Damping the fire

Associating Scotland’s independence cause with Brexit must surely count among history’s great political blunders. The mandate for a new constitutional referendum in Scotland was never formally made contingent on Scotland actually being wrenched from the EU despite a decisive Remain vote. That’s not what the SNP’s 2016 manifesto says no matter how many idiots in the independence movement claim otherwise – invariably without having taken the trouble to read the relevant part of the document in question. But it cannot be denied that the SNP leadership have subsequently committed themselves wholeheartedly to linking the two issues of Brexit and a second independence referendum.

Scotland’s cause demands a certain amount of passion. People are not passionate about the EU. They just aren’t. There are no pro-EU counterparts to the ranting Europhobes with whom we’ve all become familiar over the past forty or fifty years. There are no Raving Remainers equivalent to the Mad Brexiteers who created the current mess. Lots of people hate the EU. A few even have reasons which rescue their detestation from total mindlessness. But nobody loves the EU. Not among the electorate.

There are people who understand why the EU exists. There are people who appreciate what the EU has achieved. There are even some who understand how it works. These people have not been taken in by the constant drip-feed of anti-EU propaganda that turned to a torrent before and during the 2016 referendum. They see the EU for what it is – a flawed but functioning attempt to create a novel form of post-imperialist international association. They recognise that, if the EU did not exist, it would be necessary to create something all but indistinguishable from what we have. They are pragmatic about the EU. They are not passionate about the EU.

Putting Brexit at the centre of Scotland’s cause has proved to be a very bad mistake. The cause of restoring Scotland’s rightful constitutional status needed no further justification. It is, and always has been, fully warranted by the inherent injustice of the Union. Self-evidently wrong as it is to act contrary to the democratic will of Scotland’s people, the core issue is not Brexit, but the Union which strips Scotland’s people of the right to have their democratic will honoured.

Brexit was never going to fuel the drive to restore Scotland’s independence. It simply doesn’t burn hot enough in the lives of Scottish voters. Scotland being dragged out of the EU against its will may stand as a particularly egregious example of how the Union serves us ill, but it clearly is not the issue that might unleash the passion needed to take the independence project forward.

Forty months on and after countless ‘poor-us-it’s-not-fair’ plaints from the SNP, there is still no sign of the hoped-for Brexit effect. Still no indication that the infinite patience approach is paying off. Scotland’s metaphorical cheeks are raw from being ever more viciously slapped by the British political elite. And still we are assured that stoically accepting yet more abuse is the winning strategy.

Eventually, we are told, people will realise the economic cost of Brexit and make the calculation that independence is a viable alternative. But Scotland’s cause is a matter of principle, not policy. It cannot be reduced to a pound value. To make that cause about economics rather than the anti-democratic injustice of the Union is to rip the heart from it and replace it with a calculator.

Whatever their conceit of themselves, people don’t vote on the basis of facts and figures. They vote on the basis of feelings. Their decisions come down to where they sit on the spectrum of fear/hope. They can feel enthusiastic. Or they can feel angry. Or they can feel despondent. It is that feeling which informs and drives their choices and not the mass of confusing, conflicting, contradictory data that is thrown at them. The graphs and charts and spreadsheets are useful only as a way of rationalising decisions made on the basis of how they feel.

When it comes to the EU, the vast majority of people don’t feel anything very much. A relatively tiny number are fervently opposed. Almost none have strong feelings in favour. Wrapping Scotland’s cause in Brexit was a sure way of damping down the fire that was lit eight years ago, and which still blazed in the aftermath of the 2014 referendum. Unless that was the intention – which I do not suppose to be the case – then the SNP’s obsessive focus on Brexit must be considered a serious misjudgement.

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19 thoughts on “Damping the fire

  1. What did you expect the SNP to do Peter when Leavers won the EURef? Just sit back and let it all happen? Nicola Sturgeon et al didn’t ask for this, HAD to fight it against it, as there was no surety in the Scots voting for Independence, in the next decade (or ever), otherwise. She and Alex were let down by the Scots in 2014, so who was to say that it wouldn’t happen again? To my mind she’s had to cover all eventualities. Can you imagine what would happen if we’re dragged out of Europe and we lose IndyRef2? Still shackled to the hellish Union outside of the EU. If Nicola Sturgeon had done nothing at all to prevent Brexit, and left us tied to the Union, she would be crucified by the Scots.

    You seem to think that we’d get our Independence due to, ”the cause of restoring Scotland’s rightful constitutional status needed no further justification. It is, and always has been, fully warranted by the inherent injustice of the Union.” This ”injustice” has been going on for the last three hundred years. With the ”injustices” being suppressed by the MSM. How many more (years) would it take for people to become ”passionate” about leaving, especially when they are so ill-informed? Long enough for so much more damage to be done to the point that Scotland would require the ”broad shoulders” of the Union to support us and few wanted to leave?

    I noticed, in a recent article, that you can’t understand why support for Independence hasn’t risen dramatically. Don’t you think that blogs like this may have something to do with it? Contribute to it? The SNP Baad site. One of many now. You know the SNP, the only party that can help us to achieve Independence, being dissed by you on a regular basis. What would prior no voters and so on, searching for information and coming across your site, make of it all.

    Well, I thought I’d carry out a little experiment and last week asked an elderly couple to take a look at your site. When I met them, this couple were adamant that they would vote no to Independence, as they did previously. I’d been passing on some information which had led to them reconsidering their position. Now guess what happened after they had a wee look at your site!!! However I’ll not let it go at that. Lose two potential voters (of thousands). I’ll continue to attempt to combat the damage that you and your ilk are doing.


    1. Well said Petra.

      We have here an opportunity which in the aftermath of 2014, no one thought we would have for a generation. And the Scottish government and the SNP rose to the occasion of the brexit referendum, which really has opened up the Indy question in a way which was not foreseen in 2014, by declaring that the Scottish people should get another chance on Indy. There was a substantial reverse in 2017 with the General Election, but they have nursed the situation back to life.

      And all we get from Peter A Bell is the carping negative stream of consciousness. The SNP took the initiative in 2016, just 2 years after a defeat and have turned it into an opportunity. The SNP should be allowed and supported and encouraged to make everything they can from this opportunity with patience and skill that they bring. Now is not the time to carp.

      If Peter wants to run it next time, if we don’t get it this time, he is welcome. But if he carries on carping and plays any part in losing it for us this time, then that’s it, I will oppose him. I am passionate about the EU and about Indy. I am passionately opposed to the destructive negativity of brexiters and I class Peter A bell’s negativity with that of brexiters. The image he unconsciously presents of an Independent Scotland is shockingly vile and quite off putting.

      If he has nothing good to say at this time he should say nothing.


  2. Really? Having already decided that Peter’s blog is detrimental to the independence cause (in your view) you chose to direct a couple of previous No voters to it that you have been working on. To prove a point?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. That doesn’t make any sense, Petra.

    Peter’s site is more addressed towards the movement itself and urging it to think critically about strategy. All large political movements have such bloggers, and they are of much value for those of us who care about it all.

    There are other fantastic sites which look more outwards to the ‘open to persuasion’ demographic, such as Paul Kavanagh’s ‘Wee Ginger Dug’ site, and the National newspaper also falls into that category. I would recommend you direct the people you are attempting to persuade to these sources.

    As to Peter’s comments in the article, for sure the ebullience and excitement and passion has died down for the moment. There is always a flicker of the kind of anger we need when the SNP show some fight in a graphic way, such as Blackford’s walkout (the irony was that he didn’t actually walk out, he was ordered out by Bercow, but it was one of his feistiest performances).

    We don’t see nearly enough fight from the SNP to stir people from their torpor.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I would point out however, that after the disaster of YES losing in 2014, the prospects for another bite at Independence seemed a long way off indeed, but suddenly, out of the blue in relative terms, Brexit, and in particular Scotland’s emphatic and united rejection of Brexit, put Scotland’s right of self determination centre stage, and it was time to dig out the saltines and marching boots once again.

    In addition to the issue of independence by democratic principle, what Brexit gave us which 2014 did not, was an added constitutional imperative and jeopardy to defend Scotland’s latent, but legitimate Sovereignty. For as long as it’s against our wishes, Brexit can only be delivered as an act of unconstitutional colonial subjugation, and that distinction makes it contrary to International Law.

    I will never, ever, understand why the SNP didn’t nudge Scotland’s Sovereign Remain majority and mandate into an impregnable Scottish Backstop, whereby Westminster had a binary choice to take Brexit and lose Scotland, or respect Scottish Sovereignty and abandon Brexit. Either one of those options would leave the UK Union untenable, and Scotland independent.

    To forfeit that position in lieu of some arbitrary and forlorn Soft Brexit Customs Union / Single Market consolation prize was, in my opinion, a catastrophic political misjudgment and an unforgivable squandered opportunity. It was also the moment I lost faith in Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP’s Constitutional acumen. I have seen nothing to restore that faith. Nothing.

    Brexit has been an open goal for Scotland, but far from putting the ball in the net, the Scottish Government has failed even to address the ball. It is utterly bewildering and demoralising.

    Scotland should cite constitutional sovereignty and the Claim of Right, and emphatic democratic mandate, and revoke Article 50 unilaterally, and defy Westminster to deliver Brexit against the settled and sovereign will of Scotland.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ” I would recommend you direct the people you are attempting to persuade to these sources.”

      I had been doing that Jim and supplying them with data in relation to our countries wealth and so on. However I wanted to see if sites like this are having a detrimental affect on shaping people’s opinions of Nicola Sturgeon / the SNP and ultimately voting for them, and that was the case. This was one couple only and I’m not up for continuing with such a little experiment. Maybe someone will ultimately carry out a poll on such matters.


      1. It is often difficult to know what people need. Personally, I probably wouldn’t direct a soft No here, but then again perhaps the fire in Peter’s belly and the clarity of his analysis is just what would flip the switch for some people, you never really know. I certainly feel I’ve learned a lot from Peter’s articles, elements of which I’ve used when talking to people about independence, and I love his passion and commitment to the cause.


    2. One of the problems that Nicola Sturgeon was faced with was the fact that not all of that 62% of Scots who wanted to remain in the EU supported Independence.

      The ability to revoke Article 50 lies with the member state i.e. the UK not Scotland.

      And I’m sure that Nicola Sturgeon would have / will be consulting with her many Constitutional experts on what we could do previously, can do right now and in the future.


  5. I would add, passions were running high in late 2014/15. On the back of YES momentum, there was a great surge in SNP membership, and Scotland returned 53 out of 56 SNP MP’s. Better Together was in bits trying to wriggle out of it’s treacherous Vow. I believe too the emphatic Remain mandate had a component of YES momentum behind it too.

    A Scottish Constitutionally Sovereign Backstop in 2016 would have been impregnable.


  6. Breeks, I think this a great point and I cannot see why it is not too late to do it.

    It is impeccable constitutionally, and crucially would allow for powerful passive resistance, in contrast to a declaration of independence, which – because the SNP have not prepared the ground for it – would make it easy for the British government to be extremely coercive and brutal.

    For goodness sake, Nicola, consider this. If you have already, consider it again.


  7. While your analysis re sentiment is credible, your conclusion is frankly a non-sequitur. The Brexit farrago is the single biggest UK policy error since the American colonial debacle in the same century as the Union, and the similar consequences of UKGov English nationalism on Scotland’s position in the Union are potentially severe and yet hardly begun. Grounds enough for using this situation to spell out the manifest advantages of independence.

    All of which is above and beyond the demonstrable fact that, despite your reservations, Peter, a clear majority of the people of Scotland did actually vote to remain citizens of the EU, with all the ensuing advantages that they did obviously appreciate.


  8. It’s very arrogant of me to say “people don’t understand”, but you’ll have to forgive me, because I earnestly believe too many people do not understand the difference between an purely democratic exercise like Alex Salmond’s 2014 YES Referendum, and the entirely dissimilar constitutional argument which Brexit dropped into our laps.

    The Brexit Referendum gave us the sovereign mandate to be different from the rest of the UK. It cleft the Union in two, and irremediably so. The “Democracy” bit was done. Box ticked. Brexit gave us the mandate, we didn’t need another one, and from that point forward, the route to Independence through Brexit should have been almost exclusively a Constitutional Backstop, a legal dispute, and resolution of Constitutional Sovereignty which Scotland would have won. It DOESN’T MATTER how the Remain majority was split around Indy, we HAD their mandate to dispute our unconstitutional subjugation and break the back of the Union.

    A Constitutional route to Independence is a completely different animal from a democratic campaign of 2014. It’s all well and good to sing the praises of a Gold Standard IndyRef like YES2014, but sadly that simply ISN’T the campaign which Brexit presented us with. It isn’t truly applicable. The democratic will was settled, and emphatically settled. The only outstanding issue to be settled was thus a constitutional battle for sovereign ascendency, and whether our sovereign Scottish Remain mandate trumped their unconstitutional UK Leave mandate.

    The Scottish Government has been much too myopic and one-dimensional in it’s grasp of Scotland’s predicament, trying with very little success to shoehorn Brexit into a democratic campaign when Brexit is essentially a Constitutional dispute. Consequently, the Constitutional opportunities presented by Brexit have largely been squandered very cheaply, and the “game” has been played with Scotland as a bystander who’s never set foot on the pitch.

    It isn’t too late, but sadly I see no Constitutional awakening in the current SNP rhetoric, just a doubling down on the pursuit of a democratic mandate which we do not need, and being forced to suffer a Brexit we can properly avoid.

    It is utterly heart breaking.


  9. ”It’s very arrogant of me to say “people don’t understand” ..

    You’ll know better than people like Joanna Cherry then?


  10. Breeks, let’s pray someone in the upper echelon of the SNP is trying to make that case and they have not all capitulated to group think on the ‘Gold Standard’. The Gerald Ratner Gold Standard.


  11. I’ve written to Joanna Cherry three times and not had a reply because I’m not in her constituency, so I’ve absolutely no idea what she thinks. SNP doesn’t really do the dialogue thing, so everybody is left trying to join the dots as best they can.

    SNP has some bizarre and unfathomable priorities, but if they don’t care to explain, or worry about the general anxiety they’re creating, then so be it. Hell mend them.


    1. Joanna Cherry has made herself available at a number of venues around the country, any one of which you could have attended to put your questions to her.

      A number of addresses, phone numbers and email addresses, of Constitutional experts who were open to being questioned, have also been made available to you, none of which you seem to have contacted.

      You’ve also been asked on a number of occasions, many, to outline exactly what you would recommend the SNP do on a practical level, over the last couple of years. You haven’t done that either.


  12. That simply isn’t true Petra, and you know it. Just in the comments above I am advocating the unilateral revocation of Article 50, or had you stopped reading?

    I have consistently said what I would do since before 2014, beginning with an emergency plebiscite in 2014 to have the sovereign people of Scotland determine which ‘extra’ powers should be returned to Scotland, rather than leave it to the Unionists to worm their way out of their “Vow” commitment.

    We could have secured Broadcasting and Constitutional matters, and who knows what else. Instead the SNP were too busy commiserating and ditching Alex Salmond for Nicola Sturgeon.

    I have pretty much always qualified my criticism of the SNP strategy with a progressive course of action which yes, might not always be practicable, might not be easy, but which might warrant constructive discussion. I repeat, the SNP does not engage in constructive discussion, nor it would seem, engage in constructive and decisive action themselves.

    Brexit is not about winning a referendum. We did that. We delivered an emphatic decision to stay in Europe. Brexit is about making that referendum mandate count for something, and that’s a constitutional matter. If Westminster can ignore and set aside a sovereign Scottish mandate in 2016, what’s to stop them doing the same in 2020?

    Brexit isn’t about a struggle for people’s opinion, we have an emphatic majority already. The Battle of Brexit is about the Constitutional deficit, and Scotland’s Sovereignty being dismissed. That is where the important fight is, and the SNP are nowhere to be seen. For “Constitutional deficit” read “Colonial subjugation and usurpation of sovereignty”, because that’s what about to befall Scotland and the SNP want to look the other way as it happens.


  13. ”That simply isn’t true Petra, and you know it”..

    What have I outlined on here that isn’t true, Breeks?

    ”I am advocating the unilateral revocation of Article 50”..

    And who is going to take notice of that Breeks, when Scotland isn’t a member of the EU in it’s own right? The EU? The International community? I don’t think so. And what of those individuals (how many?) who would be totally against this type of ”revocation” action? Do you think that they would just sit back and let that happen, not take to the streets and / or hit Nicola Sturgeon with one Court Case after another which could drag on for years?

    ..”The Brexit Referendum gave us the sovereign mandate to be different from the rest of the UK. It cleft the Union in two, and irremediably so. The “Democracy” bit was done.”

    Democracy for who? What percentage of the 62% who voted to Remain? Nicola Sturgeon also attempted to address that ”difference’ by producing the paper, ‘Scotland’s Place in Europe’, which was rejected by Westminster and no doubt used more recently to deal with the Nirish situation.

    ..”Brexit is not about winning a referendum. We did that. We delivered an emphatic decision to stay in Europe.”..

    Who exactly is ”We”, Breeks? As said already, 62% of Sovereign Scots indicated that they wanted to remain in the EU (as part of the UK), however how many of them ”delivered an emphatic decision”, within that vote, to remain in the EU as part of an Independent Scotland? That’s the crux of the matter. Not everyone thinks like you and wants what you want.

    ”Colonial subjugation and usurpation of sovereignty, because that’s what about to befall Scotland and the SNP want to look the other way as it happens.”

    This has been the situation for over 300 years now Breeks, long before the SNP even existed. The SNP has been in power (albeit EXTREMELY limited) for 12 short years. Within that time scale we’ve seen them making massive, positive changes in Scotland against all odds, hold an Independence referendum, whereby they were let down by the (sovereign) Scots, and are now planning to hold another referendum next year (months away). At that point in time the sovereign Scots will once again be given the choice of remaining in the Union or not, due to the SNP NOT ”looking the other way”, at all. Another Independence referendum? That’s the only way to separate the wheat from the chaff now. That’s democracy in action for you.

    And by the way you’re talking complete mince here, Breeks, and trying to rewrite history to serve your own agenda.

    ”We could have secured Broadcasting and Constitutional matters, and who knows what else. Instead the SNP were too busy commiserating and ditching Alex Salmond for Nicola Sturgeon.”

    If my memory serves me well, the Unionist supporting political parties in Scotland, elected by hundreds of thousands of Sovereign Scots to ”determine which ‘extra’ powers should be returned to Scotland”, stymied our ability to secure control over broadcasting (and much else). The SNP, ONLY, were watching Westminster like a hawk and doing their utmost to minimise the damage being done to Scotland, at that time (2015/16), for example (just one) John Swinney spent almost a year fending off a Treasury demand to take £7bn out of the Scottish budget over a 10-year period.

    Alex Salmond made the decision to stand down in 2014, following losing Indyref1 and that was long before the Smith Commission process / Scotland Act, et al.

    Wee mix up with your dates and way of thinking?


  14. Well Petra I have long read your replies to Breeks and Stuart Campbell WOS mostly to tell them they are wrong and are just SNP BAdders , now you are labeling Peter Bell in the same context , I must admit I enjoyed many of your postings on WOS and admire the many things you have done to PROMOTE independence , but I ask you now , what or how EXACTLY are Nicola and the SNP going to WIN our independence
    I am not a SNP member but I am a SNP voter , so tell us non members how this interminable reacting to wastemonsters decisions and playing by their ludicrous rules is going to go anywhere other than the courts , IF Nicola DEMANDS a sect 30 and they refuse what will she do

    Peter Bell , Breeks , Stu Campbell and others have STATED often that brexit is only an excuse albeit a convenient one to fight for independence but the overriding reason should be Scotland’s right to decide it’s future , it’s interaction with the rest of the world , it’s right to take back control from wastemonster and determine WHO WE partner or TRADE with , as has been stated time immemorial Scotland is in a treaty with England , treaties can be resiled or dissolved , what gives the majority of English MP’S the right to REFUSE Scotland’s elected governments wishes to void the treaty

    The constitutional issue is PARAMOUNT and should have been faced and dealt with ages ago , we should have been illustrating to the world through the courts that we are a country and nation being subjugated by a false government
    This asking for permission for ANYTHING only reinforces England’s false narrative that they own us


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