Working late

The idea of a ‘working group’ such as has been suggested by Joanna Cherry is sound. Rather, it would have been sound four, three or maybe even two years ago. Were there any doubts that it is an idea which has timed-out then ‘support’ from Pete Wishart should dispel them.

It never fails to amaze me that people so easily discount the entire concept of time when ‘thinking’ about the constitutional issue. That is not merely a rhetorical point. Listen to what they say. Look at their proposals. More often than not time is not factored in at all. There is no consideration of the passage of time. No thought for what might be happening outside the confines of their proposal during the undefined period of time that the proposal requires.

Pete Wishart himself is, of course, an extreme example of this disregard for time and extraneous events. We all, I’m sure recall his insistence that the independence movement do nothing until there appears over the horizon something he refers to as the ‘Optimal Time’. A magical moment when the fates conspire to have all Mr Wisharts ducks in disciplined ranks and ever condition is set for independence to just happen. Until then, we should do nothing that might disrupt the force. We must beware lest we break the fragile magic that leads to this ‘Optimal Time’.

Unfortunately, this ‘plan’ to put off doing anything until things are as if everything has been done takes no account whatever of what the British state might be doing in the undefined interim. Mr Wishart’s ‘plan’ relies on the British political elite being as considerate of the delicate magic as he is. Which seems unlikely to me. But I’m not a professional politician like wot Pete Wishart is, so what do I know?

So! The SNP sets up a ‘working group’ to study stuff that should have been the subject of constant and intense study for at least the last couple of decades. This, we assume, won’t happen until after the party conference at the end of this month. Then we’re into December and the holiday season and then the January 1 2021 plunge into the Brexit unknown and then the election campaign and always there is the public health crisis. So, maybe this ‘working group’ gets grouped and working sometime in the first half of next year. Or maybe, the second half. Or maybe, like so many SNP ‘initiatives’ which have been launched in response to some clamour from the independence movement, the whole thing just peters out.

But suppose it doesn’t. Suppose this ‘working group’ actually gets off the ground. What will be its remit? To what extent will consideration of other routes to a new referendum and thence to independence be constrained by the fact that Nicola Sturgeon has effectively declared all possible routes other than the ‘gold standard’ Section 30 route illegal and unconstitutional? Can we really envisage the hyper-cautious Pete Wishart approving an exercise which would involve free and open discussion of things the SNP leadership has previously declared taboo?

Most importantly, however, what of the British state’s activities while all of this ‘working groupery’ is going on? Or while we await its commencement with fading hope in our hearts? Is the British political elite likely to be idle all this while? Are they going to put their plans for Scotland on hold until this ‘working group’ has reported and some other initiative has been launched in the hope that the ‘Optimal Time’ fairy will finally get here and relieve those professional politicians in the SNP of the need to do something imaginative and decisive and assertive and. heaven forfend, brave!?

Is it not more likely that while the SNP leadership dithers and procrastinates the British Nationalist juggernaut will keep on rolling – crushing Scotland’s hopes and aspirations as it does?

Unless this proposed ‘working group’ is endowed with the power to stop time, it’s of no use. We simply don’t have so much time as to be able to squander it on more such ‘initiatives’. All the time we had has already been squandered. Time, as it will, has passed. We don’t get it back. We can’t use time that has already been spent. The concept of time may be disregarded in order to make a ‘plan’ appear viable. But it cannot be disappeared. It will have its effect regardless of whether or not the ‘plan’ takes due account of that effect.

The time for ‘working groups’ is long gone. It is now time to act. It’s not as if we don’t know what conclusions the proposed ‘working group’ would have reached. You see, some of us didn’t need a formal ‘working group’. Some of us, conscious as we are of the passage of time, have spent years thinking about the things this proposed ‘working group’ is meant to consider. Dubious about the existence of an ‘Optimal Time’ and/or the fairy who delivers it, some of us thought it a wise precaution to give some thought to what might take the place of the Section 30 process when even Nicola Sturgeon is obliged to admit that it may not be quite as shiny golden as she supposed. Some of us, often working in groups, have already done the work that this proposed ‘working group’ is purported to be for.

Perhaps if Pete Wishart and his ilk hadn’t been quite so determined to close down and shut out all discussion of more realistic routes to a referendum and independence he wouldn’t now imagine we need a ‘working group’ to work it out.


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