Like many people, I have come to regard Joanna Cherry as the person who might jolt the SNP leadership out of the cloth-eared inertia which has beset the party since 2014 and left the independence campaign run aground on a reef of obdurate hyper-caution. I saw in Ms Cherry someone who might look at the increase in support for independence indicated by polls over the past year and rather than unthinkingly accepting this as a vindication of the SNP’s approach to the constitutional issue, would ask the awkward questions. Such as, why only over the past year? Circumstances have been close to ideal for an anti-Union campaign since Friday 19 September 2014. Since then, there have been numerous opportunities to further Scotland’s cause. All of them were missed. Why? If the SNP’s approach to the constitutional issue is appropriate and effective, why was there no evidence of this over a period of five years or more?
I thought Joanna Cherry might be the bold voice within the SNP pointing out the unpalatable facts. Such as the hard reality that high and rising support in the polls is utterly meaningless in the absence of a process by which that support is connected through actions and decisions to an outcome. Strength of public opinion alone changes nothing without the means to translate it into effective political power. The SNP in government is supposed to is supposed to provide that means. Instead, the party’s leadership remains absolutely committed to a process – Section 30 – which does not connect to anything. And now has indefinitely postponed action even on a process which suits only the purposes of the British state.
I was encouraged in my hopes of Joanna Cherry when I read that she was urging the SNP to accept that the anti-Brexit campaign was over and lost. I would have been happier if she were to explicitly acknowledge that the obsession with Brexit should never have been permitted to supersede and supplant the commitment to restoring Scotland’s independence which gets top-billing in the party’s own constitution. But we take what we can get.
Some will say that it is pointless harking back to the past. Generally, these would be the people who stand to be embarrassed by the past. Their sensitivities should not be allowed to stand in the way of learning lessons from past mistakes. Not only has the current leadership of the party failed to learn any lessons, it is in denial about there being anything to learn. Nicola Sturgeon – for it is she as First Minister and party leaders who must shoulder the blame – has ignored and/or denigrated anyone who suggests alternative approaches which take due cognisance of past errors.
But we are where we are. Even if all too many in the Yes movement imagine we’re in a different place altogether. We must move on. With each passing day the need to extricate Scotland from the Union grows more urgent. Only the SNP can provide the means to translate popular support for Scotland’s cause into effective political action on behalf of that cause. I had come to look on Joanna Cherry as the individual who, with popular support of her own, might snap the SNP leadership out of its Brexit-induced torpor and make it fit for purpose.
Imagine my disappointment when I got to the final third of Joanna Cherry’s column in The National only to find something that reads like it has been pinched from Pete Wishart’s blog. She does that thing that so many SNP politicians do. She reaches out to the British state’s propagandists and validates their carping. She hints at fresh thinking, then proceeds to trot out stale material left over from the 2014 referendum campaign. She says, “we need to advance a fresh positive case for an independent Scotland”. No we don’t! We need to advance the idea that independence is simply normal. We need to make the case that it is the Union which is the constitutional anomaly and that Brexit isn’t the problem. The problem is the Union which allows the British political elite to ignore the democratic will of the sovereign people of Scotland in all matters and at all times!
She goes on,
This means providing answers to the questions that in the full glare of an independence campaign will come into focus…
No it doesn’t!
Joanna Cherry needs to ask how these questions are brought into focus, by whom and for what purpose. Only by asking such questions might the realisation dawn that these questions are brought into focus through British propaganda fed to us through the British media on behalf of the British state for the purpose of manufacturing doubt about independence.
From my experience talking to voters these questions revolve around three issues: the economy and concern about what currency an independent Scotland will use, including whether we could be forced to join the euro; how the process of accession to the EU would actually work, and how to maintain cross-border trade with England.
But where did these people get the questions form? The got them from the British media! The vast majority of voters have neither immediate interest in nor any knowledge of these matters. They are told by the media that it is absolutely vital that they get an answer to the ‘What currency?’ question. So the think they need an answer to that question – notwithstanding the fact that even if any answer they could be given constituted real knowledge, it would be knowledge that they could do nothing with. And whatever answer they are provided with and however comprehensive and convincing that answer is, the British media will tell them that they didn’t get an answer and they will thereby suppose that they didn’t get an answer and they will be outraged despite the fact that they had previously accepted an answer that is of no real use to them to a question it would never have occurred to them to ask in the first place.
Even if the ‘What currency?’ question is answered there is no answer that can be given that doesn’t spawn a score of other questions. Merely by being asked every one of those questions generates doubt. By attempting to answer them the SNP validates the questions asked, amplifies the doubt and prompts further doubt-inducing enquiries.
Joanna Cherry says,
These are all legitimate questions.
No they’re not!
The ‘legitimate’ question would be is Scotland capable of managing its monetary affairs? Why doesn’t that question “come into focus”? Because attempting to answer that question would cause the British political elite considerable and obvious difficulty. So they use the facile ‘What currency?’ question to divert attention.
The same or similar applies to every other question. Politics for Dummies! When your opponent asks a question the purpose is rarely if ever to elicit useful information. Always assume malign intent. Always ask yourself what question is not being asked. Then ask it!
How do I know all this? Because it is exactly what happened in the first referendum campaign!
I have grown accustomed to SNP politicians and Yes activists behaving as if Scotland needed to pass an exam to even be allowed to exercise the right of self-determination that is ours by absolute right. I had hoped that Joanna Cherry would be different. I had hoped that she would understand the need to reframe the constitutional issue and rethink the campaign strategy. If not quite dashed, that hope is now seriously undermined. Which leaves me with a genuinely legitimate question. If not Joanna Cherry, then who?
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