Unforgiveable folly!

Why Scotland’s next White Paper must do more to involve other parties

And there we have the problem. It is simply assumed that because there was a White Paper for the 2014 referendum we must have one for the next referendum. No stopping to consider whether this is appropriate or advisable in the light of past experience and present circumstances. The Sturgeon doctrine decrees that both the referendum and the Yes campaign must replicate as closely as possible the process followed a decade ago. The Sturgeon doctrine must not be questioned.

Need I point out what a horribly unhealthy attitude this is? It totally excludes all fresh thinking and prohibits critical analysis. It renders the Sturgeon doctrine immune from scrutiny. What benefit is there in this for anyone other than Sturgeon? What benefit is there for Scotland’s cause rather than the partisan interests of the SNP?

What purpose does this White Paper serve – other than giving the British propaganda machine enough targets that it is impossible that even the clumsiest scattergun effort might fail to hit something? Maybe something critical. A situation made even worse by the fact that so contentious were many of the issues for which the White Paper hoped to provide an acceptable answer that a large part of the Yes movement ended up echoing and amplifying the British propaganda.

Scotland’s Future was an attempt to provide an answer for every conceivable question that might be at least acceptable to every single voter. How could it possibly succeed? All the White Paper could do was cause division within the Yes movement while providing fuel for the anti-independence campaign. A campaign whose primary weapon was uncertainty. It wasn’t Project Fear. It was Project Doubt!

Because there was no critical analysis of the 2014 referendum campaign by the SNP or the Yes movement, no lessons were learned. So we are about to repeat old mistakes and fail to utilise the tactics and methods that such analysis reveals.

One conclusion that even the most cursory examination leads us to is that the Yes campaign devoted far too much of its resources to an effort to answer a potentially infinite number of questions in all the ways that each might be answered. Every question proked doubt in the minds of some voters or aggravated existing doubt. Every attempt to answer the question did precisely the same. The very fact of attempting to answer the questions was to legitimise them. To imply that the question was valid. To allow that there was something questionable. To create or aggravate doubt.

The White Paper was a gift to Better Together. The anti-independence campaign probably couldn’t have succeeded without the divisions in the Yes campaign that were occasioned by Scotland’s Future along with the fact that it effectively recruited large parts of the Yes movement to the British propaganda effort.

The most tragic thing about all of this is that the White Paper was both unnecessary and irrelevant. Other than the matter of Scotland’s constitutional status absolutely nothing in that document would be decided by the referendum. All it did was bury the matter of Scotland’s constitutional status in a mountain of material that was only appropriate for an election and not a referendum.

A referendum is binary. It offers two options which are distinct, defined and deliverable. The White Paper – and therefore the Yes campaign – satisfied none of these criteria.

The issue was NOT what currency arrangements Scotland would have. It is IMPOSSIBLE to give a definitive answer to that question. Worse! it prompts a welter of non-definitive answers as every party, organisation, group and individual associated with the Yes campaign comes up with different and often contradictory and/or mutually exclusive answers. What could voters confronted with this welter be except confused and filled with doubt? Which, let me remind you, is exactly what the No campaign wanted. Exactly what it depended on.

The lesson of the first referendum campaign is that it’s not more answers the Yes campaign needs better questions. The Yes campaign was lured into the impossible and self-harming effort to answer the ‘what currency?’ question when it should have been asking ‘Are you persuaded that Scotland can manage its own monetary affairs and if not why not?’.

That is just one example. Every question the White Paper sought to answer should be turned around in the same way. It’s called reframing. It starts with the question on the ballot which determines everything about the campaign. The SNP not only failed to even consider reframing the constitutional issue, it actively sought to prevent any discussion of this or anything else that didn’t conform to the Sturgeon doctrine. This is unforgivable folly!

Ten years ago there was some excuse for not realising the inadvisability of the White Paper. There is no such excuse now. The lessons are there to be taken. Not taking them is a choice for which we are entitled to demand an explanation.

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17 thoughts on “Unforgiveable folly!

  1. Nicola Sturgeon and her acolytes are not capable of originating a new thought between them.

    The checklist from 2014 that Nicola Sturgeon is working from:

    British Government Section 30 “Gold Standard Legal” sanctioned Referendum
    British Electoral Commission process approval
    “Should Scotland be an Independent Country?” question
    Local Authority Franchise
    “Positive case” for Independence
    White Paper
    Sterlingisation/Shared Central Bank/Dependent Monetary Policy

    to name a few.

    Everything has changed and changed utterly – Brexit, Covid, Johnson, Yes splits. But Nicola Sturgeon hasn’t. And that’s all that matters. To her. And her blindly loyal brigade of sycophantic followers.

    The truth is that we have an arrogant and narcissistic impostor at the head of the totally dominant national party who is incapable of true leadership on Scotland’s Cause and, for the most part, an uncritical unthinking following who swallow all the phony and platitudinous utterings broadcast by the FM and her colleagues in their direction.

    Liked by 7 people

    1. My great concern – and it cannot be overstated – is not “indefinite postponement” but a pretend referendum that doesn’t serve as a formal exercise of our right of self-determination but which allows both Sturgeon and Johnson to claim that we’ve had our referendum. Indefinite postponement would actually be a preferable option.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. If we are to have a “white paper”, then it needs to be entirely reframed. Its purpose should be to get us on the front foot, and question the Union, possibly in some detail, about all of the inadequacies and breaches of the treaty of union perpetrated in recent times. Let the pro-union campaigners scrabble around to find satisfactory answers. I don’t believe that we should restrict ourselves to positive campaigning in the quest to dissolve this toxic union.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. On that, at least, we are in full agreement. Although I frown a little at the mention of “breaches of the treaty of union”. The last thing we want is to get tied up in endless courtroom wrangles about what constitutes a breach etc. This is just my caution, of course. I don’t suppose for a moment you were intending any form of legal challenge. Nothing wrong with using these breaches as propaganda.


      1. Peter: constitutionally and legally, the breaches of the Treaty and its actual misinterpretation from day one are fundamental to its survival, and, therefore, to the survival of the Union which rests upon it, and to the survival of the UK that rests upon the Union. However, I take your point: it would take some time. Which begs the question: why was a case not drawn up years ago? Personally, I have been beating that particular drum for many years. Whatever happens, however we get independence – and we will, eventually – that Treaty still has to be resiled in international law. The sane route would be a plebiscitary election and have our MPs dissolve the Union on the strength of numbers for independence and winning seats and votes, which is our primary form of democracy. Will it happen? Not under the SNP with Nicola Sturgeon and her coterie at the helm – not even after the GRA reform goes through – if it does – because the trans lobby has just started. Lots and lots of years of reforms to go, laws sidelined and torn down, female rights and spaces to access until no biological women and girls exist in them… Don’t believe me, folks? Oh, well… I tried. The 2025 SE will be the last ostensibly independence government in Scotland to fight an election for many a long year if nothing changes and loyalists don’t see the light.

        Liked by 4 people

      2. No you are right, I wasn’t anticipating court action in respect of any or every breach, the breaches are so self-evident that this is not necessary or desirable.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I’m afraid they would require to be spelled out, backed by evidence, bushgeoff, and in international law. The Treaty’s ending must be negotiated or we are in breach of England’s rights. Sorry, but there is no point in not being straight. If we decide to end the Union, the Treaty will still have to be negotiated – and that will be a dangerous time for Scotland because England as rUK will want the lion’s share as per. We cannot afford to let that happen, so we need the absolute best constitutional lawyers in the country to put our case. I’d far rather have it negotiated in court than let the politicians near it: they’d sell us out through lack of nous or sheer spite, if the Unionists were to be involved.


          1. The British state will just buy all the “absolute best constitutional lawyers in the country”. Mostly, those lawyers will be focused on dragging proceedings out for as long as possible and then more so as to maximise their earnings. Could be anything between 5 and 50 years. And no guarantee that England wouldn’t end up with the “lion’s share” anyway. Let’s bear in mind, too, that the clock doesn’t start running on this timeframe until those proceedings commence. It’s anybody’s guess how long it will be before that happens given that there has been no movement at all to date.

            Whatever way you look at it, taking the constitutional issue out of the realm of democratic politics and handing it to lawyers rules out any possibility of independence in my lifetime. And quite possibly in the lifetime of my children. Of course, the British state would not be idle during this period. It would continue to work towards locking Scotland into a unitary British state. So those lawyers would be fighting on shifting ground, further increasing the time required for the proceedings. There is always the chance that the British politicians will succeed while Scotland’s politicians have been withdrawn from the fight. In which case, the legal proceedings become redundant.

            This cunning plan might stand a chance of working if it was only the (Scottish?) courts that could amend the terms of the treaty. But as we are – or should be – aware, the British state has assumed the power to alter the term of the Union at will. Effectively, you are suggesting we negotiate changes to the treaty with a party that can change the treaty unilaterally while we can only change it with the negotiated agreement of the party that can make changes absent our agreement and over our objections. Which, when you think about it, pretty much describes the situation we’re in now. The main (only?) difference being that as things stand we have political options. Options we’d forfeit if the issue was abandoned to the devices of lawyers and the whim of the courts.

            There is no route to the restoration of Scotland’s independence through the razor-wire entanglements of the legal and constitutional framework devised by the British state – whose imperative is the preservation of the Union. Even if there was, the British would simply close it before we could get through. Or given their ability to waive the rules for themselves, after we’d passed through but with retrospective effect.

            Sturgeon-style lawyerliness is no solution to Scotland’s predicament. This is a matter for democratic politics. The role of the lawyers will be to tidy up after the people have done what is necessary. The British state has usurped Scotland’s agency. We have to take it back. The British state has the power over Scotland that it has because it took that power. We will only regain it by taking it with a similar disregard for the legal niceties.


    1. You are such a gift to debate, MBP. Didn’t it occur to you that only you can hear your voice bounce back to you with anything approaching sense. Everyone else can hear only garbled nonsense.

      Liked by 1 person

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