Plan and purpose

If there is one thing on which you might find general agreement among the sundry factions and cliques which are all that remain of the Yes movement it is that Philippa Whitford MP is wonderful. A few might balk at ‘wonderful’. But far fewer would dispute the claim that she is among the brightest stars in the admittedly rather dull firmament of the SNP Westminster group. Philippa Whitford is a tremendous asset to Scotland’s rag-tag independence movement, a great servant to Scotland’s people and a boon to the SNP. I state that as fact without fear of contradiction.

I am inclined to bemoan the poverty of communication skills among politicians in general and among SNP politicians in particular. Not that they are necessarily particularly poor communicators so much as because it is particularly important that they be particularly effective communicators, given their importance to Scotland’s cause. And given the peculiar difficulties they face when trying to get their message across. Philippa Whitford is in this regard as in so many others, the exception. It may be tweaking fate’s nose to say so, but oor Philippa disnae dae gaffes. Gaffe-prone people don’t get to be highly respected breast surgeons. Philippa Whitford brings to her role as an MP skills honed explaining often very complex medical matters to understandably stressed patients and their invariably distraught loved ones. Whenever she speaks and on whatever subject, Philippa Whitford always does so with confidence and clarity. She never sounds evasive even when circumstances necessitate some evasion. She never gives the impression of having failed to think things through. She never sounds as if she’s just making it up as she goes along. Sensible interviewers don’t try to trip her up. The lady’s not for tripping.

It is understandable, therefore, that it should be headline-worthy news when Philippa Whitford makes a pronouncement on one or other of the seemingly endless list of things independence supporters contrive to find contentious – as if they lived in constant dread of running out of things on which to cobble together a senseless squabble. We all agree that the ultimate aim is that Scotland should have no MPs at all sitting in the British parliament. Some, however, move straight from this agreed objective eschewing a stopover at the thinky-place, to demand that Scotland’s MPs should depart Westminster forthwith and with a theatrical flounce. Philippa Whitford neatly skewers this ill-thought notion with a lucid and logical argument.

[The SNP is] not an abstentionist party.

I think if you’re going to do that you need to stand on that basis. People need to vote for you on the basis that they will not have any direct physical representation in the parliament.

I don’t think you could take votes as representing people and then just decide that you’re not going to.

MP explains why SNP won’t simply walk out of Westminster

While being a perfectly valid argument this does rather beg the question as to why, if the ultimate aim is to have no Scottish MPs in the British parliament, the SNP is not standing candidates on that basis. We’ll come back to that. Firstly, I’d like to add another argument against the flounce-out urged by many independence supporters. And argument which connects with and augments what Philippa Whitford says. When our MPs should walk out of Westminster this action must be part of a plan. It must have a justification above and beyond being the kind of political theatre which will grab the headlines for a few days. The (former?) MPs must have somewhere to go when they return to Scotland. They must have something to do. They must have a purpose.

The problem Philippa Whitford identifies doesn’t arise if arrangements are in place to ensure that those taking votes on the basis of a promise to represent their constituents continue to do so if not in the British parliament then in some other body that is more relevant to Scotland’s needs. Whether we call this body a National Assembly or a National Convention or some other title matters a lot less than that it should be established in advance of Scottish MPs walking out of the British parliament for the last time.

Returning to the issue raised by Philippa Whitford regarding a mandate to quit Westminster, it is perfectly legitimate to ask why such a mandate has not been sought. It might be argued that the removal of our MPs from the British parliament is implicit in the policy of restoring Scotland’s independence. But it might also be argued that this mandate needs to be explicit. And that it should be explained as having a particular purpose.

  • Repudiate the Section 30 process as an illegitimate constraint on Scotland’s right of self-determination
  • Assert the primacy of the Scottish Parliament on the basis of its democratic legitimacy and the sovereignty of Scotland’s people
  • Recall Scotland’s Members of Parliament from Westminster to sit on a National Convention with Members of the Scottish Parliament and such representatives of civic society as are deemed appropriate by the Scottish Parliament for the purpose of overseeing the drafting of a Constitution for Scotland
  • Propose dissolution of the Union with England subject to approval by the Scottish Parliament and ratification by the people of Scotland in a referendum
  • Hold referendum on the question of the Union under the auspices of the Scottish Parliament and subject to oversight and management by the National Convention and such bodies as may be appointed by the Scottish Parliament

Ask me why the SNP didn’t seek such a mandate in last May’s Holyrood elections and I have a ready answer. The SNP didn’t adopt a Manifesto for Independence because nobody made them do so. It was always the case that the party would have to be pressured into adopting a Manifesto for Independence. It was perfectly obvious that only a united Yes movement might have the clout to ‘persuade’ the SNP to make a commitment that didn’t chime with the Sturgeon doctrine. We can only mourn the fact that the opportunity to pin down the SNP on the constitutional issue was squandered.

As ever, there are lessons to be learned from this. As ever, there is no reason to suppose that will happen.



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7 thoughts on “Plan and purpose

  1. Lessons to be learned? It applied when I was at school, and despite the lessons I should have learned from that period, it also applied when I had to qualify for professional qualifications – namely, no matter how much time I had to fully learn the subject mattter, I always ended up cramming everything just before the actual tests.

    In response to one of your earlier posts as you considered departure – I asked that you post on the lessons to be learned, and apart from causing me to smile in some of your comments (thanks) – you have done so in the above.

    But I am still left with a question – Is it ever too late?

    My answer – not yet!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I too cannot bring myself to admit that it is too late. But I am painfully aware that it if is not too late already then it very soon will be. Consider this. Circumstances over the past four years have been something close to ideal for the campaign to restore Scotland’s independence. We failed. If we failed under these ‘ideal’ circumstances, what chance is there that we might succeed when the circumstances are altered to make the task a great deal more difficult while the independence movement continues to fragment?

      I have never claimed that the British will make it impossible to restore Scotland’s independence. Impossible is too big a word. But they don’t have to make it impossible in order to ensure that it doesn’t happen. They only have to make it difficult enough that it can’t be achieved without the solidarity, focus and discipline that the Yes movement has shown itself to be incapable of sustaining. They won’t make it effectively impossible. We will do that. Just as large parts of the Yes movement helped Better Together win the 2014 referendum, so it is Yes activists who are crippling the only force which can break the Union. Not from malice. From naivety, pride, jealousy and various other forms of stupidity.

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      1. And the very real and 100% critical problem, unlike exams is that if we fail, I can’t see there being a re-sit, not just in my lifetime but for the lifetimes of many yet to be born

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Lets call a spade a spade shall we, the SNPs MPs don’t want to remove themselves from the Westminster teat, some of them are now deeply embedded, such as Stewart McDonald, Dr Whitford said in the article that Brexit might have been different if Sinn Fein had taken their seats in the House, exposing in my opinion that SNP MPs votes in the HOC don’t actually matter.

    https://12ft.io/proxy?q=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.thenational.scot%2Fnews%2F19831531.philippa-whitford-explains-snp-mps-wont-just-walk-westminster%2F

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  3. Peter: are devolution and the Scottish MPs at Westminster the never-ending story? You could just as easily say that Brexit would not have happened had Westminster been a proper federal parliament or if Nicola Sturgeon had actually meant it when she said we would not be taken out of Europe without our consent. So many things would be different if Westminster and its occupants were different. So long as we send MPs to Westminster, those MPs and their leadership will find excuses to keep them there. Now, BNrexit is over and we have the crisis in the NHS: to privatise or not to privatise? Since the NHS (+ our part of it) has already been promised on a plate to the Americans, what is there to argue about? The Scottish MPs will not be listened to, and will be outvoted, as per. Sorry, I take on board what Philippa Whitford says and I understand the need to find alternative work for our redundant MPs in the event they leave Westminster, but it betrays a very real disconnect with the reality of how many, many people feel up here. We no longer give a flying whatsit about useless gestures at Westminster, like some Oxbridge twat flying without a parachute in WW I. You get killed, metaphorically or otherwise. It is wasteful, stupid and utterly, utterly pointless. You’re not actually sacrificing for queen and country; you’re just a pawn in a game few of you understand. Come home, MPs or stay. Many of us no longer care – except about the fat salaries and pensions you accrue which most of us going through this pandemic, over which you have no control and never did have control, and Brexit, which you allowed to happen and then welched on your promises, can only dream of. I, for one, do not believe anything any of them say any more. Not a word.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I was always of the view, the SNP MPs should leave Westminster.
    But also, that they should form the first Scottish Senate, to begin with, as the upper chamber at Edinburgh.
    That certainly gives them something to leave for.
    But leave London, they must do at some point, and soon..
    However, as you say, it helps greatly, if there is to be a definitive reason, rather than just decide one random Monday, they ain’t going back.
    Such an opportunity presented itself in June 2016.
    There have been other chances, all missed, or wasted.
    We kinda get the impression with Dr Whitford’s comments, that perhaps some at least of the MPs see the writing on the wall?
    We have to hope so.

    Liked by 1 person

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