Combination is the key

The following started off as a reply to somebody on Facebook wanting to know what they could do to put pressure on Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish Government in order to force them to act on the constitutional issue. I had been meaning to write something about this anyway. This will serve.

Other than shrugging your shoulders and walking away from the fight, what are you prepared to do? Not just you, everybody in the Yes movement. I see very little sign that folk in general are prepared to do very much. All too many are like yourself – content to moan about how difficult it is, but not ready to do even the simplest thing.

Hashtags are simple. And they can be very effective if they are properly utilised. I often use the example of hashtags to illustrate how the Yes movement has lost what Alexis de Tocqueville called the knowledge of how to combine. The knowledge which he maintained is fundamental to democracy.

Try getting the Yes movement to use a common hashtag such as #DissolveTheUnion. You won’t succeed. The vast majority won’t take even that tiny amount of trouble. Some will do it once or twice before deciding it’s too much effort. A third group will insist on altering the hashtag in some way to ‘improve’ it, thus reducing its effectiveness. (For instance, #DissolveTheUKUnion. Apparently because nobody will be able to figure out for themselves what Union is being referred to.)

If 10,000 Yes activists were using that hashtag on every social media post or comment every day, it would attract the attention of the media. Which in turn would put pressure on Nicola Sturgeon. Yes! She is good at dismissing such things. But why make it easier for her to do so rather than making it as difficult as possible?

There will inevitably be some moron who responds to this comment ridiculing the idea that hashtags might be the way to put pressure on Sturgeon and the Scottish Government. There will always be those numpties who can’t understand that what is true of hashtags applies to everything else the Yes movement might do. If we cannot combine for something so simple as using a hashtag what chance is there that we will be able to act in combination in any other way?

Everybody is waiting for a campaign effort to be presented to them ready made. They need to realise that if we can’t even agree on a single hashtag to represent the demand for action on the constitutional issue then it cannot be possible for anyone to establish that campaign. Just as there are countless hashtags, all of them ineffectual, so there are countless campaign groups – none of them having any impact because they are simply not big enough. It has to start with individuals, like yourself, doing something as simple as picking up on a hashtag and using it relentlessly.

Powerful movements grow out of simple slogans that express big ideas. It has always been so. The web makes it possible to bring this about faster and on a massive scale. The Yes movement is failing abysmally to exploit that potential – because we’ve forgotten how to combine.

⁠#DissolveTheUnion



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15 thoughts on “Combination is the key

  1. I agree with these sentiments.

    It is all very well having Pensioners for Independence, Women for Independence, Students for Independence, Nurses for Independence, Scottish Independence Foundation, Now Scotland and 3-legged albino spaniels for Independence.

    However, none of the aforementioned – some real, others fictional – actually define the objective. Worse, their title/descriptor might imply to some that what they envisage is exclusive to the group mentioned in the name. How much more divisive than that can you get?

    There has to be unity of purpose, regardless, if you wish to achieve THE aim. This is best achieved by imagining a simple single Q&A – whether from a Unionist/British Nationalist, undecided or advocate for restoration of full Scottish government – regarding the subject matter:

    Q: What is Scottish Independence?
    A: Scottish Independence means not being part of the United Kingdom.

    It may be lowest common denominator but it is surely something that all who support the end of British rule in Scotland can coalesce on.

    I have always liked your slogan and, whilst I do not use Twitter/Facebook, I do post very regularly on The National pages, this website and many other blogs on the constitutional ‘question’.

    I commit to using it regardless going forward.

    #DissolveTheUnion.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It is not my slogan. I may have originated it. There is, I think, no way to confirm that. And I would have no interest in doing so. I claim no ownership. It is a slogan for Scotland’s cause. It is owned by anyone who sees fit to use it.

      I should mention that Now Scotland is something of an exception to the rest of the organisations and groups on your list. As is the Scottish Independence Foundation. The latter serves a specialised purpose and provides a service to the entire Yes movement. Now Scotland was established with the intention of facilitating just the kind of combination I write about. It is supposed to be tightly focused on the constitutional issue. I am still uncertain to what extent this has been achieved.

      I am slightly ashamed to say that I did not attend the Now Scotland members’ meeting yesterday evening. I had intended to. But I’ve grown accustomed to treating my online efforts as the ‘day job’. When I close the lid on my laptop to go and make dinner, that’s me done for the day. It’s very much healthier for me this way.

      I did, however, take part in the process to elect a new executive committee for Now Scotland. I now wait to see if the outcome of that election is an organisation which really can dump the policy baggage and focus on the constitutional issue.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. “It is not my slogan. I may have originated it.”

        You are correct of course. The idea is that we all use it so, I agree, by definition there is no owner.

        I will avoid giving undue credit in the future.

        Like

  2. You know, Peter, I agree that a united and concerted effort is required, but this SG has done so much to make the whole issue so divisive that it is difficult to see a way forward that would work for all. I think that Alyn Smith’s piece in last week’s issue of The National made it plain that independence will be gifted only when everyone toes the lines and agrees to GRA reform without dissent against any part of it. Those of us who know better, know this is simply a form of pressure and that independence will be forgotten again the moment they get their way, while women will have been thrown under the bus for nothing and will have to turn all their energies to trying to ensure that they and their children are safe, treated with dignity and respect in what were previously their own spaces and rights. Not being stupid, they know that it will be just a matter of time before they are ejected completely from all that they had managed to accumulate in the way of rights, fought for on the basis that their oppression rests wholly on their sex. To even ask women to forego their spaces and rights like this, supposedly for the greater cause of independence which we will still not get from this government is beyond harmful. The truth is rarely popular.

    Yes, we should all be able to come together and thrash out solutions – maybe not perfect ones – to various issues, not least independence, but to ask one societal group to give up everything with no hope of recovering it, in the event of independence, is asking too much. This SG should’ve been stopped in 2016 or 2017, when it failed to implement any moves towards independence after Brexit. It has obfuscated and lied. It is all going to be a total mess, Peter, because many of us knew what this particular SG was – a government of continued devolution, opposed from within to independence – and we did nothing. I know you tried, as did I, and many others, bloggers and commentators, who have all been shot for being the messengers, but, sometimes, everything has to come tumbling down before the majority is willing to acknowledge the actualite of a situation. In a way, Alyn Smith was right: GRA reform will be the catalyst for independence; just not in the way he envisages.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. You demonstrate nicely why the constitutional issue has to be freed from all policy baggage. What you don’t seem to realise is that you are as guilty as the Scottish Government of piling on the baggage. If it is deleterious to Scotland’s cause to make it conditional by saying that “independence will be gifted only when everyone toes the lines and agrees to GRA reform without dissent against any part of it” then it has to be just as deleterious to burden your support for Scotland’s cause with opposition to GRA reform.

      You are not alone, of course. And it is understandable that many should find it difficult to separate the constitutional issue from policy agendas because in real life these are very much bound up with each other. But we are not talking about real life. We are talking about a very specific issue. The issue of where power lies. NOT the issue of how it is used. That is for elections.

      It’s quite simple, really. Or at least, it’s simple to state even if not so easy to act on. If you are addressing the constitutional issue plus some matters of policy then you are not addressing the constitutional issue at all. And you may well be addressing those policy issues less effectively than you might. I have previously said that burdening the constitutional issue with matters of policy detracts from the former. I have described the policy burden as diverting from the constitutional issue and diluting the effort to restore Scotland’s independence. I now realise that I did not go far enough with this criticism. I would now say that if you are talking about policy in the same context as independence then you are not talking about independence at all. The policy burden cancels and nullifies the constitutional issue.

      If you are attempting to link the fight to restore Scotland’s independence with GRA or any other policy issue then you are NOT engaging in the fight to restore Scotland’s independence. Due to its very nature, the constitutional issue CANNOT be dealt with other than in isolation from ALL other issues. It has to be abstracted from ‘ordinary’ politics because radical constitutional reform is not part of ‘ordinary’ politics. Restoring Scotland’s independence drastically and fundamentally alters what ‘ordinary’ politics is – what we understand by that term. It cannot be dealt with in the context of the ‘ordinary’ politics that it seeks to change. That’s like trying to repair a puncture whilst still riding the bicycle!

      By the same token, we cannot hope to change our ‘ordinary’ politics – the politics of policy rather than the politics of power – unless and until we implement the radical constitutional reform of ending the Union. If we try to do them in the wrong order or simultaneously, we stall. We get stuck. We end up precisely where we are now.

      I could say a lot more about the exceptional nature of the constitutional issue which means it cannot be dealt with other than in complete isolation from matters of policy. I could illustrate the point by relating it to a referendum – another ‘special case’ that shouldn’t be confused with the ‘ordinary’ politics of elections. I know, however, that you are not keen on the idea of a referendum. And I don’t want to go over old ground again. I’d rather focus on the fight to restore Scotland’s independence.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. “… I have previously said that burdening the constitutional issue with matters of policy detract from the former… ”

    Indeed you have, and I agree with you, but I didn’t make anything conditional on achieving independence. As you know, I have supported independence since the age of 13 – which wasn’t today nor yesterday. I’m not a purist, Peter, but a pragmatist and realist. We are never going to get the ideal independence because it simply does not exist. Messy compromises are always the name of the game. However, GRA reform is not a compromise: it is a wholesale deviation from all that has gone before, and when we jettison all that has gone before, we are in trouble. If we are going to accept that ‘liberal progress’, as Jeggit puts it, is the price we pay for the human race becoming a bit more decent each era, then it has to mean something other than the same old oppressions of the many in favour of the few. If independence for Scotland is to have any meaning, it cannot come at the cost of the wholesale elimination of the rights of one group in society, which just happens to comprise half the human race.

    Had Nicola Sturgeon and her ruling coterie not made the trans issue the red line in the sand issue of our time, had the trans lobby and activists (note, I don’t say trans people) not infiltrated the party in order to push their own agenda at the expense of independence, had the majority of the ‘ca canny’ lot not been gulled into a trance, had they believed what they were being told some time ago, we would have independence now, because Nicola Sturgeon and her coterie would not have been able to turn the party into almost a totalitarian one and the members would have been able to force the SNP’s hand, particularly after Brexit. However, we are where we are, to coin a cliche. Independence is simply not going to be clean and pure, however much we might wish it to be; it is going to be a red in tooth and claw compromise which, as happened after 1916, the Irish independence question became. Even more than the Irish, our ills are almost all home-grown ones.

    I did not pick the GRA fight, anymore than most women, but it is one we, as a class, cannot afford to lose, anymore than Scotland can now afford to lose independence. What we have in common is the absolute understanding that our rights/independence are utterly necessary, not just desirable. You and I both know what that will entail. I eventually left the SNP because it left me long since when the law and democracy, and even human rights, were starting to be shifted to one side to make way for pet policies. I am in despair, Peter, at what has happened, but please don’t ask me or any woman to surrender our future in order to satisfy people in the party who are using it merely as a vehicle for their own ends. It was never that for me. Independence was in my heart, then my head, as I grew older. Like so many others, I feel utterly. completely betrayed on many levels, but I know that independence is not something be aspired to, but absolutely crucial to our survival as a nation, just as keeping the trans lobby at bay is completely crucial to women’s survival as a class whose rights are based on sex, on reality, not gender, not unverifiable delusion.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. GRA reform is an important issue with serious implications. It is not, however, so important or serious as to induce me to abandon my lifelong aspiration to see Scotland’s independence restored. Of course, you will deny that this is what you are doing. Of course you will. You would, wouldn’t you?

      It is what it is.

      Like

  4. No, it wouldn’t, would it, Peter because you are not going to lose your right to existence as a man? I think you speak for many men in the independence movement, but not all. As a woman, I will lose both my rights as a member of the female class and as a Scot. Double whammy. Women are going to bring independence, Peter. Our fight for survival will trigger yours. Wait and see.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Peter, no offence intended. Not asking you to wait. This is going to happen quite soon. What, realistically, can you do, anyway, except wait until events move us on. The SNP as constituted is being wilfully deaf to your pleas. Do you expect that to change any time soon without a catalyst? I’ve said my piece. Won’t take up any more of your thread.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The only “catalyst” that can force a change of approach by the Scottish Government is the combined weight of the entire Yes movement speaking with one voice. This requires compromises that you and many others refuse to countenance, because that unity of purpose can only be achieved if the purpose is stripped of everything but the one thing we all agree on. As you so amply illustrate, that is not going to happen.

      You hint at some mysterious thing that is going to happen soon. With that dearth of information I have little alternative but to dismiss this as fantasy or wishful thinking. There is no magic solution. The route to independence is through the Scottish Parliament. That route is therefore defined and constrained by the rules that govern the Parliament. That is why I insist that anybody who claims there is some previously unidentified route to independence describe in some detail the process involved. Nobody ever has. There’s a very good reason for that.

      Like

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