My heart lifted slightly when I caught sight of Richard Walker’s latest column in The National. For a moment I thought he was about to break ranks and suggest a change of approach to the constitutional issue by Nicola Sturgeon. Perhaps I fooled myself in my eagerness to have someone of Richard’s standing add their voice to the inexplicably muted demands for action to be taken as a matter of urgency. Alas, my spirits were to be quickly reset to what has become their default state of despairing despondency as I read on.

Richard does acknowledge that “there is a time imperative to holding the next independence referendum”. Unfortunately, there rest of the article -where it touches on the need for urgency at all – turns out to nothing more than yet another apologia for the First Minister’s vague and not at all vaguely familiar assurances on the matter. Having in passing acknowledged the precariousness of Scotland’s predicament, Richard Walker insists that the necessary sense of urgency is already part of what with heavy irony I shall refer to as the ‘Sturgeon Strategy’.

The facts are that we have a mandate and we will use it within the next five years.

Facts? Or the somewhat less than wholly objective opinion of a dedicated follower of Sturgeon?

That a mandate exists is beyond even the British propaganda machine’s notorious capacity for manufacturing doubt. The efforts of the British parties squatting in Scotland’s Parliament to deny the existence of a mandate have been risible. But a mandate for what? Is it, as a true sense of urgency would require, a mandate to take specified actions such as would initiate the process of restoring Scotland’s independence within an identified time-frame? How can it be, when this is not what the SNP requested from voters in the recent election.

In support of his contention that an adequate sense of urgency is already part of the ‘Sturgeon Strategy’ Richard Walker refers us to the SNP’s election manifesto.

…the most important part of Nicola Sturgeon’s commitment was to hold the referendum while there was still time for the Scottish Government to take on the powers needed to drive Covid recovery.

Commitment? Again, that’s a matter of opinion rather than an empirical fact. Presumably, Richard is referring to the following from the SNP’s 2021 Scottish Parliament election manifesto.

We propose that the referendum should be held once the immediate Covid crisis has passed but in good time to equip our Parliament with the powers it needs to drive our long term recovery from Covid.

Or perhaps this,

We propose that the referendum should be held once the Covid crisis has passed but in good time to decide that we want to equip our Parliament with the powers it needs to drive our long term recovery from Covid.

The same thing repeated? Not quite. Note that the first talks of the “immedia Covid crisis”, while the second omits the word “immediately”. This difference may be dismissed as insignificant. But when politicians seem to say the same thing in even slightly different ways we should be immediately suspicious. There’s a better than fair chance that the difference is purposeful. The purpose being to provide the politicians with options when referring back to some apparent commitment. Options which will allow them to claim whatever is expedient in the moment.

Is the manifesto committing to action “once the Covid crisis has passed” or “once the immediate Covid crisis has passed”? Given that neither is defined – or definable? – these could mean the same thing or two things that are as different as Nicola Sturgeon needs them to be. Can something so devoid of definition be justifiably called a commitment? Can something so indeterminate possibly convey a sense of the urgency Richard Walker agrees is necessary?

But it is not only in the matter of timing that the SNP’s manifesto commitment falls short of meeting any common definition of that term. Not only does the manifesto tell us nothing about the when, neither does it tell us anything meaningful about the what. The talk is of a referendum which will decide the constitutional question. But all we know of this proposed referendum is that it is intended that it should replicate the 2014 referendum in every significant aspect. This despite the massive changes to the political environment since then. And all we are told of the anticipated process leading to that referendum is that it too is to be a repeat of 2014. Section 30 is not specifically mentioned – for the obvious reason that the term has come to have very negative associations as people recognise the ‘unfortunate’ implications of a Section 30 order request. And the even more ‘unfortunate’ implications of that request being granted. But what else could be meant?

So far, so old hat. This is no more than the ‘Sturgeon Strategy’ which has had more than ample time to grow familiar. All that has been added is a bare statement that the referendum will happen regardless of how the British Prime Minister responds to our First Minister’s offer to compromise the sovereignty of Scotland’s people in return for consent which she now says is not required and a promise of cooperation which immediately conjures the image of a previous British Prime Minister standing on a windy airfield brandishing a piece of paper and proclaiming “peace in our time”.

So, the British agreement that was previously deemed necessary now is not and honest cooperation is anticipated from a government previously described by Sturgeon in terms that leave little doubt we can expect anything but honest cooperation from them. Aye! It makes no sense to me either. But Richard Walker is fine with it, apparently. It doesn’t have to make sense. It merely has to satisfy people like Richard who really, really, really want to find it satisfactory.

We don’t know what Sturgeon is proposing to do and we don’t know when she is proposing to do it. But we are not only expected to regard this as a commitment, but as a commitment with an appropriate degree of urgency.

The facts are that the “time to equip our Parliament with the powers it needs to drive our long term recovery from Covid” has already passed. However quickly we act now we will be trying to catch up. We will be not be using the powers returned to our Parliament with the restoration of independence “drive our long term recovery from Covid”. We will be fully occupied using those powers to rectify the problems arising from not having had those powers.

There are a number of senses in which Scotland’s cause has stood still – or gone backwards – since 2014. There is no sense whatever in which Scotland is closer to independence now than it has ever been – as asserted by bladders such as Alyn Smith. We are constantly being told that support for independence has increased dramatically under Sturgeon’s ‘leadership’. But I learned something the other day which demonstrates the nonsensical dishonesty of such claims. The very first poll after the 2014 referendum put support for Yes at 49%. The most recent Panelbase poll puts support for Yes at 49%.

In the 2014 referendum campaign the Yes side said that Scotland’s future would be dependent on a Yes win. Look at the headline over Richard Walker’s column. We’re still saying exactly the same thing. Just as stasis is being represented as progress, we are being asked to see a sense of urgency where none exists. Not everybody is fooled.

It is a major mistake to imagine that propaganda is the exclusive province of the British state and its organs – principally the BBC. We are being constantly plied with propaganda from all directions. Our own government and the SNP propagandise a false notion of where we are in terms of the constitutional issue in order to accommodate an equally false notion of a strategy to take us from this fictional place to our desired destination supported by yet another false notion of that strategy’s success to date. And Alba Party supporters have no cause to feel smug. Their party is just as guilty of plying us with propaganda. They have purveyed what we might euphemistically call a ‘highly embellished’ account of what they could achieve if only electors would give them their votes.

This barrage of propaganda has blurred the distinction between reality and fantasy at the very moment when Scotland’s cause most desperately demands rational, pragmatic, clear-headed thinking. I’m not saying Richard Walker’s column is part of that propaganda bombardment. Or at least, I’m trying very hard not to say that.

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12 thoughts on “Bombarded!

  1. “I’m not saying Richard Walker’s column is part of that propaganda bombardment.”

    It may or may not be. But if it is not then Richard Walker himself has been propagandised.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Rather than stasis I believe the SNP has effectivly created entropy in the Independence Movement. A remarkable achievement considering the amount of hotair emanating from SNP headquarters, Nicola Sturgeon and Blahblahckford.


    1. About 30 years ago, a friend of mine told me that the system in Britain relies on socialists joining the Labour Party, where they use up all their energy trying to influence party policy instead of actually changing society.

      It seems to me that the SNP has begun to fulfil that function regarding Scottish independence. Hence the way the organs of the British state circle the wagons around the FM when she faces internal criticism, and how silent they have been around the other issues that trouble the indy movement at large.

      We really must break this cycle before it becomes established.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The way I put it is that British Labour is there to soak up the votes that might otherwise make a difference. I don’t think that’s the case with the SNP. If anything, it was Alba that soaked up votes which might better have served Scotland’s cause had they gone to the SNP. But I’ve never been a fan of refighting past elections.

        Nicola Sturgeon certainly serves the British state better than she serves the independence cause. I’ve no doubt the British political elite regard her as the devil they know among a host of potentially far more threatening devils. But that doesn’t mean they don’t want rid of her. It’s just that, while there still is a Scottish Parliament and a Scottish Government they’d prefer her to be at the helm over anybody else – except perhaps Angus Robertson.

        We had the opportunity to break the cycle at the election just past. The Yes movement squandered that opportunity in a manner little different from the way Sturgeon has squandered so many opportunities over the past six years and counting.

        I despair not just because of what has become of what used to be my party. I despair because of what is becoming of the entire independence movement. I see no part of it which is functioning as required. I see a movement in the process of disintegrating. There is no one person or party to blame for this. The failure is general. Every single one of us has played a part. Or failed to play the part we might have. Nobody comes out of this well. Neither does Scotland.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. We had our Yes meeting (via Zoom) on Tuesday night, to reflect on the election, and decide what to do in the future. Our group is mixed: veteran SNP members; veteran SNP members who have left the party; people in no party; a few folk from Alba; and a quite a number in Now Scotland.

    Reflecting on the meeting afterwards , it occurred to me that no-one who spoke, in or out of the SNP, believed that independence was a priority for the SNP, and everyone believed the SNP was a one-woman band where only the FM’s opinion mattered.

    In as much as there was a consensus, the view is that we will have to pressurise Holyrood as much as Westminster if we want our independence, and both are equally unwilling to listen. A truly depressing state of affairs.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We don’t need to pressure Westminster at all. They have nothing we want. Nothing we need. And even if they did, nothing they’re willing to give. Ever. Under any circumstances.

      The assessment of the SNP is uncomfortably close to truth. Which is why our focus must shift from Boris Johnson and Westminster to our own democratic institutions. While they still exist. Scotland’s independence will be restored by Scotland’s people, Scotland’s government and Scotland’s parliament. Or it won’t be restored at all.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Yes, sorry, I didn’t express myself very well. I really meant that the leadership of both places are uninterested in the communities they purportedly represent, or even the footsoldiers who work for them.

        Holyrood has to become the centre of our protests. Sturgeon, as usual around election time, is talking the talk, with however many caveats. We have to make sure that we take to the streets to make sure she takes action this time, unlike the repeated squandered mandates of the past six years.

        Liked by 3 people

  4. Angus Robertson has been given the constitution job, along with foreign affairs and culture, an intriguing and perceptive combination. On the face of it, he’s a gradualist. If Nicola Sturgeon promoted him to tread water, I think she might just have misjudged, as Mr Salmond did with her; if she promoted him to actually get independence done, he is certainly capable of it, and hard-nosed enough. He will, however, need the space and the authority to do the job, and his German heritage on his mother’s side, coupled with his having lived in Austria, would stand him in good stead to have them back a Scottish bid for independence, and for subsequent speedy recognition by the international community, Slovenia-style.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. There is not going to be a referendum in the next five years, unless the SNP or whoever pay for one. ie. There is not going to be a referendum in the next five years. Outside of the usual ranting outliers, I doubt many people will be up in arms about that. Especially after we have been drilled to expect the government to tell us how to breathe.

    On section 30 orders, the Scottish parliament uses them very regularly to offload about half the legislation the parliament is responsible for onto the Scottish Office. People seriously seem to wonder ‘what the Scottish Office does?’. It deals with about half of Scottish legislation because Holyrood can’t be bothered (they have a three-day week and are on holiday for about two-fifths of the year).

    Liked by 1 person

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