Preparing for a pillow fight

There are two fallacies in this article about Progress Scotland which, because they are so enthusiastically embraced by so many in the Yes movement, drive me to despair.

Firstly, there is the fallacy of ‘clarity’ about Brexit. The one thing that can never come out of the Brexit mess is clarity. The UK’s relationship with the EU and the rest of the world will be in a state of turbulent flux for many years. Probably many decades. Nothing useful can be known about it. As evidenced by the list provided.

But by the end of April the Brexit fog should have lifted to some extent anyway. Voters should know if the UK has left the EU, and if it has crashed out without a deal or left with May’s deal, perhaps with a tweak to the political declaration (the non legally binding part of the agreement she struck with the EU).

What part of that makes the slightest difference to the fact that Scotland voted against Brexit? What difference does any of it make to the fact that our democratic choice was treated with utter contempt by the British state? What difference does it make to the fact that this contempt is not only facilitated by the Union, but rendered inevitable by it?

The worrying thing about the whole Progress Scotland thing is that the entire project appears to be founded on the assumption that the Scottish Government will not use the mandate that it has. It assumes that the Scottish Government will do nothing to prevent Scotland being dragged out of the EU against the will of the people. It assumes that the Scottish Government will fail in its solemn duty to defend Scotland’s interests. And fail catastrophically.

A corollary of all this is that the Scottish Government is content that Scotland should continue to be treated with contempt ‘for the time being’. Certainly, there is no indication that the Scottish Government intends to do anything to change this situation.

The second fallacy is the notion that there is some mystical form of words by which the ‘positive case for independence’ will be made irresistible to those as yet unpersuaded. How can there possibly be a “fresh case for Yes”? Even ignoring all the campaigning that went before, since at least 2012 countless groups and organisations have been presenting their own ‘vision’ of independence. Over a period of around seven years, every possible formulation of the independence ‘message’ has been presented.

Indeed, this was a large part of the reason the Yes campaign was less effective than it should have been. There was no single, clear, concise campaign message. There were countless different messages. The campaign was diffuse, vague and confusing – if not actually confused. The campaign had thrust, but no sharp point. As I have said before, we took a pillow to a sword fight.

Independence is not a complex concept. So why are people trying to make it so? Who benefits from this unnecessary complexity? Our political leaders and others in a position to influence the Yes campaign strategy are falling once again into the trap of taking on an obligation to answer any and all questions posed by those resolved to preserve the Union at any cost. They are, at least tacitly, accepting the proposition that it is only when all these questions have been answered satisfactorily that Scotland will qualify for dependence.

The idiocy of this should be obvious. In the first place, there is no limit to the questions that can be posed. Once you accept that you have to explain yourself, the demand for further explanation is potentially infinite. And the explanations can never be satisfactory when the ones asserting the role of ultimate arbiters are the ones who are resolve to preserve the Union at any cost.

Advocates of the ‘pillow’ strategy will protest that it is not those resolved to preserve the Union at any cost who are being addressed. They will insist that it is ‘soft Nos’, or some such elusively defined group. But this is British politics. What matters is not reality, but perception. And who controls the overwhelmingly powerful machinery for manipulating perceptions? Why! It’s those resolved to… you know the rest. If no other lesson is drawn from the 2014 referendum campaign could it please at least be the fact that it doesn’t matter how often or how thoroughly or how comprehensively or even how convincingly questions are answered and/or explanations provided, the British state’s propaganda apparatus will endure the general perception that no satisfactory answers or explanations have been forthcoming. And if at any time it seems that the answers and explanations provided might gain some traction on the terrain of public opinion, the British state’s propaganda apparatus will move, not just the goalposts, but the entire bloody pitch!

There are, in fact, a multitude of lessons to be learned from the 2014 referendum campaign. I despair, not least, because it looks like all of those lessons are being ignored in favour of airy-fairy notions of a ‘fresh case for Yes’ or promised ‘clarity’ or an ‘optimal time’ out there somewhere that will come to us if we just wait long enough.

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21 thoughts on “Preparing for a pillow fight

  1. Good piece Peter, I am also a little worried about the SNP administrations sluggish approach to Indyref2. I am confused and a little irritated as to why they are dragging their feet so much. All this talk of don’t rush in, jings its as if their falling asleep at the wheel. Its as is they don’t want another referendum, why ? We have all the reasons to demand independence and take it, look at the treatment we have bee meted out by Westminster. Its nothing short of disgusting treatment, all the reasons for independence is there as we ever needed reasons.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. I couldn’t agree more. I scream (usually inside my head) when one more delaying step like this comes out from the SNP, of which I am a member. It’s like they don’t see that in 6 weeks (6 WEEKS!) we will all lose our EU citizenship and all that comes with it. And Scotland will face the most horrendous crush to our economy that will take years to recover from, if at all. I say ‘if at all’, because if we allow WM to put Scotland through this and keep taking our resources means our chances of recovery are severely diminished. And our chances of ever becoming independent are diminished.

    I don’t see there’s anything to lose by announcing our independence a few minutes before Brexit (of whatever kind) happens. So on March 29th, we go for it, with a planned confirming referendum a month later. If we lose, we lose. But at least we tried. It may really be our last chance for a long time.

    Why is the SNP not listening??

    Liked by 3 people

    1. We have to do this, Monica. It does have to be legal by international law, though, if we are to receive international recognition. If we do not have this, and the reality is that it is, by no means, a certainty, especially with the UK operating the way it does, and being America’s pet poodle in Europe. The markets may not stabilize and allow us to trade, set up a central bank and stabilize our own currency, and we could plummet into economic freefall.

      That is why I have always recommended the presentation of a powerful legal case (based on repudiation of the Treaty of Union, 1707 as being breached to the point of absurdity, unilaterally, by England) before the international courts, parallel with a petition to the UN on three counts of its charters, the withdrawal of our MPs from Westminster and the absolute undertaking to hold a ratifying referendum after independence – all simultaneously, and with a demand, to be agreed to within a specified and small timescale, for negotiations to leave the UK to be agreed upon. This would leave Mrs May, or whoever, little time to prevaricate with “now is not the time”. That is not UDI, but the stated intention of wishing to start negotiation, for those who believe it is.


      1. Again, you’ve stated it better than I could. You plan sounds workable. The problem is how to get the SNP on board when they show so little sign of seeing the urgency. Should we go for the Greens instead and get them to cause havoc at Holyrood unless the SNP steps up? I don’t know what else to do….


  3. Agree entirely with you Peter. I’m begining to think the SNP are a Unionist group!


  4. I disagree with you.
    I think it very very important that the SNP can say that an independence referendum is being held because Scotland has been taken out of the EU against it’s will.
    They cannot say that until the deed is done.
    There is every likelihood that brexit will be delayed even cancelled, we all know how sneaky and deceptive Westminster is, you can take nothing for granted when dealing with Westminster.
    Waiting until the deed is done is essential for this reason.
    Waiting the few weeks or months until the deed is done is nothing in the grand scheme of things .
    People regularly calling for an announcement NOW is really unhelpful to our cause.
    What we need is as much togetherness as possible which is a job in itself so when it’s easy to hold your piece about something that you know is a minority view and yours is you should be patient and thoughtful of this issue.
    I admire your work on the whole but on this point I think you have made a mistake.


    1. I don’t see what good waiting for leaving, being forced out of EU, rather, is going to do any one of us.
      We want to prevent it happening in the first place, not wait ’till it’s too late.
      This wait and see game is dangerous, and is not helping SNP either, it must be said.


    2. @Terence Callachan

      WOW….I remember that logic from those tragic abusive relationships of our parents and grandparents and then into the 70’s. When the union is based on respect and equality…the act of violence starts with disrespect and diminishment of the other.

      Westminster has told Scotland you do not count. There is nothing in the Union that protects Scotland’s interests. Brexit is predicated on Scotland’s wealth…there will be no chance to vote once it passes.

      Waiting for the titanic to hit the iceberg…and they lock you in the 3rd Class steerage….you don’t get to escape.


      1. P.S.
        The army distributing food / medicine….thats a nice euphemism.

        In event of food distribution collapsing the army would likely be confiscating food and medicine and then rationing it mainly down to London and English cities.


      2. “waiting for the Titanic to hit the iceberg…and they lock you in the 3rd Class steerage”. Good analogy, Tol.

        I have been following the Gilets Jaunes. They also are trying to reclaim their sovereignty. A pensioner on the march in Toulouse said two things which are applicable to us. ” Despair in politics is foolishness.” “We’re not sure if we will win but we will lose for sure if we don’t fight. We must fight.”

        Keep writing please, Peter. The independence movement is more than the SNP and your sharp words keep us focused.


  5. Taking a more nuanced view, I think there is a harder line political balance at play – you remember the fanfare when the SNP received their mandate for calling an independence referendum, except all we’ve had are delays since and tensions rising between the SNP and Westminster ,,, some context here – the first independence referendum was really at the behest of the unionist factions, another of David Cameron’s great ideas really, a great wheeze to see the SNP crushed – but everyone seems to have forgotten this, Alex Salmond was effectively badgered into announcing it. It just didn’t turn out the way they wanted though eh?

    Now consider the amount of twaddle the unionists peddled (or did we just become more aware of it?) at that last state-sanctioned referendum, and consider how much effort the state machinery is going to put in this time (they have been ramping up certain narratives for years now, never really stopped did they, and unionist political views have become more entrenched, the extreme effort politicians put in to not work along with the SNP is becoming extreme, etc) if there is no state sanctioning? Theresa May, the Westminster government and the state KNOW that they cannot stop a referendum from happening, or stop it being legitimate, that is why the rhetoric is always ‘now is not the time’ or ‘the people don’t want one’ – it is never ‘no, never’ (again). But they can keep prevaricating and making it awkward, delaying,,, how much of the Brexit delaying tactics are in fact in relation to delaying the inevitable Scottish independence referendum?

    So the uk government and the Scottish government are dancing around each other. No one wants to dance to Westminster tune, but there has to be some while in the union. The next thing is the state machinery; we see that there have been numerous breaches of electoral law, and some serious questions to be asked about postal voting (putting aside any conspiracy theories, take the basic fact that dead people don’t normally vote, and that the electoral roll is never going to be up to date enough to account for a percentage of people dying between registration and the vote, then it is possibly impossible to get more than 95% turnout – in one London area the turnout for the postal vote was 99% in the EU referendum. That’s in London, where you’d expect a fair amount of transient population movement. I really would have thought that warranted investigation, but hey, this is a civilised place, couldn’t happen here etc), and if you have read any of the documents leaked from the integrity initiative you can see the techniques used for making any and every message fuzzy (state sanctioned fuzzy). The amount of money and influence the unionists can wield far outstrips any of Yes or SNP funding too.

    Next, look at the fact we do not have a variety of political parties supporting independence, the Scottish greens are there for a small section of society, but the SNP are then left trying to appeal to the full range of political ideologies, and are left with few ideologies as a party itself, they have to stay in the middle ground. That’s why we know they won’t survive as an entity once Scotland has achieved full independence, it’s a diverse grouping having to appeal to a diverse set of political opinion. So they are always going to appear flimsier than they are. If Labour had supported independence, I have no doubt the SNP would be more right wing.

    So; I understand why the SNP are looking for a solid majority, a democracy we might be, on the surface, but the state machinery working against you could easily swing the vote enough if all you have is a 3% lead. I don’t know by how much you’d need, 10% maybe? The state machinery would be hard pressed to turn that around without being obvious. And it has to be a majority decision, whatever the circumstances of state manipulation. So the people that don’t really care, are more interested in their mortgage or hearing about the royal family than if Scotland should be fiscally autonomous, should be made to care. It is often an emotional vote – sense and facts say that we can function well as an independent country, but people only look at the facts that support their already established world view. Brexit has made more people think, look, listen and consider, so I don’t believe it is a case of ‘because they want to stay in the eu’ that more people are considering independence for the first time, or more sure of their vote now, but that the deadlock of an imagined nirvana that emotionally binds some people has been broken. That is a loss, and people need time to come to terms with it. They need to be convinced that a message of fairness doesn’t involve us all transforming into tree-hugging vegan hippies – it means balance between different ideologies, ideas, political leanings and personal desires, and the freedom to choose these things in our own country ourselves. We don’t have a big enough range of political parties in support of independence to show how everyone will be represented, so it will need to be a belief. Give people a chance. Most of their ‘reasoning’ will be spurious, but it’s what we all do – try and justify our emotional beliefs with what facts or opinions we can find.

    We KNOW that all the unionists and naysayers are going to love being in an independent Scotland, and we know they will benefit from it, we just need to keep saying it, repeating it, going on about it. It possibly won’t be nirvana, but it’ll be better than what we’ve got just now. Even with teething trouble and establishing ourselves, much much better than what we have just now. I will be just sighing with relief when we get there.

    You have to wonder how much of the idiotic antics of the Scottish Tory MPs are done to emphasise what the Westminster world view likes to put out – that the scots are so moronic they could never run their own affairs? Sell their grannies, so they would.

    The Progress Scotland ‘think tank’ – it does seem late in the day to start it up. My suspicious little brain cells are niggling away wondering if this was originally to be an Alex Salmond initiative,,, which had to be delayed due to certain circumstances, then the baton handed to someone else?

    Sorry about inflicting my brain-spew on your blog Peter, you have brought up some very good points, but at this stage we are likely going to have to travel some of the Brexit journey (hell?) and being anxious about the timing is unlikely to make a difference. I think the SNP knows, or will find out, that their vote share and membership is going to plummet (and they DO rely on us, unlike the other parties) if we reach another general election before our referendum. The Tories don’t need to show good to keep their coffers topped up and votes coming in (two party system, no choices), but the SNP most certainly do.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Good article Peter , indycar Gordon Ross was saying the same thing today Wed on his video link , I very much agree with others that treeza is trying to force Nicola’s hand but I also agree with Peter that dancing to the britnat tune and answering questions from them is a waste of energy , go on the attack and get them to justify and elaborate leaving the EU


  7. I go to bed weeping for beautiful Scotland…people have walked so calmly to the demise.

    Heck – Westminster has said the words: Marshal law…food + medical shortages. In peace time, with no natural disaster, that should cause any population to call STOP.

    For Scotland who voted NO. How can so many be so nonchalant?

    Liked by 1 person

  8. “…Firstly, there is the fallacy of ‘clarity’ about Brexit. The one thing that can never come out of the Brexit mess is clarity…”

    You could not be more right, Mr Bell.

    “…The second fallacy is the notion that there is some mystical form of words by which the ‘positive case for independence’ will be made irresistible to those as yet unpersuaded. How can there possibly be a “fresh case for Yes”? Even ignoring all the campaigning that went before, since at least 2012 countless groups and organisations have been presenting their own ‘vision’ of independence. Over a period of around seven years, every possible formulation of the independence ‘message’ has been presented…”

    Again, I could not agree more, and I do not believe that, in the end, we will persuade any more people, for the very simple reason that they are entirely unpersuadable as to the arguments, so that leaves just doing it and let them sort it out later in their own brains, as has happened with every other known country. I have never come across a country that ‘persuaded’ or moved slowly and methodically towards independence – ever. I have yet to find a country that laid out its whole future construction in some document 10 years before it embarked on independence for real. I have never come across an independent country that did all the same things and expected a different result second time around. In essence, we are doing the same things again, but, this time, we are pandering to two sets of neo colonials (No voters across the board have been shown to be, per capita, better off than most YES voters, so the economic stuff only washes if you are under threat of losing everything with independence, and Brexit makes a mockery (or an uncomfortable truth, for many of the neo colonial mindset) of that assertion.

    I think that is where we differ, Mr Bell, because I do not believe, although I would never write it off totally, and I would support it enthusiastically if I could see a shift to YES) that a second indyref will just produce the same result, or a higher NO vote if we have already Brexited with rUK. Disruption, for human beings, is always the last resort, and God only knows there will be so much disruption with Brexit that few will have the stomach for even more. If we Brexit with rUK, I, personally, will part company with the SNP. I hasten to add that I am no extremist nationalist, but this douce method of achieving your goal is for the birds. Diplomacy is great before an event and after an event, but the event itself rarely, if ever, succumbs to diplomacy, as I believe Craig Murray, a former ambassador, has said. That has been the conclusion I have drawn, too, from studying different independent countries.

    I like Mr Robertson, personally, and I will give him the benefit of the doubt and I think he can achieve much, if he can do so within six months, and if Theresa May gets an extension to A50 from the EU of around that length of time. If, not, we are Brexiting, and that is it for me – but I’m a nobody, and have no influence – because the first steps towards turning Scotland into Scotlandshire, a county of Greater England, will continue apace. That which the Treaty of Union did not manage to achieve, but which Crawford and Boyle argued had come to pass with its signing, but which I do not believe was ever Queen Anne’s personal desire, will now occur. If it does, I hope those NO voters are very happy, alongside the Brexiteers, many of who are the same people, anyway, and yet another reason why the Brexit bounce has not worked in Scotland.


    1. @Lorna Campbell OMG…I love your writing.

      “… why the Brexit bounce has not worked in Scotland…”

      Maybe YES is asking the wrong question….or the right question in the wrong way. Too many in YES are wanting to re-run the talking points of 2014 Indyref…hoping Independence would fall in their lap.

      2014 was only 5 years ago but Brexit 2019 is a world away from that time. YES needs to flip its questions so NO realise that the privileges and certainties they take for granted now would be lost in Brexit. Nothing focuses the mind of those would perceive privilege or safety like losing those things.

      Their access to schools across Europe, their business opportunities, the safety of their professional networks, their status within the UK. The value of their home and investments. Brexit is a threat to these. If your business is not backed by independent wealth (external to UK) then you are just plunder for disaster capitalists.

      Brexit Britain would be the Burma (Maymar) of Europe…(not the Singapore). Ask the typical NO unionist you describe; how the world treats Burma’s middle class. DO they get to the front of the cue for the best schools. is their economic future secure.


  9. People want a choice NOW.

    But later it will be ‘we don’t want even more disruption’.

    The poll results are already there: Brexit = 53% yes, Hard Brexit = 59%. This will shoot up in the heat of a campaign.

    Many soft No’s are so disturbed by the shenanigans of the UK government over Brexit that they want out now even if if Brexit were to be cancelled – but won’t be, because the Conservative party would split if that happened.

    If we declare ‘we want independence and continuation of our membership of the EU’, the EU will get behind us and international recognition will be forthcoming. We will get support the world over, but only if we have the guts to make a bid for freedom.

    Only 2 more Scots in 20 need to come over. An unshakeable case and growing support. The cliff edge is in view…and yet the SNP bite their nails and launch another ‘survey’. It defies belief.


    1. “….and the SNP bite their nails and launch another survey”. Well stated.

      There are three types of character, the creator mover and shaker, the administrator and the destroyer. I have seen all three in action. At this point in our history we need the former but we seem to have an administrator’s view of things. We need to go for it and go now. Otherwise the WM destroyer will deal us several savage blows and we will not see another indyref ever.


  10. Why is this viewpoint not being debated openly within the SNP ? In 2014 I kept waiting for the big reveal/ masterstroke that would take us over the line. Instead energy was dissipated fighting a never ending stream of what ifs. They are laughing at us

    It didnt happen in 2014 and despite the UK clusterfuck we are no nearer . I speak to business people every day. They are not * political * but they are not persuaded that Scotland can prosper at all. They would rather suck it up than risk it.

    That sadly is how the SNP ( which I joined 1979 when Independence was an impossible dream ) are now beginning to look like to me.

    Liked by 1 person

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