That was NOT the question!

John Swinney is not one of the people I usually associate with the SNP’s notoriously clumsy political communication. I have always considered him one of the party’s sharpest minds. Which makes it all the more perplexing that he should so thoughtlessly misrepresent the 2014 referendum by claiming that “Scotland voted to remain as part of the United Kingdom”. We most decidedly did not!

It is not possible for Scotland’s people to have voted to remain part of the UK because that question was never put to them. The question on the ballot paper five years ago was ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’. There was no mention of remaining part of the UK.

There will be those who insist that there is no difference between saying No to independence and saying Yes to the Union. Thus exhibiting a woeful shallowness of thinking such as I never supposed John Swinney might fall prey to.

For a start, the question actually asked makes independence the contentious issue which it should never have been. Independence is not contentious. Independence is normal. Independence is the default status of nations. To discover how fundamentally slanted the question is, just imagine it being put to the people of any other nation. They would consider it ridiculous and offensive. Not only, or even primarily, because their nation already is independent, but because it would never occur to them that this status is something which could or should be called into question.

Not only did the question on the 2014 ballot paper make independence the contentious issue, it ensured that the Yes campaign was built around a contested concept. There was then, and still is, no single agreed definition of independence. The term, as it applied to Scotland, meant many different things to different people. Myriad individuals and groups within the Yes movement all presented voters with their own conception of and vision for independence. The Yes campaign became a confusing fog of competing messages and was thereby rendered very much less effective than it might have been.

Because independence is a contested concept, it is inherently susceptible to being misrepresented and burdened with all manner of prejudicial associations. It was, in other words, highly vulnerable to precisely the kind of negative propaganda effort to which the anti-independence campaign predictably resorted.

When people voted No in 2014 they were not voting FOR anything. They were voting AGAINST an idea of independence as something abstruse and fearful They were voting AGAINST what they had been led to believe was a “leap in the dark”; a voyage into uncharted waters where lurked ravenous monsters. They were voting AGAINST a nightmarish vision painted by a malignant rabble of liars and deceivers in the British government, the British parties and Better Together / Project Fear; with the willing assistance of the British media.

They most assuredly were not voting to remain in the UK.

Contrary to the impression given by John Swinney, the people of Scotland have never given their consent to the Union. They have never been asked. I would suggest that it is long past time this democratic deficiency was rectified.

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10 thoughts on “That was NOT the question!

    1. Should Scotland repeal the Act of Union? Y / N

      Succinct, gets to the heart of the issue, and avoids superfluous ambiguity.

      The Union is only a Treaty. It should be treated like the flawed and mundane political agreement that it is, not revered like some intractable voodoo. Repeal of the Union won’t create a Nation, simply free an existing one.

      With one very important caveat however… As it stands, the question is a bit “Brexity”, and presumes the electorate will have adequate appreciation of what the vote means, and fully understand it’s ramifications. The BBC will try very hard to make sure they don’t.

      More important than the question, is Scotland being in control of the narrative prior to the referendum, and properly educating the electorate objectively so they can make an informed decision based on factual, objective realities rather than the British Establishment’s poisonous rhetoric and disinformation.

      A worthwhile referendum is not just asking the question. It’s value is in making the decision an informed decision. Otherwise the result is meaningless, or worse, leads to a blundering catastrophe like Brexit.

      Brexit was a referendum to decide to pull the trigger. It only emerged after the decision to pull the trigger was taken that the gun was pointed at our own feet. Now we debate whether shooting ourselves in the foot won’t hurt at all, or might hurt but we’ll only know how much it will hurt once we’re shot. We can’t rewind and decide not to pull the trigger because that would be undemocratic. It’s madness, because the binding commitment was made before the issues were understood. Brexit is a study in how NOT to do a referendum.

      Brexit was a damned reckless and incompetent way to run a referendum, and it’s also a process that’s hopelessly compromised by the UK mainstream media. If 2014, and Brexit, taught us anything, it’s that Scotland will not be allowed to make up it’s own mind while the British media is has an unchecked monopoly on our news and political broadcasting.

      Sadly as a Nation, or as a United Kingdom, we seem extremely amateurish and naive in the way we run referendums, and seem totally blindsided by a dangerous and manipulative news media which does NOT have our best interests at heart. Until we address that issue, it doesn’t really matter what the question on the ballot says because an indeterminate host of us will be mesmerised by a rattlesnake telling us what to think.

      Personally, I think our democracy is compromised and in alarmingly poor health, and I favour a more constitutional / legal route to safeguard our sovereign integrity. I think we will need the leverage of national sovereignty to displace this repugnant “media of occupation”, and only then, when we can engage with each other in constructive unfettered debate can we properly begin to trust where our democracy might lead us.

      Scotland’s democracy needs sovereign independence more than our sovereign independence needs democracy, but that’s not an easy message to sell.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. “…The Union is only a Treaty. It should be treated like the flawed and mundane political agreement that it is, not revered like some intractable voodoo…”

        Those words might yet come back to haunt you.


  1. The original Salmond question was. ” Do you agree that Scotland should be independent?” Surprise the EC decided that was a leading question.

    But it was the correct question. Because it allowed the reader to actually grasp the stupidity of actually having to ask.

    If we run the referendum without interference. That should be the question.


  2. “Scotland voted to remain as part of the United Kingdom”. We most decidedly did not!”

    Unfortunately, 55% did vote for that even though it was not the question being asked. Apart from the EU residents, the NO vote was an expression of colonialism from the two ends of the spectrum: those who believed we are part of a Greater England, and those who believe they need to be part of a Greater England – totally contrary to UN tenets. Perhaps the question should be: do you wish Scotland to become part of a Greater England in a One Nation State, to be known as the Region of Scotland? That might open things up a bit and inject a bit of reality into the equation.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The question of whether we want to be in this Union has indeed never been asked of Scots. I reckon the way you framed the issue at Perth would be the best way to word the next referendum question.


  4. I see in today’s National that Michael Russell is suggesting that we need to educate the English about Scotland and the Scots. If they haven’t bothered to do that in 312 years of the Union, why would we be any more successful or even try? I am so heartily sick of this nonsense about we must do this for NO voters, we must do that for rUK voters, we must do the other for English voters south of the border. The only thing we must do now is leave the bloody Union by any means we can. If others don’t like that, tough. They should have thought long and hard about the probable consequences of thwarting independence out of wholly selfish and colonial motives. Anyone with two brain cells to spark off each other knows that trying to quench the flames of independence will only stoke it into an inferno instead. We haven’t reached inferno stage yet, but we might well very soon if this interminable procrastination continues.


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