Section 30 is not Scotland’s salvation

I wonder if those who say things like “we are not at the end of the Section 30 order road” have ever stopped to think about what a Section 30 order actually is. When I hear people insisting that a Section 30 order is absolutely required for a referendum on restoring Scotland’s independence to be ‘legal and ‘binding’, I tend to wonder if they have considered what a Section 30 order is for and why this ‘loophole’ was made part of the Scotland Act 1998. After all, we know that the core purpose of the legislation is, not to empower the Scottish Parliament, but to keep it in check. We know that the devolution experiment never had anything to do with addressing the democratic deficit imposed by the Union or improving Scotland’s governance, but was always about creating a new and superficially more democratic framework within which powers could be ‘managed’ without the risk of compromising the Union. So why would the legislation include a provision for granting additional powers to the Scottish Parliament?

The answer, of course, is that it doesn’t. As becomes immediately clear when one reads the relevant text at Section 30(2).

Her Majesty may by Order in Council make any modifications of Schedule 4 or 5 which She considers necessary or expedient.

Scotland Act 1998

Expressed in a less legalistic, and more forthright, fashion what this says is that the British Prime Minister – currently a malignant child-clown named Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson – can alter the powers of the Scottish Parliament whenever they want and in any way they deem “necessary or expedient” for their purposes – that purpose being ever and always the preservation of the Union. I think it’s fair to say that Section 30 isn’t sounding like quite the boon to Scotland some seem to suppose it to be. It is simply another device by which the British state may rein in the Scottish Parliament. Or, at least, that was the intention. Belt and braces legislation. Just in case there were any loopholes which might allow Holyrood more power than was intended, Section 30 allows the British political elite to quickly patch up any chink in the armour protecting the Union.

You may be asking how, if the purpose of Section 30 is to provide extra protection for the Union, did it come to be used to secure a ‘legal and binding’ independence referendum in 2014? To understand how this came about you need know just one thing – Alex Salmond is a lot smarter than David Cameron. Alex Salmond played Cameron like the proverbial old fiddle. He knew his opponent and was keenly aware that he could rely on a mix of hubris, arrogance and ignorance to enable him to extract what he wanted from the then British Prime Minister. And what he wanted was, not the Section 30 order itself, but the Edinburgh Agreement that accompanied it.

Of course, the drafters of the legislation never envisaged Section 30 being used in this way. They assumed the Scottish Parliament would always be controlled by the the British parties; who would never do anything to jeopardise the Union. That’s the way the electoral system was set up. Not, as some imagine, to keep the SNP out, but to keep some combination or permutation of British parties perpetually in. Another safeguard for the Union. You may be starting to discern a pattern.

Alex Salmond is a brilliant political operator. A master of the art of keeping open as many options as possible and a man who can calculate, on the fly, all the values in a complex trade-off. Setting a precedent by requesting a Section 30 order was dangerous because, on the face of it, this might limit the options available in the future. Remember that, in 2012, Salmond had little reason to suppose that a referendum could be won. He was pretty much bounced into going for it because, in 2011, the Scottish electorate broke the voting system in a way that not even Alex Salmond could have predicted. He had to declare the referendum. And he would do his utmost to win it. But he was also planning for the loss and looking to get as much out of the whole exercise as he could.

Aware that the precedent-setting risk involved in requesting a Section 30 order was at least mitigated and almost certainly negated by the unlawfulness of any attempt to deny the right of self-determination, Salmond figured the trade-off was worth it to secure the Edinburgh Agreement and, crucially, formal recognition of Scotland’s right of self-determination by the British state. Asking permission from Cameron must have grated severely on Salmond’s Scottish sensibilities. But, ever the pragmatist, he got on with doing what was necessary.

So, to summarise – the purpose of Section 30 of the Scotland Act 1998, is to afford the British Prime Minister the legal authority to unilaterally and arbitrarily alter the powers of the Scottish Parliament. So much for the ‘most powerful devolved parliament in the world’!

Alex Salmond used the Section 30 procedure to manipulate David Cameron into formally acknowledging Scotland’s right of self-determination as part of a subsidiary plan to ease the way for a new referendum in the event that the 2014 vote went the wrong way.

Salmond realised that this could not set an awkward precedent as the Section 30 procedure would always be trumped by international laws and conventions relating to the right of self-determination. Which does not mean that we should take the British government to court – whatever that may entail. What it means, and what Salmond no doubt intended, is that the British state is powerfully deterred from taking the Scottish Government to court. It is highly unlikely that any constitutional court, including the UK Supreme Court, would uphold the British government’s right to exercise what is effectively a veto over Scotland’s right of self-determination. To do so would be to strike down the Charter of the United Nations. No constitutional court would risk its credibility in this way. No judge would want that on their Debrett’s entry, or their Wikipedia page.

The question, therefore, is not whether we are “at the end of the Section 30 order road”, but whether we should be on that road at all.

Some insist that a Section 30 order is required to make a referendum legal. This is the colonised mind speaking. Note how such people constantly fret about the legality of what Scotland does and its bearing on independent Scotland gaining recognition by the international community. Note how they rarely, if ever, think about questioning the legality of what the British state does. They never ask how a law prohibiting or constraining a fundamental democratic right can possibly be valid. The British political elite has only to assert a power, and the colonised mind unthinkingly accepts it. The superiority of the British state is mindlessly assumed.

What matters in relation to the right of self-determination is, not formal legality, but democratic legitimacy. So long as the process by which the right of self-determination is exercised can be shown to be open and democratic, any law purporting to prohibit or constrain that right cannot itself be legitimate. Especially when that law is imposed by a parliament and a government which itself lacks even the semblance of democratic legitimacy. Who says so? Well, among others, the British government. It is stated with great clarity and concision in the British government’s statement(s) to the International Court of Justice inquiry as to whether the declaration of independence by the provisional institutions of self-government of Kosovo was in accordance
with international law.

5.5 Consistent with this general approach, international law has not treated the legality of the act of secession under the internal law of the predecessor State as determining the effect of that act on the international plane. In most cases of secession, of course, the predecessor State‟s law will not have been complied with: that is true almost as a matter of definition.

5.6 Nor is compliance with the law of the predecessor State a condition for the declaration of independence to be recognised by third States, if other conditions for recognition are fulfilled. The conditions do not include compliance with the internal legal requirements of the predecessor State. Otherwise the international legality of a secession would be predetermined by the very system of internal law called in question by the circumstances in
which the secession is occurring.

5.7 For the same reason, the constitutional authority of the seceding entity to proclaim independence within the predecessor State is not determinative as a matter of international law. In most if not all cases, provincial or regional authorities will lack the constitutional authority to secede. The act of secession is not thereby excluded. Moreover, representative institutions may legitimately act, and seek to reflect the views of their constituents, beyond the scope of already conferred power.

WRITTEN STATEMENT OF THE UNITED KINGDOM

It is abundantly clear that there is no necessity to follow the Section 30 procedure. So the question becomes one of what, if anything, makes it desirable to do so? And that is a far more difficult question, because it concerns subjective judgement Personally, I just hope that those ‘influencers’ who are advocating for the Section 30 procedure have actually thought it through. And, if our elected leaders are opting for the Section 30 procedure, I feel entitled to demand to know why, and to be assured that they have fully considered the kind of implications outlined in a previous article.



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Brava, Nicola!

An “independence debate”? Perish the thought! There is, of course, no way that Boris Johnson’s operators will put him in a situation where he can be even more humiliated than he was today. The vignette at the door of Bute House as Johnson arrived for his meeting with Nicola Sturgeon offered a fascinating insight into the power dynamic between the pair. And the new British Prime Minister did not come out of it well. On the steps of her official residence, the First Minister gave a master-class in stamping authority. The body language in that brief video clip will be studied and commented on for years to come.

Boris Johnson desperately needed to be the boss in that situation. Especially after the competitive Jock-bashing he and his rivals engaged in throughout the Tory leadership contest. He failed abysmally. Bossing the situation meant being last through the door so as to appear to be the dominant personality; the one in control and shepherding inferiors into a domain made to look his own by the fact that he was ushering visitors into it. When Sturgeon outmanoeuvred Johnson to deprive him of his moment, that had to hurt. Watch the footage and you can see how desperate Johnson was to further signal his alpha status by delivering a pat on the back – or three – as he symbolically pushed the First Minister through her own door. The body language was unmistakable. Boris was bossed in such balletic fashion there is an almost irresistible urge to leap to ones feet shouting, “Brava, Nicola!”

But if this episode hurt Johnson it must have all but crippled his minders. You can almost hear them out of shot hissing, “We rehearsed this!” as they bite their knuckles in fits of tearful frustration. The perils of working for a malignant child-clown bred to believe that deference is his due. Lesson learned. Johnson’s minders will be reluctant to allow their man to be in the same postcode as Nicola Sturgeon, never mind throwing him into the debating arena with someone who has already bested him with such effortless ease and exquisite elegance.

This debate is not going to happen. Not unless Johnson is crazy in ways that nobody has hitherto supposed. And it’s just as well. Because it would be an embarrassingly pointless exercise.

Get past the theatre of Sturgeon’s challenge to Johnson and ask what this “Scottish independence debate” would be about. What would they be debating? What would the proposition? And why? Why would the First Minister of Scotland be debating with the British Prime Minister on a matter in which the latter has absolutely no say? Johnson isn’t resident in Scotland. He cannot, to the best of my knowledge, qualify to vote in the coming referendum. It literally has bugger all to do with him.

Maybe they could debate whether there should even be a referendum. Or what the question on the ballot should be. But, again, this has nothing whatever to do with Johnson. Scotland’s right of self-determination cannot legitimately be denied, and the referendum itself must be held entirely and exclusively under the auspices of the Scottish Parliament.

The British Prime Minister has no more authority in relation to Scotland’s exercise of its right of self-determination than the head of any other foreign government. More to the point, Scotland’s First Minister should not be treating him as if he did have some kind of authority.

Let’s be generous and assume that Nicola Sturgeon was only joking when she challenged Boris Johnson to a Scottish independence debate. Let’s be grateful that such a gruesome spectacle is vanishingly unlikely ever to be thrust upon us. Let’s just watch that Bute House clip on a loop instead. Delightful!



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Sending a message

I find it exceedingly hard to believe that anyone in the Yes movement ever suggested that Carolyn Leckie was wasting her time “trying to persuade Labour members and activists to support independence”. Who among Yes activists is so stupid as to fail to realise that Labour members and activists are prominent among the people we must wean away from the Union? And some of our best prospects for conversion to the cause of normalising Scotland’s constitutional situation.

Perhaps Carolyn has misheard or misread or misunderstood those who point out the futility of hoping that the British Labour Party in Scotland will ever abandon its devotion to the British state, its ruling elites, and the structures of power, privilege and patronage which give succour to any who bend the knee to jealous Britannia.

Or perhaps Carolyn just got a bit carried away with her own rhetoric there. I mean, anybody who uses the term “UDI” obviously isn’t thinking too clearly about what they’re saying. In relation to Scotland, the concept of “UDI” is totally inappropriate and inapplicable. Not to mention the fact that the term itself is nonsensical – when is a declaration of independence NOT unilateral? – or the not totally inconsequential negative associations with white supremacists in colonial era Africa.

Using such an expression is, to say the least, ill-advised. Using it in such a way as to give the impression that “UDI” is an option being seriously considered by anyone in the Yes movement is just embarrassing. I am aware that there is a handful of ill-informed individuals who have latched on to the term, mainly because they imagine it makes them look politically sophisticated while saving them having to spell any words of more than two syllables. I am aware, too, that certain journalists nominally sympathetic to Scotland’s cause like to use the idea of ‘extremist factions’ within the Yes movement to spice up what would otherwise be insipid copy. But I’d like to think Carolyn Leckie doesn’t fall into either of these categories. I prefer to suppose she’s just been a bit sloppy.

Not that Carolyn Leckie has any interest in what I think. I know my place as part of that mass of ‘ordinary’ independence campaigners who are regarded with a mix of sneering disdain and smirking condescension by the self-proclaimed elites of the Yes movement. Just as I recognise that, as an ‘ordinary’ SNP member, my views and concerns and ideas are of no interest to the party managers and leadership. It is not uncommon that those most in need of a bit of street-level wisdom tend to be those least inclined to heed it.

What should I do? What should any ‘ordinary’ Yes activist do? Should we retreat into chastened silence just because the elected elite forget where their power and status stems from? Should we go eat our cereal just because those who claim to speak for us are so scornfully dismissive of what we say? I think not. This is too important for us to keep quiet. I may know my allotted place. I don’t have to accept it. Even if nobody is listening, I am compelled to speak. The less the elites want to hear what ‘ordinary’ independence campaigners have to say, the more, and the more loudly, it needs to be said.

Here’s a bit of that street-level wisdom for Carolyn Leckie and the rest to ignore. Boris Johnson is not listening! Boris Johnson doesn’t care! It is utterly pointless sending any kind of message to him because he won’t receive it; won’t understand it even if he does receive it; and won’t do anything other than instantly reject it even if he both received and understood it.

Boris Johnson is not the one you need to try and influence. That you imagine him to be is a symptom of a colonised mind. Boris Johnson can’t be influenced. Because Boris Johnson just doesn’t care. He can’t be made to change his attitude to Scotland no matter how many people march in however many Scottish towns and cities. Because Boris Johnson just doesn’t care.

Boris Johnson doesn’t care because he doesn’t have to care. The Union means he doesn’t have to care. The No vote in 2014 means he doesn’t have to care.

Boris Johnson isn’t even supposed to care. He’s the British Prime Minister. Beyond ensuring that the people of Scotland continue to be denied the full, effective and dangerous expression of their sovereignty, caring about Scotland is no part of Johnson’s remit.

Sending a message to Boris Johnson may well be the daftest waste of time and effort ever. Because he doesn’t care. It’s the sort of idea that could only be born in a mind that long since lost touch with the reality of Scotland’s predicament. A colonised mind that continues to regard Westminster as the locus of ‘real’ politics and the centre of legitimate political authority. A mind that frets endlessly about the legality of what Scotland does but never thinks to question the legality of what the British state does. A mind urgently in need of a jolt of street-level wisdom such as might just shake it free of its colonised state.

By all means organise mass demonstrations across Scotland. Not for the definitively futile purpose of sending a message to Boris Johnson, but to remind our political leaders that they are supposed to care. They do have to care. They are meant to listen to us and be influenced by us. They are supposed to speak and act for us.

Forget Boris Johnson! Forget Westminster! Forget the British state and all its ugly apparatus! Forget all of it! What possible hope might there be in seeking Scotland’s salvation in the source of the threat to our democracy?

Scotland will not be rescued from the onslaught of ‘One Nation’ British Nationalism other than by action taken by the Scottish Government in the Scottish Parliament with the authority of the Scottish people. If ‘ordinary’ people need to send a message to anyone it is to Nicola Sturgeon. A message demanding that she act now to get Scotland out of the Union by whatever means necessary and as a matter of the utmost urgency.



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Waiting for worse

What’s going on in the upper echelons of the SNP? What is the current thinking on Scotland’s predicament? Is there a plan, or even an intention, to address the constitutional issue? When is the First Minister going to act, and what is she going to do?

These are the questions preoccupying many, perhaps most, people in the Yes movement. We are all looking for clues. We scrutinise every statement made by Nicola Sturgeon and every article written by senior figures in the SNP seeking some indication of what the immediate future holds. As often as not this turns out to be a disappointing and even a depressing activity.

Pete Wishart’s latest musings and mutterings from Perthshire is a case in point. Anyone looking there for hints as to the SNP’s thinking would come away wondering if the party leadership is even aware of Scotland’s predicament. They might well suppose there is no constitutional issue at all for all the attention it gets. They would be in no doubt that, for Mr Wishart at least, the overriding concern is. not so much Scotland’s fate as the party’s – and his own – electoral fortunes.

Clues come early. The article is titled The total humiliation of Ruth Davidson. The very first sentence reads “the Scottish Tories are in trouble”. This sets the tone for the whole article. Now, I’m sure we all relish Ruth Davidson’s embarrassment. But the fact that Davidson’s abasement is now a commonplace of Scottish politics rather takes the edge off the schadenfreude. I’m equally sure that most people in Scotland are perfectly OK with the Scottish Tories being in trouble. But I suspect many will feel that, however delightful the turmoil it has provoked in the Scottish branch of the British Conservative & Unionist Party, the implications for Scotland of Boris Johnson’s elevation to the role of Prime Minister are of considerably greater importance.

There is passing mention of the fact that Johnson being PM means a majority of Scottish voters would vote for independence. But nothing at all about whether or when they might get the opportunity to vote for independence. It is clear that, for Pete Wishart, what matters is the fact that Johnson is an “electoral liability”

Of course, electoral success for the SNP is important. Indeed, it is crucial to Scotland’s cause. If only there were any indication that Pete Wishart sees Ruth Davidson’s woes in that context. But it seems that the constitutional context figures in his thinking hardly at all. The entire focus is on winning the next election.

Having read his article, I anticipate more than a few comments about Pete Wishart being overly concerned with keeping his seat. I would invite those contemplating such comments to grow up and have a wee think. Of course the man is concerned to keep his seat! Why wouldn’t he be? What is wrong with that? Pete Wishart is a career politician. It has been a very successful career. It stands to reason that he would not wish it to end in electoral defeat.

Winning Perth and North Perthshire for the SNP is Pete Wishart’s job. Of course it is important to him. He serves his constituents well. And, simply by holding that seat in the British parliament he makes a valuable contribution to the cause of restoring Scotland’s rightful constitutional status. Criticising him for wanting to win is just plain stupid.

What is troubling is the thought that this latest article from Pete Wishart might tell us something about the attitudes and priorities of the SNP leadership. It is one thing for individual elected members to give precedence to their electoral prospects. That, as has been noted, is their job. Getting elected is their immediate task. But the party as a whole has wider concerns and different priorities. We would hope that these concerns and priorities are shared by those who lead the party. Those who are also the nation’s political leaders.

I have frequently observed that the SNP is very good at winning elections. Perhaps not so good at single-issue political campaigns. It is only to be expected that they will play to their strengths. Which suggests that an electoral route to independence might well be their preference. That the ‘Plan B’ proposed by Angus MacNeil and Chris McEleny is actually the ‘Plan A’. It may well be that the SNP is pinning the hopes of the Yes movement on an early UK general election and a big win. And it’s not only Pete Wishart giving this impression. Angus Robertson also seems to think the mandate for a referendum needs yet more confirmation.

If this is the way the SNP leadership is thinking then it would certainly explain the present inaction. As ever, it seems to be a case of waiting for the British government to do something. Waiting for events to play out. Waiting for ‘clarity’. Waiting for the ‘right time’. Waiting.

In electoral terms, this may be a valid strategy. If your opponents are in disarray and making themselves unelectable it makes sense to let them get on with it. When the votes are counted in Perth and North Perthshire it makes no difference whether Pete Wishart has won or the Tories have lost. Pete returns to Westminster either way. In the context of the independence campaign, however, waiting for our opponents to lose just won’t work. Because the things that are an electoral liability for the Scottish Tories and causing Ruth Davidson great embarrassment are developments which strengthen the British Nationalism which is the real threat to Scotland.

My fear is that the SNP leadership may have come to confuse and conflate electoral success for the party with success for the independence cause. But beating the Tories is not enough. The Tories are not the problem. The Union is the problem. Even the total collapse and disintegration of the British Conservative & Unionist Party does not spell victory for Scotland’s cause. It means only the advent of an even greater threat to Scotland’s democracy. Defeating the Tories will only leave us facing an even more determined and more ruthless manifestation of British Nationalism.

Personally, I’d rather not wait for that.



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The mood

Boris Johnston may well be the last Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. But it is distressingly difficult to see how this will be brought about by the SNP. Angus Robertson has lots to say about what the British government will be doing. It would be a very generous interpretation of his article, however, which finds any suggestion that the Scottish Government has plans of its own. Apart, that is, from conducting research of the kind that should have been done long since.

What I take from this article is that the SNP is content to let things play out under the auspices of a malignant child-clown on the assumption that this will somehow lead to the restoration of Scotland’s independence. With all due respect to Angus Robertson, this is dangerous nonsense. Restoring Scotland’s independence will require bold, decisive action by the Scottish Government. If Mr Robertson’s report is any guide, bold, decisive action isn’t even under consideration.

We must assume that Angus Robertson is close to the SNP leadership and familiar with the prevailing mood. Clues to that mood are, perhaps inadvertently, scattered throughout his article. There is, of course, the ongoing obsession with Brexit and the SNP’s stance on that issue – which seems to have shifted from outright opposition to Brexit because Scotland voted Remain, to futile opposition to a particular form of Brexit despite Scotland having voted against any kind of Brexit.

I’d like to ask Angus Robertson what Brexit ‘deal’ might negate that 62% Remain vote? When I voted Remain, did I unwittingly vote to keep Scotland in EU unless there was an acceptable Brexit ‘deal’? Acceptable to whom?

When it comes to Boris Johnson’s interest in Scotland, Angus Robertson discusses this solely in terms of electoral impact. He refers to Boris Johnson and his transition team having “put some thought into how to deal with their unpopularity in Scotland”. When he imagines us asking “where stands Scotland in all of this”, he answers with a firm prediction of SNP electoral success in any head-to-head contest with the Tories. Incredibly, there is no mention at all of the constitutional implications for Scotland of a new hard-line ‘One Nation’ British Nationalist administration in London.

With what looks like quite breath-taking political naivety, Angus Robertson assures us that Scotland is not top of Johnson’s list. How is it possible for him to be unaware that locking Scotland into a unilaterally rewritten ‘British Constitution’ is an imperative for the British state? If Scotland is of as little concern to Boris Johnson as Angus Robertson implies, does it not occur to him to wonder why the self-anointed ‘Minister for the Union’ might be so relaxed about what is surely the greatest threat to his precious Union?

But it was the following passage which really provoked me to anger. Assuming the SNP would trounce the Tories in a Westminster election, Robertson opines,

All of this will strengthen the SNP mandate for the Scottish Parliament to decide on holding the next Scottish independence referendum. Having already won elections to the Scottish Parliament, Westminster Parliament and European Parliament, and secured a majority in favour in the Scottish Parliament, the undemocratic excuses to block a democratic vote will no longer be sustainable.

I read that and found myself wondering how “undemocratic excuses to block a democratic vote” could be “sustainable” in light of three electoral and one parliamentary confirmations of the mandate to hold that vote. I found myself wondering how “undemocratic excuses to block a democratic vote” could ever be “sustainable”. I found myself unable to understand why we would need yet another confirmation of a mandate which was already vastly more valid than the mandate of those making the “undemocratic excuses to block a democratic vote”.

I found myself wondering just how many confirmations of the mandate to hold a new independence referendum would be required before the SNP decides that the “undemocratic excuses to block a democratic vote” are no longer sustainable.

If Angus Robertson is affording us anything like an accurate sense of the SNP leadership’s mood, then Scotland is in serious trouble.



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Concerned

Gail Ross MSP has “considerable cause for concern”. The forces of ‘One Nation’ British Nationalism are gathering with the clear intention of dismantling Scotland’s democratic institutions, and Gail Ross has “considerable cause for concern”. People are being appointed by the new British Prime Minister who are explicitly tasked with preserving the Union regardless of the democratic will of Scotland’s people, and Gail Ross has “considerable cause for concern”.

Our cherished public health service, our valuable food and drink industry are to be sacrificed on the altar of British imperialist pretension, and Gail Ross has “considerable cause for concern”.

The distinctive political culture Scotland has been developing founded on principles of fairness, dignity and respect is about to be eradicated, and Gail Ross has “considerable cause for concern”.

The entire constitutional settlement is about to be unilaterally rewritten by far right British Nationalist ideologues intent on imposing their inanely jingoistic notion of Britishness on Scotland along with a brand of neo-liberalism stripped of any vestige of economic rationality or social conscience or basic human decency, and Gail Ross has “considerable cause for concern”.

I too have “considerable cause for concern”. I am concerned that, while arguably the greatest threat Scotland has ever faced looms closer by the day, the people we elected to represent and defend Scotland’s interests seem unable or unwilling to articulate that threat, far less confront it.

I am concerned that Gail Ross and her colleagues are not nearly concerned enough about our nation’s predicament.



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People are annoying

I have a reputation for being somewhat irascible on Twitter. Certainly, I don’t suffer fools gladly. Why would I? They’re fools! Silliness can be cute in children and amusing in adults who intend to cause amusement by acting the fool. In the context of the fight to save Scotland from the British Nationalist demolition squad, however, foolishness is inappropriate and, if not intolerable, then definitely to be discouraged. Regrettably, foolishness persists in various forms within the Yes movement.

There is much talk at the moment of the frustration being felt among Yes activists. This is hardly surprising. For the want of leadership, Scotland’s cause has lain dead in in the water for almost five years as the gunboats of ‘One Nation’ British Nationalism bear down upon us. Little wonder there is a degree of anxiety among those not blind to our nation’s predicament. But if the generality of Yes activists are frustrated, then those of us who have been warning about the approaching threat for years are doubly so on encountering others who, for all their undoubted commitment to the restoration of Scotland’s independence, still cling to notions about the constitutional issue that we discarded long ago.

It occurs to me that one of the reasons I get so irascible on social media is that I weary of repeating myself. I think we all occasionally slip into the error – the foolish error – of regarding platforms such as Twitter rather like a single huge arena. There is a tendency to suppose, at some level, that when we talk to Twitter, we are talking to everyone. Or, at least, everyone who matters in terms of the topic. When you’ve rebutted some claim or refuted some argument a dozen or more times you tend to get annoyed when people keep making the disproved claim or repeating the discredited argument. It feels as if they’re just ignoring everything you’ve said to them. But, of course, you haven’t really said it to them. You’ve said it to Twitter. And that is not the same thing. I have to keep reminding myself of this.

Frustration at the lack of progress in the independence campaign is aggravated by frustration at what feels like being ignored. And it can be aggravated further still by the foolishness of people who fail to think things through. Bad enough that they are rehashing stuff that has been repeatedly and comprehensively dealt with. Worse still when it’s stuff that anyone possessed of normal intelligence should be able to figure out for themselves. So the frustration builds and provokes ill-tempered outbursts.

And it gets worse. The way others respond to having their foolishness pointed out can cause a whole new kind of frustration. Evading the criticism altogether by whining about the manner of its expression is one that I find particularly irksome. And discounting an argument on the grounds that the person making it isn’t infallible amounts to a form of foolishness which is thoroughly deserving of some ‘abuse’.

I don’t claim to ‘know everything’. So telling me that I don’t ‘know everything’ is definitively pointless and really, really annoying. And the fact that I can’t possibly ‘know everything’ isn’t a good or valid reason for supposing I know nothing. As with the bleating about my ‘tone.’ such comments totally fail to address the content of what is being said. Sometimes, of course, side-stepping the content is quite deliberate and purposeful.

For a number of years now I have been arguing that the independence movement needs a change of mindset. It needs more than that. But it all starts with rejecting the ways of perceiving ourselves and thinking about ourselves which have been absorbed over centuries of subtly or aggressively enforced subordination within the Union. In March 2014 I was invited to speak at a Yes event in Dundee. I reproduce a transcript of part of that speech here in order to illustrate both my argument and how long I’ve been making it.

The only ones who have the legitimate authority to decide what powers the Scottish Parliament has are the people of Scotland themselves. So long as that power remains in the jealous grasp of the British state, Scotland will be less than a nation and its people will be diminished accordingly. The more so if they actually consent to this condition.

This referendum is not about money or oil or monarchs. And it certainly isn’t about Alex Salmond. It is about you. It is about us. It is about the people of Scotland and what kind of people we are.

This referendum is about the most fundamental constitutional issue of all – sovereignty. The sovereignty that rightfully rests with the people of any nation.

This referendum is about whether we are the kind of people who will carelessly allow that sovereignty to be usurped by the ruling elites of the British state, or whether we are the kind of people who will seize to ourselves the power to shape our own destiny.

With the exception of the reference to Alex Salmond, that speech could be made today and be just as relevant. More than five years on, the issue of what kind of people we are and aspire to be still lies at the very heart of the constitutional issue. Are we as the British ruling elites see us? Or are we as we would see ourselves?

Over time, by a process of consideration and research and consultation and discussion, this idea of a fresh mindset has developed. My conviction that mindset is key to the construction and conduct of a winning campaign has grown stronger. Others, too, have become convinced of the need to move away from the old idea of asking for independence as if it was something that’s in the gift of a superior power, and towards the idea of demanding the restoration of what is rightfully ours but is being illegitimately withheld by the British state – or, in a term I find very apt, ‘England-as-Britain’.

Increasing numbers of people are coming around to a different way of thinking that turns the old way on its head. Independence is normal. It is not independence which must be justified but the grotesquely anomalous Union. Rather than hoping to achieve independence through a process defined and controlled by the British establishment, we must seize control of the process and cut England-as-Britain out of it altogether. Our right of self-determination is inalienable and the question of Scotland’s constitutional status and form of government is a matter for the people of Scotland alone.

We must aggressively defend our democratic rights. We must assert the sovereignty of Scotland’s people in ways which allow no compromise. We must be the kind of people we can admire.

Given all of this, and the time and effort I have put into conveying the idea of this new mindset, nobody should be surprised if I get irascible with folk who continue to express views, make claims and pose arguments redolent with a mindset which assumes Scotland’s inferiority to England-as-Britain. When, for example, they insist that the process by which Scotland restores its rightful constitutional status must be approved and part-managed by the British establishment in order to be legitimate. Or when they assert that international recognition of an independent Scotland is contingent on the consent of England-as-Britain.

Nobody should be surprised if I get annoyed with people who – actually or apparently – ignore all the counter-arguments to their outmoded propositions.

Nobody should be surprised if I get seriously pissed-off with people who simply fail to think through the implications of what they are saying.

The threat to Scotland posed by rampant British Nationalism is real and imminent. It grows by the hour, never mind the day. We just can’t afford to play fantasy politics with endless and ever more complex and devious ‘plans’ for independence. The Yes movement – or, more correctly, the Yes campaign – desperately requires some hard-headed political pragmatism. The mindset of the 2014 campaign is not just outdated, it is dangerous. If I get angry at those who obdurately cling to that dangerous mindset, I have every right.



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