Nicola Sturgeon would adopt such a position? How credible is it that she would casually commit to a totally unspecified arrangement? Are we to believe that she would voluntarily squander her options in the manner suggested?

Did Pete Wishart ask himself any of these questions? Apparently not! But he can be sure that others are now asking some very serious questions about his judgement.

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12 thoughts on “Loose talk

  1. Too many in the YES are playing politics like toddlers. Its like they have not learnt actions come back to bite.

    Westminster plays politics akin to Machiavellian chess…it will make you pay dearly for any lazy action (way more than the hurt for any principled stand). Westminster will willingly sacrifice to wipe out their opponent. Once SNP ties itself to a PV…Westminster will push the case that even supporting a PV supersedes any and all issues generated from Brexit vote…including unwinding devolution and the case against the Scottish parliament. They will pull the idea of a current mandate out from under your feet in the minds of many.

    I weep at the naiveté of it all

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Too right, Peter. I picked up Pete BTL in the National and on Twitter for this exactly. Your second last paragraph catches it perfectly – this is another ‘once in a generation’ hostage to fortune. Pete Wishart and other SNP politicians should spot these before they go out.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have to admit to hearing some things from SNP politicians that are dubious at best, and this is another one. Disappointing. But then, we are only disappointed when our expectations are too high,,, I am not sure our expectations are exactly too high, it’s just that our expectations of all other politicians are so very low!

    You must admit, the quality of the political discourse amongst Yes folk has improved in leaps and bounds over the years, it is really quite remarkable the knowledge and rational discourse in the main, on politics at any rate. Human nature being what it is though, there is still going to be some herd thinking (or lack of). I am impressed with the amount people educate themselves on these days, even if most of us have been forced into it because of the unreliability of the usual sources of news, and we can’t each become experts on everything. I have always been sceptical of anything I read and hear – but I certainly wasn’t aware of the extent of misinformation and propaganda before 2014 and was shocked to find out how bad it is.

    You are correct to criticise though, complacency will not lead to a happy conclusion. I explained to a colleague today that, no, we do NOT need a section 30 to hold a referendum, just that it would be politically expedient, and no we do NOT need the PMs permission – again politically expedient. But why are the SNP perpetuating these stupid damaging myths – they are conferring more power to Westminster by doing so.

    But then, we aren’t in the thick of the political manoeuvring, and are not really trying to appeal to the ‘swing’ part of the Scottish electorate (particularly those that only want independence if there is Brexit) – the SNP can be fairly sure of the constitutional independence supporters – we know that everything, including leaving or staying in the EU, will be a far easier decision in an independent Scotland, we know scotland can be successful (or, at the minimum, pessimistic outlook, very hard pushed to get any worse than the state of affairs while part of the U.K.). So, the SNP aren’t playing to us as an audience, which is why we are having a good moan about them I suspect. We just need to keep in mind that we will, hopefully, have normal political parties in the future. Maybe a normal media, you never know. Are the SNP being successful in appealing to the BritNat part of the electorate? I can’t tell. The confusing mixed messages are just a headache for me.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. If YES can’t win over people with the strength of their case, then what is the point.

      Building an YES case on subterfuge….when against a power like Westminster…that is the definition of self-inflicted death. They and their media will eviscerate you on every falsehood and obfuscation….(2014 currency anyone).

      YES needs to learn how to weaponise the truth and make it cut like a rapier…bashful half truths will always loose to the emotional lie….(Brexit debates are the perfect example)


  4. I have found Mr Wishart’s judgements of late to be surprisingly shallow, especially for a politician. If there is going to be a “People’s Vote”, like everything else in this accursed Union, it will be because England has decided so, irrespective of how we in Scotland may feel. So it is quite astute as well as principled to support a return to democratic first principles and give everyone a chance to revise their opinions in the light of better evidence than the previous farrago of lies, distortions and “dark money”. It has gained our FM a large measure of respect for trying to do the right thing even against evident party self-interest. Her support for an actual EUR2 is unlikely to be unconditional, and in the event that there is one, the SNP will have gone with the grain of high principle, yet (whatever the result) be able to continue to demonstrate that Scotland’s position re the mandate is unchanged. In the far more likely circumstance that there isn’t one, the mandate will have been substantially enhanced, and that event likely be tge final straw to win over enough converts to IR2 to make this inevitable and a win for Yes very likely.

    This is practical politics. Using the existing currents over which we have limited control to nevertheless take us where we want to go.

    The only matter over which which Mr Wishart has a point, and which is not included in the above extracts, is voter fatigue. It shouldn’t be so in a well-established democracy, but for far too many ordinary people it is tangible, after a welter of referendums and elections that don’t appear to have decided anything definitive, in a UK context at least.

    So ideally we need one more push, and that push should be IR2. Given the utterly confused and deadlocked state of English politics, that is very likely the opportunity we will get, one way or another, and in it our offer to voters (among many other good things) will be near-instant relief from all the ongoing division, indecision and muddle.

    What’s not to like..?

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Indeed, Mr Bell. During the 2017 election, the mantra from the three-headed hydra was ‘noinfyref2’ or ‘stopindyref2’ and the complaint most heard was that people were fed up and tired of elections, referendums, etc. I well remember one daft woman who was interviewed by a BBC reporter and the young man made the mistake of actually asking her why she found the idea of another referendum so tedious. She couldn’t answer and the young reporter looked genuinely puzzled and affronted. The obvious answer was that she was being indoctrinated into that way of thinking, and a real live question threw her because, being human, she was not an automaton and couldn’t hide her confusion and muddled thinking.

        Liked by 1 person

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