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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16 thoughts on “People are annoying

  1. Peter, Twitter is not a nice medium. Think who else uses it and what they use it for. Give it up and live a happier life.


  2. Oh dear, Angry Bird…er…Mr Bell, I hope I have not annoyed you, too. My preference for resiling the Treaty is straightforward: it is not dead and it is not an ancient relic from another age; it is an international treaty governed by international law; and it is still extant. No country can just walk away from a treaty or an international agreement without suffering the consequences. Otherwise, why bother with international treaties and agreements? That is why a No Deal scenario is so stupid in relation to Brexit: it will probably create many difficulties that the UK could have avoided by co-operating with the EU and compromising; I think we forget in all this fog of delusion and unreality that the international community must, legally, back the EU if it decides to impose a fine or whatever action it takes on the UK. What so many do not understand about the Treaty is that England mistranslated its terms – whether that was deliberate or otherwise, I leave up to others to decide for themselves, but I know what I think. That is why we are stuck in this hideous No Man’s Land of constitutional politics.

    Our ancestors signed the Treaty of Union in 1707, and it was meant to be forever and a day, but all contracts are basically forever and a day unless their terms are broken, cynically or otherwise. The offended party is perfectly entitled to remove him/herself from the agreement under those circumstances. That is understood in all legal systems of contract, and it is certainly recognized in international law. At the end of the day, I really do not care how we leave the Union because leave we must, now; there is simply no way that the other party, Westminster, is going to co-operate with us; and there is no way Westminster is going to institute reforms that would give us FFA + a voice on all foreign and international affairs. We can scream ‘Claim of Right’ until we’re hoarse, but it is recognized by Westminster only through the auspices of Westminster and Whitehall. Taking the Treaty to the International Court of Justice for a ruling takes the whole constitutional matter out of the hands of Westminster, and however much we may be aware that the big powers will always back their own (The US will almost certainly take the UK’s part at the UN) even they cannot be seen to be ignoring international law. A ruling need not take years; indeed, it is imperative that it doesn’t in light of the economic mess we are in, so Westminster will have little choice but to expedite it, too.

    I absolutely agree with you that we are far too much in thrall – and this is reflected in the SNP leadership – to our sense of ‘it takes two to tango’. Yes, it does, but Westminster does not wish to tango with us and we have no gun at our heads to force us to continue in their chosen dance routine. We do that because we choose to, because we are too frightened to do anything else, because we are afraid of the big bad world out there without Westminster and Whitehall. The fact is that we are a co-signatory to the Union. Think about that for a moment, folks. We, as well as England, can make decisions because that is what the Treaty implies. That is what it tells us, and that is what the Lords under Lord Wallace know perfectly well, so well that they want to bring in a new one to replace the dangerous one.

    No way would they even contemplate this – the British Nationalists – unless they recognized the potency of a Union challenge. They want us to go on thinking we have no power. It is only because Westminster tells us that we have none that we have none. It is always a two-way street, and the nonsense talked by Simon Pia about Westminster spitefully cutting off trade in the event of independence is so idiotic that I can hardly bear to repeat it. England, too, would suffer painfully, excruciatingly in the wake of a NO Deal Brexit, and before the US can step in to save their hides (as if), which is why they won’t do it. Even Boris Johnson knows that he must find a compromise, slightly different from Mrs May’s, but still a compromise, or England will suffer even more than the rest of us: the bigger you are, the harder you fall. That is immaterial for us because we will be subjected to other ‘Brexit-type’ impositions, not least the Tory One Nation State, whether we Brexit with rUK or not. If we can more or less definitely win a second indyref, let’s go for it, but we must remember that a second failure will put us back 50 years at a conservative estimate because we ain’t getting out of that Tory One Nation State after another one.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lorna, before asking the International court for a ruling you would need to ascertain whether or not a majority of the people of Scotland are in favour of ending the Treaty of Union.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think you have put your finger on something, golfnut.

        To me, it does not matter too much how we get to the point at which the Scottish people exercise our sovereignty. Indeed, I doubt that it really matters.

        What is necessary is that as Scots, we come to an evident settled majority view that we really want to be independent. Once that happens, the means to implement that settled view as an Independent Scotland will be obvious

        Liked by 1 person

      2. No, you don’t. With respect, you are blinkered. You are not seeing the whole picture.

        Yes, you arguably do need a Scottish mandate to terminate the Union by Scottish volition, but you definitely DO NOT need a Scottish mandate to terminate the Union when the Treaty of Union has been abused and irremediably breached by the reckless colonialism of one of the co-signatories.

        The Union can be legitimately rendered defunct by the material breach of contract in law, and the ramifications of those actions disputed as a simple and straight forward self defence of Scotland’s inalienable sovereignty. There is no requirement for a democratic mandate to defend your Nation from colonial assault and misappropriation of powers.

        Scotland’s Sovereignty is a single umbrella which shelters both pro Independence and pro Union factions in Scotland because it prevents their decision, whatever that decision might be, being overruled by any colonial usurper of Scotland’s sovereignty.

        It is a fallacy to believe that Scotland needs a pro Independence majority at the polls do defend it’s constitutional integrity. We don’t have to pull the trigger. It will suffice to deem the trigger has been pulled by their hand rather than ours.

        Stand firm, hold our Constitutional ground without compromise, and the crass idiocy of Brexit will break the back of the Union, but the essential principle of sovereignty must never be relinquished for a moment. If we don’t defend it, we will eventually lose the right to defend it by our own complicity in our own subjugation.

        The sovereign people of Scotland said No to Brexit. That is, or should be, a harder and more obdurate red line for Westminster to resolve than the Irish Backstop.


      3. No, that would not be necessary, as you would be petitioning to resile the Treaty. You would require to make a case: a) that the Treaty still is extant; b) what the Treaty meant and means in law, which is not necessarily what it has come to mean politically, under the translation and interpretation provided by Westminster and Whitehall (the late Professor David Walker insisted, and proved to my mind, that the English part of the Union misinterpreted it in its favour from day one, and that that position has never been challenged until now); and c) the evidence to show that we have not been treated as a co-signatory to the original Union, but as a region of a Greater England and, consequently, have not received our fair sues as one contractual partner. Resiling the Treaty would cause the original Union (The UK of GB – not including Ireland or NI) to fall. Westminster will be forced to defend as England, which immediately puts the Treaty in question, as there is no separate English parliament and the substance of any case for Scotland must show that both parliaments (Scottish and English) ceased to exist after the Union – indeed, that the Treaties (Scottish and English) of Union themselves created the British parliament. Anyone having read the utterances of Queen Anne herself on the opening of the new parliament cannot but understand that she is opening the new ‘British Parliament’, and not, as is often claimed by the English part of the UK, the continuing English parliament. That this perception has not even been challenged till now is jaw-droppingly stupid on the part of successive Scottish devolved administrations. Devolution, by implication, is superseded by the founding document of the UK of GB, and should have been extended long since to England. That it has not also suggests powerfully that England looks upon itself as the continuing England, not as one part of the UK. The Treaty, if it is ruled to be an international document, and it must be, given that two independent sovereign nation states signed it, then it must be adjudicated under international law in the International Court of Justice (UN), out of the grasping hands of Westminster and its almost unlimited constitutional privileges designed to keep the English elite in power forever and to cheat the rest of us out of our legal and political dues.


    2. Sorry, Lorna. I meant to come back and reply to this. But now I’ve completely forgotten what I wanted to say. Except that, no, you haven’t annoyed me. Perhaps you need to put in a bit more effort.


      1. That gave me a laugh, as did your word picture of a willy dropping off and rolling down a drain. We need to keep a sense of humour in these trying times.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Very true Peter, if we allow another country to determine what our ambitions for our country and ourselves should be, that bar will be set low and stay low.
    I responded to your comment on the previous thread which you may or may not find interesting, but it in some way echoes your own thoughts that it is time we were active in pursuit of our ambitions for our country.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You are right, I think, that a second failure will remove Independence as an option for a very long time. If we do not win at the Indy ref when it comes, given the current situation, we will deserve to lose.

    That is not the same as saying that a win should fall into our laps. It has to be worked for.

    And right now I am frustrated at 2 things
    [1] People who get overly frustrated at the SNP.
    [2] People who are not getting involved now, but who are waiting for a referendum date to be set.

    [1] is to an extent understandable, but I think that it is hugely counterproductive, because amongst other things, it leads to an increase of people who are in category [2], because the Indy movement is not seen to be entirely productive.

    [2] is also understandable, but misses the fact that the campaign is already underway. It is about conversations with people around you.

    On the doors in the EU referendum, at almost every door, people wanted to talk. Even the tories would talk. And they all wanted to be listened to. It is even worthwhile talking to and listening to tories, because even they are not happy with the situation. Most are willing to give Independence a hearing. OK, they may not vote for it ever, but it is about more than just winning the vote. Listening to those who are opposed and coming across to them as reasonable is important, even if you don’t get their vote, because you can still win a less grudging acceptance of a win for Independence.

    Now, that kind of campaign needs to be going on now. When the Indyref is called, the nominal campaign period will, I believe, be short, and too short for that kind of work. So it needs to happen now and the opinion polls need to be rising in our favour during what should be to some extent a stealth campaign which does not engage the big names.

    Elsewhere you say that we will not get Independence without passing through some point of conflict with the British State. I agree with that analysis, but I don’t believe we should go looking for it, because we might find it too early, before the majority of Scots are ready for it. It will come our way soon enough. It has been inevitable since 2016.

    I don’t believe that the SNP are being overly shy on this. We keep reminding ourselves that it is the Scottish People who are sovereign. This includes not only the True Believers in Indy, it includes the tories, the LibDem unionists and the middle of the road. I think ith that understanding of the sovereignty of the Scottish People, it would be a mistake for the Scottish Government to get too far ahead of the people. It is in our hands to convince our fellow Scots for Indy and for Indy to be a popular demand from the floor rather than just another policy from the top table.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “You are right, I think, that a second failure will remove Independence as an option for a very long time.”

      I didn’t say that. I have never said that. I would never say it. Nothing diminishes or negates our right of self determination.


      1. Sorry, Peter, dozy on my part. It was Lorna who said “but we must remember that a second failure will put us back 50 years at a conservative estimate because we ain’t getting out of that Tory One Nation State after another one.”


      2. No, I said it. I don’t want to say it either, but I do believe that, in the event of another failure, we will be stuck in that Tory One Nation State and we will not be able to extricate ourselves peacefully. It is the outcome I think I fear most, and it should be entirely preventable.


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