Misidentifying the problem

The problem is not that “the First Minister ‘never had a Plan B’ for indyref2” but that she never had a viable Plan A. But if the obviously infeasible and now dismally failed Section 30 process was her Plan A and Kenny MacAskill wants her to try for a “consultative referendum” followed by an unspecified “Plan B” should this too fail, then surely the “consultative referendum” would then be her “Plan B” making Kenny’s unspecified “Plan B” the First Minister’s “Plan C”. I think we all know where it goes after that. How soon, I wonder, before they exhaust the alphabet. Surely not before we run out of patience.

The great mystery… Correction! ONE of the great mysteries is why the SNP is in this position in the first place. The party has existed, with the same primary purpose, for more than 80 years. Nobody could reasonably have expected them to plan ahead that far. But the Scottish Parliament was reconvened in 1999. The SNP has been strongly represented at Holyrood since then. The party has been in government for 13 years. We had an independence referendum five years ago. You’d think at some point during all this somebody would have sat down and gamed all credible future scenarios. For the SNP to be lost for a workable plan at this stage is unbelievable and unforgivable.

This lack of a plan is even more inexplicable when one considers how few options there are. The people who put their faith in Nicola Sturgeon having some ‘Great Secret Plan’ that will be unveiled at the dramatically critical moment are putting their faith in magic. For such a plan to exist there would have to be options which nobody else is aware of. Options that only she has been able to figure out. Or she would have to magic these options into existence. The latter is, counter-intuitively, the more likely. A great many people have been looking at Scotland’s predicament, including a great many very clever people. None of them has identified a single mystery option such as would be an essential ingredient of a ‘Great Secret Plan’. There is no ‘Great Secret Plan’!

Distressing as it may be, we better all get used to the fact that what we see is all there is. And what we see is a seriously intractable situation. The kind of situation that isn’t resolved by political nous alone. The kind of political situation that calls for imagination and nerve. We all know how clever Nicola Sturgeon is. But clever won’t cut it in this instance. It doesn’t matter how politically adroit she may be, or how much knowledge of the law she can draw on if she can’t do bold, decisive and assertive. When none of the things you’d be expected to do will work, all that’s left is to do the unexpected. And do it with as much flair and brass neck as you can muster.

Forget Plans B through Z! If Plan A is to abide strictly by the British state’s rules and Plan A won’t work then it’s foolish to suppose that anything else will work that also abides strictly by the same rules. And that includes everything that has so far been suggested by anyone in a position to influence the First Minister; if such a person even exists. It’s not an alphabet’s worth of plans we need it is a single course of action that will drive the independence campaign through the maze that defeats even the smartest of politicians. Because that’s what it was designed to do.

Defiance! Not compliance! We’ve done reasonable. It’s time to do unreasonable. We’ve tried to find a key to unlock the shackles of the Union. It’s time to recognise that there is no key. The key was thrown away 307 years ago. There is no get-out clause in the Union. That’s as it was intended to be. Scotland didn’t join a political union. Scotland was annexed. It is ludicrous to expect that, in the act of annexation, the annexing power would create a provision by which the annexed territory might reverse the annexation. Nicola Sturgeon is relying on a provision that doesn’t exist.

The question is not, how do we get independence. The question is how do we end the annexation. No wonder there isn’t a plan! They don’t even know what they’re planning for! No wonder they have no relevant answers! They’re asking the wrong questions! No wonder they aren’t able to find a solution! They haven’t identified the problem!

The problem is not that the First Minister never had a Plan B. The problem is that she is not planning for the situation that actually exists.

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25 thoughts on “Misidentifying the problem

  1. Plan A: Section 30
    1) Seek a consensual route to a referendum for a specified period
    2) Meanwhile take every media opportunity to emphasise the superior legitimacy of the Scottish Parliament, quoting liberally from the British government’s representations at the hearing on Kosovo’s declaration of independence.

    Plan B: Consultative Referendum
    Having prepared the electorate and the Yes movement with arguements and a timescale, schedule a Consultative referendum monitored by international observers.

    Plan B crucially dependent upon Plan A’s preparing of the ground for its effective implementation.

    Nicola’s Plan A: Present my backside to Johnson and invite him to kick it.

    Nicola’s Plan B: Periodically do the same thing, ad infinitum.

    This isn’t leadership, it’s surrender.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Couldn’t agree more, Mr Bell. Whatever is done, it has to be done with verve and imagination, and it has to be defiant and brave. It can be done, even now, but, soon, it will be too late. 2021 will be too late unless the SNP sweeps the board and tells Westminster we are going. If it is more prevarication, we will be shafted and we will deserve to be for being so pusillanimous and stupid – and I, for one, would never vote SNP again in a GE, albeit I would continue to vote for my local MSP. As you say, the very point of the SNP for all its existence has been to gain independence, not to sit around and think up ways to remain part of the Union or to introduce daft legislation that nobody but a handful of people wants. The party has done very well in government despite the media’s best efforts to portray their achievements otherwise, but the crunch time is coming. All the denials of a leadership change are worrying because they usually precede a leadership change. Could be wrong, though. Two big hitters like Cherry and Robertson are not going to be sitting at Holyrood playing second fiddle, and, I think, depending on who gets the nomination, that will signal a change in direction for the SNP. Could be wrong, though, on that, as well.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. So your diagnosis is that there never was a viable Plan A. Well, that doesn’t get us very far. We are where we are, as they say, so where do we go from here? There’s no point in saying, as in the old joke when asked directions, “I wouldn’t start from here.”

    Oh, the answer lies in Holyrood!! Well, maybe, but what if the increasingly fascistic regime at WM decides to cancel Holyrood, or simply by-passes Holyrood as our Tory MP’s want him to do? Or enacts new laws to prevent secession. What weapons do we have? Outrage? Marches? Letters to the Editor?

    Do we imagine that they will play fair, that there are no dirty tricks planned, that there are no agents of the State infiltrating our political, and civic life? Maybe even reading Peterabell.scot?

    There is an internationally accepted method by which a country achieves independence and it doesn’t depend on that country getting permission from the State of which it was a part before declaring independence.

    If we can’t persuade MSP’s and MP’s to act, and soon, then not only will “now” not be the time, there never will be a time when Now is the time.

    Just get Indy done!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think realising there never was a viable Plan A is an essential first step on the path forward from where we are. Anybody still clinging to the mindset that supposes the Section 30 process might work is not going to take that first step. The first step can be in pretty much any direction so long as it’s away from the British state.

      We must become sovereign in our minds before we return sovereignty to our nation.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. ….”We must become sovereign in our minds before we return sovereignty to our nation.”…

        If that holds true, then how is it “return”. The YES movement is only about Scotland no longer consenting to continue its arrangement with England (as that is all the UK is – but with a crazy colonising structure)

        It is so hard for us all overcome the social programming…they are so ingrained we don’t even notice when we fall into adopting Union centric language.


      2. Peter
        I agree, …”restoring Scotland’s independence”… over …”we return sovereignty”.

        I would suggest they are also structurally different – one never said sovereignty left, it was only how Scotland chose to use it.


        1. The effect of the Union is to withhold from the people of Scotland the full and proper exercise of their sovereignty. It is that capacity I would have returned.


  4. I am getting a little bit more than pissed off by the informality afforded to the First Minister of Scotland
    by an increasing number of people commenting, constantly referring to her as ‘Nicola’ as if she was everyone’s favourite aunt when in fact she may be actively engaged in various forms of obfuscation which seeks always to hand the initiative back to Westminster!

    Nicola Sturgeon as leader of the SNP, is in my opinion, obliged to deliver a coherent strategy which
    meets the exigencies entrusted to her party by the electorate to deliver on the current mandate
    which she as First Minister originally sought!

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Yes annexation was the reality of 1707 that Proud Scots never confronted. They placated their shaven truncated masculinity with the myth that it was a statesmanlike bargain between equals. And put their shoulder to the wheel of building up the British Empire, trying to competitively out-British the English in this great Anglo-Scottish imperial project, pillaging lands abroad and enriching themselves whilst their country dwindled. Scots were disproportionally present as colonial governors in the Empire and military places in the British army. Even proudly renaming their country North Britain. They failed to notice that the English never called themselves South Britain. In fact the English called Britain England.

    We built the Empire for the English but where’s the thanks? Pierce the inflated nonsensical pride of North Britons like Gordon Brown! About time to confront their nonsense!

    As one English commentator said gleefully at the time, ‘We have catched Scotland, and will hold her fast!’

    Or as Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun, the great Scottish republican patriot said, (noting that a mere 45 Scottish MPs would sit impotently in the English parliament), ‘So shall we dance round and round for ever, in this trap of our own making!’


  6. I see a lot of questions here, but no answers. The naysayers are becoming tedious. If you have an alternative roadmap from here to becoming an independent nation, recognised by the international community, then present it. Otherwise, this is just blether.


    1. I think my concern is more that the SNP leadership doesn’t seem to be doing a great deal to build support for independence or create the case for it. Plus it’s apparent the FM has led us up the garden path in promising a fresh referendum this year.

      It’s as if she thinks support for independence will build itself.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. If you’re still thinking in terms of building creating a case for independence then you are still infected by the colonial mindset. When you instinctively ask why we would need a case for independence then you may say you have shed that mindset. When your first reaction to those who ask for the case for independence is to demand to know what is the case against independence then you, at least, will be independent in your own mind. You will be ready to fight the campaign that must be fought – the campaign against the Union.

        Liked by 3 people

    2. Oh gimme a break. How many time do we have to go over this? It isn’t rocket surgery.

      Here ye go… courtesy of HMG ITSELF


      5.5 Consistent with this general approach, international law has not treated the legality of
      the act of secession under the internal law of the predecessor State as determining the effect
      of that act on the international plane. In most cases of secession, of course, the predecessor
      State‟s law will not have been complied with: that is true almost as a matter of definition.

      5.6 Nor is compliance with the law of the predecessor State a condition for the declaration
      of independence to be recognised by third States, if other conditions for recognition are
      fulfilled. The conditions do not include compliance with the internal legal requirements of
      the predecessor State. Otherwise the international legality of a secession would be predetermined by the very system of internal law called in question by the circumstances in
      which the secession is occurring.

      5.7 For the same reason, the constitutional authority of the seceding entity to proclaim
      independence within the predecessor State is not determinative as a matter of international
      law. In most if not all cases, provincial or regional authorities will lack the constitutional
      authority to secede. The act of secession is not thereby excluded. Moreover, representative
      institutions may legitimately act, and seek to reflect the views of their constituents, beyond
      the scope of already conferred power.

      5.8 By contrast with the internal law of the predecessor State – which has no special
      status in international law – the principle of territorial integrity of States is a principle of
      international law. It is reflected in particular in Article 2(4) of the UN Charter:
      “The Organization and its Members, in pursuit of the Purposes stated in Article 1,
      shall act in accordance with the following Principles …

      4. All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use
      of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State, or in
      any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.”

      5.9 The protection of the territorial integrity of States is a protection in “international
      relations”. It is not a guarantee of the permanence of a State as it exists at any given time.
      Nor does it apply to secessionist movements within the territory of a State. Generally
      speaking, international law does not prohibit the separation of part of the territory of a State
      arising from internal processes.216

      5.10 To put the same proposition in other terms, although a State‟s territorial integrity is
      protected under international law, as a general matter this protection has been extended only
      insofar as the use of force and intervention by third States are concerned. It has not been
      extended to the point of providing a guarantee of the integrity of a State‟s territory against

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yes, yes and yes again! Folk reading that should ask themselves WHY are we allowing ourselves to be seeking to leave with the consent of that which we leave.

        Total madness! Thanks Mr Wright 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  7. NO to YES are highlighting a deep structural flaw in YES that has lead to this point.

    This flaw becomes visible in the response to those who switch. Usually a welcome, but tinged with a shock that there is no contrition. I suspect and from the cases I have read, most NO to YES didn’t actually change their view, they just thought the Union was benign to them, only to be shocked at what the English would do that to Scotland – in the face of overwhelming history of exactly that.

    The beautiful positive of 2014 message allowed these people to stay in their dream state. YES/SNP never calling out Union brutality means these people never had to face the demons we can now see they recognised all along but chose to ignore.

    If YES lets the Union off the hook because of fear or politeness, no one has to accept your case – because you haven’t made it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A very interesting point. It may well have been that the perfidy of Albion was played down during the first Yes campaign, and that this is not something the SNP has properly contemplated, but there is not much doubt in many minds of what happened in history. There is surely a structural violence perpetrated upon the Scots and Scottish culture by a kind of rampant aristocratic entitlement that drapes itself in the butcher’s apron. Recognising this is much the same I guess as recognising that there has to be a direct confrontation with the British state if independence is to be achieved. Maybe a few more Scots should lear their own history.

      Liked by 3 people

  8. So is all the claims of Scottish sovereignty that many SNP members of whichever Parliament have made just empty noise?
    Scotland was annexed? Surely not when our political representatives at the time signed us up to a union? Should we have not just gone into the last UK election on declaring our independence from England instead of waiting another 5 years to do so as holyrood could be gone tomorrow.
    Nicola sturgeon could well go down in history as the leader who threw away the best opportunity we ever had and in doing so destroy the SNP as a political force as many will be so angered by her action may seek another party or just give up altogether.
    Myself and a great many others have put a lot of time, money and effort into this fight but to watch the defacto leader close down our options so publicly is seriously disheartening. Maybe I’ll just emigrate and leave all you miserable bastards to lay in your own shit.
    I’ll tell people abroad that no such place as Scotland even exists. It’s a total myth.


    1. I sympathise with your frustration. It seems there may be many of us feeling likewise.

      2 things. Craig Murray has shown how we can become independent (a couple of years ago, and again recently). I have referenced his plan on here and Christian Wright spells out the legal foundation above. There really is no other way to go – now that the UK is in the hands of a fascistic demagogue.

      I also mentioned, as Duncan does below, that we need to write to our SNP MP’s, MSP’s, Councillors setting out how we become independent and internationally recognised. Do it every week. SNP members need to “take back control”, or, more accurately, take control – the leadership should be the servants not the masters of the party. If necessary, members need to argue for a new leader if she won’t show some political savvy and initiative.

      She has a lot of good qualities, talks well, thoughtfully, sensibly and sensitively, cutting through the double-speak of WM – but, her administration has largely been timid, too much in hock to business, lobbyists and neo-liberal economics. The Growth Commission was a car-crash endeavour that should be buried and air-brushed from history.

      However, I don’t hold out much hope that she will adopt another strategy and fear one of JK Galbraith’s axioms will out: “Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.”


  9. Excellent analysis as always, Thanks. There is an extent to which we can, if we are members of the SNP, turn up at branch meetings and make a noise. At least notionally, the SNP is built up from local branches, so varieties of so called entryism might contribute to giving central office an encouraging kick up the arse. Otherwise I still think we should organise a sort of “seventh estate” – a collective of bloggers, digital journalists, internet commentators, keyboard warriors, cybernats, whatever. I’m sure with the right collective will, such a thing could do stuff.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. 1. SNP MP’s leave Westminster and return to Scotland. 2. Hold a National Assembly with Holyrood SMP’s. 3. Immediately dissolve the Union and tell Westminster it will not be renewed. 4. Declare independence on behalf of the Sovereign Scottish people as their duly elected representatives. 5. Approach the UN and say that an honest referendum could not be held due to corrupt media and political interference.

    Liked by 1 person

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