It seems that those hoping for some dramatic developments on the constitutional front arising from the upcoming Alba Party conference are going to be sorely disappointed. Of course, they would not be developments in the sense of something meaningful actually happening. Alba has no clout. The party has no leverage of any kind. No power. Very little influence. But there might have been something to liven up the news. Something that might refresh the flagging Yes movement. Something activists could get their campaigning teeth into. But no. If the draft agenda revealed in The National is any evidence, the only ones who might get excited are the Salmond/Alba faithful who hail anything the party does as an act of stunning political genius that is going to fundamentally alter the entire constitutional debate. Then nothing happens.
According to The National, the following is the gist of a resolution on independence.
If the British Government refuses to engage, or even accept a referendum process, then we propose a cross party campaign of parliamentary action, peaceful popular mobilisation, legal moves in the domestic and international courts and diplomatic initiatives to enforce the sovereign will of the Scottish people.
Nope! The earth didn’t move for me either. I suppose congratulations are in order given how deftly the drafters of this resolution have managed to avoid actually mentioning Section 30. All but the Salmond/Alba faithful will recognise that what the resolution is referring to is the Section 30 process. The same process that Nicola Sturgeon is wedded to. The process which invites interference from the British state in Scotland’s exercise of our right of self-determination. The process which gifts the British state such influence over the form and conduct of a new referendum as to allow them to sabotage it. The process which compromises the sovereignty of Scotland’s people; trading that sovereignty for patently fraudulent promises of honest cooperation from the British political elite.
Alba Party attempts to sell itself as an ‘alternative’ to the SNP. This would be a ridiculous claim anyway given that only the Scottish Government can initiate the restoration of Scotland’s independence; that this action is needed urgently; and that Alba Party cannot possibly become the party of government in less than five years – by which time the British Nationalists will have crushed Scotland’s democracy, and more realistically is likely to take 15 to 30 years to be where the SNP is now. The ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ attaching to that possibility are legion.
Assuming Alba could become the party of government in time to save Scotland, however, what difference would that make? If their approach to the constitutional is as identical to that of the SNP as is implied by the above resolution, how could that possibly take Scotland’s cause any further forward? Alba Party is clearly operating with exactly the same mindset as the SNP leadership. A mindset which gives primacy to the British parliament and regards independence as being in the gift of the British state. Or, at the very least, as something which can only be achieved with the consent and cooperation of the British establishment.
The harsh truth that Salmond/Alba devotees will surely reject with all the very considerable vacuity and vitriol they can muster is that Alba Party is no more ready to sign up to the Manifesto for Independence than the SNP. What the resolution tells us is that if Alba were in government now what they would be doing on the constitutional issue would be indistinguishable from what is being done now by the SNP/Scottish Government. What we see encapsulated in that resolution is the same pathetic timorousness as characterises the Sturgeon doctrine. The same unwavering respect for a system that is inherently contemptuous of Scotland. The same embracing of the structures of power, privilege and status that constitute the British state. The same commitment to a process which cannot possibly deliver a free and fair exercise of our right of self-determination and therefore cannot possibly lead to a true restoration of Scotland’s independence. The same recipe for failure – even if there is an attempt to make the dish.
Here’s another extract from that resolution.
Alba demands that the Scottish Parliament instruct the Government to commence independence negotiations with Westminster.
There’s a couple of immediately obvious problems with this ‘”demand” – apart from the fact that Alba Party has neither clout nor leverage and so will be ignored by the SNP/Scottish Government. In the first place, the SNP/Scottish Government has no mandate to enter into such negotiations. It may be true that “independence is an overwhelming and immediate priority for the people of Scotland”. But this was not reflected in the SNP’s election manifesto. We (the Yes movement) had an opportunity to ‘persuade’ the SNP to adopt the Manifesto for Independence, but most of the Yes movement couldn’t be bothered with such an onerous task. And/or they were too preoccupied with side-projects – such as Alba Party – to focus on the essentials of the independence campaign.
Quite apart from this lack of a mandate, and arguably more importantly, Scotland is not yet an independent nation. Our independence has not yet been restored. What Alba is demanding is that the Scottish Government should enter into negotiations with the British government while the Scottish Government remains merely an adjunct to the British executive. If these negotiations concern a referendum then we have to ask why the the British government should have any role whatever in Scotland’s exercise of Scotland’s right of self-determination. They have no right to any role whatever. So why does Alba Party want to give them a role? The same question I’ve been asking of Sturgeon’s approach to the constitutional issue for several years.
If the proposed negotiations relate to an independence settlement then how can the Scottish Government, as a devolved administration, enter into such negotiations on an equal footing with the government from which it is devolved? A new constitutional settlement that is democratically legitimate and therefore acceptable to the people of Scotland cannot possibly be negotiated with a state which wields the power that the Union afford the British state. The power to dictate the terms of that settlement. Just as the British state dictated the terms of the devolution settlement.
What is needed is bold, assertive, imaginative action. Action that steps outside the entrapping mesh of legal and constitutional measures designed to ensure the preservation of the Union. There is no route to independence with that legislative and constitutional framework. The authority of the British state must be repudiated before Scotland’s Government can act as the government of a sovereign nation. The confrontation that this necessarily implies cannot be avoided. It has to be faced.
Power is not given. Real power is only ever taken. If the powers of an independent nation are to be restored to Scotland that are currently withheld by England-as-Britain under the terms of an archaic, anomalous and grotesquely asymmetric political union, there is a clear process to be followed -Repudiate the Section 30 process
- Assert the primacy of the Scottish Parliament
- Recall MPs to join a National Convention
- Propose dissolution of Union subject to referendum
- Call referendum made and managed in Scotland
When Alba Party starts talking the language of a party prepared to do what is required to restore Scotland’s independence I’ll maybe start taking them a bit more seriously.
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31 thoughts on “Alba offers no alternative”
I see the logic of your argument, but what you suggest would amount to open rebellion. What level of support would that obtain? Have things really got so bad that you want to see tanks in the streets, because that is likely to be WM’s response. We might win out in the end but would the cost be justified? Not unless all other routes to independence are clearly blocked …
Got to “tanks in the streets” and stopped taking you seriously.
All “other routes” either never existed or don’t now. If there were another route don’t you think somebody would have found it?
I agree with your plan. I have always agreed with the Manifesto For Independence as described. It benefits from simplicity and straight forwardness. And is INDEPENDENT of the interference of any foreign power:
1. Assert the primacy of the Scottish Parliament
2. Recall MPs to join a National Convention
3. Propose dissolution of Union subject to referendum
4. Call referendum made and managed in Scotland
I am aware that you are not a member of the party and disagree with their setting themselves up as an alternative to the SNP (for reasons you have previously made plain anc clear).
But you are well known in the Yes Community as a stalwart for as long as I have been alive. Even as a non-member of ALBA do you not think it would be worthwhile to write to the party leadership commending your approach to them?
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I suspect they may be aware of my views. As a non-member I have no say in Alba’s policy development process. It would, I think, be presumptuous of me to write to the party’s leaders telling them they’ve got is wrong.
It is important, however, that voters know they’ve got it wrong. I do my bit to inform them.
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“… Alba offers no alternative… ”
Yet, Peter, yet. You will be proved right or wrong very soon, I think. The only viable route left to us is via the Treaty after an election. Resiling the Treaty ends the Union. The Union cannot be dissolved while the Treaty exists. It alone is the founding document of the UK of GB. However we declare independence, it must be resiled. We would also be giving Wales and NI a second chance, too. England, as per, is well able to look after itself; it has had plenty of practice. If Alba does not offer this route as the only viable one now, after an election, I’m gone (no more bloody talking shop conventions, please: the Unionists are not going to cave in for quite a long time, if ever, this time, because they thought last time that devolution would kill independence stone dead and now they know it didn’t.). Let the b******s try and gull another generation.
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You’re probably correct, but if I may play devil’s advocate for a moment …
The UK government would probably argue that neither party to the Treaty of Union, the former independent governments and nations of England (incl. Wales) and Scotland, any longer exists. Both having been merged in the UK of GB government by the said Treaty. The present devolved government of Scotland sitting at Holyrood, being they would insist, nothing more than a creature of the overarching UK legislature, given such powers as it has by WM. Handed down from London, that’s exactly what ‘devolution’ means. And he that has the power to give also has the power to take away. So if HR became a nusience to WM, it could be slapped down like a disobeidient child and in exteremis abolished entirely, after all they did something similar to Stormont …
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The same could be said for any international treaty, marconatrix. The Treaty of Rome, the founding document of the EEC (now EU) was expanded to subsequent members. That, in no way invalidated its efficacy and constitutional strength and nor could it prevent members (us) from leaving that union. Scotland and England still exist within the same physical/legal/terrestrial/maritime boundaries (the purloining of our sea boundary with England would have to be subjected to international maritime law in any circumstances), the peoples of each country still exist as new generations in a (so-called) democracy and the same interests dominate now as they did then in each case.
It is true to say that there is no in-built mechanism in the Treaty for leaving the Union, but international law governs that as well, with human rights, the right to self-determination, the scourge of colonialism all paying a part. It is fact, which can be easily proven, that England, and solely England has breached the Treaty Articles many many times since 1707, and always to its own advantage rather than that of the UK, as a whole – from trade agreements to which we were not a party, to interference in our legal system. I recommend reading the words of the late, very eminent, and by no means nationalist, constitutional jurists, Professor (late) David Walker and Professor Ian Campbell. You will find them in the online version of the Law Journal of Scotland. Both issue a very heartfelt warning about trying to renegotiate the Treaty with Westminster and both offer very sound legal reasons as to why Scotland has been dealt a very bad hand since 1707.
We have been ill-served by both politics and the law for the very simple reason that very few in either profession has ever been willing to stick his/her head above the parapet and find out just what we can do if the will is there to do it. I call this the abdication of the duty of care to those who elect them and/or support the legal system within our elected area of Scotland. I don’t blame those jurists of 1707 – albeit I find the political characters of that time both spineless and self-seeking – because I believe they did their very best to protect our interests. I think they must have drawn up the Treaty with heavy hearts because they must have known, knowing the propensity of England to dominate all things, that it would be breached – like sending your daughter off to a wedding you know she doesn’t want, that you don’t want, to a bridegroom who despises her and will literally rape her into submission. If that sounds harsh, I offer no apologies, because it was precisely what happened and is still happening.
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No, you see joining the EU/EEC etc. did not abolish the British, French, German etc, etc, states, whereas the creation of the UK of GB abolished England and Scotland as separate legal entities. The only vestige remaining being afaik the separate Scots legal system, although Scots laws were now to be created and amended by the Union Parliament at WM.
Please anyone explain how you think I’m wrong here …
Pish. How could the UK government recognise Scotland’s right of self-determination if Scotland has no legal existence? And it’s not just a separate legal system. Scotland is a distinct legislation. Otherwise, why would Westminster have to enact Scotland-specific legislation?
“I find the political characters of that time both spineless and self-seeking”
“Bought and sold for English gold / Sic a parcel of rouges in a nation!”
marconatrix: in no way was either abolished by the Treaty or the Acts of Union, for that matter; on the contrary, the Treaty guaranteed Scotland’s continued legal existence. Political power was removed to Westminster, but fully one half of Westminster’s legal authority (legitimacy) to rule both nations came from the now-defunct Scottish parliament. That legitimacy gifted from the old Scottish parliament was ceded, not taken, and at least some of it (in the form of Westminster legitimacy) was returned/ceded back to the devolved Scottish parliament/administration. This power, a mix of legal and political authority, is fundamental to the legal workings of any political institution. Without it, the institution is unworkable and the people will not recognise it. It is more or less the same right across the world – even where a parliament of sorts would be convened in an African township in the past. Legitimacy is crucial. In democracies, that legitimacy is renewed by each election. This is why the legal and the political are inextricably linked. The Treaty is still an international legal document, whatever lies you are fed, and it must be resiled legally by the international court for the Union’s final demise, an election – or a public uprising, fully supported by the people – having already taken place to satisfy the political part of the legitimacy for a fully-independent Scottish parliament, and, probably, a ratifying referendum after its establishment. The disgrace of this SNP administration, is that it has not even bothered to understand Scotland’s position within the Union, so has opted for a Vichy-style collusionary government, a position that precludes independence.
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Rogues Marconatrics . R O G U E S , more anon
Peter – you don’t often make pronouncements in absence of having digested the facts – in this case the full wording of DRAFT resolutions – so amendable – for the ALBA conference. I have only skimmed them, but there is much in there that I agree with, and feel you would also agree with. As to the “power/influence” thing, there is more than one way to skin a cat – or so I have heard.
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Your response is lacking both the bits of the draft resolution on independence that I might agree with (I did make it clear that I was referring to what was reported in The National) and chapter and verse on cat-skinning. This is always the way with Alba. Lots of claims. Absolutely no substance.
Tell me, Geoff, what’s the difference between the Alba super secret method of skinning cats and Nicola Sturgeon’s super secret plan?
So would you have ALBA disband ?
I would have Alba be honest about what it can do. But I no more expect that than that they might disband.
The Manifesto for Independence is bold, it scares me a bit, to be honest, but boldness is required and we need people who are prepared to take bold actions. Alba would do well to consider this. Now is the time for Alba to be identified as the party who will make Independence happen. It’s not going to be a happy-clappy negotiated event where we all agree and stay on good terms. It’s going to be a sht storm, and I am ready for it.
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As far as the international community is concerned “the sovereign will of the Scottish people” was expressed in the free and fair referendum of 2014.
All this posturing and bluster will achieve absolutely nothing.
When did the independence movement decide to stop trying to persuade voters to vote to leave the UK?
The 2014 referendum produced a result but not a decision. A decision is what some of us are not seeking. The ‘gentle persuasion’ that you seem to consider the only way to conduct a campaign has very obviously had whatever success it might. All the voters who might be gently persuaded are already in the half of the electorate which supports the restoration of Scotland’s independence. That’s why the polls haven’t moved since 2014. Something more; something different is required to reach the additional voters Scotland’s cause requires.
See the comment from Lulu Bells below. She knows what she’s talking about. Those who have no stomach for confrontational politics need to get out of the way and let the advocates of bold, decisive action get on with the job. When that bold decisive action is taken, then you’ll see the polls swing to Yes. Nobody is inspired by inaction.
Maybe I’m dense but you’ll have to explain the difference between the result and a decision.
The result is just numbers. The decision precedes and determines action. A referendum is supposed to be binary. No grey areas. The outcome should be a clear decision to take a stated course of action.
If people are arguing afterwards about what the result means then what you’ve had is not a referendum but a rather clumsy public opinion survey.
Much of what you write here, Peter, seems wise. I wonder, however, if Alba could be persuaded to have as their platform for the 2024 General Election, that if a majority of Scottish voters vote for independence parties, then they will withdraw from Westminster, resile the Treaty on Union, and seek to negotiate as an independent, sovereign state for the just distribution of the patrimony of the former UK.
If I may: that is more or less already policy, steelwires, but without co-operation from the SNP, it will go nowhere. I can guarantee that the SNP will not co-operate, nor will the Greens. The fact is that the SNP and Greens do not want independence any time soon, if, indeed, at all. So many still have not understood that evident fact. I don’t know what it would take to open their eyes to the mendacity and duplicity of the both the SNP and the Greens re independence. The SNP, from 2014 onwards, was never more than a vehicle to power for so many people within both organisations, I’m afraid. Avoiding independence was the real reason for the Alec Salmond debacle. As a woman, I know full well that we are so often the smokescreen for an action that has a totally different agenda to exposing hurt to women. You just have to listen to the platitudes and virtue signalling of the males who drive the news, politics, etc. to see that in relation to Afghanistan. Sorry, but I am a cynic and I would trust neither the SNP nor the Greens to deliver. Alba? I will give them the benefit of the doubt that they are sincere – for now – but I appreciate what Peter says about their having no leverage thus far. That could change, of course, in 2024 or in the local elections, and I have no doubts that Alec Salmond is a true believer in independence, unlike Nicola Sturgeon or Harvie or Slater, but we are still talking about a long way away.
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“If I may: that is more or less already policy,”
Not according to what is reported in The National. Where is this policy written? Where can I see it?
Peter: 8. Draft Conference Agenda: “… ALBA demands that the Scottish Parliament instruct the Government to commence independence negotiations with Westminster. If the British Government refuses to engage, or even accept a referendum process, then we propose a cross party campaign of parliamentary action, peaceful popular mobilisation, legal moves in the domestic and international courts and diplomatic initiatives to enforce the sovereign will of the Scottish people… ”
The Treaty is an international legal document. It must be resiled in the international courts. If not, the Union remains and any declaration of independence is UDI. There are two signatories, the other being England. England as the UK cannot prevent us from resiling the Treaty and leaving the Union if we vote for it. Agreeing to our departure via agreeing to the resiling of the Treaty would be the sensible thing to do in the eyes of the international community and it would avoid a prolonged and protracted legal procedure which England, far more than Scotland, could not afford to happen. We have far too much that they will need post Scottish independence. The English parliament at Westminster (that is what it is, in reality if not law) may be an overbearing and arrogant, bullying institution, but its members are not that stupid. Hence the desperate attempts to renegotiate the Treaty as an Act in domestic law – to put it out of our reach. Even if we refuse to see the prize we have in the Treaty, the English do not. They have as much right to resile it as we do, of course.
Also, this was precisely ALBA policy at the Scottish election just gone. Enough votes (a supermajority) and resiling the Treaty would become the next logical step. That is where the negotiations would come in. The fact that none of these things has even been attempted after the failure of 2014 is an utter disgrace. Sticking to the S30 referendum route – totally, completely, unnecessary in either domestic or International law tells its own story of the lack of commitment to independence by the SNP.
I am totally opposed to any referendum now unless there exists irrefutable proof that we can win it, and I await the Conference decisions before I decide whether to remain in ALBA or leave, so I do take on board your points. The problem for me, which you don’t have, or are ever likely to have, is that my human rights are also under threat and only ALBA offers a refuge.
I dealt with all of this before. The SNP/Scottish Government has no mandate to start negotiations. No government is going to be seen to endorse extra-parliamentary action. And the whole supermajority thing was always a pile of pish – https://peterabell.scot/2021/04/17/fantasy-politics-and-problematic-arithmetic/.
As with so much from Alba, the offer sounds exciting. But the product is sub-standard. There is nothing Alba can bring to the fight to restore Scotland’s independence unless it joins with the likes of Now Scotland and White Rose Rising to demand that the SNP/Scottish Government initiate a process similar to that outlined in the Manifesto for Independence.
It doesn’t really matter what the legal procedure is so long as it has the sole purpose of ending the Union. But #DissolveTheUnion works better in terms of presentation than #ResileTheTreaty. The crucial thing is that the SNP/Scottish Government must repudiate the Section 30 process and assert the primacy of the Scottish Parliament.
The reality is that that this what they would have to do anyway if, as they claim, they genuinely intend to go ahead with a referendum without a Section 30 order. But (a) they don’t want to publicly state that this is what they intend for fear of the British state’s reaction which only indicates that they lack the intestinal fortitude to confront the British state; and (b) they refuse to repudiate the Section 30 process and continue to insist that it is the “gold standard” thus undermining their own case for proceeding without it which strongly suggest – at the very least – that they have no real intention of proceeding without a Section 30 order. Or they have no intention of proceeding with a meaningful exercise of our right of self-determination but plan on having some kind of ‘advisory’ referendum which will fool only the party faithful.
The key element in all of this; the one thing that we always come back to whatever one’s pet theory on how the process should proceed, is the Scottish Parliament. Nothing happens without the Scottish Parliament making it happen. And the Scottish Parliament can’t make anything happen unless and until it asserts its primacy. After that, we will be somewhat playing it by ear. But we will be playing with a strong hand and plenty of options.
The ONLY thing the Yes movement should be doing right now – the ONLY thing it should have been doing for the last two years – is piling pressure on the SNP/Scottish Government to commit to the process outlined in the Manifesto for Independence. The ONLY role Alba has in all of this is as part of that united effort. Something which every one of its members could do and do more effectively without distractions involved in being a political party.
Tuesday 31 August will tell the tale. If enough people from across the Yes movement turn up at Holyrood that afternoon (13:00) then we’ll know there is a possibility of the Yes movement coming together for the only purpose that is of any consequence – forcing the SNP/Scottish Government to confront the British state. And, not at all incidentally, assuring the SNP/Scottish Government of mass support when they do.
With only about ten days to go there is a small groundswell of support for the demo on 31 August. There needs to be more. It should be the one thing everybody is talking about right now. It could be the game-changer.
Right now, I’m supposed to be writing an article for the White Rose Rising Blog. Instead, I’m here repeating myself. Yer a scamp, woman! Leading me astray!
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Eh? They could force a vote tomorrow, with the Greens. Will they? No, because gender woo woo is far more important. NS isalays trying to be someone else: The New Zealand PM, Ahern; before that, the Danish woman politician who was actually an actor playing a part. Why doesn’t NS try being NS, with lady balls?
I know no more about the potential for Alba to adopt a radical approach to the constitutional issue than can be gleaned or surmised from newspaper articles such as the one referenced in the article. I am not hopeful. And I am very, very doubtful if it would help Scotland’s cause even if Alba decided to adopt the Manifesto for Independence. It’s too late. If Alba had been formed in late 2014 or early 2015 with a radical approach that contrasts sharply with the Sturgeon doctrine then it might have reshaped Scotland’s politics in meaningful ways. But like so much else, it’s now too late.
What has to be done must be done in this parliamentary term. There will not be another parliamentary term that allows the possibility of bold, decisive action. The British and their agents in Scotland will make sure of that. This is why I tried before the election to get the Yes movement to unite behind the Manifesto for Independence. But even this effort was beset by the factionalism that has long afflicted the Yes movement. The Sturgeon/SNP loyalists were never going to be part of any drive to force the party to adopt the Manifesto for Independence. But even those who favoured this couldn’t unite. They had to go off on their own ‘branch’ project, adapting the Manifesto for Independence until its essence was lost.
Still I hope to unite the Yes movement behind an effort to get the SNP/Scottish Government to adopt a more robust approach to the constitutional issue. I’m persisting with the White Rose Rising project despite there being no more than the faintest glimmer of hope that a significant number of Yes supporters will come on board. Despite the fact that we’ve made it easy by eschewing all matters of policy to focus exclusively on the aim of ending the Union.
Literally everybody in the Yes movement should be able to back that. But the vast majority won’t. We won’t get anything like the old Yes movement back until we get over the factionalism. Alba could have been the point around which the Yes movement coalesced. But they made a total arse of the election campaign and have done nothing since. There’s nothing they can do. Except maybe belatedly embrace the principles that inform White Rose Rising. But they don’t look like doing that.
The other major hope I had (have?) is Now Scotland. It has lost its way a bit, however. It has strayed into the realm of policy and hence away from the core issue of the constitutional status of our nation.
I’ll keep White Rose Rising (www.whiteroserising.scot). going. We’ll see how many Yessers turn up at Holyrood on 31 August. If it’s a decent turnout then that will be encouraging. But it’ll take thousands or even tens of thousands on the doorstep before Sturgeon will even hear us.
Meanwhile, Alba Party, Now Scotland and all the others will be doing their own thing oblivious to fact that their individual efforts are ineffectual because they do not have the clout and don’t aggregate readily.
The problem with non-legally binding votes is that they aren’t legally binding.
The Scottish government doesn’t get ‘primacy’ – we live in a semi-constitutional monarchy and we are subjects. MSP’s get responsibilities after swearing allegiance to Liz2.
I doubt that many would take it seriously, or even bother to vote. I have my doubts that all Councils would even bother to divulge the electoral roll, and they certainly wouldn’t pay for organisation. I don’t think the Greens would vote for such an undertaking, so it would be an opinion poll financed by the SNP. God knows who they would get to organise it. Presumably a polling company. And to what end? To make the SNP look like clowns? Because that would be the most likely result, as they look like they well know.
I have no idea what you’re talking about. It certainly has no relevance to what I’m talking about.