The decision by the Voices for Scotland board to “pause” their campaign during the Covid-19 crisis has served only to reignite my anger at Nicola Sturgeon’s cease and desist order to the SNP membership and the Yes movement. It is a decision which is disappointing if not deplorable. It is a choice which would almost certainly been very different had our First Minister not been so inadequate and inept in her role as de facto leader of the independence campaign. She has an army of apologists, of course. None of whom seem to understand how badly she has betrayed Scotland’s cause. Precious few who are prepared to listen to any criticism of someone who, I regret to say, is at the centre of what looks more and more like a cult of personality. I am not a member of that cult. I’m just angry.
Voices for Scotland (VfS) is, as you may know, one of the brands used by the Scottish Independence Convention (SIC) in its ongoing fund-raising campaign to finance various initiatives such as the launch of VfS. Initiatives which in one of those strange quirks of fate that make life such a wild ride have tended to coincide with the SNP administration’s need for the launch of some new initiative to divert attention from its own lack of any initiative in taking forward the independence project. That they have “paused” their campaigning – although not, apparently, their fundraising – probably isn’t the most massive misfortune to befall the campaign to restore Scotland’s independence. Nor is their unquestioning compliance with Nicola Sturgeon’s order to stop all campaigning the most shocking thing to happen in Scottish politics of late. Although the order itself might well qualify for that title.
SIC has always been one of those organisations or groups by which the SNP and the Scottish Government have kept the Yes movement at arms length. That is its main purpose. The SIC sits between the SNP and the Yes movement to provide the appearance of connection while actually serving as a barrier/buffer. That it has stopped doing what it was that it had been doing won’t affect the independence campaign at all. The fact that it has been encouraged to abandon whatever part it was playing in that campaign by Nicola Sturgeon is the real scandal here. That is what people should be angry about.
To understand the politics of this and why it should make you angry you have to forget about Covid-19. The pandemic has nothing to do with it. It is marginally and tangentially relevant at best. The political situation was in train long before the virus came on the scene. It has played a role. But it was never essential to the way things were playing out. If it hadn’t been Covid-19 it would have been something else. The virus was written into the script while shooting was in progress because the plot required a plausible enabler for one of the main characters. It may seem strange to think of it in this way but, as far as this episode of the Scottish politics show is concerned, Covid-19 just happened to be in the right place at the right time.
When Covid-19 arrived on set the independence project was already at a standstill. At least, I like to think it was at a standstill. Being stalled would have been a great improvement given that the project had mostly been going backwards since 2014. The moment Nicola Sturgeon committed wholly and irrevocably to the Section 30 process, the project was doomed. Committing to the Section 30 process was probably the surest way of killing the independence project stone dead. It could not possibly lead to a new referendum. It was never going to work. It was always obvious that it was never going to work. Not even the people who supported it could explain how it might work. The people responsible for committing to it, including Nicola Sturgeon, steadfastly refused to answer any questions about the Section 30 process. They totally ignored those who expressed concerns about it other than to berate and belittle them. At no time did any of them ever address any of those concerns. Every effort was made to close down any discussion of the matter.
Why did Nicola Sturgeon commit to the Section 30 process? Was she unaware of the fact that it was both a dead end and a trap? That seems unlikely. She is not stupid. And there was nothing unclear or uncertain about the nature of the Section 30 process. The huge dead-end signs and the flashing neon arrows with the word TRAP were there as clues. And if that wasn’t enough to mark it as a very bad choice indeed then there was the fact that the British political elite had dubbed it the ‘gold standard’. Nicola Sturgeon must have known what she was getting into. What she was getting us into. What she was getting Scotland into. So, why?
These things are rarely amenable to simple explanation. When it comes to human behaviour and motivation, any explanation that is simple enough to be described in words probably doesn’t do justice to the complexity of the matter. We cannot know what was going on in Nicola Sturgeon’s mind. But we can deduce some of what must have had an influence on her thinking. We must assume, for example, that independence was a consideration. But it wouldn’t be the only one. Two other considerations come immediately to my mind. Which suggests they may very well have occurred to Nicola Sturgeon as well.
She would surely have to take account of the SNP’s electoral fortunes. She’s leader of the party. The party must always be a consideration. And it would be extraordinary to the point of freakishness had she not given some thought to her own reputation and political career. These and doubtless numerous other factors would all be fed into the calculation which resulted in the decision to commit to the Section 30 process. My own sense of the thing is that there was a powerful conflict between what was best for the independence project and what best served Sturgeon’s personal ambitions. The interests of the party weren’t decisive. The SNP’s electoral position was unusually secure. Pretty much any choice she made could be argued to be either good or bad in terms of the party’s electoral chances.
My suspicion is that the dilemma was resolved by Nicola Sturgeon persuading herself and/or allowing herself to be persuaded that the Section 30 process might work. All the talk of Boris Johnson’s position being “unsustainable” sounded ludicrous to those of us who were watching him sustain it with consummate ease and nary a hint of being affected by the “pressure” which was supposed to force him to relent. The constant repetition of the “untenable” and “unsustainable” mantra by a battery of SNP big guns never sounded convincing. But it did sound utterly convinced. They believed it because the alternative was to go against Nicola Sturgeon. And that was unthinkable. Almost literally unthinkable.
Of course, it was going to be increasingly difficult to maintain the conviction in the face of unfolding non-events. As the promised collapse of the British state’s resistance to democracy neither happened nor looked remotely likely, so it became increasingly problematic to maintain the insistence that it would – eventually. Although nobody could ever say why it might. Nobody could ever explain what it was costing Boris Johnson to say no as often and as long as was required. More and more voices were raised expressing concerns. More and more people were asking awkward questions. Nicola Sturgeon had no answers. She had no plan. She had no route mapped because there were no more options. No way out. She needed something that would eclipse the constitutional issue. She needed somewhere to put the blame for the project having totally stalled rather than have it all lying on her own shoulders.
Along came Covid-19!
Whatever else it is -and we all know what else it is well enough that we don’t need pompous, self-righteous reminders – the pandemic was just what Nicola Sturgeon needed. Politicians exploit situations. Whether you approve or not, it’s what happens. Deal with it!
Nicola Sturgeon had her justification for setting aside the independence project. And it was a good one. Nobody could possibly blame her for making the pandemic the Scottish Government’s main priority. Nobody does blame her for making the pandemic her first priority. I certainly don’t. I’m not stupid. I know full well that she had no choice in the matter. That the pandemic also happened to be politically convenient is entirely incidental. But for Covid-19 she would have had to find another excuse. I don’t doubt that she would. I can’t imagine that it would be better than the one fate dropped in her lap.
Let me repeat this because it is something Nicola Sturgeon’s apologists have great difficulty comprehending. A difficulty which, it must be said, is almost as convenient for their argument as Covid-19 is for Nicola Sturgeon’s political credibility. It is not the fact that in her role as First Minister she put the constitutional issue aside which I find objectionable. It was the right thing to do. What angers me is that she compounded her catastrophic handling of the constitutional issue by issuing that cease and desist order in her role as leader of the SNP.
In part, I was angered by the presumptuousness of her assuming command of the Yes movement. Having utterly failed/refused to provide the leadership the Yes movement craved and required to progress the independence campaign, she had the impertinence to appoint herself leader for the purpose of ordering a halt to the campaign. That rankles!
But what really angers me is that it was totally unnecessary. She didn’t have to say anything at all about the independence campaign. It would have been very much better if she had simply shut up about it. After all, she had ‘more important’ things to occupy her mind. Why was she talking about the independence campaign? Let Jackson Carlaw raise the subject. Let him provide the First Minister with another opportunity to slap him down for obsessing about independence at a time like this. But no! She had to issue a statement which included the following.
Obviously for our movement, that means suspending all campaigning – cancelling any planned social events and meetings must only be held if using remote technologies. [emphasis added]
This was contained in an email sent to SNP members but which was also made public. It is important to note that the email bears not only the SNP logo but the YES logo as well. The clear implication is that she is addressing the entire independence movement. That she is telling us all to stop any and all campaign activity. Why?
My suspicion is that she just got carried away with the role she was playing – that of ‘leader in time of crisis’. A role which was, of course, forced on her by circumstances. But a role that she could play as she sees fit. At least as much as she was concerned to look competent to the electorate in Scotland, she wanted to look good for a much wider audience. She was behaving as she thought was expected of her according to a model which owed at least as much to West Wing as to the realities of Scottish politics. When this political posing combined with her relief at having escaped the bind she had got herself into with the constitutional issue she overplayed her role. Had she been wise, or well-advised, she would have said nothing whatever about the independence campaign. But she just couldn’t help herself.
The political inadvisability of Nicola Sturgeon’s cease and desist letter to activists should be obvious to anyone who understands political communication. By issuing that instruction; by effectively declaring herself to be in charge of the entire independence movement, she has taken responsibility for the entire independence movement. She has made herself answerable for everything done by anyone in the movement. The very situation she had been so assiduously avoiding for years. That order to suspend all campaigning will come back to bite her in lots of different ways. It was a stupid thing to do. And that is what makes me angry.
It was also another entry in the catalogue of missed opportunities that Nicola Sturgeon has built up since 2014. Anyone who gives it even a passing thought must recognise that the lockdown presents the ideal conditions for online campaigning. Which happens to be one of the great strengths of the Yes movement. Instead of taking advantage of the fact that more people are accessing material online for longer, Nicola Sturgeon would have thousands of very capable activists sitting idle. We’re not all occupied dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic. In fact, very few of us are. As few as possible. That’s what lockdown means. Thousands of Yes activists suddenly have more time on their hands than they know what to do with.
Groups like Voices for Scotland should be taking advantage of this situation. The entire Yes movement should be adapting to the new reality. We don’t have to be thinking about Covid-19 every minute of every day. Every one of us with a device and a connection could be contributing to the most massive organically coordinated online campaign ever known. If Nicola Sturgeon had just said nothing about the independence campaign this would almost certainly have happened. I have every right to be angry.
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43 thoughts on “Unnecessary words and rightful anger”
Peter you could have written all you need to portray in one paragraph, without denigrating/demeaning our First Minister in such a way. This IS and I agree, an opportunity to talk to all the electorate of this Country(Scotland) online without banner waving and aiming everything at SNP supporters (of which, I am so glad to support) Nicola Sturgeon has just about enough to contend with this virus. But she could delegate authority to Keith Brown MSP and Co. The Green Party and everyone/anyone willing to take up the mantle to push Independence forward and to a conclusion 🏴🏴
I decide what I write. There is no vacancy for an editor.
Why should I not denigrate Nicola Sturgeon? She is responsible for fucking-up the independence campaign. And before you start the tediously predictable bleating, she’d fucked it up long before Covid-19 appeared. So if you can’t explain how her ‘strategy’ would have worked, you have nothing to say in her defence.
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Nicola Sturgeon is stymied. She does competent day-today government with the aid of a faction who realise that things will change once we get independence and who fear for their own positions once that happens. But she is unable to break free of that faction, who have no scruples as the Salmond case shows.
That faction must be dealt with and if Sturgeon has to go to allow that to happen, then she has to go for the sake of independence. It is all the more difficult for believing that she does want independence as much as any of us.
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Ah yes, the ‘Nicola the innocent dupe’ argument…
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Hugh Wallace: “Ah yes, the ‘Nicola the innocent dupe’ argument…”
As opposed to what argument? Frankly, it makes little difference in terms of the required outcome.
I can’t see a way forward for Scotland without the need to remove Sturgeon as leader of the SNP and Joanna Cherry isn’t bothered about a section 30 order I was speaking to her at holyrood with my wife and she made it perfectly clear that there where many routes to Independence I made up my mind then that this was the only person with clout lead Scotland to freedom.
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Let’s be optimistic here. Covid-19 rules out Big Tent campaigning, but as you say, the smaller stuff can continue – and this is probably the most effective.
We also have time to think. Something needs dealing with at the top of the SNP. Total clarity on that has been bought at the dreadful price of the prosecution of Alex Salmond. And I think we are better off for not having launched into an Indyref while that remains undealt with.
Sturgeon has now been made hapless by Salmond’s accusers. Her odd intervention when the Salmond verdict was known [““The court has reached a verdict and that must be respected,”] I can only interpret as telling Salmond’s accusers that their campaign must come to an end.
The letter from the accusers released by Rape Crisis Scotland and the recent article by Dani Garavelli show that Sturgeon has no authority with a certain faction. It has become plain that Sturgeon does not have the clout against the civil service and the SPADs to do anything beyond competent day to day government.
For the sake of Independence, there has to be a day of reckoning in the SNP right after Covid is dealt with and when Alex Salmond comes out with his side of the story. If there is no day of reckoning, then Independence will be in the wilderness for a decade or more. Sadly as part of that day of reckoning, I think Sturgeon has to make way for someone else whom the membership will empower to deal with the faction at the top.
I would say this is not a time to give up on either The National or on our SNP memberships. We need to fight to retain the SNP as our spearhed for Independence.
If there is to be a “day of reckoning” after Covid-19 is dealt with, don’t expect it to be dealt with any time soon.
Perhaps that would be better expressed as ‘brought under control’. We are probably in for a difficult summer and then several years in which there are small pockets of recurrence. But before the end of it, we need to make a concerted effort to deal with this faction.
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Reblogged this on Ramblings of a 50+ Female.
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Rambling, non-sensical article with poorly constructed arguments. Verging on “pompous and self righteous” in its arguments, in fact completely irrelevant at a time when the world is fighting COVID-19.
Independence is over! Now get over yourselves please.
Surely volunteering to help food banks or local community projects is a better use of lock down time?
Thanks for the laughs.
The incompetence shown by the UK government in dealing with this epidemic surely demonstrates why independence is essential if Scotland is to thrive.
Peter, nail struck firmly on the head. Again.
As I recall the last time we had the once in a generation referendum the majority of Scotland’s voters said remain in the UK. Just deal with it. That same majority are completely fed up with the incessant moaning of single minded self appointed advocates for a policy which has been rejected.
When were you elected to speak for anybody?
What “Once in Generation” Referendum was that? There was never any such thing.
Both Labour and tory called the December 2019 General Election, a “once in lifetime opportunity”, you might recall.
The UK Scotland was bounced into staying part of, was in the European Union, and Scotland was given absolute promises it would remain so, and Scotland
s position within EU would not be threatened by any subsequent vote via England, taking us out.
Also, there were all those promises of this, that, and the other, none of which ever came to be.
The 2014 vote was made void by that which followed, especially what happened in June 2016..
We have every right to demand our Independence, and the end of this fake “Union” in view of all that has happened.
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I’m not sure that Ms Sturgeon isn’t stupid, in a certain way, that is. Though competent enough in other ways. She is no strategist. I have come to the conclusion that her following the S30 route down its blind alley was a failure of imagination. There is no unionist plot here. She is likely not an MI5 plant. She just hasn’t got it in her to take on the British state. She has never been an MP. She has no experience of the sordid green benches. She just copied what Alex Salmond had done, but in radically different circumstances without seeing that he followed that route because it was a good tactic at the time. To quote one Johan Lamont (in another context) she didn’t understand the kind of politics she was facing, especially after 2016. Salmond tried to intervene, and we see what’s happened to him.
I would agree with much of that. Tho, I don’t think a person has to have been an MP to understand Westminster!
It is clear, that the present SNP administration is good at general management, but on the whole, seem devoid of imagination, or anything truly bold for Scotland.
We note that in Local Councils, especially in City of Glasgow, were apart from a few sensible policy initiatives, such as settling the Equal Pay dispute, they have largely continued with labour policies on pretty much everything else.
However, questions still do need to be asked of this Section 30 policy. Questions were indeed asked, but were always dismissed out of hand. Some genuinely believed in it, others truly wanted to believe, or thought there was some backup strategy. But January 31st put paid to all of that. It was clear, as Peter above says, they were looking for some way of getting out of the whole thing.
We are left with the sad, and unfortunately, and actually damning conclusion, the First Minister wasn’t so set on Independence at this moment in time, as some would have hoped. She seemed to be playing for time. The right time, that she felt suited her.But the right time has come and gone more than a few times. June 2016, being the biggest opportunity, then the debacle over Brexit the past year. We have to wonder about all of that. In fact, to say the First Minister was waiting the right time that she felt was the best time, is perhaps, being too generous about it. The alternative view of things, is way far from being charitable! about her motives!
So according to you and your warped mind we shouldn’t be thinking abot what Corvid-19 is doing to not only Scotland but the rest of the world, instead we should be keeping the YES flag flying while members of maybe our own families are dying, what a disfunctional half witted small brained dickhead you are just hope and pray your so called words of wisdom don’t come back not to bite you but hit you right in the balls, the Independence campaign stopped is the best news Scotland could get at this time, the biggest worry now should be trying to find a way through this Corvid-19 and save live’s then when that’s done the next thing would be for the Scottish people to come together and get rid of Jimmy Crankie and all of her narrow minded money crabbing self centered party and get Scotland back on it’s feet again, for to long Scotland has listened to her dictate what where and when while the whole time the health service has foundered the educational system has went down the toilet unemployment as went up and still she and the likes of you still rant on abot Independence and o yes stay in the EU what so we can be even worse of than we already are, think it’s time you’s changed the record the tune you’s are playing is wearing thin
I cannot be held accountable for the shit that swills around in your demented head.
If someone wrote that to you they would never get past the censors. If you can’t be reasonable, at least don’t be offensive. Everyone has a right to express an opinion, except in totalitarian regimes.
Who is stopping you expressing the gibberish you glorify with the word ‘opinion’? I’m happy to have you spout whatever BritNat pish you want. You only embarrass yourself. Go for it! We’ll all have a laugh at your expense.
Another brilliantly and thoughtfully constructed response from you. You really do seem to enjoy being the playground bully. I haven’t belittled your point of view, and it’s not me embarrassing myself with Nationalist aggression, is it? I am only suggesting that you may actually persuade people to your point of view if you weren’t so offensive to alternative viewpoints. Or are you now going to throw yet another pointless childish insult at me for daring to not agree with you?
Dunno if you have noticed, but Peter.A. Bell has written a number of articles on the current Covid crisis.
However, his main focus being the Independence question, it is only fair, he writes on that subject.
But clearly, you would still find some other complaint about anyone going on about Independence for Scotland!
Scotland will never “get back on its feet” so long as it is part of UK.
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Sorry, but you are pre-judging me, but I do appreciate your politeness. If the majority of people in Scotland entitled to vote voted for independence, it would have to happen. There’s no argument. I am convinced that it would be a bad thing for Scotland and the UK, so I am therefore a Unionist. That’s my point of view. I politely respect alternative points of view, I just don’t understand why some people just want to hurl invective and insults. It really doesn’t help their cause, except with extremists.
You are a hopeless dreamer, I am sorry to say. An independent Scotland would have an economy at 3rd world levels. The Barnett formula has given you a magic carpet ride of fanciful ideas that do not stand up to hard scrutiny. How would independent Scotland prosper? By selling Saltires to each other?
That’s a brilliant parody of the typically ignorant British Nationalist fanatic. Well done!
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What annoys most independence supporters is that you unionist supporters NEVER come up with good reasons why Scotland should remain as a partner ( ha ha ) in the union , all we ever get is barnett formula and oil is running out , Scotland has an abundance of natural resources which includes its citizens , you unionists fail to see the hypocrisy of your statements or the pure stupidity of them when there are SO many small countries around the world of similar size and population with no where near the natural resources which we have yet for some reason they manage to survive and prosper , but Scotland is too wee too poor and too stupid to do the same , Get off your knees do some research and take some pride in your country
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Could I possibly trouble you for some evidence of these similar-size countries that ‘survive and prosper’, and what exactly your definition of that term is please? Also, I would like to see what criteria you base your comparisons on. For the record, I am not on my knees, just fed up of being hectored and browbeaten by fanatics. What’s next on the agenda? Burning copies of Shakespeare and Dickens in public? Boycotting English businesses in Scotland? Torching second homes owned by the English? The SRA? That last one probably already exists.
This is a warning. If you continue promoting anti-English violence you will be blocked. There will be no second warning.
What twisted logic you must have to accuse me of promoting violence, when I am, in fact, warning against it. Fanatics like you just cannot face alternative viewpoints. Go ahead and block me if you want. Isn’t that what the Nazis did?
I’m sure that, as a British Nationalist fanatic, you will be intimately familiar with how Nazis operate. You’ve had your one warning.
Another excellent summation Peter however, the cultlike apologists you speak of along with their fellow travellers require to be relieved of the notion that Nicola Sturgeon is somehow beholden to a cabal within the heart of Scottish Government. Nicola Sturgeon is at the heart of the Scottish Government, the notion that she is unwittingly allowing her position as First Minister to be the conduit
for questionable policy, in whichever sphere, is to be naive in the extreme. ALL of it passes over her
ministerial desk and therefore carries that endorsement! Were it the fact that she prosecuted the case for Scottish Independence with such assiduity our country and its citizens would be in a much better place, this current pandemic notwithstanding!
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I have believed for quite some time that Sturgeon is a stooge of the unionist establishment., Nothing more, nothing less, Her job is to delay any referendum and if possible destroy the independence movement.
Nicola Sturgeon is a manager. She actually used to be quite a good manager. Recently her judgement has been suspect though.
More own goals than Alan Rough!
Our movement doesn’t need a manager. It needs a leader. Alex Salmond wasn’t ever a manager. He was a natural leader. Managers just facilitate functionality. Leaders change history.
Nicola was given several gifts. Massive SNP support. Massive membership. Huge majorities. A solid yes movement to work with. The worst 2 prime minister’s in history.
What has she achieved?
I understand Nicola herself having to put independence to one side at the moment. She has other things on her plate. But I agree – I see NO REASON why the yes movement shouldn’t continue to press ahead online.
All this nonsense that we should all be concentrating on COVID-19 is JUST THAT – BALONEY. We are self-isolating in our homes, and unless we are a key worker, we are stuck here for the duration, twiddling our thumbs! What do those shouting ‘concentrate on COVID’ expect us to do? I’d really like an explanation? Just sit & worry?? These are the very people who know fine THE UNIONIST PARTIES ARE SENDING LEAFLETS OUT TO ALL HOMES! Many of my friends have been bombarded with TORY LEAFLETS. Of course they want us to concentrate on other COVID so they can continue to get THEIR OWN MESSAGES OUT. They’re the same people that ALWAYS take advantage of a horrible situation & then whine about SNP taking any of the same action.
We see you.
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