Default assumptions

My default assumption is that the British government is wrong. Always wrong. Entirely wrong. Wrong in every sense of the word. This is not a position based on prejudice. It is a position arrived at by reason. It is a position that is informed by evidence. The British political elite invariably gets it wrong. Whether it is pursuing partition, invading Iraq, imposing austerity or quitting the EU, British politicians are unequivocally, demonstrably and appallingly wrong pretty much all of the time. There are reasons for this. That they so consistently get it wrong can be explained in terms of British exceptionalism and numerous other factors. But none of that matters here. What matters is that I have perfectly rational cause to take as my default assumption that the British are wrong.

Nicola Sturgeon has just as good reason to work from a similar assumption. But she doesn’t. On the contrary, she appears inexplicably eager to assume that the British government’s approach is the correct approach. Not even Boris Johnson and Brexit seem to have disabused her of this ‘quaint’ nation. The Section 30 debacle has been further indication of this tendency to be overly impressed by the glittery goldishness of the British way.

Even when Nicola Sturgeon openly disagrees with the British government – as with Brexit – she nonetheless insists on adhering to the ‘British way’ of dealing with that disagreement. Which is to treat it as if it is not, in fact, disagreement at all. Not in any effective way. It may be described as disagreement, but no action may be taken which reflects this. Disagree, but go along. That is what the British state expects of its annexed territories. Nicola Sturgeon is ever willing to oblige.

She went along with the British government’s approach to the coronavirus pandemic. In the early days, she was at pains to stress that there would be a unified UK-wide approach to dealing with the public health crisis. Which essentially meant not treating it as a crisis. We now know that the British government got it wrong. Boris Johnson was stupidly, perhaps criminally, negligent for the first few weeks of the Covid-19 outbreak. Weeks that were crucial to any effort to minimise deaths – if not economic disruption and social dislocation. That would have been a good time for our First Minister to adopt my default assumption that the British government is wrong. But that is not what she did.

Only now are we starting to see some signs that Nicola Sturgeon is prepared to contemplate a parting of the ways with Boris Johnson and the simultaneously sycophantic and treacherous clown troupe he has gathered around him. Only now is she talking about the possibility of Scotland doing things differently. Only now does she seem willing to consider quitting the fuckwit collective which, it must be acknowledged, she never looked comfortable being part of.

Only now are we getting hints that the First Minister may decline to follow Boris The Bonehead into a reckless and over-hasty relaxation of the lockdown. Again, guided by my default assumption that the British are wrong, I was way ahead of her on this. I was way ahead of here even before I read the advice being given to the British government by their experts. This, for example, from more than a month ago –

We show that intermittent social distancing – triggered by trends in disease surveillance – may allow interventions to be relaxed temporarily in relative short time windows, but measures will need to be reintroduced if or when case numbers rebound.

Imperial College COVID-19 Response Team

If the stupidity of this is obvious to me then why is it not just as apparent to Nicola Sturgeon? I can appreciate that it may be beyond the comprehension of someone like Boris Johnson. But I expect better of our First Minister. It’s neither rocket science nor epidemiology! Absent rigorous intervention, an infectious viral outbreak has only one “trend” and that is to become a pandemic. If you are behind it, reacting to its spread then you are, by definition, not preventing its spread. You are losing. You are allowing people to become unnecessarily ill and needlessly die in preference to taking action which is merely politically problematic and economically costly. In that one sentence we have more than ample justification for putting as much distance as possible between ourselves and the British way.

But even now, when no doubt worthy of consideration remains that the British government got it wrong on this as on so much that went before, Nicola Sturgeon only hesitantly, tentatively, reluctantly speaks of diverging from the path taken by the British government. A path which would seem to be leading to one of the highest death tolls from Covid-19. Why? Why is it so difficult for Nicola Sturgeon to act on the assumption that Scotland is a very different country from England and that we therefore require and deserve an approach tailored to our needs? Why was this not her assumption from the outset?

Taking distrust of the UK Government as her starting point would have cost her nothing. She would still have had the option of emulating their approach where this was deemed appropriate. Of course, she would be accused of politicising the the issue and picking fights with London. But she would be accused of this no matter what she did by people who are themselves intent on politicising the issue and forces which have been conducting a low-level political war against the Scottish Government for at least a decade. She had nothing to lose by emphasising an independent approach from the outset.

Of all people, is this not what we would expect from the leader of Scotland’s independence party? Should she not be constantly thinking and acting as if independence were her default assumption?

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13 thoughts on “Default assumptions

  1. The FM,Nicola Sturgeon said, Independence isn’t about one person, making reference to Alex Salmond. Yet a section 30 order is the FM’s own idea to a Independent Scotland and she calls it “the gold standard”, to Independence. The PM has refused a section 30 order, and that has been accepted and been laid to rest in January by the FM. Why has the FM not challenged the PM for a confirmed date?. You have to be missing your head not to see that Nicola Sturgeon has not been interested in a referendum for years, therefore, for Scotland it would be better if the FM and her husband stood down, so Scotland can start to have a voice along with the 120,000 Scots who have joined the SNP under Sturgeon’s leadership.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. It’s long overdue that Scotland put some anti-social distance between itself and her nearest neighbour thus condemning that entity to the splenidid isolation that it so clearly desires and deserves.



  3. The only “sensible” conclusion I can think of is that the First Minister has been “read the riot act” and she’s been walking on egg shells as lightly as she can in the fear that the Westminster dragon would wake up and lay waste to Holyrood.

    Only now, when the Conservative government looks like it might collapse, is she making the first, tentative steps in a direction that would start to put some daylight between Scotland and the rest of the UK.


  4. Do you mean threatened by saying been “read the riot act’ Stuart? I had always imagined that the British establishment would threaten any SNP leader at some point when things aren’t going their way.
    What do you think would be said?


  5. Joanna Cherry is now asking the Home Secretary Priti Patel why people are still being allowed to disembark from planes from abroad and flow through UK airports without health checks, testing or quarantining.

    But similar questions could be asked of NS given that police and health are devolved.

    Joanna is an MP not an MSP so it is appropriate she tackles the Home Secretary. But MSPs should tackle NS. We need answers.

    1. Was she given bad advice by Catherine Calderwood?
    2. Was there a failure of political imagination and leadership?
    3. Did she fear political repercussions from UK press and politicians?
    4. Why did she abandon testing and tracing mid-March – which Calderwood said was a ‘huge distraction’?


    1. Checks, etc, at Airports is a Reserved matter. I wonder tho, if Scottish Government could do anything, on its own?
      But it does seem the First Minister is slavishly following everything London does in this crisis. And as we know, she seems to defer to London regards Independence!
      Maybe she thinks if she is seen co-operating it might make London consider her demands for Section 30 at some later date. That, would be a waste of time, if she did think along those lines.
      We have seen ourselves how this “Four Nations” approach is going, and it isn’t in favor of Scotland.
      One other thing about that, there is not “Four Nations” here. Northern Ireland is not a “Nation” !!


      1. They did manage to procure 10m face masks plus other equiipment direct from China. So that was a welcome ‘independent’ step, albeit a small one.

        Now will NS have the guts to diverge from the UK where they are clearly wanting to lift the lockdown as soon as they can and get back to putting profit before people?

        I agree with your comment, Gordon, regarding NI – it isn’t even a province. It is two-thirds of a province.


  6. Stuart McKay, in a btl comment above, suggests the FM has: “been read the riot act.” Maybes aye, maybes naw.

    But, I would suggest, she does have to walk a tight-rope. If she diverges too much from Westminster’s Way, I would suggest, this Tory Government would not hesitate to use its emergency powers, shut down Holyrood and the Scottish Government and take overall control of the situation,

    In the long run, this would be great for the cause of Independence, assuming we ever got Holyrood and the SG back.


    1. Definitely agree with the tight-rope. The gist of my comment is that the First Minister aligns herself a little too strongly with the Westminster position – possibly more than she needs to.

      It could be a carefully crafted position to lower the bar as much as possible for the No’s and Maybe’s but that position is indistinguishable from all the mud about foot-dragging and “not really interested in independence” that gets thrown in her direction.


  7. She is surrounded by the wrong people.

    And she needs to prick that bubble which all politicians are guilty of living in before it deflates and adheres to her.


  8. “Of all people, is this not what we would expect from the leader of Scotland’s independence party? Should she not be constantly thinking and acting as if independence were her default assumption?”


    If it quacks like a Unionist and walks like a Unionist…

    Apply Occam’s razor.


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