The train now standing…

The guy who only a few months ago said “We’ve never been closer to independence!” has a hard neck talking about “showboating chaff” from others. And why does Alyn Smith devote so much space to publishing his CV? Is that supposed to impress us? There are, in the Yes movement, many people who could produce an even more impressive account of the effort they have devoted to Scotland’s cause over far more decades than Alyn Smith can claim. And, unlike Mr Smith, doing so unpaid.

He dismisses talk of process. He insists we concentrate on policy. After 20 years in politics you’d think he’d have learned that without process policy goes nowhere. Without process there is no movement. To be so disdainful of process is like saying you don’t care if a vehicle actually runs so long as it is fitted with all the latest technology.

The reality, I suspect, is that Mr Smith doesn’t want to discuss process because he has absolutely nothing to say on the subject. He sure as hell doesn’t want to answer question about the Section 30 process. He won’t explain how it can possibly deliver to a free and fair referendum. He doesn’t want to explain how it can ever be a route to independence.

He is right about one thing. We do need to persuade people. I totally accept that the “gentle persuasion” favoured by him and his pal Pete “The Postponer” Wishart is one way to go about it. Just not the only way! And I would gently point out to both of them that no amount of “gentle persuasion” is going to persuade people to board a train that isn’t going anywhere because the tracks of process haven’t been laid.

Alyn Smith and Pete Wishart want to lure people onto the independence train with talk of how the rail system might be financed and how much more comfortable the seats could be. They are content for the train to remain in the station for as long as it takes to fill it with passengers. But the people running the station are idiots and the place is ablaze. Mr Smith and Mr Wishart look at the encroaching flames and the imminent inferno and tell us we should tolerate being scorched because the fire is driving more people to board the train regardless of the fact that it’s going nowhere.

I want people on that train too. But I reckon we’ll get more travellers if we can assure them that the tracks are laid and a route planned that doesn’t involve trying to get the train to go where the tracks don’t go – as in Pete Wishart’s drivel about a detour to visit the EU. And, more to the point, a route that doesn’t involve running into buffers before the train even leaves the burning station – as in the British state’s ‘gold standard’ Section 30 route.

This is the last train. It may be the last train ever. But it’s certainly the last train for a long while. It has to go. When people see that it is actually getting out of the blazing station and going somewhere, they will rush to get on board. They won’t be deterred by the knowledge that the train is going to a place they’ve never been before, and will have to learn about as we travel and after we arrive. They will be exited by the prospect and confident that they can deal with any problems along the way and cope with whatever challenges being in a new place might bring.

People will board the independence train when the crew inspires confidence. If their questions about departure time and journey time are met with quotes from the company’s sales brochures then they are going to be sceptical about the ability of the crew to get them safely to their destination. They will wonder why the train manager is giving them his spiel about company policy on smoking when they’ve asked what time the train is leaving. They will be irked when the train manager launches into a glowing, travel-brochure account of the destination when they inquired about any track and signal work that might cause delays in getting to that destination. They’ll be seriously worried when they ask about the driver’s qualifications and experience only to have their attention drawn to how good she looks in the uniform.

Those on board and those still milling on the platform will all be baffled and horrified if the train manager shrugs off persistent questions by telling everybody that the train can’t go until the crew gets permission from the station-master. Who happens to be the one setting all the fires in the station. The one who wants to keep the train in the station because he’s destroying all the food outlets on the concourse and he knows the train’s catering service is sufficiently well-stocked to provide for him and select members of his staff – so long as everybody else is put on meagre rations.

The analogy may have been overworked, but it serves well to convey an idea of Scotland’s present predicament. Maybe, too, it serves to help us see what needs to be done to get us out of this predicament. We know there is only this train and this crew. We know what our destination is. Even if we don’t have a detailed street map and recent photographs of important landmarks and architect’s plans of every building, we know it’s where we must go – because staying is not a viable option. We know all of this, and knowing all of this we know that our best hope of getting out of the burning station and at least setting off on our journey is to urge a better performance from the team running the train.

We have to demand that the train leave now! If that means leaving without the station-master’s permission, so be it. Because the tracks are clear, at least to the first bend. Those tracks are not going to vanish or become impassible just because we didn’t get a form signed by an official who doesn’t even work for this rail company – our rail company. Because, you see, it’s our train. They’re our tracks. We are all shareholders. We own the train and we are entitled to use the rail network to go wherever we choose.

All aboard!!!



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17 thoughts on “The train now standing…

  1. But to complete the analogy, the train has to be electric and the network has turned off the power to that route.

    Once the BritNats would have asked Scotland “Youse and whose army?”. These days the question would more likely be “You and whose central bank?”

    Put simply, I can’t really see how Scotland could accomplish independence without an _agreed_ division of financial and other resources with the rUK.

    Does anyone at all have a credible route map? Unless the points are all correctly set, we might end up anywhere …

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    1. Who has suggested “Scotland could accomplish independence without an _agreed_ division of financial and other resources with the rUK”? Only the voices in your silly head. Let me know when you’re finished with that conversation and ready to join this discussion.

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      1. Not a very nice reply was it?
        I’m all in favour of the destination, but would like to see what thinking there has been regarding the practicalities of the various possible options.
        If you want a good majority behind you, then you can’t just expect everyone to take a leap in the dark … I might (if things get bad enough), you might, but a decent majority to give credibility ???

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      2. Did you not understand the question? I’ll repeat it. Even though I know it’s pointless.

        Who has suggested “Scotland could accomplish independence without an _agreed_ division of financial and other resources with the rUK”?

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      3. Surely that would be an inevitable consequence of any extreme unilateral action. Or am I missing something?

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      4. Who is suggesting “extreme unilateral action”? (Necessarily a rhetorical question.)

        In answer to your own query, it seems that your problem is not so much that you’re missing something as that you’re seeing lots of stuff that isn’t actually there. Although I don’t doubt that you’re missing a lot as well.

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  2. When Alyn Smith says “the polls are finally moving in our direction” you can almost here his inner self shrieking in terror “Watch out! We might win!!!”

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    1. Or maybe he’s sensible enough to realise the story these polls really tell. Which is a story of failure. In the pas 4 or 5 years the polls have been effectively static – taking into consider a margin of error of two or three points. Neither the Brexit bump nor the Boris bump happened. Or, to whatever limited extent they did, they didn’t last. It’s the same story with the present bump that everybody’s getting irrationally excited about. That bump is almost entirely attributable to Nicola Sturgeon’s superb performance in the course of the public health emergency. That won’t last.

      In a month or two or three – certainly before the next election – that will all be history. The bump will disappear. What we should be looking for; what we need; what we must strive for, is a sustained increase in polling for Yes. That shall not and cannot be achieved entirely by good performance in crises or on the back of one person’s political charisma. Neither will sustained support for Yes be won by the “gentle persuasion” favoured by the likes of Pete Wishart. If it could’ve, it would’ve. Pete and his ilk have had a decade and more to make their tactics work. They had some success in the early years. They probably get some credit for our 45%. But they’ve had vanishingly little impact since. Despite the circumstances being almost ideal for persuasion to work.

      The polls are ten points below where they should be. Ten points lower than we’re entitled to expect. The polls tell a story of sad failure. They tell us we need a new approach to the entire constitutional issue. As ever, Alyn Smith has no ideas.

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      1. In fact 7 out of the last 8 surveys have shown Yes ahead, with an average of 51%. The last two have shown 54%, so maybe as low (again) as 51% given the 3% error margin. But either way you look at it the trend is upwards and is around 6% higher presently than the actual referendum poll in September 2014. However, I believe this has come about in spite, rather than because, of anything the SNP leadership have done since then and also because of ‘external’ matters (Brexit, COVID).

        I am not sure where the opinion polls should be but I would like the actual vote to be a lot higher when/if we have the next Independence referendum. We only got 52% in the 1979 Devo referendum (when a third of the electorate abstained) and my view is that we need to be aiming to get somewhere in the region of three-quarters of those who vote (as in the 1997 Devo referendum) when/if Indyref II comes around.

        But if we don’t get a move on now and call a confirmatory referendum after a vote in the legitimate Scottish Parliament we may not even get the opportunity to self-determine (even if polls show Yes at 90%).

        In any event Alyn Smith and his ilk are unlikely to be in the vanguard (and more likely in the guard’s van) of your metaphorical train.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Great analogy! How about this for a song to inspire the campaign,,?

    People, get ready
    There’s a train a-coming
    You don’t need no ticket
    You just get on board
    All you need is faith
    To hear the diesels humming
    Don’t need no ticket
    You just thank the Lord’

    Curtis Mayfield

    Liked by 2 people

  4. A superb analogy Peter.

    The Scottish government have now had a taste of being the government of an independent country in all but name.

    They have protected their people as well as they possibly could and demonstrated a yawning chasm in competence between the Scottish and UK governments.

    Surely this has broken the psychological shackles, the colonial spell. The Emperor has no clothes.

    It is now time to act to protect us from a hard Brexit future in the same bold and courageous way as they have protected us from the worst ravages of the virus.

    There will never be a better time to act, or a worse time not to act.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. And here we go again. Let me help you diss the SNP’s politicians. Follow me sheeples. There’s dozens if not hundreds of “stories” I could tell you about corrupt BritNat politicians on my so-called pro-independence site but hey ho I don’t want to, so will not do so. Peter Bell the BritNats bestest friend. One day in the not so distant future we’ll all, SURELY, find out why-for. And I for one will make sure of that. Oh yes WE will.

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  6. I didn’t read past your first paragraph, had a look at the article and didn’t read past where he falsely said there were only two polls this year (showing YES ahead as if he cared). Did he hibernate?

    Frankly I admire your endeavour, for me Smith completely lost his relevance when packed up being an MEP early and stole the Stirling candidature from the previous election candidate who was the previous MP.

    As an MEP he was worth reading, as an MP he isn’t. He’s less useful than Ian Murray who at least knows his constituency and is apparently well respected there. Even without having read much of your article I’d give it an upvote.

    Liked by 1 person

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