Scunnered!

On Friday, just after listening to Nicola Sturgeon’s much-hyped ‘next steps’ announcement, I had to travel to Edinburgh to attend events marking Brexit on Friday and Saturday. I also met up with my wife who was traveling back from a work-related trip to Denmark, for a rare evening out together. All of this by way of excuse for not responding earlier to that speech. Although the delay may have been a good thing. I have seen some of the responses made in immediate disappointment and/or frustration and/or anger and I’m rather glad I didn’t take a computer with me. Instead, I vented my initial reaction on Twitter where such things belong.

I have, for example, seen Stu Campbell’s article prompted by the First Minister’s speech and, while he is essentially correct in his analysis, he tends towards the intemperate in some of his comments and brings in matters which would be better discussed separately. The desire to lash out may be easy to apprehend, but in Stu’s case it turns what was a perceptive account of the inadequacy of Sturgeon’s approach to the constitutional issue into a vitriolic attack on her and the SNP. I think that unfortunate. I have always respected Stu’s ability to get to the nub of the matter and appreciated his ability to communicate his thoughts on matters of importance to us all. The forceful and forthright manner in which he habitually expresses himself only adds to the power of his message. I’m hardly in a position criticise anybody for adopting a robust tone.

I should not have been disappointed by what Nicola Sturgeon said as I never had any expectation that she would say anything of significance. I had actually made an effort to damp-down expectations because I knew there was nothing significant she could say from the position in which she has placed herself. Short of renouncing her ill-advised commitment to the Section 30 process, all she could possibly have to offer was another reading of the charges against the British state peppered with platitudes and bromides and leading to the now standard rationalisations for inaction.

Even the one thing she spoke of that might have seemed superficially significant – the new independence convention – was stripped of any sparkle it might have had by being at least two years too late and by the fact that it joins an already overlong list of similar initiatives which failed to strike a match far less set the heather afire.

The truth is understandably painful for people to hear, but hear it they must. The de facto leader of the independence movement in whom we invested so much trust has driven that campaign into a narrow cul-de-sac where she can neither turn around nor proceed. And her speech of Friday made it clear that she is disinclined to reverse out of that dead-end road. This is not to say that she was not and is not worthy of our respect. As a First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon has done Scotland proud. Nor is it a call for her to be replaced, as has been the knee-jerk reaction from all too many people. There is no appetite in the party for removing her. And we can well do without the distraction of a leadership contest. Especially as that contest might not be as ‘civilised’ as previous contests for elevated positions in the SNP. And because there is no guarantee that a distracting and quite possibly damaging leadership battle would result in a change to the Scottish Government’s current fatally flawed approach. There is no sign of any high-profile questioning of the position taken by Nicola Sturgeon. Although I may be due Angus MacNeil an apology for saying this.

That the First Minister has made an error of judgement is now beyond dispute, although this will not stop some disputing it even though doing so requires that they turn a blind eye to the fatal flaws in the approach she has adopted – and clings to. I have previously set out my concerns about Nicola Sturgeon’s total and stubborn commitment to the Section 30 process. Concerns which have come to be shared by a number of people but which have never, to my knowledge, been addressed. The fatal flaws in Nicola Sturgeon’s ‘strategy’ derive almost entirely from this commitment and the refusal to consider any other perspective or course of action.

As an aside before I list the three fatal flaws which I maintain characterise the First Minister’s current approach to the constitutional issue, I want to say that one of the most disappointing and distressing aspects of her ‘next steps’ speech was the fact that she seemed to be totally oblivious to how that speech might be received by many people across the Yes movement. She just didn’t appear to appreciate that what she was saying – and not saying – would provoke a strong reaction. There was a distinct impression of taking support for granted. It would be gratifying to think that a salutary lesson might be learned. But experience tells us that those most in need of a lesson in self-awareness tend to be those least amenable to learning such a lesson. Look at Richard Leonard.

This is doubly distressing given that one of the things I have always admired most about the SNP is (was?) their connectedness to the people. If the party has lost that, then it is seriously diminished.

And so to the reasons Nicola Sturgeon’s approach is doomed to fail.

Firstly, there is the matter of time. Aside from anything else, Nicola Sturgeon’s ‘next steps’ speech was remarkable for its lack of urgency. At most, the threat to Scotland’s democracy was vaguely and tangentially hinted at. And there was nothing said about how this threat might be countered. The consequences of delaying meaningful action to restore Scotland’s independence were, from the evidence of that speech, not worthy of consideration.

This lack of urgency is extremely worrying. We have to assume that the British government’s aim and intention is to lock Scotland into the Union. Brexit provides an ideal opportunity to do this. And Brexit is upon us. Action to rescue Scotland from the rolling juggernaut of British Nationalism has already been delayed far too long. The message from Nicola Sturgeon and other leading figures in the SNP is that they are prepared to delay action indefinitely. The talk of a referendum this year is little more than a flimsy veil thrown over this desire to put off doing anything effective as long as possible.

I’m starting to get angry all over again as I write this. So I’ll move on to the next fatal flaw in Nicola Sturgeon’s approach to the constitutional issue.

One of the central features of this approach is the notion that increasing support for a new referendum and/or for independence will put irresistible pressure on Boris Johnson to relent and grant a Section 30 order. Why is the fallacy of this not face-slappingly obvious? Given that preservation of the Union is an overarching imperative for the British state – one might readily argue that it is an existential imperative – then surely the greater the probability of a referendum leading to the dissolution of the Union the greater the incentive to ensure that no referendum ever takes place. And we know that the British political elite will be totally ruthless and completely unscrupulous in defending the structures of power, privilege and patronage which operate to their benefit.

The only thing that is going to win the kind of support Nicola Sturgeon demands before she acts is the action she refuses to take before she has that level of support. The idea that the British Prime Minister can be moved to grant a Section 30 order by an appeal to conscience or democratic principles isn’t far short of risible. Although I sure as hell am not laughing when I hear such drivel being spouted by our political leaders.

That’s the anger rising again. Time to move on to what is almost certainly the most telling of the fatal flaws in Nicola Sturgeon’s ‘strategy’.

The First Minister’s entire ‘strategy’ is critically dependent on gaining the willing and honest cooperation of the British government in a process which almost certainly would lead to an outcome to which the British government is fervently and implacably opposed.

Need I say more? Can I resist the urge to do so?

When the reality of the Scottish Government’s approach to the constitutional issue is stated as baldly as this it difficult – nay impossible! – to comprehend how any person of normal intelligence could consider an approach with such a ludicrous dependency viable. The question is not whether this fatal flaw is a reality – it is actually central to Nicola Sturgeon’s argument – but why she would embrace such self-evident nonsense and adopt such an obviously doomed approach.

But let’s leave such inquiries for another time. My purpose here is to consider what Nicola Sturgeon’s speech on Friday, and her commitment to a fatally flawed ‘strategy’ implies for Scotland’s cause. Where do we go from here?

What is obvious is that, wherever the Yes movement goes from here, it does so separately from the SNP/Scottish Government. We would be insane to follow Nicola Sturgeon into that dead-end street. This is in total contradiction to what I had hoped for and what I was urging a few months ago. Then, I envisaged Nicola Sturgeon providing the leadership that the Yes movement needs if it is to become a campaign – or give birth to a tightly focused and strongly disciplined campaigning organisation rather than a loose association of diverse groups all doing their own thing. I hoped to have the SNP providing the finely-crafted messages that would then be amplified and taken to the people by an army of Yes activists totally on board with the party’s campaign strategy. That’s not going to happen.

Nicola Sturgeon has effectively cut the SNP and the Scottish Government adrift from the grassroots Yes movement. It is my contention that we should simply accept this as it seems futile to kick against it and doing so will only result in acrimony between the party and the movement. What the campaign to restore Scotland’s independence needs is unity of purpose, not uniformity of thinking. So long a the party and the movement share the same goal, we should be able to approach the campaign in different ways without undermining that campaign. If the SNP’s approach to the constitutional issue is as deeply, fatally flawed as is now undeniably the case, then it would be disastrous to our cause if the entire Yes movement were to follow where Nicola Sturgeon leads.

There need be no bitterness or recrimination. A two-pronged campaign may be less than ideal. But as we clearly have no choice in the matter we must focus on making the best we can of the situation. We know the flaws in the SNP’s approach, and this is fortunate because it means we know what we must compensate for.

The precise form of this second prong of the independence campaign has yet to be decided. (Needless to say, I have my own ideas.) And the problem of leadership remains to be resolved. But the Yes movement is nothing if not resourceful. I see no insurmountable issues.

What we must constantly bear in mind, however, is that the SNP is crucial to the realisation of our goal. Without the effective political power of a pro-independence government and Parliament, there is not the remotest possibility of success. People power alone is not enough. That power has to be concentrated behind a government with the power to act for the people. As things stand, that means the SNP. And that situation is not going to change any time soon. So get to grips with it!

The second wing of the independence campaign must always be looking to and working towards the moment when the SNP is obliged to accept the folly and futility of its current approach to the constitutional issue and join with the grassroots movement in the final effort to restore Scotland’s rightful constitutional status.



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27 thoughts on “Scunnered!

  1. “I hoped to have the SNP providing the finely-crafted messages that would then be amplified and taken to the people by an army of Yes activists totally on board with the party’s campaign strategy. ”

    I suspect that this is exactly what the party hierarchy believed too. Like you said:

    “There was a distinct impression of taking support for granted.”

    Liked by 2 people

  2. You are doing a good job of keeping the heid, Peter, at the moment. It is what is needed, but it needs to go further.

    You are right about the 2 prong approach and it is my belief that this is the intent of the SG. We have to do the heavy lifting here outside of the SG. And it is plainly obvious that not enough heavy lifting has been done yet.

    https://www.politicshome.com/news/uk/politics/news/109561/boris-johnson-set-launch-%C2%A35m-anti-independence-ad-blitz-scotland is worth a glance as the UKG are looking to do cinema ads among other things to ‘promote the union’ in Scotland. Like that will be well received.

    And looking at Johnson’s crass and ignorant letter refusing a Section 30 order. Does it not look calculated to inflame? My thought is that the UKG are looking to provoke a referendum sooner rather than later before we really have the numbers – in the hope that they can put the idea of Scottish Independence to bed for the next 50 years, or better still, from their point of view, have us tumble into an almighty catfight, where none of us want to work together again for a generation.

    kEEP THE HEID HAS TO BE THE MESSAGE.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I really don’t think this two-pronged approach was any part of Nicola Sturgeon’s intent. I don’t think she even considered the impact of her speech on the Yes movement. She genuinely expects us to tag along with her.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. I think the problem is that the moment NS or the SG declare an intent for a 2 prong process, it is effectively the same old 1 prong

        Liked by 1 person

  3. If the Tories were trying to get an early referendum. Why wouldn’t they just get any a section 30. I don’t get your logic above.

    Like

    1. First of all they have to get us mad at each other, so that they can portray us as a rabble and Independence as a descent into chaos. Remember that the former style of lie, such as EU membership and the ‘Vow’ are no longer credible, but if they can turn us into something unattractive to the average uncommitted voter, then we are doing the job for the British State and they will have no need to lie, we will have gifted them some unpleasant truths about ourselves. At that point, we would be guaranteed a Section 30 and the people who had lost the heid would be congratulating themselves that they had got us the very Indyref we would be intended to lose.

      Somehow, we have to keep ourselves together, accepting the limitations of polling support for Indy and changing our approach as support increases, all the time staying together. Sturgeon was right to announce the response to brexit as an Indyref in 2017 from Bute House as FM. She was right to give the current announcement at an SNP event as Party Leader.

      Peter is right, this needs a 2 prong approach, but I am not sure he is all the way there yet. We need to do this from the ground floor and turn the current 51% into an unassailable majority, without the evident leadership of the SG. They do the Day Job and we put in the Night Shift and we trust them do do the things that can be done with the results that we deliver.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. “There need be no bitterness or recrimination.” I confess, Peter, that I struggle with bitterness and recrimination. I am so angry at the subservience of the Scottish Government to Westminster. It looks to me is if they really do not believe that the People of Scotland are Sovereign in Scotland.

    I do think, however, given the reality of the mindset and policy of the SG, you are right about a two pronged approach. I don’t think we have much time before the English Government of the UK acts to lock Scotland into Greater England.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. See Craig Murray. While he is as fed up as any he sees hope in the convention of all elected representatives – a la French Revolution. Something he proposed a couple of years ago.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Indeed it is late but it could break the stranglehold of WM. I have always believed Indy is a matter for those elected.

        Like

      2. Surely the FM is treading a careful path.
        That fool Boris would not hesitate in sending riot police or even troops into Scotland.
        So what then for indy.

        Like

    1. Too late and toothless. I think Craig Murray’s idea is a bit more substantial than a constitutional convention. I believe it also involves the withdrawal of MPs from Westminster in a move similar to Sinn Fein’s abstentionist strategy.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Go and sign the new Scottish Digital Covenant. In 1951, The Scottish Covenant Association had collected 2.5 million signatures of sovereign Scots, calling for greater devolution. We can recreate this effort using blockchain technologies to verify the signatories. The tech is there, so go and use it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Why? The UK government ignored the original petition. The UK has not adopted the Swiss constitution so there has been no change to the status of a petition.

      Like

  7. Like you Peter i am still raging, but i will still support the SNP politically. we have no choice. I am also with you on the 2 pronged attack , but as you pointed out we need a leader and the leader needs to be someone we can trust and rally round.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Nicola is waiting for the court case and result from it before taking Boris down that route.

    Like

  9. Thanks for these thoughts which echo my own. It has been clear to me for some time that the leader of the independence campaign and the FM cannot be the same person as they are different functions and under devolution the one constricts the other. Under devolution the office of FM is essentially a management role with limited scope for national leadership. The FM has to be the FM for the 55% as well as the 45% or they are abusing their office and we risk a Puigemont situation.

    The leader of the independence campaign ought really to be the same person who is the leader of the party, but doesn’t need to be. The party in government is not the same thing as the party as a campaign.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Sorry we were late starting on Saturday Peter and missed your speech. I, unfortunately can’t control myself as well as you and had to shut down my twitter and Facebook so as not to cause any more division than the First Minister did with her ill fated statement. It does in hindsight help me understand why Boris hides in a fridge. It would have been a lot better for the whole movement if the First Minister had followed his example and missed it altogether.

    Like

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