Thank goodness we voted No in 2014, eh? Thank goodness we have the certainty about the future that comes with being part of the British state. Thank goodness for the security and stability of resting on the broad shoulders of glorious Britannia. Gawd bless our precious Union! Gawd bless our glorious flag! Gawd bless ‘er majesty! Gawd bless us, one and all!
Forgive the sarcasm, but it’s goes so well with the realism. Or as some would call it, cynicism. But realism isn’t a euphemism for pessimism. Realism is an essential component of rational thinking. Realism is the product of reason. Pessimism and optimism leave too much space for emotionalism. It’s fine to hope for the best. And to expect the worst. But being able to anticipate what actually transpires is useful at the very least and in some circumstances very necessary.
Of course, there are degrees of certainty. There are best guesses. There are educated guesses. And there are guesses that almost qualify as calculations. The future cannot be predicted perfectly. But less than perfect usually suffices. The kind of certainty about Scotland’s future demanded by Unionists doesn’t exist. It isn’t possible. The insistence on absolute clarity about things that are inherently and ineluctably opaque is part of a set of conditions which if applied more generally would mark almost every independent country in the world as unqualified and unfit to be independent.
The certainty about the future that is held to be a prerequisite for the restoration of Scotland’s independence is notably absent from the demands made by those who elect the government of England-as-Britain. Nobody interrogates potential British Prime Ministers seeking precise details of national monetary policy twenty or thirty years hence. Nobody harangues candidates for election to the British parliament in an effort to extract absolute assurances about what will be the policies of governments decades before those governments take office. British politicians aren’t expected to have intimate knowledge of the distant future. Only those advocating the end of the Union are subject to such impossible demands.
One of the many logic-bending contradictions and/or inconsistencies of British Nationalist rhetoric is their dismissal of positive predictions for independent Scotland on the grounds that nobody can see the future while affording every negative prediction the status of irrefutably proven fact. By their account, the only thing that’s certain is that independent Scotland will be a squalid, impoverished hell-hole where the natives subsist on a diet of oats supplemented with the meat of insufficiently cautious English tourists. According to some sections of the British media this future has already arrived.
This is the time of year when we all tend to dabble in a bit of amateur soothsaying. We cast the runes of our knowledge and experience and pore over them in the hope of finding some indication of what the coming year holds for us. Conscientious realists make great efforts to ensure the runes are not overly tainted with prejudice. Unrestrained fantasists regard knowledge and experience as inconveniences hindering the narrative which gives most rein to their prejudices. Most folk fall somewhere between.
It would be a bold individual indeed who hoped to foretell how 2021 might unfold. It would be a foolish individual indeed who thought they might accurately predict events and developments in an environment such as has been wrought by a particularly potent blend of British exceptionalism, arrogance, pretentiousness, presumption and unabashed ineptitude. It is an environment which all but totally defeats the realist and leaves the field to whatever hare-brained fantasists seek to occupy it.
The closest honesty and realism will allow to a prediction is that whatever happens it will be bad for Scotland. Probably very bad. We can, however, state with considerable confidence what we intend to do about it as individuals or in cooperation with others. We can resolve to act in a particular way. We can decide on a purpose or objective and apply ourselves to it. If enough of us join together for a common purpose then we might just succeed in achieving that objective.
I suspect I’m not alone in having seriously contemplated withdrawing completely from the Yes movement. The past year has seen a steep increase in frustration and anger – almost entirely with and at the Scottish Government and the SNP. The temptation to walk away is strong. And this is the time of year when we resolve to make dramatic changes in our lives such as losing 25% of one’s body weight or giving up on Scotland’s cause. Or at least giving up activities in support of that cause. This year I lost 25% of my body weight. While I weigh less, the effort of maintaining this blog weighs ever heavier. I’m running on the fumes of what I once supposed was inexhaustible enthusiasm.
That I turned 70 this year may have something to do with my flagging enthusiasm. And who knows what effect conditions created or necessitated by the pandemic may have had. I can’t think of any way in which I have been seriously inconvenienced by the public health crisis. But I’m not so stupid as to suppose I might be totally unaffected by such massive disruption to what I once regarded as normal life. Nobody, however, can sensibly argue that Nicola Sturgeon hasn’t given me sufficient cause for the despair I feel even if all other factors are discounted.
But I can’t give up. I have been a fervent advocate of restoring Scotland’s independence all my life. That isn’t going to change. And I can’t bring myself to forsake Scotland’s cause when success has never been so crucial; and when it may well be that 2021 will offer the last chance of success. The ‘Great Britain’ of an imagined glorious past that British Nationalists hoped to refloat and sail into a fantasised glorious future is sliding beneath the waves of 21st century reality and threatens to take Scotland down with it. Captain Sturgeon declines to launch the lifeboat that would take us to relative safety without permission from Admiral Johnson; who is on the bridge clinging to the wheel convinced that he is still steering the sinking vessel. That has to change. And I have to do my bit – however insignificant that might be. My conscience will not allow me to do otherwise.
The first priority for 2021 must be to have the SNP include in its manifesto for the 2021 Holyrood election a solid commitment to pursue the dissolution of the Union as a matter of the utmost urgency and an undertaking to take specified action on a defined timescale to that end. In particular, Nicola Sturgeon must renounce the Section 30 process. If others choose to join me in this effort, that would be most gratifying. But I have no compunction about being a lone voice if that’s as it must be.
I am persuaded that the time has come for some form of escalating direct action in support of Scotland’s cause. I will not discuss here what form(s) such direct action might take, other than to insist that it must be non-violent and preferably non-destructive, while being increasingly disruptive. And that it should mainly target the Scottish Government and its agencies. I’m eager to hear others’ thoughts on this.
The second thing I want to do in 2021 is better promote the Yes media. Barrhead Boy has an excellent article on this topic today. Again, I’d like to hear from those who have their own ideas of how we might increase and improve the reach of our own media in a way that might help to offset the pernicious influence of the British propaganda machine.
Thirdly, I intend to write more about the reframing of the constitutional issue which I believe to be essential if Yes is to not only win but win in a way that mocks any challenge from the British political elite.
That would seem to be the first half of 2021 filled to capacity. I’m not thinking beyond the Scottish Parliament elections on 6 May. It is impossible to overstate the crucial nature of that event. Perhaps even more than was the case in September 2014, Scotland’s future hangs in the balance. If we get it right, we’ll have plenty to occupy us for many years to come as we build the nation to which we aspire. If we get it wrong, Scotland will not have a future.
That is as close as I’m going to get to making a prediction for the year ahead.