Where is the spirit?

What’s so special about Alex Salmond? What makes him different from Nicola Sturgeon? What distinguishes his approach to the constitutional issue from hers? To what extent does Salmond actually speak for the party he leads? As significant numbers of independence supporters consider pinning their hopes on the Alba Party, they really should be asking questions such as these. I see little indication that they’re asking any pertinent questions at all. Which is sorely disappointing given a certain conceit of ourselves as a nation of politically aware voters.

Some of the remarks reportedly made by Alex Salmond during a press briefing yesterday provoked spasms of twitching in my political antennae. That he is being very cagey about his party’s stance regarding the EU is hardly surprising. Alba would not be the first party to find itself riven by rapidly polarising disagreements on that topic. Kenny MacAskill got his contribution to this debate in early with his ‘suggestion’ that Alba backs EFTA over EU membership. Which in many cases is a politician’s way of saying they hate the EU with Faragian fervour but would rather not come right out and say so lest they be compared with Nigel Farage. Which is almost as much a kiss of death as having Nigel Farage make the comparison himself. Ouch!

Salmond’s fudging of his answers to questions about Alba Party’s policy on the EU was only sensible. He was only asked the question so it could be reported that he fudged his answers. So, job done! I wonder, however, if he may come to wish he’d been just as circumspect when talking about his approach to the constitutional issue. I suspect more than a few of his colleagues in the party will be as uncomfortable with his statements on this matter as if he had declared their party determined that independent Scotland should seek full membership of the EU at the earliest possible date and on any terms. I reckon the more thoughtful individuals among those flocked to join the new party might now be wondering about that move. Although, if they’d been at all thoughtful they would surely have asked the questions first.

This from a report on the press briefing in The National.

The leader of the Alba Party said if there is an independence supermajority in Holyrood after the May election, the parliament should instruct the Scottish Government to start negotiations with Westminster.

During those talks, the UK Government may require a referendum or consultation to ensure independence was the will of the Scottish people.

Alex Salmond is a very experienced parliamentarian. I’d tend to take his word for it if he says there’s a procedure by which the Scottish Parliament can “instruct” the Scottish Government to do something which we must assume the Scottish Government doesn’t want to do otherwise they would do it without the need for the Scottish Parliament to “instruct” them. I’d believe him. But I’d want to verify. It sounds unlikely. Bear in mind that the “supermajority’ [apparently this is a word now] that Salmond refers to will mostly be made up of SNP MSPs. Even in the best-case scenario – from Alba Party’s perspective – this supermajority would be more than two-thirds SNP. They are unlikely to vote to tell their own party to do something the leadership doesn’t want to do. That would not be a good career move.

In the circumstances necessary for Alex Salmond’s idea to even qualify as an idea the SNP must have a working majority and/or support from the Scottish Greens. So why would we suppose that any move to have the Scottish Parliament “instruct” the SNP administration to open negotiations with the UK Government wouldn’t be voted down?

Alex Salmond has a credible claim to be regarded one of the most adept political strategists of our time. We’d expect better from him If I’d just joined his party I’d certainly expect better. If I was an Alba Party candidate in the coming election I’d be worried about how I was going to sell this idea to voters who are even half as astute as we like to think Scottish voters are. But if I’m a bit concerned about a ‘plan’ which requires conditions in which it almost certainly couldn’t succeed, I am deeply worried by the second part of the above quote. The thought of the UK Government dictating the terms on which we exercise our right of self-determination naturally jars with me. As it should with anyone who considers Scotland a nation.

It’s our right of self-determination. Why the hell would we be letting what is effectively a foreign government tell us if, when and how we exercise that right? The fact that a nation or people have the right of self-determination necessarily implies that they also have full independent control of the process by which they exercise that right. The two things are inseparable. Yet here we have the man who many regard as the rightful and true leader of Scotland’s independence movement insisting that we submit to the will of the British political elite even as we seek to restore our nation’s independence. To say that this is disappointing would be an understatement of the order of saying the sun is hot. Or the universe is big. Or Nigel Farage is the last person you’d ever want declaring you’re kindred spirits.

It makes no sense. It doesn’t just offend my nationalist sensibilities. It offends reason. What Salmond says implies that the primacy of the Scottish Parliament has been asserted. Otherwise how could the Scottish Government negotiate with the UK Government with a view to ending the Union? But if the Scottish Parliament speaks for the sovereign people of Scotland with the authority bestowed on it alone by the people of Scotland, how can it simultaneously be subordinate to the British parliament? How could the UK Government “require” the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament to do anything? It makes no sense.

Nor does it make sense in terms of strategy. Supposing the UK Government could “require a referendum or consultation” why would we wait for them to do so? Why would we not preempt their demand? Why would Alex Salmond not wish to demonstrate that he is at least as eager as the British establishment to “ensure independence was the will of the Scottish people”? Salmond doesn’t just appear willing to submit to the asserted superiority of the British state, he seems eager to affirm Scotland’s subordinate status. Where is the spirit of independence in this?

21 thoughts on “Where is the spirit?

  1. “Salmond doesn’t just appear willing to submit to the asserted superiority of the British state, he seems eager to affirm Scotland’s subordinate status. Where is the spirit of independence in this?”
    Indeed, Peter. He’s taking the same route as Sturgeon, subjecting the sovereign people of Scotland to the suzerainty of the English Parliament of the UK. Very disappointing!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think most people were hoping the same – whether they had any intention of voting of voting for Alba or not. I see some are dealing with it by denying he said what he said.


  2. I hope you will not mind my coming in here, Peter? Rest assured that I won’t make a habit of it.

    I believe he is talking about a ratifying referendum AFTER independence, which would very likely be necessary, in any case. After all, you don’t go into negotiations in EXPECTATION of independence, but with it under your belt, with the Scottish people’s blessing because they have demonstrated in an election, that independence is what they want and will have. He is right: Westminster might demand it in accordance with international legal principles, but, as he is talking about it being requested (if at all, and that is by no means, certain, although we would be wise to hold one AFTER independence, anyway to smooth our path into the international community and the recognition of our currency and international borrowing powers. When he talks of a S30 Order, he is signalling that he is ruling nothing out, but we both know that another S30 Order PRE independence referendum is extremely unlikely, albeit not impossible, and he knows it, too. He is wise to rule nothing out and nothing in, conclusively. That is politics.

    Alec Salmond is unlike most people, who never really learn from adverse experience: he seems to be able to quickly assimilate what needs to be done, even after a set-back. He is a survivor precisely because of this ability. It is this ability that the present FM lacks to the same degree. Her answer is more of the same, intransigence. Against Westminster and English Nationalist ambitions, that is worse than useless, and it has cost her dear in the domestic sphere, too, with her insistence on the HCB and the GRA Reform Bill. Every time I hear her now, I think of Neville Chamberlain and that piece of paper. Maybe she is playing for time? Who knows?

    I’m not trying to claim that Alec Salmond is the messiah of Scotland. He is a human being with failings, just like the rest of us, but he is our one and only hope of achieving independence this side of the Millennium, and he always was. As a woman, I cannot vote for a party that seeks to eliminate my sex, even if it claims not to be doing that. Anyone with sense can see that transgender spaces and women’s sex-based spaces, as one entity, is totally incompatible with reality, human decency and, ultimately, human rights. It always amazes me that ordinary, decent people do not ask what rights trans people don’t have that the rest of do, and what is transgenderism as opposed to biological sex? They cannot answer either question in any reasonable and logical manner. No, there can be no more concessions by women. We will fight for our right to exist and to be safe from male incursion into our sex-based spaces, and, if that means voting SNP 1 and Alba 2, in order to achieve both independence and women’s rights, I believe that is a fair compromise that I, as a female independista, can live with. No one has the right to expect me or other women to compromise our very existence in order to vote 1 and 2 for a party that is undermining us.

    Scotland would be mad to fully join the EU in a oner. EFTA or another stepping stone makes a great deal more sense for us, at least in the interim, certainly.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. “It’s our right of self-determination. Why the hell would we be letting what is effectively a foreign government tell us if, when and how we exercise that right? The fact that a nation or people have the right of self-determination necessarily implies that they also have full independent control of the process by which they exercise that right. The two things are inseparable.”

    Brilliantly put, Peter. It’s so bleedin’ obvious but needs to be repeated over and over so that even so-called pro-indy politicians take heed. The SNP leadership needs to be shamed [if that’s possible] into fighting for independence.


  4. You, too, Peter.

    Because, like Neville Chamberlain, of whom Ms Sturgeon has always reminded me (no, I wasn’t alive then, but I did study the period) it is to be hoped that she will stand down after this election; indeed, I suspect she might well do so. If she doesn’t, like Thatcher, she will be stabbed in the back. She has failed to bring us independence in over seven years, but she could be forgiven that had she done anything whatsoever to try and bring it about.

    The pandemic aftermath is going to pull down the defences she has built around herself, and, if, as seems very likely, we get the same old mantra of ‘now is not the time’, only the blindly loyal are going to be behind her. She really is in no way the fittest person for what is coming. Chamberlain knew when his time was up as PM, and he stepped down. He was no ‘war leader’ and neither is she – and that is what we need now. If she ploughs ahead with the GRA stuff, she will have many of Scotland’s real womb havers and menstruators and small person deliverers on the streets, and she will never be forgiven for this betrayal. That will be her legacy.

    If the Alba Party wins a few seats – which, right now, seems remote, but watch this space – she will be forced to engage with Alec Salmond, and I don’t believe she will want that, unless she wants to lose what little credibility she has left. Whatever, she will not be leading us into another Scottish election, and whoever succeeds her will know that he or she must bring us all together in independence, or fail, and, if we have not made any preparations for independence in the first two years after this election, the Alba Party, or another pro independence party, will contest the constituency and oust the SNP. Another election could even be manoeuvred, and probably would be. Basically, there is now a maximum of two years to get from this election to negotiations with Westminster. The alternative will finish the SNP, as the best case scenario, or bring us into direct and physical conflict with Westminster, as the worst case scenario.

    There is no other way now except complete capitulation and absorption, the only scenario the Tories are willing to contemplate with equanimity.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Why does it seem remote that Alba wins seats?

      I see Pension/Slippers Pete is traducing Alba on Twitter again.

      He’s managing to alienate me and many other SNP voters in doing so.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. All independence movements end with a negotiation and some kind of deal usually a treaty. I took him to mean that. Will there be a common travel area, what happens to Faslane, Lossiemouth, that kind of thing. American independence ended with the Treaty of Amity, 1783.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The problem is how do you get them to come to the negotiating table? What would it take? Would a supermajority compel them? Don’t think so.


      1. Nor do I. I think it’s the wrong question anyway. It’s not for us to lure them to the negotiating table. It is for us to do what we have to do and then let them choose when they decide that negotiation is their best option.

        I find no rational reason to suppose that a supermajority achieves anything for the fight to restore our independence. Even if a few Alba candidates get elected – which remains a remote possibility as things stand – this can only be at some cost to the mandate held by the Scottish Government. What is needed is a ‘super-mandate’ for the necessary action. We can’t get that now for two reasons. The existence of a second party inevitable dilutes the mandate of whichever of those parties turns out to be the party of government.

        Far more importantly, however, we can’t get the outcome we need because neither of those parties is offering the option. Neither is standing on a #ManifestoForIndependence. It doesn’t matter how we vote, we simply cannot get the outcome we need if the independence campaign is to be progressed.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. The Americans had fight a war, as did the Irish, and pretty much, India too. Other colonies like Canada and New Zealand just slithered away, but they were established as self-governing dominions in the first place, so they just continued on that trajectory until independence was de facto established.


    1. But there’s the rub, isn’t it? Constitutional status. Canada, NZ, America, Ireland started off as settlement colonies. We started off as an independent state whose political elite was captured by the guile of English ministers acting for the Crown. Our ancient rights were preserved. We were ‘incorporated’ into a new state but our sovereignty was no more extinguished than was England’s.

      Lord Dunlop is now trying to reverse the deal and turn us into a colony by superimposing a UK government in Scotland over the head of the elected Scottish Parliament.

      Our situation in 2021 is closest to India, which became an occupation colony.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I maintain Scotland is effectively annexed territory of England-as-Britain. I think it’s important to recognise that it’s no longer England that is the other actor in this supposed partnership of equals. The rightful authority of the people of England has be usurped perhaps as much as Scotland’s even if in a different manner. A political, economic and social elite has evolves which is supranational in that it is separate from both Scotland and England, although identifying more with the latter than the former. This elite sits over both nations serving neither’s interests well but Scotland’s markedly less well than England’s.

        Liked by 2 people

      1. You’re probably right. I was making rather sweeping comparisons with India and the British Raj and the civil servants being sent up here to perform UK tasks in Scotland for the sake of the Raj. I have always said our situation was sui generis. And that UK is not a unitary state but a union state.


        1. On reflection, I was probably a bit too dismissive of your point. There are similarities. I suppose it’s always possible to find similarities. There is likely to be some consistency in the behaviour of imperialist powers. They find things that work for them and apply them to other contexts. Thus it’s possible to say that situations (contexts) aren’t remotely similar AND that there are similarities to be found in specific behaviours.


  7. The parallels between Scotland and India are highly cogent. I read Inglourious Empire a couple of years ago and the similarities of British conduct are astounding. Piecemeal bits of self governance over the problematic mundane that get people animated like potholes in a road but reserving meaningful areas like taxation, defence, foreign policy to the mother (administrative body) power.

    That’s why I’m sorely disappointed in Sarwar. His family is from Punjab and he had any sense of history he should be aware that the Punjab revolt of 1907 resulted in British control measures being applied in India which were not dissimilar to what the Tories are now promulgating for us all in Scotland.

    Liked by 1 person

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