Convenient conclusions

Sometimes people can reach the right conclusion for the wrong reasons. They can arrive at some truth despite having taken entirely the wrong route. They can accurately describe what is happening and give a good account of the likely consequences while attributing the wrong motives to the actors involved. This is because real life can be endlessly complicated. The same outcome can flow from dissimilar actions. By the same token, two indistinguishable chains of events can have outcomes which are diametric opposites. People do the same things for different reasons. Observers tend to ascribe motives on the basis of prejudice and preconception. Or they plump for the ‘obvious’ explanation. Polarisation of positions arises as much from those in disagreement assigning each other to ever more narrowly defined and mutually exclusive camps as from actual differences in perspective. If you’re not with us, you’re against us is an all too common attitude. And, of course, this generates a self-reinforcing and self-perpetuating process

People are not innately rational actors. We have a conceit of ourselves that because we come equipped with these immensely powerful brains, everything we do is carefully calculated. All the pros and cons have been weighed. All the facts have been gathered and considered. This is very much the exception which proves there is no rule that says we must use the brainpower at our disposal. Mostly, we don’t.

People are only rarely rational actors. But they are always lazy. Being rational all the time is very effortful. It burns a lot of energy. And it’s seldom necessary. In almost all the situations we encounter in our day to day lives, good enough will do. The best guess. An approximation. We hardly ever find ourselves in situations where wholly or predominantly rational think is absolutely necessary. When we do, we tend to fuck things up. But most of the time, we get by. We muddle through. If it all works out well in the end, we congratulate ourselves on having developed and implemented such a rational plan. If it goes badly, we blame the irrationality of others. Win/win!

We survive on answers and solutions which suffice for the time being. But we survive. And that’s what matters. Nature abhors a non-survivor. Nature eliminates them. Nature loves a survivor and keeps them alive despite them being being irrational and indolent – intellectually if not physically. Every human being alive now and every human being that has ever lives in all the history of our species is descended from a survivor. Had our ancestors been obliged to be highly rational, none of us would be here. We all take after our ancestors.

Survival isn’t only a matter of physical well-being. We need good psychological health as well. Psychological well-being is not aided by realisation of our irrationality and indolence. So we pretend. How many people do you think were persuaded to vote No in 2014 by the ‘economic case’? None! Or as close to none as makes no difference for present purposes. How many people claim to have voted on the basis of a rational assessment of the economic arguments on both sides? Thousands! Tens of thousands! In fact, there never was any economic case against independence. There couldn’t be. It’s not a matter of economics. What the ‘economic case’ against independence did was give people who were intending to vote No for entirely or principally emotional reasons a figleaf of rationality to cover their embarrassingly naked prejudice. So desperate were they for such a figleaf the economic arguments didn’t have to be honest. They didn’t even have to make sense. So long as there was something they could seize hold of that would allow them to pretend – to the world but mainly to themselves – that they were acting rationally.

We all do it. Nicola Sturgeon being no exception. She ascribes to Alex Salmond the pettiest of motives for his actions not as a conclusion arising from thoughtful consideration but because it’s an explanation that fits while serving her prejudices. She would doubtless claim that it’s a conclusion informed by a decades-long relationship. But for most of that relationship Sturgeon herself claims to have known nothing of the character traits she now identifies as the reason for her antipathy towards Salmond. It’s a textbook example of post hoc rationalisation. That antipathy comes from the gut, not the mind. But Sturgeon can’t admit as much. Especially not to herself.

Neither can she allow that Salmond’s motives might be entirely worthy and principled. Not that they’re likely to be. But to whatever extent they are – and they almost certainly are to some extent – Sturgeon can’t admit it. She cannot acknowledge her own irrationality. To do so would be psychologically damaging.

Sturgeon’s fans will by now be all of a frenzy to put on the record that it’s not just their hero, it’s Salmond as well. And they are quite correct, of course. Alex Salmond is no cipher. He is not passive. He is an actor in this situation every but as much as Sturgeon. But in the protestations of Sturgeon’s loyalists and apologists we will find more of that simplistic thinking that is the popular default. There will be a tendency to see either a false equivalence or total opposites. It can go one way or the other. Either they’re both as bad as each other, or one is innocent while the other is guilty. It doesn’t really matter which. Neither is such as would not be the conclusion of a rational assessment. Both are good enough as an explanation. The process of polarisation is in train.

That process of polarisation is on a down gradient with pish-poor brakes and no reverse. It’s hellish difficult to stop and impossible to restore to a previous state. You can’t go to a place that no longer exists. It is given added impetus by the fact that for all the defective and inadequate thinking that has led her there, Nicola has reached the correct conclusion. Alba Party is not helping Scotland’s cause and may very well hinder it. That it is also the conclusion which suits her is just a bonus.

It is not, however, a complete conclusion. Had Nicola Sturgeon thought beyond the point that she finds amenable she would have arrived at the realisation that Alba Party has only come into existence because conditions which she is largely responsible for creating made it inevitable that it would. She brought us to this place. A place where irrationality reigns.

Nicola Sturgeon claims to offer Scotland “experience and leadership”. Scotland’s cause has experienced her leadership. Look where it’s got us.

15 thoughts on “Convenient conclusions

  1. Yes Peter she and her close cohorts brought us to this place but she will never ever admit it even in the fullness of time. Mind you I have a wife who never admits she’s wrong it’s always me ….. go figure lol.

    Liked by 6 people

  2. Inside the mind of Nicola Sturgeon.

    That’s not a place where I’d like to find myself. It would appear to be an angry place laced with bitterness and nastiness.

    Whether Alba and Alex Salmond are a hindrance or not is not really what Nicola Sturgeon should be pondering over. The question she should be asking is why did it ever get to the point where the SNP has effectively split for the first time since its inception in 1934?

    Whatever you think of the arrival of Alba on the political stage – only time and the upcoming election will tell for how long – the utterances of Nicola Sturgeon are what is now hampering Scotland’s Cause.

    With each one of her outpourings the prospects of reconciliation between what can now – judging by comments and posts – be described as the two tribes of SNP and Alba disappear ever further over the horizon.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Thanks Peter, the psychology is indeed difficult to untangle.

    Whatever we think about the characters involved a significant move has been made that has ramifications in many directions.

    We were at stalemate. Nicola Sturgeon by nature seems to be very cautious and determined to avoid risk. Her opinion poll popularity is based on Independence supporters wishful thinking that she really will use a mandate this time (despite no credible route or plan) and a subliminal wink to Unionists that it’s not happening (or if it did you’d hardly notice the difference). Throw in more or less taking over as Health Secretary during a health crisis and you have a recipe for Peronist levels of adulation but only if you do not rock the boat.

    Part of the barrage of mud thrown at Alex Salmond in the past few days was that he is (shock horror) a GAMBLER! He may be but I have no reason to suspect that it is a compulsive problem or a love of the random. He knows when a risk is worth taking and when it is not -see 2014 starting from a very low base.

    A risk calculating instinct is something that the Independence movement has sorely missed in recent years.

    A rudimentary understanding of the mathematics of Game Theory makes it clear that, when caught in a stalemate or (worse) a situation leading to defeat (albeit narrow or glorious), playing meekly to inevitable failure is pointless if you need to win. Passively hoping that ‘something will turn up’ is foolish; it is much better to take action that unlocks things -even if that involves a calculated risk.

    I don’t know for certain if Alba will help but it might:

    -Get the SNP talking more about Independence
    (Nicola Sturgeon has already noticeably increased her use of the ‘I word’ although with lots of caveats).

    -Save SNP votes.
    Folk who were intending to spoil their constituency ballot now feel able to vote SNP one last time, this may prove crucial to prevent a collapse of Independence representation. The Independence movement is getting heartily sick of being told ‘one more mandate’ or ‘there’s no alternative’ and liable to lash out (telling people that response is irrational doesn’t seem to prevent it)

    -Focus on Independence.
    Even a few MSPs focused on Independence rather than continued Government will help concentrate minds (if the SNP leadership don’t listen then this will haunt them).

    -Free our representatives
    SNP MSPs and MPs will be harder to coerce into voting for policies that alienate the electorate because they, like us, now have alternatives

    -It may or may not unseat some Unionists, it may replace some Green MSPs

    -Loosen the Green/Cabal grip on the SNP particularly if Alba gain seats on the list so that they are not in thrall to the Green Party. It is hard to judge how strong this effect will be. Women in my family are out for revenge (again not calm or dispassionate but real) and are glad to have a pro independence choice that is not tied to the controversial policies.

    -Down side risk? Last Parliament 4 SNP MSPs elected on list, these might be at risk although most of those put forward at the top of the rigged SNP list are very unattractive prospects

    We were in a loosing/stalemate situation.

    This is risky but perhaps not very risky and may unjam things. The alternative of continuing to try the patience of the Independence movement with implausible calls for mandates is FAR more dangerous.

    Game Theory Mathematics is enlightening, but I’m a geek.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I identified the risk a long time ago. I did the calculation as the list parties proliferated. I was being asked to gamble the country with nothing to win. I’ve been trying to figure out in Alba changes that in any tangible way. It does not. For every one of those diaphanous positives you list I could list a negative.

      It’s actually quite simple. There is one thing that we need. All we have to do is ask ourselves if electing two or three Alba MSPs helps to get us that thing. What we need is a Scottish Government elected with a working majority and an incontestable mandate to implement a Manifesto for Independence. That’s it! Nothing else will do. There is no alternative or substitute. If we want Scotland’s independence restored before it’s too late, that’s the only way it’s going to happen.

      The reality of Scottish politics is that the only party which could possibly be the party of the government described above is the SNP. You can whine about that all you like. None of the which will alter the reality.

      Given all of this, it is rather obvious what we independence activists SHOULD have been doing over the past two, three, maybe four years. We should have been working to create that government at this election. Did we? Did we fuck! We failed! We let it all go. Madness!

      Liked by 3 people

  4. If I had a time machine, I would go back four years and join with the (few) voices who saw the danger early. I still think we would have been dismissed as awkward alarmists.

    We nodded through the 2018 constitution changes where the new opportunities to abuse internal democracy were hidden in plain sight within large documents; we were simply lazy and not alert enough.

    I agree with you about the risks of fragmented votes but think the regional list can be different. The decision of AFI and ISP to stand down came as a very pleasant surprise. Dare I even think that it was altruism putting Scotland ahead of personal ambition (my inner cynic is looking for other reasons).

    With the List choices for Independence boiling down to SNP, Alba and Green the arithmetic improves considerably. For some it also means the difference between spoiling ballots or voting (people who put some issues ahead if independence -we still need their votes).

    For example,
    If the SNP have a clean sweep in Glasgow constituencies (as they did last time) the SNP vote for the first regional MSP place is divided by 10 while all other parties (Independence or Unionist) have no such handicap and are more likely to be elected.

    This depends on a strong SNP result in the constituencies, which looked likely but may yet be ruined by how the SNP behave.

    (I’m sure you’ve already done similar calculations and I hesitated to use a example lest it seem patronising but it is presented mostly for others).

    A single Manifesto for Independence agree by all Independence Parties would be best (your more recent post noted) but I am pretty sure that the SNP Leadership and the Green Party will produce something with a lot more wriggle room. I hope that I will be pleasantly surprised.

    ‘Given all of this, it is rather obvious what we independence activists SHOULD have been doing over the past two, three, maybe four years. We should have been working to create that government at this election. Did we? Did we fuck! We failed! We let it all go. Madness!’

    Completely agree, I’m just looking for a route from here.


  5. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Theyve had 14 years in gov unchecked, with the greens mealy mouthing support in the hope of gleaning some yes votes. Their religious support of dilution of wokans rights because of a very very very small minorities feels, means they don’t effectively oppose and make snp think. They’re all in the same boat. 14 years …its more than just power, its the belief they’re untouchable. And to date they kinda were. Alba has just shaken them to the core, and snp hierarchy have cognitive dissonance where thats concerned. They believe their own importance and they believe they’re doing best for all, so they won’t be swayed. Best intentions but I’ll thought through. Because there’s noone to oppose


  6. ” I’ve been trying to figure out in Alba changes that in any tangible way. It does not. ”

    Well ALBA might not be the solution but they aren’t the present problem: the current SNP leadership are, as you well recognise.

    It’s pretty likely that what ALBA will do is firm up the SNP constituency vote because their list strategy requires it, whilst removing Unionist opposition players and I reckon, also Greens from the list.

    Reinforcing the SNP constituency vote reduces one layer of excuse to not pursue a referendum and I see no negatives either in removing unionist opposition.
    We need a Scottish political system with Scottish parties. Otherwise there is only the Scottish party in government with a few wishy-washy-for-Independence Idpol central allies…emm… doing what exactly?
    – Playing their hand of divisive Idpol politics which they much prefer over any move to Independence we might presume. And given that the SNP “drive” (ahem…) to Independence may further evaporate, are we merely to await that depressing day when due to their failure to act the Unionist opposition ready themselves to take power?

    Because under a “one independence party” dispensation, that would be the only alternative.


  7. If Nicola Sturgeon is a real political player she should be showing some magnanimity towards the arrival of the Alba Party. All I hear in the media is that AS is trying to game the system. The truth of the matter is Scottish voters have been and still are being gamed by a system designed to prevent Independence. Alba seeks to counter the built in mathematical advantage that leans towards a positive unionist coalition or an outright unionist party majority. Alba is not gaming the system. Alba is challenging the multi unionist parties right to exist by playing their game and using it against them. Perhaps the greens may suffer a wee bit here but if all SNP voters give their second vote to Alba it is game on. So hold your nose and vote SNP & then vote Alba.


      1. Practically:

        Re-enfranchise lost votes to the SNP in constituencies.
        Aid a solid independence majority by taking list seats.
        Keep Independence voters frustrated and angry at the SNP from complete political disengagement.

        -Thus help maintain the Scottish Parliament in Scottish Political Party hands.

        Psychologically it pressures the SNP by challenging the party’s tardiness concerning a referendum and undermines SNP monopolistic arrogance regarding the Independence polity.

        Of course you are quite correct that there is a lot of wishful waffle about and ALBA cannot directly affect SNP policy but we are faced with a situation where the party’s own membership cannot do so either.


  8. I know & fully respect your views on this Peter. There is however so much disallusionment within many SNP voters that I would rather encourage everyone to vote as suggested rather than have lots of unhappy SNP voters sitting at home and not voting at all. I think there is still a high probability of that happening given the events of the past few years but now they have a serious alternative to think about. If we have a majority of at Holyrood for Independence it will be game on ……unless of course the SNP don’t really want Independence ?. If we achieve a political majority then a referendum should be held as soon as it is possible within the next year.

    Liked by 1 person

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