Us or them!

Angus Brendan MacNeil has called on Nicola Sturgeon to restart the independence campaign. It will come as a surprise to precisely no-one that I am in total agreement with him on this. The independence campaign should never have been stopped. In fact, it hasn’t been stopped. Nicola Sturgeon’s cease and desist order was never going to deter anyone who was truly committed to the cause of restoring Scotland’s independence. Faced with an unprecedented public health crisis, their first wasn’t that all campaigning must stop. Their first thought was about how the campaign could be kept going in spite of the lockdown restrictions. They never imagined that campaigning necessarily involved the kind of interpersonal contact that was rendered impossible by an infectious virus in the population. They had never considered campaigning to be entirely and exclusively about leafleting and canvassing and street stalls and public meetings and social events. They realised immediately that the required response to Covid-19 incidentally created ideal conditions in which to develop the online campaign.

Nobody expected Nicola Sturgeon to be at the forefront of this campaign, or even to be a visible presence. Quite literally everybody knew and was happy to acknowledge that, as First Minister, she must focus all her attention on dealing with the challenges of a massive public health crisis. But the more intellectually acute among us also recognised that politics doesn’t stop for anything. Because everything is politics. There is no aspect of life which is completely detached from politics of one kind or another or at one level or another. While Nicola Sturgeon seemed to suppose that the constitutional issue is an exception, others realised that there are no exceptions to the fact that everything is political, only things that are excluded from our political discourse for purposes that are always malign and never acceptable in a democracy.

It takes a very special kind of blinkered idiocy to imagine that the coronavirus crisis has nothing to do with politics. And an unimaginable level of stupidity to fail to recognise the relevance of constitutional politics. One of the main issues is the question of where and how and by whom decisions are taken. Here is just one example.

Perhaps, the most surprising aspect of the British COVID crisis is that the Scottish Government has allowed its strategy and the operations to be directed by Westminster, which has taken a London-centric approach to the epidemic and with respect to the lock down. 

Coronavirus Crisis: Underfunding, Restructuring, Privatisation and Fragmentation at the Heart of the Crisis in Holyrood and Westminster

This has to be political because the matter of who decides is the very essence of constitutional politics. Angus MacNeil gets it. Like myself and increasing numbers of other, Angus is no doubt wondering how the developing debate around a lockdown exit strategy and what follows can sensibly exclude the constitutional issue. How can we talk about how different things will be without reference to the question of who decides what this difference will be? How can we discuss shaping a new normal without considering the forces that will be doing the shaping?

I think our opponents will tell us its bad taste because they don’t want us to do it. The people themselves are receptive to argument. No amount of telling Jackson Carlaw it’s in bad taste to go shouting about the Union will stop Jackson Carlaw go shouting about the Union.

I have previously commented on the curious manner in which the constitutional issue is declared a ‘special case’.

And it is particularly the constitutional issue that is the matter we are supposed to put entirely from our minds. Nobody suggests that the coronavirus crisis obviates the climate crisis. Nobody has suggested that the conflict in Syria has ceased to be of any importance because only the coronavirus crisis can be important. The public health crisis certainly hasn’t put a stop to the British political elite’s constitutional machinations. If anything, the malignant child-clown in Downing Street is accelerating its plans and intensifying its efforts to forcibly mould these islands into a new state made in the image of the imagined ‘Great Britain’ of a grotesquely mythologised past. Only in Scotland are we expected – required – to abandon our aspirations for something better than Boris Johnson’s tawdry blend of Little England and Greater England where every day is a crossover between Dad’s Army and Terry & June. Don’t you ever ask yourself why?

Three crises

I am not saying that Nicola Sturgeon is stupid. She had reasons for issuing that ‘cease and desist’ command to the party and the Yes movement. I’m simply saying they were not good reasons. Her ‘cease and desist’ order was neither necessary nor sufficient. There was no need for it. And it was never going to work. It is puzzling that an individual who exhibits such superb leadership skills in her handling of the Covid-19 crisis can be so politically inept in other areas. It’s as if the Nicola Sturgeon who is First Minister and the Nicola Sturgeon who is the de facto figurehead of the independence campaign are two very different people. Or maybe just one person better able to cope with one role than the other.

I welcome Angus MacNeil’s intervention. I think it is both needed and timely. I also think it is futile – at least in terms of his headline demand. Nicola Sturgeon isn’t about to interrupt one of her daily media briefings to declare the independence campaign on again. I strongly suspect that Angus is well aware of this. His statement was framed to attract media attention, but he’s actually talking to us – the Yes movement. He is making the point that politics hasn’t stopped. He is stating the direct an inevitable connection between the Covid response and the constitutional issue. He is putting that connection out for debate. And he is making it clear that not only is there no good reason to silence that debate, there is very good reason for insisting on it.

It is more than half a century since, on winning the Hamilton by-election, Winnie Ewing declared “Stop the world! Scotland wants to get on!”. Rousing words which had the desired effect at the time. We’ve moved on a bit since then. Well, some of us have. Some of us have realised that the world isn’t going to stop for us any more than politics will stop because of a global pandemic. If we still want to “get on” then we have to keep up. We have to match the speed at which the world moves. If we don’t, then the world moves on leaving us where we are. Similarly, if we opt out of any aspect of the political process it won’t oblige us by stopping until we feel like rejoining. If independence activists aren’t involved in and influencing the debate about Scotland’s future then all we are doing is allowing others to decide that future for us. Do we really want to put Scotland’s future in the hands of people like Alister ‘Union’ Jack?

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17 thoughts on “Us or them!

  1. The trouble is we need to take Westminster to court we all know it, and it’s Sturgeon that needs to do that and the even bigger problem is that needs to be done this year, while we are still part of the EU and still have the European Court of Justice as the final arbiter of justice, if we leave it until next year that role will be taken over by the Westminster controlled English Supreme Court and all that will happen is Westminster instructing the ESC to deny Scotland a referendum, game over, independence gone, that’s the reality


    1. Absolutely agree, lawcom. No way to leave this ‘Union’ except by legal means – and that must be international law. No domestic court is going to deviate from the English ‘British’ Constitution, and that constitution does not allow for leaving the ‘Union’. The Treaty is an international document, subject to international law, and we have every right to resile it in the circumstances that we have endured since 1707. Any lawyer worth his or her salt could easily show that this ‘Union’ is not comparable in any sense whatsoever with the Treaties of Union and the later Acts of Union (the latter, domestic enabling legislation, not the primary legislation which governs the Treaties in international law). However difficult this will be, however ‘divisive’, however much backbone it will take to stand up to the illegal actions of the Uk government, it must be done. We do not need a referendum; we do not need permission; we do not need to accept, any longer, the nonsense that is spouted by the British Nationalists. It is up to us, as a people, the Scots, and as a nation, Scotland, to accept or refute our second-class status, and with it, the status quo. There can be no breaking the ‘Union’ without also breaking the eggs we need to make the omelette.


  2. But her ‘cease and desist’ order was necessary, wasn’t it?

    It was the signal to the British establishment that she is their best defence against Independence.

    The 2021 election campaign has started and there is no place for any talk of Independence. Sturgeon has used this crisis to position herself as the acceptable face of the British establishment in Scotland. The recent articles in the Telegraph and the Times confirms this beyond doubt.

    When such organs are praising the leader of the SNP, it really should give pause for thought but the happy clappies lap it up as proof of how well she is doing.

    And, let’s be fair, she really has been excellent. I can’t think of a single Tory Secretary of State for Scotland that could have done Westminster’s bidding any better and she comes with the added bonus of bringing the vast bulk of the pesky nationalists along for the ride into the bargain. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you One Nation Nicola, Uniting the Kingdom as no Tory ever could.

    There is nothing of substance in her ‘plan’ for exiting lockdown. It is a brazen PR exercise to make it look as if she is on the front foot when the reality is, as has been the case all along, she will be led by UK policy with operational tweaks for dealing with the differing institutions and structures of civic life.

    The major policy difference that she herself can point to during this entire episode is that the Scottish Government issued ‘slightly stricter advice’ to the construction sector, which has been roundly ignored by several sites anyway.

    The great benefit of abdicating responsibility for making decisions is that it frees up so much more time for media work and the preparation for such. So why change a winning a strategy?

    So let’s just wait and see how our exit POLICY does differ from the rest of the UK at the end of the day. Spoiler alert: not much although the FM will try to string it out for as long as possible to control the narrative.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is a strange place to be. Indy must go on, I want an Indyref, but the Salmond case makes it quite clear to me that the SNP cannot be in the forefront of Indy until there has been an internal SNP inquiry and some clearing of the air. And probably some clearing of seats at top table. I cannot trust the SNP top table not to mess up an Indyref. Clearing the air will take time. Failing to do so will take more time because we will need to route around a failed SNP.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The Dissident @ 11.47am thank you for writing your comment it saved me the bother , Joanna Cherry first needs to take the sovereignty of our nation to the ICJ to enable the WORLD to see that we are a SEPARATE and DISTINCT nation and COUNTRY from the ruk and that recognition will have to be accepted by the other nations for future dealings , then if NS will not inform the WM establishment that due to their numerous breaches of the treaty of union Scotland is dissolving the union she MUST step down or be removed , I would like to see Joanna Cherry replacing her if she can prove that independence is once again the reason d’etre of the SNP

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I think Nicola would make an ideal deputy leader. She is a competent functionary. She is not a natural leader of the independence movement. She lacks the character, initiative and charisma to bring about independence. Boris for all his faults has character, initiative and charisma. He is a complete failure as a functionary. He is achieving his ideological goals we aren’t despite widespread support.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I do agree that Nicola is not the person to lead the SNP/Independence movement. Her inaction on the constitutional issue since Theresa May said “now is not the time” more than 3 years ago proves that beyond doubt. Articles of evidence include her “reset” after the 2017 GE, waiting till the “fog of Brexit” had cleared throughout 2016-19, let’s elect an “SNP/Labour coalition” at the 2019 GE and now the “cease and desist” edict to the Yes community for the duration of the health crisis 2020 onwards.

      Nicola is completely risk-averse. We need someone at the top who takes risks. By which I mean calculated risks. If you want to win a lot of money on the Grand National you might consider hedging your bets by placing larger amounts ‘each way’ on the long-odds nags and smaller ‘on the nose’ pots on the favourites. Having various strategies on-going simultaneously avoids being reckless by putting all your wagers on a single winner takes all outcome and mitigates the chance of failure. In Nicola’s case she appears not to wish to put up a stake, perhaps because she doesn’t think the process by which you may win the prize is worthy.

      Maybe Nicola thinks that taking what she believes to be the ‘moral’ or ‘higher’ ground by playing by British bent, make it up as you go along, whatever is expedient rules will result in the gift of a Section 30 order being presented free and gratis.

      At best she is sadly deluded. At worst … I don’t even want to think about that.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s very worrying.

      If you annoy then you are doing something right. On the other hand, if you please them you must be doing any awfully lot wrong.


      1. Duncanio: let’s not forget the pretending to please because it suits your purpose. Have no time for violence and was very glad when Adams and MacGuinness changed tack to fighting elections. They went along with the British because they knew their day would come. However, we have done all of that, we have played the long game, we have shown competence in government and we now need to break the ‘Union’. No other way now. We need to break the ‘Union’ the only way we can now – legally, and only through international law. Other nations would have given their eye teeth for the Treaty, but we despise it and consider it worthless, even while we adhere to England-as-the-UK, on the one hand, and repudiate it, on the other. RLS, Burns and many others understood the contradictions at the heart of Scotland and the dichotomy that has us facing longingly towards YES, but looking back at NO. We really are a perverse and infuriating lot.


  5. You get the impression with Angus that he wakes up in the morning dreaming of Independence, like many of his Countrymen and it’s saddening to see someone with his commitment to the cause be shackled to the complete apathy around the issue from those in the “top table”.

    I’m sick of the Nicola can do no wrong brigade, she has failed miserably to generate any significant support since 2014 which is criminal considering the circumstances. We should be on 60% in favour of independence by now with the required infrastructure in place to go it alone as evidence that we are planning for a future outside of the UK. Glaring opportunities have been missed to release the beast but no, nothing; just bland subservience to fascists. I cannot and will never accept this.

    When did we become a nation of complete weaklings? Someone in the SNP with some cojones needs to step up now or another party will need to be formed. NS is going nowhere because she has such strong support from the cultists ” slow, steady steps , I have full trust in Nicola” . Sorry I don’t buy this crap. if we cannot wrestle free from this Tory government (the most Incompetent in history) following Brexit and now this shambles, we are doomed.

    After a long and hard think on matters I’ve made the decision to cancel my SNP membership and donate the money to help Craig Murray’s legal costs as I feel it’s more bang for my buck. Maybe if they see the coffer reducing they might pay attention to their core support and radically change direction. Maybe I’m being Naive.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Today’s SNP remind me a lot of the John Redmond era in Irish politics, the Redmonites, they sound as if they want independence but are quite happy to play the British game using the British rules. It is going to take a struggle to shake off the shackles of the British state. The SNP have been infiltrated by too many union leaning MP’s who are quite happy to take the British shilling.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Once, at a politics tutorial, the lecturer wanted to demonstrate that ‘everything is political’. He did it by asking students to give examples of issues that weren’t political, then, for each example, citing a government policy or law that was involved. I suggested that his method of inviting students to comment and then refuting their claims was also political, but he just looked blank.

    Liked by 1 person

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