What Mike Russell might have said was he under the influence of some magical truth potion is that the Scottish Government is delighted to have an excuse for ‘calling off’ a referendum that was never going to happen. His letter to Gove is a device to reinforce the message that it’s not the SNP administration’s fault that the independence project is totally staled, it’s the virus. Mr Russell and his colleagues are hoping we’ll forget that the independence project was idling in a blind alley long before the COVID-19 outbreak hit the headlines. The campaign hasn’t moved since 2014. The public health emergency is not a reason or an explanation. It’s an excuse and a post hoc rationalisation.
It is important that people know this for the same reason it’s always important that people know when their government is trying to deceive them. Awareness aids prevention. Just as being aware of how contagion spreads and what can be done to protect against it improves your chances of avoiding infection, so awareness of official dissimulation improves your ability to resist manipulation.
Untruth is a disease that infects politics and weakens democracy. Like a virus, lies spread through society by various means. Like a virus, lies mutate in order to survive. Like a virus, lies disrupt the organism. Awareness is our best defence. It would be good if we could eradicate all the ‘bugs’ which cause disease, but those bugs are part of the matrix of life. Even if it were possible to wipe them out the consequences would be unknowable and potentially very harmful to the rest of the matrix. Similarly, deceitfulness is part of human nature. Eliminating it would require that we change all of human nature. Given that our success as a species is largely accounted for by the way we think and behave, tampering with the model might not be a good idea.
We have to live with lies just as we have to live with other disease-causing agents such as viruses. We have to both resist and accommodate them. Awareness is essential to both resistance and accommodation. If you can’t recognise lies or don’t understand how they work, you can’t develop resistance or discover what compromises can safely be made.
It’s all about power, of course. Everything is. All human interactions are transactions in power; a constant and largely unconscious bargaining process in which we seek to optimise our power so as to minimise our fear. The name for this process is ‘politics’. We may only call it politics when it moves sufficiently far from the realm of interpersonal relationships and into the realm of society, but it’s all politics. It’s all the same process. The social and societal life of every human being is one long political negotiation of relationships of power.
It is beyond ridiculous to imagine that this process can be stopped. It is beyond ludicrous to suppose that it might be possible to opt out of the process. And yet this is precisely what Nicola Sturgeon is insisting we do. Precisely what she is asking us to believe is feasible. And far too many people are falling for this deception.
Politics doesn’t stop for anything other than death and extinction. All that can be stopped is active participation in politics. Politics proceeds regardless of whether one participates or not. So the idea that the active participation of the independence campaign can be halted for a period of months and perhaps years without deleterious effect is borderline insane. When British Labour MP Ian Murray says “This is no time for constitutional politics.” he is talking delusional nonsense. Either that or he knows perfectly well that constitutional politics cannot be stopped and what he is actually doing is trying to get ‘wethepeople’ to self-isolate from it. To disengage. To cease and desist from participation.
The same is true of Mike Russell and Nicola Sturgeon. Although the underlying motives and motivations may be different, they are now just as eager as Murray and other British Nationalists to shut us out of ‘their’ politics. Quite simply, our engagement and participation threaten their power. So they orchestrate a deceit in order to put our engagement and participation on hold.
We know very well by now what drives British Nationalists. What we need to be aware of – and far too many aren’t – is that the cease and desist order from Nicola Sturgeon to the Yes movement is no different in its fundamental purpose from the British Nationalist ‘Say no to indyref2’ campaign with its portrayal of the democratic process as ‘divisive’ and of participation in that process as an onerous imposition. Both are intended to have use decouple ourselves from the political process and ‘leave it to the professionals’. Give them the power. It’s a ruse as ancient as politics itself. Power is relative. What better way to increase one’s own power than to dupe others into voluntarily relinquishing their power?
The SNP’s version of this well-worn old ploy differs only in the details of the motive. There was a growing realisation among activists and supporters that the independence campaign had been driven into a blind alley by Nicola Sturgeon. The rumblings of disquiet and dissent were growing even within the party. A tipping point was approaching at which the SNP’s power would be seriously threatened. That power is critically dependent on the financial and electoral support of the pro-independence constituency. Once it became evident to all that the SNP had not only dropped the independence ball but stabbed it, crushed it and set fire to it, then the supply of both votes and cash would dry up.
The COVID-19 outbreak is the perfect scapegoat for the SNP’s failure. If it hadn’t been the public health crisis it would have been something else. Although it is as difficult to see just what they might have pushed the blame onto as it is to discern how the independence campaign moves forward from here. Before COVID-19, the party was in a very serious quandary. No way forward. No way out. No options. No room for manoeuvre. Promises had been made which couldn’t be kept. Commitments had been made which couldn’t be met. Objectives had been set which couldn’t be reached. For professional politicians, this is both a nightmare and a disgrace.
So they lie to us. They tell us “all campaigning” must be “suspended”. That is a lie. There is never a good reason to disengage from constitutional politics because constitutional politics is absolutely fundamental to democracy. Obviously, the precise nature of the campaigning would have to change due to the restrictions necessitated by the public health crisis. But instead of encouraging us to adapt to the situation the SNP has sought to have us disengage. Why?
They tell us the independence campaign can be halted for the duration of the emergency and then picked up again afterwards. That is a lie! Politics doesn’t stop just because you disengage from it. Politics simply proceeds without you. For example, the Brexit fiasco and its attendant constitutional implications for Scotland. That isn’t being “suspended”. So, whenever Nicola Sturgeon decides it’s acceptable to resume normal levels of campaigning, the ground will have shifted. If the emergency is ‘managed’ in such a way as to drag it out for up to two years, as some are suggesting, the ground will have shifted on a tectonic scale. Resumption of business, as usual, will no more be possible for the Yes movement than for any other organisation that fails to move with events.
They tell us that COVID-19 is to blame. That it’s the virus which makes this disengagement by the Yes movement necessary. That is a lie! It is inevitable that the campaign to restore Scotland’s independence will be affected by the crisis. But the manner in which it is being affected and the extent to which it is being impacted are entirely matters of political expediency. And everybody in Scotland needs to be aware of this.
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15 thoughts on “Lies and scapegoats”
After Craig Murray’s latest report on the proceedings in court, https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2020/03/your-man-finally-in-the-public-gallery-the-alex-salmond-trial-day-8/, I can’t possibly see how the upper echelon of the SNP can continue as before. As a result pausing the campaign looks more like a desperate act of survival.
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I have a suspicion that when and if the dust settles, the impetus for independence will be greater and the SNP weaker. Just a suspicion.
In the meantime, ordinary consensual politics, ie the exercise of established power, will continue. Britain is once again united in its terror of a common enemy.
Somewhat ironically, all the measures necessary to ride the tsunami of chaos and to prevent the complete break down of the social order, do not sit easily next to the incel in chief’s masterplan and are not in the least neoliberal. It will not be so easy to return to such an agenda after however many months or years of the complete opposite.
But with things changing so quickly, who knows any more?
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That may be a best-case scenario. I have serious doubts about whether the Yes movement can survive this. I have serious doubts about whether Nicola Sturgeon wants it to survive.
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I await the outcome of that trial before examining this. If what I have heard is true, then great changes will be taking place, no matter what the verdict.
Thx Peter for this sharp and insightful article. There’s another current tactic for retaining political power – sit back and allow the spread of misguided cliches to do your work for you. Indy supporters are repeatedly told we mustn’t criticise the ahem, leadership, because ‘we’re so close’ and any visible dissent will ‘divide’ us and provide opportunities for the opposition. So we must shut up and suck it up, all of it, leaving the leadership in place (in power). But these empirical claims lack empirical back-up. In fact, engaging critical faculties is the very bedrock on which enthusiasm develops, its ignition enlivens and strengthens all political dynamics, it engrosses activists further, it holds leaders to account, it reminds them we’re watching – exactly the way football supporters crtitcise their team’s manager. But the muffling doctrine is a convenient and valuable one, that is, for its beneficiaries perched on the top rung, so they let it have its way.
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That’s a decision made for me. This crisis was another opportunity to grab independence while Westminster is in chaos.
Right now I’d still give SNP my constituency vote, but the list vote is definitely going to be for any party that promises to act immediately.
This is a golden opportunity for Scottish Labour to embrace independence (although I’d want to see a complete cull of the Vichy Scots in it)
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I agree wholeheartedly that Nicola Sturgeon and the ‘leadership’ are doing the work of the British for them. Suspending all campaigning is a step further than the ‘you’ve got to make enough converts till we have 100% support in the opinion polls’ delaying tactic.
Even during WWII the Labour Party did not give up on politics. They were concerned with home affairs whilst Churchill conducted war operations. Atlee and his cohorts prepared the ground for the creation of the welfare state and national health service – when the war was over they were ready with the backing Keynes, the drive of Bevan and the moral intellectualism of Beveridge to present this to the people. And guess what? They swept to power and implemented their plans. Ok, it didn’t last as it should have before it was started to be dismantled again but the intent was there. The point is: the Labour leadership didn’t cease activities during the war that were designed to meet the aims of their (Labour) movement.
I wouldn’t go as far to blame the whole SNP – after all they have a committed and talented “workforce” that has delivered election victory after election victory. Not the end goal of course but necessary steps en route towards it.
However, the ‘leadership’ – and I use that word in the loosest possible way – have let independence supporters down. Big time. Very clearly, and to quote Mr Yates, things will have changed, and changed utterly, by the time the health crisis and associated panic has died down. Nicola Sturgeon has appeared more interested in Brexit, gender/equality politics, attending Pride marches and taking selfies at PR shoots during the last 5 and a half years when she should have been making the most of the gilt-edged opportunities presented to her. (This includes a massive membership increase, numerous landslide election victories since 2014 and the Brexit shambles).
The opportunity has been squandered.
A reckoning awaits.
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It does indeed, Duncanio.
Mr Russell, in response to being offered sweet nothing from the British government, after the request for a section 30 was met with utter derision, you offer the suspension of the democratic rights of Scots as a sweetener, in the hope that they might see their way to a delay of Brexit negotiations. Do you think you have the right to do that? I would like to hear your justification of this decision. The rights of Scots are not yours to give away. The long-term welfare of the Scottish people depends on Independence just as our short-term welfare depends on day-to-day attention to the effects of the virus. The two go hand-in-hand. Can the Scottish government not fart and chew gum at the same time?
Another addition to the ever-growing mountain of deluded and cowardly decisions.
We desperately need a new generation of SNP leadership.
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Wouldn’t it be just fabulous for the British state for the Scottish government to carry on with the Indy ref 2020 scenario?
As you say ya big blowhard, the British state cannot be underestimated. Indy ref 2020 cannot possibly go ahead. It will be used against us and you know this.
There was never going to be a 2020 referendum. Only the most gullible fuckwits ever believed that pish. Are you their spokesman?
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Every fucking day, whingin and moanin like a big pain in the hole.
Sometimes I deliberately read yer mince on the pan just to give myself piles.
It’s not my normal practice and I really don’t like doing it, but would anybody object if I block this halfwit?
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It’s done. For only the second time. Usually, I just let them rant and ignore them. The occasional one takes offensive stupidity to a level that seizes attention. You can tell when they’re NEVER going to properly engage with myself or other commenters. So, they have to go.