Pillows against cannon

The Common Green is Craig Dalzell’s blog

I agree with everything Craig Dalzell says in his interview with The National, with two very important exceptions. The first regards his views on campaigning for a referendum on independence, rather than campaigning for independence itself. The second concerns his insistence that we should be campaigning for independence.

We always had two battles to fight over the past five years. Obviously, we had the fight to restore Scotland’s rightful constitutional status. But before we could hope to properly engage in that battle we had first to affirm, secure and defend our right of self-determination. This was always where our opponents were going to attack. Because the British political elite continues to think as an imperial power.

To preserve the integrity of the homeland, the imperialist mindset is to always fight wars on someone else’s territory. That is why empires expand. Their borders are regarded as their weak points. The point at which the homeland comes into contact with the other and so is at the greatest risk of contamination. The impeccable logic of self-preservation demands that a ‘buffer zone’ be created to protect the sacred homeland. So, new territory is acquired by treaty or conquest or both. Or simply by disregarding the other’s sovereignty and daring them to object. Bullying, in other words.

To the British ruling elites, the Union represents the homeland. They would prefer not to engage in battle on that ground because to lose would be catastrophic. They are especially reluctant as an earlier skirmish which they thought they’d win easily almost cost them dearly. The innate defensiveness of the imperialist mindset means that they will seek to fend off any potential threat to the Union before it reaches their doorstep. Specifically, they will seek to deny and nullify Scotland’s right of self-determination – simultaneously undermining our sovereignty, this being inextricably entwined with the right to choose our constitutional status and form of government.

The mistake – and such it surely was – was to mount a campaign to get something we didn’t have (a referendum) rather than a campaign to protect something that was already ours (the right of self-determination).

For similar reasons, we should not have been campaigning for independence but against the Union. Such a campaign would have dovetailed nicely with the fight to protect our most essential sovereign rights as both the threat to the latter and the injustice of Scotland’s treatment at the hands of the British state both trace back to the same source – the Union.

By engaging in a campaign for independence we made independence the disputed concept which our opponents wanted it to be. Independence is normal. It is the Union which is anomalous. It is the Union which should be the disputed concept.

In every way, the defenders of the Union and established power have chosen the ground on which to engage with Scotland’s independence movement. Most particularly, they lured us into the valley of death for any campaign, economic argumentation. Those who insist we should continue to fight on this ground tend to do so because it is their turf. It’s where they feel comfortable. It’s the only place their weapons work. They are distinctly uncomfortable with the hand-to-hand combat of political campaigning on a constitutional issue.

Craig Dalzell seems like a decent chap. He has interesting things to say about the hypothetical economic policies in a hypothetical independent Scotland. But he is sadly lacking in his appreciation of what it will take to get us there. Any threat to the Union is, for the British political elite and potentially for established power, an existential threat. Their response is to either absorb the source of that threat – Scotland – or to crush it. Their existential threat becomes our existential threat. The battle is a constitutional fight for life. Perhaps, for Scotland at least, a fight to the death.

When asked why we lost the 2014 referendum, the short answer I usually give is that we took a pillow to a sword fight. I read and hear all this urging to continue doing what we’ve always done in the hope of a different – and better – outcome, and I despair. In the 2014 referendum campaign, we took a pillow to a sword fight. In the interim, we have allowed our opponents to rearm with guns. Meanwhile, we look set to go into battle with no more than a laundered, stitched and re-stuffed pillow to flap at the muzzles of British Nationalist artillery.

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18 thoughts on “Pillows against cannon

  1. I like Common Weal’s idea of stripping public spaces of their royal names. This seems eminently reasonable to me given the Queen gave royal assent to the UK withdrawal bill, thus completely ignoring how Scotland voted in the EU referendum and her role as ‘Queen of Scots’

    Liked by 1 person

    1. An idea which was already being actively pursued – about 3 months ago – a letter delivered to Susan Aitken, leader of Glasgow City Council asked that GCC change the name of George Square to Freedom Square. You can view the background to the idea via the link below:

      The livestream was established, in part, to record the delivery – and also to establish reactions to the idea, and a follow up letter to Susan Aitken will be delivered with those details.

      There are many streets in Scotland where the idea seems appropriate – how many Union Streets are there???

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I’m not in the least interested in this stuff about renaming everything that had a royal name.
        This is just nonsense, and does nothing to help us get Independence.
        It is also the kind of thing we see in dictatorships around the World
        And talk of renaming George Square to “Freedom Square”, futile, and insane!
        What way will that help the move to Independence of Scotland? Nothing!
        Now, there will be a few place names that we could change, but others, we would do well to keep as is.
        What, for example would you suggest as an alternative to Victoria Road, or Alexandra Parade, Glasgow? What would you call Queens Park? What would you rename Princes Street, Edinburgh?
        We should be focusing on something a bit more radical, like getting our MPs out of House of Commons. Like demanding Edinburgh revoke the Treaty of Union. Stuff like this, wanting to rename everything, will only antagonize folks needlessly, and make it appear, too, that Independence supporters, not able to get that much fabled referendum, can only resort to stunts like this, as they have nothing else left to keep them going.That is actually what this look like to me. That is all it is, in fact. And a major diversion away from anything practical, as well.
        We seem to be getting a lot of these diversion coming fast now. Get folks to do stuff like this, and take their minds off the fact, there is no Referendum for another full year, if not the next year, or the next year.If you pardon the pun, but The Grand Old Duke of York, rhyme, springs to mind.
        Most of us wanting Independence, don’t want to be led up a hill again, only to led back down, and promises of another hill, and another hill.
        We have to be a bit more sensible, here, and these stupid ideas, are not sensible in any way at all.


      2. I have never been wholly supportive of the idea of taking down statues and renaming streets etc. To me, it smacks of trying to eradicate history when what we should be doing is rewriting it by means of education. Leave the statues, but with a plaque explaining its presence from a Scottish perspective.

        I would still argue for this as the default position. But we should not make it a hard an fast rule. There may be very good arguments for renamig certain places and removing some monuments. And doing this as part of an ongoing campaign against the Union seems like an excellent way to keep debate alive and active.


  2. Talking of stripping English place names.

    I watched a programme about the Scottish police last night.

    One of the former officers said: ” We had a Scottish police force when Robert Peel was still in short trousers”. Yet when you go to George Square there is a statue of Robert Peel. This is an example of cultural imperialism. As if Robert Peel invented the Scottish police! I would take all these kind of misleading statues from George Square and elsewhere. Along with street names that have nothing to do with our cities. We need to rid our cities of English place names.

    Peter you are correct in your idea that the yes side had the wrong strategy. They tried to be positive in the face of bitter twisted unionism. They were afraid to call out the horror fest that exists within the dark corners of unionism. They were afraid to challenge the Brits when they tried to denigrate yes voters.

    The other thing they failed to do was point out all the wrongs committed to Scotland over the centuries by British imperialists. The economic vandalism of Thatcher and the illegal wars involving Scottish soldiers. The disgusting way they treat the poor and immigrants.

    We need to show the union for what it is. An ugly ,antiquated backward looking shit show.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Good thinking Big Jock.

      I would be for getting rid of the statue of Robert Dundas in St Andrews Square, Edinburgh, who corruptly managed Scottish politics and crushed the radicals, and for getting rid of the statue of Wellington outside the National Archives of Scotland in Princes Street. The NAS was the first purpose built archive in Europe, designed to be fire proof, and it was built with the money from the Forfeited Estates after the ‘45. The rents of forfeited Jacobite rebels were collected and put in a fund held by Edinburgh lawyers. The money was supposed to be used for infrastructure projects in the Highlands that would help the Highland economy to develop and I believe the odd bridge did get built, but the bulk of the fund lay unused for several decades until the idea was come up with of building a special building to house Scotland’s ancient historical documents and I believe they have the one and only letter written by Wallace there. A good use of that money but the poor Highlanders who grafted for it and were later cleared off, got nothing. So I would like to see Wellington replaced by a statue to commemorate the dispossessed of the ‘45 and their poor Highland tenants who grafted for it.


  3. Apologies if this is incorrect, but I suspect few have chosen to follow the link to the video, and perhaps may therefore have missed the context in which it was livestreamed – may I therefore add these comments:

    1) It was the second of two livestreams – by me – for Independence Live. In the first,deliberately filmed outside the BBC Scotland HQ – we issued an invitation for the world to join us at the rally to take place in the square, and for those in Scotland who had friends and relatives anywhere in the world to issue the invites to watch the livestreams at the rally. This was NOT something the BBC would ever do let alone contemplate – but via the livestreams on the day of the rally, we attracted an audience worldwide to both see, hear and comment on what was said by all the speakers.

    2) The George for whom the square is named was the sovereign of a “colony” in his day, one over whom he reigned supreme – and if you choose to watch the video, I explain that that time in history is a mirror image of our time in Scotland now – it led to the Declaration of Independece by the colonists.

    3) Are name changes significant, you can see that in different ways – was the decision by an earlier Labour led council to change a name to Nelson Mandela Place significant – in and of itself it did not end apartheid – but it played its part, and the part it played was recognised by Nelson Mandela, when he cam to Glasgow to recognise that it had been welcomed by him – whilst he remained in prison.. I raised that name change and its significance in the first of the two videos.

    4: I chose the title to the video as – George or Freedom? Yes or No? I did so to obtain opinions beyond my own, and in part because GCC was conducting a survey of views about marches in Glasgow, and paying Ipsos-Mori to gather such opinions. The second letter to be issued to Susan Aitken will show the opinions of those who responded to the livestream about a name change and it will be provided at no cost to the council taxpayers.

    5: Will it happen? Perhaps, but the odds are against it imho. Why – because GCC, like many other of our local authorities is not under SNP majority control – witness the new Lord Provost in Glasgow – and how the votes were obtained. That for me is the fundamental lesson in all of this – the YES movement must ensure a far greater interest in votes for our ocal authorities – so that where change is required of any kind, they are empowered to make the change.

    It is NOT the case that changing a name will gain Scotland its independence – compelety agree – but to judge it a nonsense may suggest it has no importance whatsoever, that it has no part to play, on that I fundamentally disagree.


  4. @Mike Fenwick
    > ” I suspect few have chosen to follow the link to the video”

    err…I don’t see a link to a video. ?

    Mibbies you could [have] post[ed] it explicitly. ?

    then mibbies more people might click on your link eh ! ?


    1. In that dirty big black square in my first post (and apologies for that – it just happened)

      – click on “Watch on Facebook” it will link you to the video (about 11 minutes worth)


      1. So … from looking at the html source I would guess that you are referring to this link:


        via which I see:

        You must log in to continue.



  5. Hi Peter …on that big black square above in my first post (sorry about it – it just happened) – click on “Watch on Facebook” and it should take you to the video.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I also don’t see any embedded video play in the comments, but was able to paste the URL which ‘aLurker’ posted.

    While I don’t have a Facebook account, and will not get one, it is (currently) possible to watch this video (I’m using Firefox) without an account.

    The page loads, and a ‘login/signup’ pop-over appears. If one clicks on ‘not now’ at the bottom, it is dismissed and the video can be seen without obstruction.


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