The Niemöller effect

A small thing. Easily dismissed. Scottish Civil Servants being peremptorily and unilaterally excluded from meetings with the EU is the sort of thing that it’s easy to make little of. It’s can readily be portrayed as no more than the petty squabbling of jealous bureaucrats. But, of course, it is much more serious than that.

Apparently minor incidents such as this are part of a process by which Scotland’s democratic institutions are sidelined and undermined in preparation for being dismantled completely.

The people of Scotland need to understand that the right-wing coup currently taking place in England-as-Britain will not be considered complete until Scotland is completely absorbed into a new British state given over entirely to the malign forces which put Boris Johnson in power.

This is an accelerating process. We do not have the time that some imagine when, even if they recognise what is happening, they make the mistake of thinking the process is going at a steady pace. In fact, it is exponential – or something close. Each incident is portrayed as being isolated and inconsequential. But they are all connected. Each one facilitates others. Each one exploits the complacency that follows acceptance of earlier incidents. When the public is inured to the little things, those malign forces move on to bigger things.

We might call it the Niemöller effect, after German theologian and Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller who famously said,

First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist

Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist

Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist

Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew

Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me

They are coming for the Scottish Parliament. We cannot afford to be complacent.

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Rallying the troops

I should be upbeat today in anticipation of the Forward as One March & Rally in Dunfermline tomorrow (see below). I should be looking forward to being with old friends and enjoying the great atmosphere that always attends Yes events. I should be preparing for the meetings and discussions that always take place around the fringes of big Yes gatherings. I should be thinking about what I will say when I get up on that stage in front of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of eager and enthusiastic independence supporters desperate to get on with the job of restoring Scotland’s independence.

It’s difficult not to feel down, however, when I see all that’s happening. And what’s not happening. The news from Shetland is depressing enough, as the islanders once again inexplicably put their trust in a party of proven liars and despicable smear-mongers; rejecting a fine young SNP candidate and the opportunity to forge new and better connections with the rest of Scotland. I really don’t understand the mentality of those who cling to the familiar simply because it’s familiar and no matter how badly it has let them down. If ever there was a need for boldness in Scotland, it is now. How can we expect our political leaders to show the daring Scotland’s predicament demands if voters show only timidity?

The news from Edinburgh doesn’t help my mood. The Court of Session has rejected a petition for an interim interdict to stop the Johnson regime suspending the UK Parliament so that the British executive can exercise the powers of an absolute monarch. The rejection is temporary. But it can’t help but look like more timorousness in the face of a brazenly anti-democratic adventure by a privileged clique who, for all their outward appearance of stupidity and incompetence, nonetheless know how to bend the UK’s arcane, archaic and infinitely flexible constitution to their own dubious purposes.

The news from London just keeps on getting worse. A paper published today by the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) sets out the range of Brexit scenarios in a manner which is all the more dismaying for being clear and concise. Would that it left room for doubt about the Gordian nature of the bind that the British political elite has got us all into. Would that it left space for hope that there might be an outcome that isn’t cause for dejection.

The news from Scotland’s political leaders is… no news at all. Lot’s of righteous condemnation of the way the Johnson regime is trampling all over democracy in the UK. Lots of outrage and indignation at the imperious manner in which Brexit is being imposed on Scotland. Lots of dire – but woefully belated – warnings of the real and imminent threat that rabid British Nationalism poses to Scotland’s democratic institutions. But, aside from an assurance that the Scottish Parliament will get back to work on the – also woefully belated – Referendums Bill sometime next week, nothing! Not a word from our First Minister about whether and how she intends to take action to prevent Scotland being wrenched, unwilling, from its place in Europe. Not a word about whether or how she and her government propose to circumvent the ‘suspension’ of the Scottish Parliament which now seems all but inevitable. Not a word that might lift my mood.

Somehow, I have to put this mood behind me. The folk who go to events like the one in Dunfermline tomorrow don’t want tales of doom, gloom and disaster. They get enough of that from the Unionist media day by grinding day. Yes activists are generally well-informed and politically aware. They know the reality of Scotland’s predicament. They don’t need to be constantly reminded. They certainly don’t want platitudinous complacency or empty assurances. What they want from Yes marches and rallies is encouragement and inspiration. Something to keep them going while they wait. And wait. And wait.

There is something in that SPICe briefing which offers a glimmer of hope.

The UK Government may request a further extension to Article 50 beyond 31 October. However, the EU would likely only agree to this under certain conditions: (1) on technical grounds, to get final approvals for any agreed Deal; or (2) a substantive change in UK politics, such as a general election or referendum.

The emphasis is mine. As the Johnson regimes continues to contrive ways of circumventing due democratic process, there seems vanishingly little possibility of effective action in the crippled and corrupt British parliament to prevent a no-deal Brexit and the ensuing dismantling of Scotland’s democratic institutions. But it was ever thus. Ultimately, it was always going to come down to the Scottish Government acting in and through the Scottish Parliament to secure Scotland’s democracy and defend Scotland’s interests on behalf of Scotland’s people.

The Union is Scotland’s great problem. And the solution to that problem must be entirely made in Scotland.

I’ll stand in front of that crowd in Pittencrieff Park tomorrow well aware that it is not me they want to hear from. It’s Nicola Sturgeon.

Forward as One March & Rally Dunfermline Saturday 31 Augus
Assemble Viewfield Terrace from 10:30. Depart 12:00.
Rally Pittencrieff Park (The Glen) 13:00.

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A vacancy for vacancy

I have never had anything at all flattering to say about Ruth Davidson. Not just because she’s a Tory, but because she is the kind of political careerist I despise. Somebody who is content to be used by established power in return for the paltry baubles of celebrity status and media attention. Until now, apparently.

What has changed? Not her domestic situation. She was well aware of the kind of commitment she was making when she and her partner decided to start a family. Unless she’s pregnant again, nothing has altered in that regard. If it was going to take time for the realities of juggling family and career to hit home, that time elapsed long before now.

According to that fount of all political wisdom, Tom Gordon (The Herald’s Scottish Political Editor), Davidson returned to Holyrood in May ready to “claim Nicola Sturgeon’s throne”. Let’s hope that fount has an efficient flush.

It’s not Davidson’s domestic circumstances that have changed. Nor is it credible that she’s just appreciated the difficulties of being a mother and an MSP. What has changed is the political context.

I might have found a smidgeon of respect for Ruth Davidson if she’d had the courage to state that the Boris Johnson regime is indefensible. But then she would not have been where she was if she had been a person given to strong convictions.

The good news for the British Conservative & Unionist Party in Scotland (BCUPS) is that they will have no difficulty finding a new ‘leader’. Cast an eye over the British Tories squatting in the Scottish Parliament and you’ll find plenty of people who have neither principles nor self-respect.

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The habit of treachery

It is always good for the people of Scotland to be reminded that we simply cannot trust British Labour.

Anybody who was naive enough to fall for the recent ‘assurances’ from Corbyn and McDonnell that they would not stand in the way of a new independence referendum is probably stupid enough to have missed the point that these ‘assurances’ presumed the right to stand in the way of that referendum. Corbyn and McDonnell, just like their counterparts in the other British parties, take it for granted that the British state has the authority to deny Scotland’s right of self-determination. They assume that the Union bestows this right on any British executive regardless what colour of rosette they sport.

Apologists for British Labour will doubtless seek to dismiss this back-pedalling on those earlier assurances as just the British Labour leadership throwing a bone to the craven curs in their North British branch office. But those of us who have not forgotten or forgiven British Labour’s treacherous complicity with the Tories in the 2014 referendum campaign will realise that if they can treat the existing mandate for a referendum with such casual contempt then there is no rational reason to suppose they won’t do the same with the next one. And the one after that.

Why should British Labour, or any of the British parties, feel bound by any of the assurances they offer to Scotland when the Union gives them licence to indulge in whatever deception or dishonesty may be politically expedient? If they assume they have the rightful authority to treat Scotland’s Parliament and people with contempt, surely we would be extremely foolish to assume that they would shy away from exercising that power.

It cannot sensibly be denied that the constitutional issue is central to Scotland’s politics. The people of Scotland would do well to remember that, in terms of this overwhelmingly important issue, there is absolutely nothing to distinguish British Labour from British Conservatives of any other British party. They are all Unionist by conviction. They will never respect the will of Scotland’s people if doing so might in any way compromise their ‘precious Union’.

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Where is the spirit?

Truly depressing stuff from Nicola Sturgeon. I read the headline ‘This was the day independence became completely inevitable‘ and immediately supposed our First Minister was at last going to say something that at least hinted at the possibility that she might be on the verge of considering actually doing something to bring about the restoration of Scotland’s independence. But, having scoured the article all I find is well-worn platitudes and stern condemnation tagged on as an afterthought to yet more of our First Minister’s obsession with England’s Brexit.

Of course, Brexit will adversely affect Scotland. But only if we, the people of Scotland allow it. And to prevent it we need our First Minister to step up. We need her to be bold and decisive. We need her to be entirely focused on Scotland’s cause and not the forlorn cause of trying to rescue England from the consequences of its own democratic choices.

It is patent nonsense to say that “a No-Deal Brexit was not on the ballot paper in 2016”. Of course it bloody was! It is the default outcome of invoking Article 50. If England’s voters were unaware of this before the 2016 EU referendum then that’s down to their politicians, their media and their own reluctance to make an effort to inform themselves. But the result of that referendum stands regardless.

The people of England are getting precisely what they voted for. And it is being delivered by politicians who have all the mandate the British political system requires. What Boris Johnson is doing may be outrageous, but in terms of the ‘British constitution’ it is totally legitimate.

So why is Scotland’s First Minister – whose first responsibility is, by definition, to Scotland – so insistent on trying to “work with others” within the British political system to undo something that is a product of the British political system? Why is she not primarily concerned with the fact that the Union allows this product to be imposed on Scotland?

What will it take for the First Minister to realise and/or recognise that Brexit is merely a symptom and that the Union is the disease? What will it take for her to stop putting her faith in a British political system which is so plainly deleterious to Scotland’s interests?

What does the British political elite have to do to really piss her off to the point where Nicola Sturgeon admits that she must break the Union that places Scotland at the mercy of the likes of Boris Johnson?

Our First Minister looks forward to Holyrood going back into session next week and the Referendums Bill resuming its leisurely parliamentary progress. But she does so immediately after acknowledging the threat to the Scottish Parliament that many of us have been aware of for years. It’s almost as if she trusts Boris Johnson not to ‘suspend’ the Scottish Parliament as casually and arbitrarily as he did the British parliament. That is depressing.

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Scotland’s has a Parliament

So, our First Minister has at last caught up with those of us in the Yes movement who have been warning for years that Scotland’s democratic institutions are in jeopardy. Or, more likely, she is finally prepared to speak publicly about the likelihood of the Scottish Parliament being ‘suspended’. I find it hard to believe Nicola Sturgeon was oblivious to the threat. But it is easy to understand why, as a senior politician, she might have been reluctant to admit any concerns. It’s not that long since talking about the Scottish Parliament being closed down would have called down a torrent of mockery and condemnation from the British establishment for ‘scaremongering’.

Now, it is those who try to deny even the possibility who open themselves to mockery. It is those who try to dismiss the threat who must be condemned. The threat is real. The threat is imminent.

All of which creates a major problem for the British parties in Scotland. What does Richard Leonard say now? How does Ruth Davidson rationalise Boris Johnson’s unceremonious attack on the British democracy that she holds to be sacrosanct? If anybody was listening to Willie Rennie, what sort of simpering drivel would they hear? How do any of them defend a Union which places Scotland at the mercy of Boris Johnson and whatever form of unthinkable worse that is yet to come?

England has chosen its path. As Stu Campbell points out on Wings Over Scotland

The UK has a democratically-elected government which is currently due to run until the summer of 2022. And that government has a mandate to deliver Brexit, in any form, come what may.

It’s a common cry from Remain-supporting politicians and media alike that Johnson has “no mandate” for no-deal. But all leaving personal opinion aside, it’s simply impossible to support that argument.

Two-and-a-half years ago, the UK parliament voted overwhelmingly – 498 to 114 – to enact Article 50, the mechanism by which a member of the European Union leaves the organisation. The terms of Article 50 are clear, and stipulate a no-deal exit unless a deal is done. The EU has already granted the UK two extensions on the timetable, which have produced absolutely nothing.

Scotland has no right to interfere with the choices made by the people of England. And no capacity to do so even if such interference could be justified. There have been opportunities to stop the Brexit madness and to avoid the hard-right British Nationalist coup currently underway. Voters in England have spurned every chance to choose differently.

Ii is time for the Scottish Government to leave England-as-Britain to its own devices. However noble you may consider the efforts of Nicola Sturgeon and Ian Blackford to have England’s voters draw back from the abyss, it is now time for them to acknowledge that the effort is doomed to fail – because the people of England don’t want it. They want what they’re getting. However anathema it may be to most of us here in Scotland, what is happening in London right now is precisely what the majority of people in /england voted for.

Scotland has made different choices. It is time the Scottish Government focused on ensuring that those choices are honoured.

Many of us realised that the Scottish Parliament’s future started to look perilous in 2007, wth the first (minority) SNP administration. When the voters broke the system to elect a majority SNP government in 2011, the fate of the Scottish Parliament was sealed. The British establishment was only prepared to tolerate devolution so long as the Union was not compromised. It was only a matter of time before they found a way to end the ‘experiment’.

The only way to avoid Scotland’s democratic institutions being dismantled is for the Scottish Parliament to assert its primacy on the basis of its exclusive democratic legitimacy. The Scottish Government must propose that the Scottish Parliament declare itself the sole voice of Scotland’s people and agent their of democratic will. It will then be for the people of Scotland to vote on whether to #DissolveTheUnion in order that Scotland should should be able to choose and follow its own path..

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Actions, intentions and ambitions

As I write, it has just been confirmed that Boris Johnson, inexplicably British Prime Minister, has spoken to the Queen to request that Parliament is suspended until October 14. We do not yet know if or how the head of state has responded. But does it matter? Isn’t it enough that the approach was made? Does this action alone not clearly enough signal the totalitarian ambitions and ant-democratic intentions of the British political elite?

Is an attempted coup less offensive to democratic principles than a failed coup? Is a failed coup any less reprehensible than a successful coup? Once politicians declare their ambition to use the power that democracy gives them to thwart the democracy that gives them power, how much more do we need to know? Once those politicians have demonstrated their intention to flout the fundamental precepts of democracy in pursuit of some narrow ideology, should we ponder whether they are actually capable of doing so?

When those politicians initiate the early actions which presage the abrogation of democratic processes and the dismantling of democratic institutions, is that not the appropriate time to put an end to their ambitions?

There is always an excuse. There is always a plausible reason for ‘side-stepping’ democracy. The circumstances require it. Or they can be made to require it. Or they can be made to look as if they require it. The public can always be persuaded that what is being done is in their best interests. Or they can be convinced that it’ll all turn out all right in the end.

When we take our democratic rights and protections for granted it is easy to imagine they cannot be seriously threatened. It is easy to believe that democracy is a fixture in our politics; in our society; in our lives. We are always happy to be told that we don’t actually have to do anything ourselves to ensure those democratic rights and protections. We are not generally stupid. But apathy and indolence can make as just as vulnerable.

The reality is very different – as we are now discovering. Our democracy is fragile. All the democratic protections we enjoy are worthless unless we are prepared to invoke them. All the democratic rights we assume to be inalienably ours are as nothing if we are not prepared to shoulder responsibility for defending them.

The people of Scotland are sovereign. But, even in Scotland our ability to fully and effectively exercise our sovereignty is limited – constrained by the Union. We cannot hope to alter the course of events in England. Our elected representatives can cry outrage until they are hoarse. It will have no meaningful effect. The Union is purposefully designed to guarantee that Scotland’s voice is always inconsequential within the British state. Many of our elected representatives are ideologically committed to ensuring that Scotland’s voice remains inconsequential. Do not expect the British parties in Scotland to stand up for the sovereignty of Scotland’s people. Expect them only to submit to an anti-democratic coup in England rather than compromise their precious Union.

The people of Scotland are sovereign. This means that all legitimate democratic power derives from the people. The corollary of which is that all democratic responsibility ultimately resides with the people. If we do not

The people of Scotland are sovereign. If our ambition is a better Scotland and our intention is to prevent the British political elite trampling that ambition underfoot, then it’s time we started acting like the sovereign people of Scotland.

There is an opportunity for you to assert and affirm your sovereignty on Saturday 31 August by joining the Forward as One March & Rally in Dunfermline. Assemble at Viewfield Terrace from 10:30. Depart 12:00 sharp. Rally Pittencrieff Park (The Glen) 13:00.

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