Beware Brits bearing gifts

Discussion of a ‘Wings Party’ standing for regional seats in the 2021 Scottish Parliament election is, of course, entirely an academic exercise. And a bit of a distraction. There are far more pressing concerns; such as whether there will actually be any Scottish Parliament elections in 2021. Losing the pro-independence majority at Holyrood is a worrying prospect. But it pales into insignificance next to the possibility (probability?) that we may have lost the entire Scottish Parliament by 2021.

On first reading Stuart Campbell’s article outline his thinking, I thought it sounded very plausible. But long experience has taught me to be wary of plausible-sounding schemes. The whole RISE/’rainbow parliament’ thing that so nearly lost us the pro-independence majority in 2016 was dangerous mainly because it was made to sound so plausible. The difference – and it is an important one – is that RISE had no support base at all, while a Wings Party would, on paper at least, come with a substantial level of support built in.

There’s also the fact that RISE was promoted by persons of what we shall generously term ‘limited credibility’. Certainly far less credibility than Stuart Campbell has acquired over years of offering analysis which manages to be coldly forensic despite his evident passion for Scotland’s cause.

That passion is evident in causes other than independence. Some of which are bitterly controversial within the independence movement. I don’t see this as detracting from Stuart Campbell’s credibility in any way. Whether or not one agrees with his views, there can be no doubt that they are sincerely held, and strongly argued. Many focus, not on those views or his arguments in defence of them, but on the manner in which he expresses himself. This is a familiar evasive tactic commonly deployed by those who have come to the debate ill-equipped to deal with the content of opposing arguments and are, therefore reduced to attacking the superficial aspects of presentation.

As much as I will say about the Wings Party proposal at this time is that it is somewhat more persuasive than the RISE fantasy. What we must bear in mind is that you cannot game the voting system for the Scottish Parliament elections. All you can do is gamble with it. The RISE thing asked us to take a ridiculous gamble where we stood to lose something of incalculable worth with a chance of winning that was as close to zero as makes no difference. Many took that gamble because they were so dazzled by the magnificence of the prize as to be unable to see how unattainable it was.

The best that can be said of Stuart Campbell’s idea is that it constitutes less of a gamble than the RISE folly. How much less nobody can say as there are too many factors which cannot be clearly discerned at this distance from the 2021 Holyrood election. And, in any case, there are matters which demand our immediate attention. Matters of vastly greater importance than some tactical voting ploy in an election that is more than 18 months away for a Parliament this may well have been ‘suspended’ by the British state as the ‘One Nation’ project is rolled out.

Which brings me to a concern that has been growing in my mind since the publication of Stuart Campbell’s interview in The Times. Being ever mindful of the real and imminent threat to Scotland posed by juggernaut of rabid British Nationalism, I am ever watchful for signs of the British political elite’s devious doings. They no longer try to conceal their efforts to delegitimise the Scottish Parliament; marginalise the Scottish Government and demonise the SNP. It is no longer possible to sensibly deny the British state’s intention to dismantle Scotland’s democratic institutions and destroy Scotland’s distinctive political culture. Although some seem intent on dumbly disregarding this purpose.

I have always considered the fourth component of the independence campaign – the Yes movement – to be impervious to attack by the forces of anti-democratic British Nationalism. There is no formal structure; no hierarchy, no leadership that can be targeted. But suppose a target could be created. Suppose the power of the British media could be deployed to associate a particular personality with the Yes movement. Suppose an association between some ‘celebrity’ figure and the Yes movement could be contrived that was so strong as to make it possible to implant in the public consciousness the notion of this figure being the ‘official’ representative of the Yes movement.

When I see Stuart Campbell being interviewed by The Times and making appearances on British TV and radio, I ask myself why. Why is this happening? Why him? Why now? And I don’t like the answers I come up with.

I do not for one second suppose that Stuart Campbell thinks of himself as the figurehead of the entire Yes movement. I don’t think he seeks such greatness. But he may well have this greatness thrust upon him.

I rather think Stuart Campbell may not be the sort of person who welcomes advice. I recognise, too, that he is not a stupid man and that the advice may be entirely redundant. Nonetheless, I would counsel him to beware Brits bearing the gift of recognition. They will use you if they can. They will set you up as the ‘poster-boy’ of the Yes movement in the hope that, when they bring you down in a welter of vicious smear stories, the Yes movement will also be damaged.

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19 thoughts on “Beware Brits bearing gifts

  1. Peter

    It is the result of the SNP’s failure to have a “Plan B” – and a “Plan A” where the Union sets the rules.

    You can not blame others for making plans to fill the void. It is one of the things Wings, WGD and others have done for years as the SNP have failed to be effective at rebuttal or counter the media operation of the Union.

    YES is lucky to have such a resource.
    – Wings has demonstrated his bona fides,
    – He doesn’t step back from the Union juggernaut,
    – Most importantly – he will have had some degree of vetting…I am sure if there were skeletons the Union forces would have played them by now.

    If there was ever a country able to have a party with a “common” vocab – it would be Scotland . A land where swearing is lyrical and I would challenge anyone to say Janey Godley is not a modern-day Scottish poet of brilliance.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think Stuart Campbell knows the risks of splitting the Independence vote (he’s written often enough about it with regard to RISE and Greens).

    James Kelly (Scot goes Pop) is clear that trying to ‘game’ the list vote is full of risk -he calls it a mugs game.

    So why would Stuart Campbell raise this possibility?

    I don’t think he is an agent of the British trying to split the independence vote (his work exposing the lies of the Unionist cause has been far too damaging to them to simply be a ‘cover’).

    I think he is genuinely worried that the SNP might fail to use the mandates and could blow our chance for a referendum vote.

    The mere fact of him musing about this and exploring of the possibility of a Wings over Scotland party standing on the list vote in 2021 has lit a fire under the SNP leadership. I don’t doubt that he is serious about sponsoring a new party if the SNP fail to use the mandate(s).

    Do the SNP leadership ‘feel lucky’ enough to let things drift?

    I don’t think so.

    Even his very tentative musings produced a lightning quick SNP response making it clear that there will be a vote before 2021.

    The possibility of a new independence party makes waiting for 2021 almost impossible for the SNP. I don’t think it is an empty bluff by Campbell but, as the SNP spokesperson was revealingly quick to point out, it won’t be needed if there is a referendum before 2021.

    This is an exercise in giving voice, options and power to the ‘get on with it’ view.

    Job done

    -unless the SNP shy away. In that unlikely event there’s got a lot more work to do but that would be the case anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes Peter. Didn’t the unionist media do the same with Rise. They saw it as a tool to divide.

    The media are as much, if not more of an enemy as the state. Send a wooden horse springs to mind.


  4. Many excellent and pertinent points here, Mr Bell, and I take your caution re the British State mandarins very seriously because that is just what they would do. It is not the politicians we should fear so much as the Sir Humphreys and the lads and lasses in the ermine, not to mention the Thames Embankment shadows – those who are supposed to have no front-line role in our political system in the UK. In Ireland, before the Free State was set up, the British used their usual perfidy to create a split in the independence movement between Michael Collins and D’Valera which led directly to the Irish Civil War. They know no boundaries when it comes to achieving their own ends; nothing is too low or devious or vicious or nasty or brutal; and many in Scotland, thirled to their own utterly selfish interests would cheer them on.

    I suspect – albeit I could be very wrong – that the Rev is firing a warning shot across the SNP’s bows, though. He must not allow himself to be placed on a pedestal or to see himself as some kind of Messiah, however, and I think he might just be immune to those. He is giving the SNP due warning that, if they have not instituted some form of escape from the Union – I believe he favours another referendum – then he will act. All of us who have criticized the SNP’s glacial movements, with the very best of intentions, – and who have been castigated for it, on occasion – see that it is the One Nation State that is the real threat to Scotland’s future well-being, and we see, too, that it has already started, that it is not some hazy detail that will be formed in some putative future. I grind my teeth in frustration at the inability or unwillingness of the SNP high heid yins to see what is happening and to put on any spurt to try and reduce the speed with which it is spreading.

    When we say that something political is inevitable, do we mean that, without human agency, it would take place regardless? I don’t think so. When we say that Scottish independence is inevitable, we mean that the momentum that drives it and the catalysts that make it imperative, have created a situation where, if it were to be halted and undermined, it would not disappear, but would go underground. At any rate, that is what I mean. Anything that is forced underground that is for the benefit of the many, and which is not of itself a bad thing, but which is actually enshrined in international law as a desirable result, even as it is opposed without legitimate, political, social and legal foundation, as independence is in Scotland, then we are storing up trouble for the future. Like an unlanced boil, it will erupt eventually and all that festering pus will be released. If I were a Unionist rather than a dyed-in-the-wool British Nationalist, I’d be thinking long and hard about that. It is my greatest fear as a non-blood-and-soil nationalist who wants all of our people, whatever their origins, to come forward together – very soon – and help to create a better Scotland than any British Nationalist, limited in imagination and tethered by outmoded and counter-productive allegiances, could ever dream of.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. ”When I see Stuart Campbell being interviewed by The Times and making appearances on British TV and radio, I ask myself why. Why is this happening? Why him? Why now? And I don’t like the answers I come up with.”

    Me too. Many ”changes” have been taking place on that site recently. Well worth keeping an eye on.


    1. I really do not believe that this would have happened at all if the SNP had not been so tardy in the eyes of many members. Yes, I think we have, to an extent, to trust what our politicians are telling us about the groundwork needing to be done, and being done, but it seems that the membership must be kept out of the equation, if that is the case, and I can see nothing that might be gained by existing below the radar. This is precisely how the British State operates – and even Westminster and Whitehall to an extent – and it is only by shedding illumination on that State’s workings in the shadows that we will be able to make any headway, not by emulating their perfidy. Something just does not compute here, and I do not believe that the SNP leadership can afford to micro-manage the forthcoming Conference. More of the same will not work. Momentum is not building; it is dissipating even as more people (supposedly) would vote for independence this time. I’m not convinced. When you place all your eggs in one basket, you’d jolly well better ensure that you don’t trip.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. The SNP need to stop trying to thwart the democratic voice of England. The English voted to leave the EU, so let them get on with it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We are, unfortunately, in the UK, even though we are not of the UK.

      As such, we should be quite clear that we want EU membership and we should make it quite clear that if we get brexit while we are still in the UK, we won’t be tolerating it. On their rules, we are entitled to take that position. This is just a bit more pressure for the divorce. If they want their brexit, we can let them get on with it once they have let us go.

      I fear, if we are passive on the subject of brexit in the expectation that we will get Independence, that they will delude themselves that we will go along with them for the ride. At the moment this is working well, in that brexiters would be quite glad to be free of Scotland.


    2. Well said. It is not our place to interfere in domestic English affairs, otherwise we can hardly bleat about similar interference, the other way round, in ours.


  7. Watching from afar the rotten self interest, arrogance and incompetence of Johnson and his cronies compared to the efficient sanity of the Scottish government, I am hoping (more than hoping, confident) that the SNP are good strategists. I think they are waiting to see the response of the Scottish people become more and more solidly behind independence. There is a point at which there will be no need to bother with Article 30s or even referendums, when calling an election on independence and declaring the Act of Union null and void/extinct and of course winning with honour would be absolutely decisive and there would be nothing Westminster could do about it.


    1. We can’t simply declare the Act of Union null and void after winning an election. The Treaty that spawned the Act (which was nothing more or less than an enabling piece of legislation to enable the Treaty to be translated from international law into domestic law) will always require to be ‘sound’ in law. To have it resiled, we will have to place it before the international courts. The negotiations following independence would make use of the Treaty articles as the very foundations of the Union itself.


      1. No, the two parliamentary Acts (one Scottish, the other English) were what validated in each country the international Treaty that had been agreed, after negotiation, between them, and those Acts together thereby brought the Treaty into force. The Acts themselves were transient (indeed their respective countries were mutually expunged by the merger) and are long expired; all that remains is the Treaty.


  8. A very good exoplanetary post on wings by an Irish professor in America outlines the rules and benefits of the D’Hont AMS voting system which could greatly benefit the indy cause , I hope I have his permission to share , please excuse the length

    Sean Swan says:
    12 August, 2019 at 5:56 am
    Hi my name is Sean Swan and I’m Irish. I hold a doctorate in politics from the University of Ulster and currently live in the US. I teach or have taught British Politics at both Gonzaga University and Whitworth University. I mention the fact that I’m a professor of politics only to indicate that I might just know how the AMS electoral system works.
    AMS elections have two parts. First the constituency vote is counted and seats allocated, then the regional (aka ‘list’ or ‘second’) votes are counted. A party’s EFFECTIVE (as in what counts) vote in the regional vote is the number of votes it received divided by the number of seats it won plus one (usually expressed as Votes/Seats+1). If a party won no constituency seats and got 100,000 regional votes, its effective vote is 100,000 divided by the number of seats it already has (zero) plus one = 100,000. If a party won 9 constituency seats and got a regional vote of 100,000, its effective vote is 100,000 divided by the number of seats it won (nine) plus one = 10,000, So success at the constituency level is a handicap at regional level.
    Take an example from the Glasgow region:
    In the 2016 election in the Glasgow region, the SNP took all nine constituency seats. The results for the regional vote were:
    SNP 111,101 – effective vote (111,101/10) = 11,110
    Lab 59,151 – effective vote (59,151/1) = 59,151
    Con 29,533 – effective vote (29,533/1) = 29,533
    Green 23, 398 – effective vote (23,398/1) = 23, 398
    Labour, with the largest effective vote, took the first seat, reducing its effective vote to 59, 151 divided by two = 29, 575. Labour still has the highest effective vote and takes the second seat, reducing its effective vote to 59,151 divided by three = 19,717. This leaves the Conservatives with the largest effective vote at this stage and they take the third seat, reducing their effective vote to 29, 553 divided by two = 14, 766. Labour now has the highest effective vote and takes the fourth seat, reducing their effective vote to 59, 151 divided by four = 14, 788. The Greens now have the highest effective vote and take the fifth seat, reducing their effective vote to 23,398 divided by two = 11,699. The sixth seat goes to Labour, reducing their effective vote to 59,151 divided by five = 11, 830. The final seat goes to the Conservatives on an effective vote of 14, 766.
    Thus the final tally was SNP 0, Labour 4, Conservatives 2 and Greens 1. Despite the SNP having gained 44.8% of the vote, they end up with no seats, while the Greens, on 9,4% of the vote receive 1 seat. The 44.8% of the regional vote that went to the SNP at the regional level in Glasgow did not elect a single MSP because the SNP had won so many Constituency seats. It was, in effect, a wasted vote. Had the 44.8% gone instead to a party that had no constituency seats, call it the Indy List, it would have won 4 regional seats, labour would have won only 2 seats and the Tories only 1.
    A credible ‘list only’ pro-indy party could do very well – especially if, as I half suspect might happen, a heavy weight like Salmond joined.
    A Party does NOT need to stand any candidates at constituency level to take part in the regional election. The idea that a party must compete at both constituency and regional level is a total fallacy.
    The AMS system can be hard for the ordinary voter to understand – so they need to take it on faith from people who DO understand it that giving the ‘second’ (regional) vote to a pro-indy party besides the SNP is likely to lead to more pro-indy MSPs getting elected.
    I see some people have been moaning about the AMS system, but the reality is that, like it or lump it, it is the system you have to work with.
    Sorry for jumping into this debate, but there were a lot of people commenting on here who just don’t understand how the AMS system works. Stuart Campbell’s idea is totally practical.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Wise counsel, Peter. The British State will not play nicely in what will be a bitter end game.
    Stuart Campbell is being set up for a takedown but I have a feeling he will not go quietly and it could backfire spectacularly. In a fairly moderated debate I would back him against any of the tedious establishment attack squirrels.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Let’s assume Wings does field candidates at regional level, and does succeed in taking seats away from Labour and Conservatives. And that the SNP and Wings constitute a complete majority. That means the SNP would need to talk nicely to Wings in order to pass legislation. And that will worry them.


    1. No political party wants to be dependant on another. That’s only to be expected. We’ve seen how stroppy the Greens can be. If there is no way the SNP can get those list seats, having them go to a ‘friendly’ party SHOULD, in theory, be a good thing. It just depends on how friendly the party is.


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