What would YOU do?

What would you do? What’s your alternative, smartarse? You’re very good at criticising, but where are your positive suggestions?

I am asked questions like this all the time. Variations on the demand to know what I would do instead have become the standard response when I point out things that the Scottish Government and/or the First Minister are doing that I maintain are mistaken or misguided. There’s been quite a lot of that lately. Much to my dismay. And that’s something people would do well to bear in mind. I get no pleasure from criticising the administration and condemning Nicola Sturgeon. More the latter than the former because the administration, generally speaking does a good job. It is in the matter of the constitutional issue that I take exception and that is all on Nicola Sturgeon’s shoulders. Although Mike Russell may take a bit of flak as well.

I would much rather go back to my previous practice of circumspection. Not that I wouldn’t criticise the party, but I would only do so if the criticism was weighed against the interests of Scotland’s cause and tipped the scales. Even then, I was cautious about the tone of the criticism. I still am. I’m appropriately obliged to the hundreds of people who have been presumptuous enough to point out to me how essential the SNP is to the cause of restoring Scotland’s independence. I can only assume that these people comment in ignorance of my lever analogy. One really shouldn’t condemn from a position of ignorance.

I have to assume, also, that the interlocutors in question are afflicted with some form of reading difficulty. Because in all of the material I have written berating and bemoaning Nicola Sturgeon’s ‘strategy’ on the constitutional issue I have never once suggested or implied or hinted or left room for the honest impression that I didn’t acknowledge the vital role of the SNP in the independence project. Nor have I ever done anything other than encourage people to vote SNP at every opportunity. So much so that I was only today referred to by someone obviously unacquainted with my more recent output as an “SNP arse-licker”.

What would you do? The question, however it is framed and regardless of the accompanying epithets (mostly woefully unimaginative), irks me. It irks me somewhat for the false allegations, as described above, stated or implied. It irks me more because the question is commonly deployed, not as a genuine enquiry, but to divert from whatever criticism I’m making. Let’s not talk about what’s actually being done by the people with power. Let’s talk about what someone who has no power might hypothetically do if he did. It’s a feeble and rather cowardly way to avoid having to admit that they cannot address the criticism. They have nothing meaningful to say about whatever defect or deficiency it is that I’ve identified. They have no way to refute the arguments. So they try to change the subject. Pathetic!

It irks me when people imply, or explicitly state, that criticism cannot be valid if no alternative is offered. I’ll let that one lie here and steam gently taking care not to step in it as I move on.

But the question irks me most because it is very unfair. It asks me what I would do in a situation that is not of my making. A situation which, had I the power that is being hypothetically attributed to me, would not have arisen. It demand’s to know how I would clean up somebody else’s mess.

If people were to ask what would I have done, that would be a fair question. And no more hypothetical than the one I’m being asked. And it might even be a sensible, useful question. There’s a chance that figuring out how a situation might have been averted might reveal clues as to how it may be rectified. At the very least, such revision could provide insights relating to the actual situation and a better understanding of the problems. At the very, very least there may be valuable lessons for the future nested like pearls in the oyster of rewritten history.

I am now going to assume that somebody has asked the sensible question. I shall pretend someone has had the wits to ask what I would have done. All the while mourning the fact that I have to pretend.

What would I have done differently? How would I have avoided the present situation? Anyone with the sense to ask that question would almost certainly wish to point out that a future event or development can only be averted if it can be foreseen. You can’t avoid it if you don’t see it coming. I maintain that it was perfectly possible to predict how things would pan out given various educated assumptions.

The story of what I would have done begins on Friday 19 September 2014. Or maybe a day or two after that. But no later. I really did start thinking about a second referendum almost immediately after the unfortunate (euphemism!) outcome of the first one. I set myself the immediate task of working out the earliest possible date for this new referendum after which I undertook a review of the past campaign to see what lessons might be learned. I won’t go into the process by which I arrived at a date; I’ve told the story enough times to be bored with it and it’s not that important. What matters is that it wasn’t just picked at random. It was a rough calculation, not a complete guess. The date was Thursday 20 September 2018.

This was the earliest date for a new referendum. When the EU referendum came along, I had to take another look. By one of those weird coincidences that give superstitious folk goosebumps. it turned out that taking the EU referendum into consideration Thursday 20 September 2018 went from being the earliest date for a new referendum to the latest. This was due to the constitutional implications of what would come to be called Brexit.

Of course, I couldn’t know the result of the EU referendum beforehand. But it wasn’t difficult to figure out what the consequences would be whichever way it went. The September 2018 date was intended to allow Scotland to escape Brexit. Or, more precisely, the constitutional implications of the UK leaving the EU. Bear in mind that my calculations didn’t take account of the extensions. Cut me a bit of slack here! By the time we were at the Article 50 extension stage it was already too late for a September 2018 vote.

The preparation for that vote should have started in 2015. That left plenty of time before for a thorough review of the 2014 campaign, and sufficient time after for the process leading up to a vote – principally, the passing of legislation.

I would have fired the starting gun immediately after the 2015 UK general election on 7 May. I would have announced the date and set out a timetable for the preparations. I may be accused of exploiting 20/20 hindsight concerning the result of that election. But while I can’t and wouldn’t claim to have foreseen the scale of the SNP landslide, I was confident that, riding the wave of enthusiasm that followed the 2014 referendum, the SNP would do well. Certainly well enough to provide an excellent backdrop against which to announce the new referendum.

People will say that ‘we didn’t have the numbers’ at that time. But the surest way to get the numbers is to give people something to latch onto. The surest way to not get the numbers is not to do anything at all. People aren’t inspired by inaction.

The main problem with launching so far in advance would have been maintaining momentum. But we had the Scottish Parliament elections in 2016 as well as a number of other electoral events. And, with a big group of MPs at Westminster it would not have been difficult to engineer enough ‘activity’ to keep the issue live and lively. The 2016 Holyrood elections would not have been as fraught as they were because the spirit which existed post-2014 would not have been allowed to subside and dissipate in the way that it did. And there would have been the passage of various bits of legislation in the Scottish Parliament to keep the media interested. The Referendums Act just enacted last December was, like so much the Scottish Government has done, at least two and as much as four years late. I would not have allowed that time to be squandered.

Already it can be seen how things would have been totally different if we’d gone for #Referendum2018. And I am firmly persuaded we could have won. The conditions would have been better because we would have acted to make them better rather than sitting around waiting for them to magically improve. The campaign itself would have been better because, having properly learned the lessons of the 2014 campaign I would have ensured that the 2018 campaign was different in a number of significant ways. I’m not sure if details of this are relevant here. I’ll gladly answer questions about what I would have done in terms of the actual campaign. And, indeed, what I would still do were there to be a campaign in the future.

Instead of seizing the moment, we gave the British government time to recover from every one of its serial fuck-ups. Now, we’re up against an administration with a substantial majority, led by a man who, for all his buffoon image, has so far got everything he wanted and, most important, a British government with the ideological mindset to fully exploit the power afforded it by the Union without pause or scruple or any consideration of principle.

Most of the foregoing is stuff that I was happy to talk about in the years between 2014 and 2018. And talk about it I did – both online and at countless gatherings. And people were coming round to the idea of a 2018 referendum. But it was not to be. There were some things that I declined to talk about back then, however. Things that I could foresee, but which I foreswore to speak of. For reasons which should become obvious.

Even in 2015 I could see that the good ship SNP was going to hit the odd rock within a very few years. Not that I had specific predictions. Just that history tells us parties which are in government for a decade start to encounter problems. I think we can safely say I was correct. And you can see why it would have been inappropriate to say anything about this at the time. Just as in was both inappropriate and inadvisable to mention the fact that cracks would eventually start to show in the Yes movement. Fortunately, the Yes movement has proven to be remarkably resilient and robust. Without doubt, it is the best thing to come out of the 2014 campaign. But how long can people keep marching as they see their destination receding?

Similarly, it was possible five years ago to see which way the British government was headed. I don’t claim to have predicted that Boris Johnson would become Prime Minister. I wish I’d had a tenner on that in 2014! But it was entirely possible to read the trends. The British political system was bound to excrete a Boris Johnson eventually.

Brexit hadn’t even become a word and it was obvious it would be a total shambles. Without ten years of planning and preparation, it couldn’t be anything else. What was important to recognise was how this would influence the government in London and the electorate in England-as-Britain. It might have been assumed that the government would be weakened by making such a hash of things. But the way the British system works is that governments which fuck up deal with the problems they’ve created for themselves by making themselves stronger. And in the process they become more populist. So the anticipated backlash from the voters never materialises.

Five years ago it was possible to see where British ‘demockracy’ was headed. I would have avoided being dragged down with the rest of the UK. I would have been campaigning while these fuck-ups were happening or fresh in people’s minds. I wouldn’t have been asking the voters to think back and try to get angry again about something the British media barely reported at the time and have played down ever since. I wouldn’t have adopted a strategy of allowing the worst to happen in the hope of political advantage.

The one thing I came nowhere near to predicting is Nicola Sturgeon’s handling of the constitutional issue. Quite honestly, if you were to ask me what I would do now, I’d be stumped. I’m not even sure this can be fixed. In five years we’ve gone from the certainty that independence would be restored to clinging to the last vestiges of confidence that we will even have a referendum before the British Nationalist juggernaut crushes the final bit of hope.

It could all have been so different.



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26 thoughts on “What would YOU do?

  1. I too hear this phrase and rightly ignore it because it’s a distraction. So many are angry now because they were fooled into thinking so by sections of the independence movement with an ear awfy close to the high heid yins. Or so it looked!

    So folk belittled those, such as yourself who were not saying “wait and see” and “there’s a secret plan…”, but questioning the direction of travel.

    There is no doubt that the party has no strategists and that to me is an utter dereliction too. I’ve also noticed that some MSP’s are avoiding meeting with members who were refusing to be fobbed off with any more platitudes.

    Despite all my despair if folk could use that anger to organise and push for change by the FM we might get somewhere. Not sure we have the wit for that yet!!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Hi Peter, I also thought that our best chance was after the EU result and could not understand why the SNP campaign machine did not ramp up. To aim to leave the UK whilst still in the EU. Surely the essential objective? We could even claim to be the successor state and the right to the UK’s seat at the UN security council. Trident was after all in our territory. A wild card obviously, but still worth ramping up to torment them!

    More realistically, I thought that really persuasive arguments could be made for the vast economic opportunities that could fall into our lap after England’s mass f***-up. The businesses that would relocate here if we were still in the EU and England wasn’t. The inward investment that would be attracted to a stable English speaking democracy with a highly educated work force, that had been part of the UK, and had some of the best universities in the world. Edinburgh could become a larger financial centre inheriting London’s passporting rights. From an international political perspective, we could inherit a good deal of the UK’s former influence and utility and de facto be ‘rUK’ if not de jure. That would be thinking big of course, but the SNP thought small. They thought as a regional backwater of the UK, not as a new nation about to enter the international arena.

    OK, we did not have the numbers back then but mounting a vigorous campaign showing just what opportunity England’s insanity offered us, and what was at stake here if we didn’t, both in terms of losses as well as gains – could possibly just have swung it.

    But how do you counter the fact that no Section 30 could have been obtainable? This means that the Scottish Government would have had to have found some other means, which would have been deemed ‘illegal’ in Westminster’s terms, and which illegality would have alienated the very people we needed to have won over, including the international community we wished to join.

    It’s tragic, utterly tragic, but my judgement is that despite the obvious merits of leaving the UK before we were forcibly dragged out of the EU, that there was no legal way of doing so, and an illegal attempt would probably not have gained sufficient traction with the 55% to have won the day, even if there had been a stunning campaign. There was a slim chance and in my view that was worth taking because I could see what would lie ahead if we didn’t.

    But victory often comes after defeat. I would still have advocated making that attempt, for two reasons. Firstly, because without the attempt, we were screwed anyway; I foresaw our current situation, that the Tories would emerge triumphant and would bind us even more tightly than before to keep us in our place. So what was really to lose? Secondly, despite such an attempt likely failing, it would have been cathartic and energised us further and brought more people to see clearly the stakes and we would be in a far stronger fighting position to oppose what has come than we are now.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. How did this stuff about people being alienated by a referendum labelled ‘illegal’ by the Brits come to have the status of established truth? Something like that, correctly presented, is as likely to inspire as alienate. It’s all about the presentation. The reframing. Give me ten minutes and I’ll write the speech for the FM.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. If you thought “Once in a generation” was the shite soundbite that would not die. YES will rue the day NS inferred a referendum was illegal.

        Not only has she given Westminster a cudgel to beat YES with 24/7 – she has undermined every future YES leader with that one turn of phrase.

        There will be a day when ‘illegal referendum’ will be played on loop in every Unionist press outlet and repeated by every Unionist politician until you are physically nauseated…and then they will repeat it again.

        Liked by 3 people

  3. It’s an old tactic used to miss the point. Particularly inappropriate for you given you have made it quite clear what you would do and would have done. Also you have often argued for a referendum with the question about dissolving the Union. Which seems quite to obviate the question.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. All true. On social media, in particular, people tend to make big assumptions on the basis of little information. We all do. Me included. But, being aware, I mostly manage to avoid letting it get as far as the page. I may follow up this piece with an article on how I’ve long envisaged the campaign for a new referendum. If I can remember. It’s five years since I first started thinking about it. We’ll see.

      Liked by 3 people

  4. This is a bit of a cop out. “I wouldn’t have driven into the mud and got ourselves stuck” or maybe Churchill should have said in 1940 “I wouldn’t have followed a strategy of appeasement”. So stuff it. Counterfactuals are a mind game, because no one can know how it would have turned out or what unexpected events might have derailed the proposed strategy.

    Personally, I have never thought a referendum was a satisfactory way of resolving complex issue, and so it has proved with both Indy1 and Brexit hi-jacked by lies, deceit and obfuscation – and no doubt dirty tricks too, as yet unknown.

    I think elected members should make the decision. So, as Craig Murray (and others over the past few years have suggested), withdraw MP’s from Westminster, convene in Edinburgh with all other elected members – MSP’s, MEP’s (that were) & Council Leaders – and declare independence. He has explained how this strategy would gain international recognition. We may need a new FM to achieve this.

    As he argued, “There will never again be a route to Scottish Independence deemed legal by Westminster.” If he’s right, and I think he is, then there is only one viable route, and permission to secede is not required from WM – this has already been established in the case of Kosovo, with the UK Government arguing strongly in support of the principle that a seceding State did not need the agreement of the State being seceded from.

    The facts have changed. What would you do, Sir?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have been saying that very thing for ages, and posted comments saying that is what we should do.
      Get the MPs out of London, and bring both MPs and MSPs together,and declare the Treaty of Union to be annulled!
      (We could always use Parliament House for that one. Stuff all the lawyers down the street at Holyrood, and we take back our ancient Parliament.)
      Okay that bit about Parliament House, while a nice thought, is being a bit lighthearted, tho a nice thought.
      But we really must take our MPs out of London..
      As we saw on Tuesday night with the Scottish MPs being blocked from an NHS vote that distributes funds across all of UK, because they deemed it exclusively English only, even tho, it wasn’t.
      There is no point in continuing with this charade.
      And for as long as SNP go along with it, they give Westminster a legitimacy over Scotland, it does not actually have.
      The present SNP way of trying to get Independence is just not working. It is never going to work.
      Unfortunately, at this moment in time, they don’t want to acknowledge that, and don’t want to do anything differently.

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      1. There’s no such thing as magic. Wishful thinking doesn’t often get the job done. There are many courses of action which would have been a good idea if they’d been done two or three or four years ago. There are many ideas that would be great if we had a different First Minister and Government. But here in the real world time is a constraint. As is the reality that we have a First Minister who simply will not initiate many of the actions that might be suggested. And nobody else can. And there is no realistic prospect of changing the First Minister even if that (a) would not be a damaging distraction and (b) would not risk leaving us exactly where we are now with a similarly minded FM.

        This is why I avoided glib suggestions and admitted that I find the problem intractable. It’s because I ask questions about any suggested course of action. Questions such as what chance is there of the FM actually doing this. What chance is there, realistically, of Nicola Sturgeon renouncing her commitment to the Section 30 process? Vanishingly small, I’d estimate. So what’s the practical use of suggesting something that she simply will not do?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I hope you don’t mind a small comment here, Mr Bell? Mr Keane: in every way, the Union between Scotland and England has been concluded legally, and that includes devolution. However, the working around the Treaty in 1707, show that it was lauded before ambassadors from all over Europe, and further afield. That is highly indicative of an international agreement. Again, the Treaty uses the term, Article, which is also indicative of its international nature. Both countries, at the point of acceding to the Treaty (and before the establishment of the new British parliament – and that is crucial) were independent, sovereign states. All treaties between states of this nature are international. Scotland, at that point, and never has there been legislation annulling that right or for bestowing it upon England alone, subsequently, which would in itself breach the Treaty, was legally entitled to translate international law into domestic legislation (Treaty to Act). This right, to my knowledge has never been lost in terms of legislation. Acquiescence has been our bane. We have always, since 1707, acquiesced, through the Unionists, the British parties, and essentially they are English, in our own oppression.

        I agree with Broadbield that referendums on constitution matters in the UK are clumsy and divisive, and, ultimately counterproductive. Also, because we cannot avoid the Treaty in any future negotiations after independence, it would seem to me to have been crucial that we explored this route as the most viable, killing several birds with one stone. Time is now of the essence, but placing a case in the ICJ within the next few months, would have the effect of suspending our Brexit, although not England’s, necessarily, so long as they did not use our assets and resources to make negotiations on our behalf; it would, if successful, guarantee international recognition; and, above all, it would tell England-as-the-UK that we were very serious. This would either bring Johnson to the negotiating table or he would take measures to oppress even more by sending in troops, possibly, but, either way, he loses. It is drastic, of course, and should have been done as soon after 2007 as possible, but we are all wise in hindsight. I think I understand why the FM has not taken this route to date, and I understand why a referendum in 2014 was, perhaps, worth the risk, but we lost. Another should never have been contemplated, but a case made, behind closed doors, for resiling the Treaty, but I suspect that the British State already has its agents throughout the SNP, whispering, like Iago, in receptive ears. Trying to dissolve it by taking enough seats in a GE would still have left us open to a Catalan-style move by the UKG.

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      3. Your comments are always welcome, Lorna. Even if I don’t have time to read it at the moment. If I don’t get the housework done I’m in for a hammering when SHE comes home.

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    2. You might have had a point except I’m not saying “So stuff it!”. I’d hardly be maintaining this site and going out speaking and attending meetings if I’d given up. In the article, I explain why I’m making the point that I wouldn’t be in this situation in the first place.

      The reason I am at a loss for a solution is that I take account of all the circumstances. I’m not short of ideas. But ideas have to be tested in context. And part of that context is the First Minister’s commitment to the Section 30 process. Another is the Scottish Parliament’s commitment to a referendum. Anyone can toss out suggestions. But at some point those suggestions have to be matched with practicalities.

      A referendum is a perfectly satisfactory and at times necessary means of establishing the democratic will of the people. It is a tool and, like any other tool, it must be the right tool for the job and it must be used properly. This from an article I wrote back in September 2018.

      “Referendums (I only call them ‘referenda’ when wearing a toga.) can be useful tools. Used well, they can enhance the democratic process. But, done badly, they are worse than useless. To be effective, a referendum must offer clear options – preferably no more than two. Ideally, the choice should be binary – yes or no – with the meaning of each being totally explicit. If the proposition can’t be put, without ambiguity, in twenty words or less, then it is probably too complicated for a referendum. If explanatory notes are required, then it is almost certainly too complicated for a referendum. If those explanatory notes run to more than a single side of A4, then trying to decide the matter by means of a referendum is just plain daft.

      If a referendum is to be decisive it is essential that both options are spelt out in a manner which leaves no room for dispute. If one or more of the options is undefined then the referendum can produce a result, but never a decision. And, for the purposes of referendums, ‘poorly defined’ is defined as ‘undefined’.

      Scotland’s 2014 independence referendum is illustrative. While it was perfectly clear that a Yes vote meant independence by way of a reasonably well-described process, there was no indication whatever of what a No vote meant. Initially, it was said to be a vote for the status quo. As the referendum campaign progressed, however, all manner of stuff was hooked onto the No vote – up to and including ‘The Vow’.

      In practice, a No vote meant whatever the British establishment wanted it to mean. This turned out to be pretty much the opposite of everything that had been promised. And something very, very far from the status quo that was originally offered. Thus, the referendum produced an indisputable result, but no decision. Because the No option was effectively undefined, a No vote in the referendum could not settle the issue. There was nothing to settle on.”

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m not usually one to bother reading CommonSpace or Robin’s opinions, but this is interesting:

    https://www.commonspace.scot/articles/15078/robin-mcalpine-independence-isnt-about-nicola-sturgeon-can-we-finally-move

    Yes, can we finally move on please, we don’t need a deity at the head of the Yes movement – I say we are better off not having any one leader – everyone should believe in themselves, work with others when your purpose or opinion aligns, ignore them if they don’t. There is one absolute purpose, but there are any and many ways of going about it, keep flexible. Don’t become stagnant. Even the tiniest small step each of us takes to move towards independence counts.

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    1. I can’t speak for anyone else but I sure as hell don’t put Nicola Sturgeon on a pedestal as you describe. I admire and respect her. And I recognise the importance of a figurehead. You insult a lot of very level-headed people when you imply that they are under the sway of some personality cult.

      This stuff about not having any leaders is just the kind of new-age claptrap that infected the 2014 Yes campaign to its severe detriment. You can’t wish a different society into existence. Even less realistic is top simply disregard the bothersome process of effecting change and pretend that we already live in a world where government by direct democracy has been perfected.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. ‘New age claptrap’? Oh well.

        I wasn’t actually referring specifically to Nicola Sturgeon there, but between posting the link to the article that does, and then my reference to a deity I can see how that connection is made so I apologise, and I certainly wasn’t implying you were in any ‘deifying’ group, so please don’t take it as such.

        You mentioned before, indeed have criticised others for being stuck in a Westminster mindset and thinking, and I’m saying that other political structures are available, and other social structures that might fit better are available – but I misunderstood your other articles.

        Let’s face it, none of you high profile bloggers can even work together, let alone all the other groups, and everyone has put all their eggs in one basket with Nicola Sturgeon / SNP and expecting things that no one can influence. I despair at the number of times I see comments starting ‘the SNP must…’. No, they don’t need to do anything, they’ll do what they want. If you think I’m wrong to suggest that our inability to get along is something we can work with, fair enough. Sniping at each other, criticising, aggressively posturing, disagreeing, having no vision or plan and being unaccepting of any other plans (and that’s not just high profile bloggers), it’s lead to complacency. If you think we can beat the juggernaut of British nationalism with the current set up, fair enough too, but I disagree, strongly.

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  6. Stumped eh?

    When NS declared in 2017 that she would be seeking another Indyref to give Scotland a chance to avoid brexit, she did absolutely the right thing.And it was an opportunity which Scots should have taken with both hands, in which case your 2018 date for a referendum would have been good.

    But Scots in the 2017 election did not react with enthusiasm and more than a few wanted to see how brexit would work out. This is not your failing, Peter, nor is it NS’s either. It is a failing of the Scottish People to act in their best interests and I believe that a 2018 referendum would have been a disaster which would have left few over the age of 40 to see another Indyref.

    Where we are now, the prospect of another Indyref is still very much alive.

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    1. If you want me to believe that “the prospect of another Indyref is still very much alive” then you will have to describe the process by which we get to that referendum. If you know of such a process then you really shouldn’t be keeping it to yourself.

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  7. Well, this is more like the old Peter Bell with whom I had a great deal in common. It wasn’t so much wise in hindsight either, because we (among others) were saying it all through that time. People do indeed need something concrete onto which to latch before they will engage. But it wasn’t only the SNP leadership urging extreme caution, the likes of Robin McAlpine and other such lefties were promoting the same slow-mo track. They apparently preferred to wait until a whole genertion were culled by the Grim Reaper before making another attempt, presumably hoping that an infusion of young voters would preferentially swing to them after a decade or so of ever-more frustrating SNP mitigation.

    Being ready and willing to strike at the moment of optimum effectiveness doesn’t depend on years of focus groupthink, but rather comes down to having sufficient belief in your own case and in the ability of the general population to comprehend it and rally behind it.

    Fair enough, Brexit in the event proved a mixed blessing for independence that no-one really did see coming. However, what can generally be anticipated are “events, dear boy, events”. The longer you wait to act, the greater the exposure to the probability that something extraneous will come along to derail your oh-so-carefully-laid plans. “The perfect is the enemy of the good”, as the wise old saying goes.

    Still, we are where we are now, and what’s sure is that we must press ahead resolutely now. Like the shark, in this game it’s keep moving or die.

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  8. I have frequently come across the “Ah, but what would you do?” accusing question in the follow up to my btl comments on Wings, which has on occasion been quite perplexing, given that I’d just written a lengthy comment outlining precisely what I would do.

    I very much appreciate the sentiments expressed at the beginning, whereby you derive no pleasure whatsoever in criticising the SNP. I feel exactly the same myself, despite the fact I have and frequently do express some withering criticism of the SNP strategy.

    What type of “armchair general” am I? The type to wring his hands in impotence as countless troops are poured into the WW1 meat grinder, or the kind to protest at the futile carnage of it all and strive to find a different solution? Yes, perhaps my strategy might run contrary to red, white and blue narrative of the “patriots” in the army recruitment stations, but if there is a route to victory without the profligate carnage, then how in God’s name can that be construed as disloyalty to find it?

    The latest ‘flavour’ to my own narrative, telling people what I would do, begins by pointing out there are three Constitutions currently at play here; the National Sovereign Constitution of Auld Scotland, the contrived and unwritten Constitution of the Westminster Government, which isn’t sovereign but operates under a convention whereby it simply assumes it is, and there is the third constitution, the constitution of Holyrood, a Devolved administration described and given its constitution by the Scotland Act and Sewel Convention.

    To date, the SNP has insisted the only route to lawful Independence is to “somehow” force through a Scottish referendum using Holyrood’s very limited powers defined by the Scotland Act, or in other words, an instrument of colonial legislation which endeavours to legitimise Westminster’s supremacy over Scotland. The often quoted Section 30 malarkey is Section 30 of the 1998 Scotland Act – the written constitution of a devolved assembly.

    I understand the simple arithmetic that Holyrood abides by the rules set out in the Scotland Act, because Holyrood “is” a devolved assembly, but the SNP in my humble opinion has made a massive strategic blunder in allowing itself to become muddled and confused between the Sovereign Constitution of the Scottish Nation, and the much lesser non-sovereign constitution of Holyrood which was designed as a legislature to sit beneath the Palace of Westminster.

    Small wonder indeed that the Scottish Government finds itself frustrated by the devolved protocols of a lower house. That’s the whole point behind Westminster setting out such protocols. But what a massive disappointment the SNP leadership is proving to be, apparently have neither the courage, conviction, or constitutional acumen to step outside the straight-jacket of colonial legislation like the Scotland Act, and instead stand up for Scotland’s interests citing no lesser protocol than Scotland’s Constitutional Sovereignty directly.

    If the SNP allows itself to be ruled by the Scotland Act, not Scotland’s Sovereign Constitution, then it isn’t Scotland’s Government to command, but Westminster’s, and it has no business waving about the Claim of Right like a pistol without any bullets in it.

    I think this deluded frame of mind of the SNP has been spectacularly damaging for Scotland’s interests, not just over the catastrophic failure and unconstitutional subjugation over Brexit, but for damage yet to come, giving the fascists in London every possible indication that Scotland’s Government doesn’t grasp the essential concept of it’s own sovereign Constitution and thus Scotland is denuded of it’s sovereign defences, and is wide open for Unchecked exploitation by Westminster.

    Thanks to the SNP’s grovelling acquiescence of the Scotland Act, Sewel Convention, and UK Supreme Court, Scotland’s democracy and Constitution is now under sustained colonial attack which is quite determined to permanently dismantle our Nation. Instead of defending our interests through judicious use of our sovereign constitution, the SNP is handing Scotland over on a plate.

    Scotland MUST now seek formal affirmation of its sovereign constitution via International Recognition, to restore the recognition that Scotland’s people are sovereign. I see no other solution for Scotland except a UN Constitutional Courtroom and parallel submission to the Council of Europe.

    We are doing last, the very thing we ought to have done first… except we are not yet doing it!

    The ONLY Constitution the Scottish Government should recognise is the ascendancy of Scotland’s Sovereignty, and it should demand that international recognition is restored. Play by Scotland’s Constitutional rule book, not Westminster’s.

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    1. An excellent statement of the problem. The first step to finding a solution. And the conclusion? Just as it always has been. There is no (satisfactory) path to independence that will be recognised as ‘legal’ under either the British or the Holyrood constitutions – such as they are. No matter how much we talk around and under and over and through the issue, we always arrive at the point where this fact has to be confronted – Scotland’s independence cannot be restored without doing something that somebody is going to claim is ‘illegal’.

      If we had a First Minister who recognised the realpolitik then we wouldn’t have a problem. If we had a First Minister who accepted the premise that constitutional law is what it is until it isn’t, then a solution would immediately present itself. But we don’t. and we have to deal with that reality.

      Either the First Minister has to think the unthinkable, or we do. And if it is to be us – the Yes movement – then we need a way of turning our unthinkable thoughts into effective action.

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      1. Nothing that we do in domestic law will be seen to be legal, but international legality is a different thing altogether. We cannot hope to nullify/resile legislation that is international in nature by means of domestic legislation. I would be happy to have an advisory indyref, but I believe we would lose it again or, if we did win it, it would not be recognized. There is an excellent piece in Bella today from an English person who tells the story of Brexit as it was, complete with links to powerful academic research, and it is a sobering thought for Scots who are determined not to admit to what actually happened in 2014 for fear of alienating people whom we should, perhaps, be less fearful of alienating. If you have a voting group that votes 75%, almost, against independence, you really, really need to ask why and look closely at how you can circumvent that group’s influence in the future, particularly because that group personifies the big neighbour next door. I do not mean taking away anyone’s vote, I do not mean excluding anyone, I do not mean making people feel unwelcome, I do not mean blaming them out of hand for what, I believe, was a silly knee-jerk reaction that some might have come to regret.

        What I mean is that the rUK voting group in Scotland voted by a much larger percentage against independence per capita than did even Unionist Scots or any other demographic. Until we come to terms with the truth of that, nothing we try to do will be of any use at all unless they, as an avalanche, turn to YES. A trickle will not do. It has to be an avalanche to win a second indyref and to keep England off our back, because we must give Westminster no opportunity to accuse us of treating rUK voters differently. I know that will annoy some and I will be accused of anti Englishness, but what good does refusing to acknowledge the truth do except make life impossible for those of us who want independence. Resorting to international law avoids accusations of racism or maltreatment on the domestic scale. If we want independence, we must give up trying to ‘persuade’ and rely on one demographic to recognize the imbalance of the UK (they didn’t in 2014, after all, and no poll shows a massive shift in perceptions). If the Unionists cannot keep Scotland without the help of rUK NO voters – and they can’t – then we must find another legal, peaceful and democratic route, and I can see no other than the international one, however, difficult or provocative to England-as-the-UK. People do tend to fall in with the law when they see it is transparent and justified.

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  9. Well, for me, doing nothing to prevent Brexit was going beyond the point of no return. That’s when this shit got serious. I am lost for words. I didn’t even feel this desolate back in 2014 when we “lost” the referendum.

    But there is a glimmer of hope in the shape of Joanna Cherry.

    She is obviously immensely popular amongst the SNP rank and file, it would seem immensely unpopular with the Woke Brigade which is another plus, but best of all, when Joanna Cherry took Westminster to the ECJ over revoking Article 50, she went through Scots Law and the Court of Session to do it, and won, clipping the wings of the UK Supreme Court in the process. And then she did it again. Boris was compelled to unprorogue Westminster when ordered to by the Court of Session, and this time the Supreme Court was blown out the water.

    I think Nicola Sturgeon has her head up her arse in Constitutional terms, a lost cause I fear, but Joanna Cherry is a much more formidable operator and has twice now taken strength directly from Scotland’s National Constitution, explicitly embracing the sovereignty of the people and the Independent system of Scots Law, and she has twice used it to lay down the law at Westminster. I do not believe that’s random coincidence. Westminster can swat away the SNP like bugs on a windscreen, but not Joanna Cherry and a Scottish Constitution.

    I don’t know for sure, I’ve never spoken to her, nor had any communication replied to, but I hope Joanna Cherry might be Scotland’s own ticking time bomb, and when she strikes, Westminster won’t know what’s hit it. But… with the SNP, there’s always a but, why did we simply roll over and acquiesce to Brexit? Brexit, and democratic parting of the ways between Scotland and the South was a heaven sent opportunity to weaponise Scotland’s Constitutional Sovereignty and break the back of the Union. But nothing… something is disconnected.

    I would dearly love to know whether that supine course of capitulation was a decision Joanna agreed with, or was given instructions from on high.

    The SNP is now a maelstrom of conundrums to me. I don’t know what they stand for, there are office bearers who seem weak, on Brexit Day of all days, Wishart and Swinney are being wined and dined by the shootin’ and fishin’ fraternity, and top secret strategy which cannot be revealed is looking pretty threadbare. I wouldn’t be altogether surprised if Boris gave Wishart, or even Nicola herself a knighthood just for shits and giggles. What a fucking mess.

    Save us Joanna Cherry. Press the button whenever you’re ready.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s possible too that Joanna might have lost a bit of nerve… no disrespect intended, absolutely none, but she’s only human.

      Despite twice taking on the Westminster beast and defeating it, and in her latter case, not only defeating the UK Prime Minister but forcing the UK Parliament to formally codify aspects of it’s unwritten constitution, a ‘thing’ I’m not sure has been done in 300 years, but yet, for all the stratospheric recognition that properly deserves, Joanna Cherry’s central part in it has been understated to say the least.

      If William Wallace was declared Guardian of Scotland for his prowess defending Scotland’s interests on the battlefield, then perhaps Joanna Cherry deserves some comparable recognition for her prowess in defending Scotland’s interests in the courtroom.

      I sincerely hope she’s not yet done, because our sovereign Constitution needs rescued.

      Liked by 1 person

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