March against the Union

With regard to marches, as with everything else, there’s never a lack of naysayers within the Yes movement. It doesn’t seem to matter what you do or propose to do, there are always people who will sniffily insist that you should be doing something else. And, of course, there are always those who take against an action or initiative for reasons they’re reluctant to provide but, being unable to formulate a rational argument, resort to insisting simply that the thing will ‘put off soft No voters’; or ‘play into the hands of the Unionists’. Don’t ask them to explain these claims or supply any supporting evidence. You’ll just confuse them.

Marches are no exception. Every time a march and rally is held you’ll find the usual suspects on social media trying to make those attending feel guilty by saying they should be out leafleting instead. Or manning street stalls. Or whatever. What they should be doing is anything but whatever it is that they are doing.

In fact, there are few if any occasions on which marches interfere with other campaigning activities. That’s because the people organising those activities are not daft. They know the dates of the marches well in advance and organise leafleting runs and street stalls etc. around those dates. It is also the case that, however many people turn out for the marches there are always those who can’t or won’t go and who are therefore available for doing other things. The complaints are nonsense.

Marches and rallies serve a purpose. They serve more than one purpose. They increase the visibility of the Yes movement and help to normalise the idea of independence. They also provide an opportunity for networking. Many worthwhile initiatives have been conceived among activists gathered in pubs and cafes during and after these events. Folk from the borders get to connect with folk from the north. Folk from the cities get to connect with folk from the isles. Folk from furth of Scotland’s borders add their input to this great cauldron of ideas and enthusiasm. All it takes is the spark of an idea and a fresh fire is lit.

That said, I do have issues with these marches and rallies. All too often they lack focus. It can be hard to tell at times if you’re attending a march in support of Scottish independence or a demonstration against the Tories. Or nuclear weapons. Or zero-hour contracts. Or capitalism. Maybe it’s a climate change protest. Or an effort to save whales or trees or…. You get the idea.

What really troubled me about the marches last year was that they continued to direct public ire in the direction of London when it had become more appropriate to direct it towards Edinburgh. They were about sending a message to Westminster when we really needed to be talking to (or shouting at!) Holyrood. They were demanding change in the UK’s governance when the Yes movement is supposed to be about constitutional reform in Scotland. I needed no other reason to abhor the anti-Tory chants and banners than that they totally missed the point.

What was true in the summer of 2019 is even more true now. The government we need to be urging into action is our own – the Scottish Government. The party we should be naming in those chants and on the banners is the SNP. The parliament we should be petitioning is the Scottish Parliament. The rest is irrelevant.

Tories will always be Tories. No march, however huge, will alter them. And they aren’t really the problem. They are only a small part of it. Because it’s not just that Scotland gets Tory governments we voted against. It’s not even that we so rarely get governments in London which sort of reflect how we voted in Scotland. The problem is that we are obliged by the constitutional settlement to accept that we are not entitled to expect always to get the government we vote for. It matters not at all what British party is in power at Westminster, it will have won power on the back of English votes. If the party they choose happens to be the same British party branch we’ve voted for in Scotland we are supposed to be grateful for British democracy. If the party they choose is not the one we have voted for we are supposed to be uncomplaining about British demockracy.

Changing governments in London changes nothing for Scotland. No British government will ever consider Scotland’s interests as a priority. No British government will serve Scotland’s interests other than when doing so serves the interests of the British state. Attempting to address Scotland’s problems by fiddling with the Westminster arithmetic is like imagining you can make rotten food edible by stirring it. Protesting against Tories and Westminster is just futile flailing at the surface. Whatever part of the surface you may be attacking, peel it back and you’ll find the Union.

It is the Union which stipulates that Scotland must always be subordinate and secondary and powerless within the UK. That is what the Union was intended to do. It’s what the Union has always been for. Only by ending the Union can Scotland enjoy true democracy. The Union must deny democracy in order that the Union might persist. The Union must persist in order that democracy can be denied. Democracy must be conditional on whatever serves the structures of power, privilege and patronage which define the British state.

The Union is the choke-chain around Scotland’s throat. If marches and rallies and other Yes activities aren’t trying to break that chain then, whatever good they may do in some regards, they are doing nothing for the restoration of Scotland’s independence.

I appeal to all of those organising marches and rallies to put their best efforts into persuading participants to protest against the Union. I urge all of those involved to focus their attention and efforts on demanding action by the Scottish Government in the Scottish Parliament for the purpose of breaking the chains that keep Scotland at the mercy of a corrupt and incompetent British political elite.

I ask that all Yes activists support the aims of White Rose Rising (www,

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18 thoughts on “March against the Union

  1. I’ve given you a ‘like’ as I’m in broad agreement with your analysis, however three questions came to mind as I read your post :

    1. Out of interest, how often (if ever) has the balance of power at WM been so close as to be decided by the Scottish vote? And if and when that was the case, did the English cry foul?

    2. If “… the Union … stipulates that Scotland must always be subordinate and secondary and powerless within the UK”, how then was devolution and the establishment of the Holyrood parliament ever achieved? Many perhaps would say that this proves progress is achievable and independence will be obtained in a step by step manner … all in guid time … aye mebbie … 😉

    3. Regarding “structures of power, privilege and patronage”, would not an independent Scotland simply inherit or quickly develop it’s own local version of such abominations? At best can we not hope that they would be more easily kept within bounds?


    1. 1. Don’t know. Don’t care. This is just the passing stuff happening on the surface. What matters is that the Union always pulls things in the same direction.

      2. Devolution was always intended as a device to strengthen and maintain the Union. It was only permitted on condition that it never put the Union in jeopardy. It’s a British imperialist ploy which has gone wrong – from the British imperialist perspective. It was supposed to rein Scotland in while giving the appearance of reform.

      In fact, devolution itself changed very little from Scotland’s perspective. Until the SNP started using devolved powers imaginatively. If the British parties had kept control of Holyrood as intended the situation would be very different. As it is, there’s no better illustration of devolution’s true purpose than Section 30.

      3. There is no reason to suppose that independent Scotland would develop structures of power, privilege and patronage in any way similar to those which define the British state. The main reason being a written constitution in place from the outset. That and the very different political culture that exists here.

      It’s a complex issue. But perhaps the most significant contributor to the form of established power that prevails in England is continuity. That and a starting point deep in the age of feudalism and absolute monarchy. One of the things a written constitution must do is facilitate breaks in such continuity. A well written constitution prevents the formation of dynasties. The British system positively encourages them.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thankyou for your swift and interesting reply, food for thought. Full reply in a while. Meantime I hope others will contribute to the discussion, the more ideas the better 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. In response to point #3, the English had their revolution of course, way back before the Union, but it quickly degenerated into virtual dictatorship so the monarchy was restored, along no doubt with all the layers of privilege that went with it. A case of “better the devil you know” perhaps?
        Hopefully a new Scottish constitution would not be similarly subverted. How to draft such a document so as to encourage enterprise, business and prosperity while at the same time preventing undue inequality of either wealth or power?


        1. “to encourage enterprise, business and prosperity”

          This is no part of the role of a constitution. A constitution sets down the principles which inform policy. It does not define policy.


          1. Not on a day-by-day basis, no, but it should set down and attempt to balance the rights and powers of the various sectors of the community. E.g. capital vs. labour, urban vs. rural, etc. And should not every citizen at least have their basic needs met when necessary? Is that not a constitutional matter?


  2. I think you are absolutely right that we should focus the issue on the single issue of democracy

    In no particular order the Tories, climate policy, nuclear weaponry, foreign policy waring adventures, poverty, you-name-it are all upshots of being part of the one-sided Union.

    I am glad that the movement – if not the SNP leadership – seems in more belligerent mood. We no longer feel the need to justify the undoubted potential of Scotland as a freely independent nation-state by dry debate around macroeconomics and national economic statistics: We have oil (hard currency in the ground), renewable energy sources (so there is a plus after all to living with our miserable climate!), water (we can pipe that do rUK to help with their drought problems, for a price naturally), finance (Scots invented banking and insurance) and so on and so forth. These are givens.

    The argument has moved on and the leadership needs to get with it. The reason for advocating independence has been stripped back to its bare essentials. It has been honed to a fine, sharp point.

    Put simply: “It’s democracy, stupid”.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. The SNP MPs at Westminster are no longer effective. They are now, simply shoring up the existing political system. What is needed now is a complete change in approach from asking for independence to delivering it. The first step is to bring the SNP MPs home. #bringthemhome

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Yes, in principle. The big question for the SNP leadership is just when to jump? They walk a tightrope and need to accurately access public opinion, they have to take at the very least the majority with them, ideally a very significant majority of Scots. So far they appear to have gained the trust of most of the electorate (no small thanks to the incompetence of WM!) and the idea of a successful sovereign Scottish nation seems fairly well established. All the same, I don’t envy whoever has to decide when the time is right …


      1. The time is right when we make it right. Pete Wishart’s notion of an “optimal time” is a total nonsense. As evidenced by the fact that he couldn’t answer any questions about it. The ‘right time’ isn’t something that’s ‘out there’ waiting to be discovered. It can only be very broadly assessed in terms of a particular set of circumstances. The ‘right time’ is something that is made. It is not the starting set of circumstances which matter but those that prevail when you’re done changing them.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. The current circumstances:

        1. Overwhelming victory in December 2019 UK GE in Scotland.
        2. Stratospheric levels of public confidence in Scottish Government & FM for COVID handling.
        3. Regular majorities, albeit small & within margin of error, in favour of Independence.
        4. Significant majority in favour of holding a referendum.
        5. Significant majority in favour of alternative to failed section 30 route to holding a referendum.
        6. Brex-shit about to hit the fan on December 31st 2020.

        My assessment:

        The time is now (i.e. when the immediate threat of health crises subsides but within next 12 months).

        Liked by 2 people

  4. The Union was down to that infamous Parcel o’ Rogues. What to call those who eventually/hopefully bring it to an end? 🙂


  5. I have signed up to ‘White Rose Rising’ on Facebook and pledge to do anything I can to help.

    I would suggest not ruling out following:

    Don’t hold back from full and enthusiastic support for McNeil and McEleny. They are exactly what we need; individuals with influence and respect within the SNP around whom a larger body of support can coalesce. Making an election a plebiscite on independence is legitimate (see Thatcher, Margaret and others) and eminently do-able. We should respect but not overestimate our opponents; they spent the General election talking of little else but Independence (a gift for the SNP that they spurned). They are mesmerised by it. A mandate to rescind the Treaty can be successfully put front and centre of a Holyrood campaign, if the will is there to do it. The aim is to try to build a consensus around the idea that giving the people of Scotland a choice before or very soon after Brexit is the MODERATE option, the last chance for a ‘velvet divorce’ or something approximating to it. After that, it’s a very dirty fight, with the prospects of winning slimmer than if we go for it now.

    Even now, a referendum, prior to the Holyrood election, should not be ruled out. South Korea managed a General election vote in mid-April, during lockdown. Due to strict observance of distancing, it resulted in no new spike in cases of the virus (with, incidentally, voter approval of the Democratic party’s efficient management of the lockdown being a key factor in their success).

    Thanks for everything you do Peter. I am sure there are many luminaries of the movement that will give their support to White Rose Rising. Let’s hope this is the campaign that can join the dots.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m more than happy to support Angus and Chris. Although not in full agreement with their proposal I appreciate that they are at least shaking the tree.

      Joining the dot is a good analogy. All the dots are there.


  6. Has the drive towards independence simply been stalled by an unprecedented-in-our-lifetimes deadly epidemic?
    It is clearly an impediment to business as usual for normal thinking people.
    However, the clock is ticking very loudly.
    There seems to be a growing acceptance that nothing revolutionary will happen in Scotland between now and the next Holyrood election.
    That is almost a year away!
    Devolution was ‘granted’ by the Blair government under pressure from the EU. As the author says, it was carefully designed and implemented by Westminster to keep the smaller nations in check.
    It has not quite turned out that way thanks to the people at the ballot box.
    However, we must give credit to the SNP. The people would not have elected them in such numbers and with such regularity if they were not making a decent fist of it.

    On 31 January, the so-called ‘UK’ will crash out of the EU. What will this reckless, dangerous, and vicious Tory administration do to the devolved parliaments when EU restraints are removed?
    Will there actually be a devolved Scottish parliament a year from now?
    Why are the SNP suddenly looking so lacking in drive or direction?

    There must be a reason for this.
    Consider some options.
    1. They are quite happy with the role of Governor-general
    2. They are not yet convinced they can win a referendum
    3. They are scared to stir up the Tory ‘Hornet’s nest’
    4. They are paying attention to Napoleon Bonaparte’s advice to, ‘never disturb your enemy when he is making a mistake.’ This hapless Tory ‘government’ does look like God’s gift to the independence movement.
    5. They have a plan more cunning than a fox who has just graduated from the University of Cunning and are ready to spring into action when the health crisis abates.

    Winning back our freedom is going to take clear thinking, courage, and strong conviction – something our Tory enemies clearly lack.
    The next few months could be make-or-break for the SNP and the independence movement.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Peter, a small point but, your web address at the bottom of your March against the Union commentary has a comma where the dot should be after the WWW.
    It causes an error when copied and pasted…
    Best regards


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