The silencing of the bams

The above is fairly typical of the abuse that I receive pretty much constantly. This was in response to a previous blog article in which I asked how it could be acceptable for the First Minister to give the British Prime Minister an effective veto over Scotland’s right of self-determination and invite external interference in the exercise of our right of self-determination. You may note that my interlocutor doesn’t address either of these points. They never do. They never dispute or debate the facts or reasoned arguments. The abuse is not occasioned by me saying something that is untrue or incorrect. The abuse is not for what I’m saying but for the fact that I’m saying it.

Nobody even tries to argue that Nicola Sturgeon has done or isn’t doing the things I refer to. They just don’t like me referring to them. As if it doesn’t matter so long as you don’t mention it. Nobody actually disputes that Nicola Sturgeon has committed totally to the Section 30 process. Nobody tries to make the case that the Section 30 process is what I say it is and has the effect that I say it has. Nobody argues that Nicola Sturgeon isn’t treating the Section 30 process as the only “legal and constitutional” way to have a new independence referendum.

Occasionally, someone will ask for a direct quote from Nicola Sturgeon saying that the Section 30 process is the only legal and constitutional way to have a referendum. As if we needed her to say the words to know that it is so. Boris Johnson has never stated explicitly that he intends to lock Scotland into the Union, dismantle our democratic institutions and feed our public services to US corporate hyenas. Does anyone doubt that it is so? Does anyone need him to say the actual words? Or are we all perfectly capable of figuring it out?

Nobody who attended the SNP Conference in October could be in any doubt. The phrase “the only legal and constitutional way” was repeated ad nauseam by senior party figures such as Mike Russell and Alyn Smith. It wasn’t difficult to know why. There was a bit of a buzz that the SNP leadership’s ‘strategy’ might be questioned at Conference. Indeed, an attempt was made. This was quickly crushed and it was plainly evident that word had come down from on high that any talk of a ‘Plan B’ or any concerns expressed about the Section 30 process were to be dismissed with the insistence that this was the only legal and constitutional way.

Nobody can sensibly argue that declaring one thing the only legal thing isn’t the same as saying that all other things are not legal. All they can do is berate us for saying so out loud.

The abuse itself doesn’t trouble me. I’m a big boy. I can both dish it out and take it. What troubles me is the lack of any real debate about Nicola Sturgeon’s ‘strategy’. What really worries me is the determination on the part of at least a significant minority to close down debate with accusations such as we see above. And worse! I can understand why the SNP didn’t want voices like mine being heard at Conference. It’s very much a stage-managed showcase for the party. I accept that this is just the way politics is done these days. The SNP offers other avenues for members to engage in policy debate. But when it becomes difficult, or impossible, discuss independence campaign strategy in the wider Yes movement, then something has changed. And not for the better. Something is broken.

I will persist. Because, as more than a few have commented, somebody has to. This is too important an issue for anything to be taken on trust. Blind faith in a charismatic leader is, at best, counter-productive. It can be downright dangerous. If the fight to restore Scotland’s independence is crucial – and it is both crucial and a fight – then the political strategies and campaign tactics deployed are also important. We have to get it right. That cannot happen unless we are able to engage in frank and open discussion of all aspects of the effort.

Another thing I’m often accused of is thinking I know better than Nicola Sturgeon. As if that were a ridiculous proposition. As if it were impossible that anyone could know better than her. It isn’t. As I suspect she would concede. And even if I am not the one who knows better, how will we ever find the one who knows better unless all those who might know better are allowed to speak. Unless all those who think differently are able to express themselves.

It’s not only me, of course. There are many others who are not convinced Nicola Sturgeon is going about things in a way that best serves Scotland’s cause. That doesn’t mean we don’t support her. It just means we don’t agree with her. Disagreeing is not “undermining”, as some less intellectually acute commentators maintain. It would be different if I was talking about whether we should pursue the restoration of independence rather than how. So long as I, and others, are debating tactics and strategy for taking Scotland’s cause forward we are part of the growing clamour for independence.

Our First Minister needs that clamour. She needs visible and undeniable public demand for a new referendum and for independence, Far from “undermining” her, vocal public debate about strategy becomes further evidence of restlessness and impatience. The independence movement didn’t get to where we are today by being docile and quiet. Being meek and complacent and acquiescent won’t energise us for what remains to be done.

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10 thoughts on “The silencing of the bams

  1. Oh dear, it’s become self-referential now.You aren’t the story, much though you might want it to be. You obviously haven’t a clue about what kind of offence-in-depth is going to be necessary to move forward, yet you proclaim this personal failure of imagination and foresight as the “truth”. With you, ignorance is certainly not bliss, but something much more like debilitating despair.

    A crucial part of advancing independence is achieving what always had to be achieved, regardless of anything else, and that is energising the public out there by getting them to grasp that they are not in a fondly-supposed union of equals but actually in an English jail. For which we already hold the key, if only we had the courage and temerity to use it. The recent election has revealed that more clearly than ever. So what we need right now more than anything is resolution and determination to act, and the positive encouragement of everyone to do so, and the very last thing we need is pathetic repetitive bleating from the sidelines from know-nothings with a petty grudge.

    It’s just as well that the current leadership, whatever their faults, seem to have a far better grasp of strategy than you. I would feel more sorry for you except I have a suspicion that your attitude is informed not merely by a failure of understanding but also by personal grievance.


    1. You amply demonstrate the point Peter is making. You attack the man, not the message. His message is one that is sorely needed. Don’t you see that to claim that Westminster granting a S30O is the only legal and legitimate means to have a referendum is to place Scotland entirely in the hands of Boris and the One Nation (the Greater English Nation) Unionism? It’s to put the nation is shackles! It’s also to imply that only by taking independence out of the hands of the SNP and the English legal framework they have adopted can Scotland become independent.

      Nicola and the SNP are a fine government for Scotland’s domestic affairs. They have protected the people and the nation from some of the worst of Westminster’s policies. In the light of Westminster’s theft of a number of Holyrood’s powers, however, and the setting up the new offices of the UK Government in Scotland, the SNP’s pursuit of a S30O is actually going to harm the nation and the people. When they take over the SNHS, the principle of universality will be trashed.

      Asking for a S30O is like Oliver Twist asking for more gruel. Demanding a S30O is like Oliver demanding more gruel. The response is to beat him with the ladle!

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Thanks Peter, enjoyed your article. My mind is in particular drawn to your phrase “restoration of Independence”, self evidently the case, but a nice reframing.

    I am dismayed by the SNPs lack of willingness to go to court to test the outcome. I can’t see why either result is not a step forward. In international law we have the right. If WM deems we don’t we cry ‘Colony’ and if not we proceed. Is the former outcome more undermining of the route to restoring our independence than I realise?

    I thought first time round that David Cameron wanted to avoid opening the box of Schrodinger’s right to choose.

    Is this something that the Tories want to avoid? Is it also something SNP want to avoid and if so why? I am assuming I am being nieve here.


    1. I would like to think the Scottish Government is keen to avoid taking the constitutional issue out of the political arena and into the realm of the courts. It would be a huge gamble with less than nothing to gain and everything to lose. Think it through!


  3. Show some folks the wrong end of a stick, and guess what happens, they grab it and comment in a way that entirely misses the point.

    I’m OK with the dogged pursuit of the section 30 route, if it succeeds great, if it fails – then the adherence to the section 30 process can increase the credibility of the pursuit of one or more of the contingency plans.

    Contingency plans ? What contingency plans ?

    So far the membership of the SNP (less so maybe the wider YES movement) have placed our trust in the leadership to follow its preferred strategy for the next steps towards Independence. Now that the GE is over I’d suggest that that trust needs to be reciprocated on the part of the leadership by sharing the contingency strategies being considered so far. This “trust” process should also have the effect of generating further contingency plans.

    It all comes down to the question – Would you prefer to have a single plan that you need to stick to irrespective of its chances of success, or would you prefer to have an array of contingency plans to use as alternatives should the need arise ? The correct answer should not need to be stated, other than to the Baldricks of this world.

    Our movement needs people who are willing to risk criticism by putting forward ideas which are not necessarily popular, the idea of Independence itself was not terribly popular a few decades ago. Critics of unpopular ideas should learn to play the ball, not the man, and criticise the ideas while respecting their originator.

    Silencing the Bams is a great catch line btw.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Being OK with the “dogged pursuit of the section 30 route” would be fine, if it wasn’t for the rather awkward fact that pursuit of the Section 30 process is neither hopeful nor harmless. No British Prime Minister will ever facilitate or cooperate with any process which places the Union in jeopardy. It follows, therefore, no British Prime Minister will grant a Section 30 order unless he has a cast-iron assurance that the process will be sabotaged further down the line. They will have to be certain that the Union is safe. As certain as David Cameron was, and then some.

      There’s not much to say about contingency plans or alternative strategies other than that there are none. Not for a First Minister who has committed to strongly to the Section 30 process as the ‘only legal and constitutional way’ to have a referendum. The ‘gold standard’. How many times did we hear those phrases in Aberdeen? How often were they used to close down any mention, far less discussion, of a ‘Plan B’?

      What has become clear, to meat least, is that Nicola Sturgeons fallback strategy involved the courts. Belatedly, it has started to dawn on the party leadership that, not only is that far from the easy win they’d assumed, it is a massive gamble. That is why they won’t talk about it. It’s why they get very uncomfortable when the matter of legal action is raised.

      And it is not a case of ‘playing their cards close to their chests’ or any of the other weary and wearying cliches that are deployed to rationalise the lack of any word on contingency plans. There are no options that are unknown or unknowable. Whatever Nicola Sturgeon’s contingency plans are – supposing she has any beyond indignant rhetoric – our opponents will already be gaming it.

      Mark my words, Geoff, we are watching a tragedy unfold. The umpteenth mandate the SNP just won means that the pressure to deliver is on as never before. And it is increasingly difficult to see how Nicola Sturgeon can deliver anything but another of those straws to which the camel’s back seems peculiarly resistant.

      I would be ecstatically happy to be proved wrong. But unless something truly dramatic occurs in the next few days, I fear the worst. Which I have always found to be the best way of avoiding disappointment.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. In other contexts I have met idiots like the one you quote and the other above who conveniently demonstrated your point. On the whole they seem simply to be out of their depth in debate and able only to engage with their own demons, which they project onto whatever they believe they have read in my words. They never actually engage with the substance though.

    Apart from basically inadequate people, I am increasingly encountering mischief makers who have no intention of engaging in debate, but who just rant ad hominem then disappear to allow the rest to pile in and turn “debate” into a polarised shouting match.

    Such mischief makers are clearly employed simply to do that, during the election camps it was presumably by some clandestine wing of the Tory party. I cannot however conclude but that the British State’s dirty tricks departments are involved, that agents are monitoring sites such as this and sewing the seeds of disarray.

    I notice that there has not yet been any comeback from the one above. Funny that. I’m willing to bet there will not be, because their work is done.

    Liked by 3 people

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