Seeking the magic message

According to the headline in The National today Nicola Sturgeon is about to deliver a “blueprint for independence”. I can absolutely guarantee that she won’t. Because no such thing exists. Neither can it exist. Doubtless, we’ll be graced with something. It just won’t be a “blueprint for independence”. We have grown accustomed over the last eight years to being fed little tidbits from time to time. In part, this is a reaction to a certain restiveness among independence activists. Although there is considerable doubt as to the SNP’s ability to detect any discontent among those the party regards as no more than a resource available to its election machine. Or, for that matter, their willingness to do so. The distinct impression is that they’d rather not know. Mainly, however, these tidbits are fodder for the media as well as providing something Sturgeon/SNP loyalists can wave at dissenters in the deluded belief that they are brandishing something with substance.

The Cambridge Dictionary defines a “blueprint” variously as “an early plan or design that explains how something might be achieved”; or “a complete plan that explains how to do or develop something”; or “a plan that describes how to do or achieve something in the future”. We shall quickly skip by the notion of this being “early”, and by Sturgeon’s own admission it will not be “complete”. But how might the promised document do in terms of the other parts of this definition?

It is only fair to point out that neither Sturgeon nor her spokesperson appears to have used the word “blueprint”. Nonetheless, the fact that this is the term The National immediately reaches for surely tells us something about how it is hoped the document will be perceived. This is being fed to the media in full awareness of the fact that they will chew it up and spit out a “blueprint” regardless of what the document actually contains. Nicola Sturgeon wants people to think she is outlining a plan. In reality, she is doing no more than offering a ‘vision’. Selling independence as if it was a time-share villa in Spain. Adding a bit more gloss to the glossy brochure.

There are two things that might justify the description of the anticipated document as a “blueprint for independence”. It could be a plan (or extract) stating in detail how Scotland will be as an independent nation. It won’t be that. Partly because nobody can prescribe what future Scottish Governments will do. Nor can they predict what those administrations will do. But principally because even if any of this ‘plan’ was deliverable it would not be delivered by the vote in the referendum. It could only be delivered by votes in future elections. And even if the Scottish Government today could stipulate what future Scottish Governments must do, it cannot stipulate what the people must vote for. So definitely not a “blueprint”.

The other way for the document to earn the “blueprint” epithet is if it explained “how something might be achieved”. More specifically – since it is described as a “blueprint for independence” – it might rightly be called such if it set out or at least sketched the process by which the First Minister intends to “achieve” independence. I may be on slightly less safe ground guaranteeing that it won’t be this, but I’ll take a chance. Other than the use of the term “blueprint” in the headline everything else said about the document – which isn’t much – indicates that it is yet another of those ‘vision’ things. As if we were short of those! The independence project is choking on bloody ‘visions’. The core constitutional question is all but obscured by the fog of different ‘visions’ being expounded by every party, group or faction within the Yes movement. It’s confusing. Which is precisely what our opponents want.

I have responded to Richard Walker’s column in The National elsewhere. But his final paragraph is ‘interesting’ in the context of this article.

Scotland voted No in 2014 because we didn’t convince enough to vote Yes. As we set our sights on indyref2 before the end of next year, let’s work tirelessly to make sure that we don’t make the same mistake again.

Richard Walker: It’s not Boris Johnson, it’s all the UK leaders Scotland never chose

This repeats the SNP’s line and nicely illustrates the abysmal failure to properly analyse the first referendum campaign and learn the lessons it held. The SNP and the army of loyalists, apologists, careerists and assorted parasites she has gathered around her adhere obdurately to the notion that we need only rerun the 2014 Yes campaign but with an even glossier glossy brochure filled with even more brightly coloured pictures and even more deftly crafted words. The notion that there is some magical formulation of the ‘independence message’ that will occasion a mass epiphany among No voters. This is, of course, a load of shite. Independent Scotland is not a time-share apartment in Marbella and there is no such thing as magic.

Scotland voted No in 2014 because the anti-independence campaign – with a great deal of help from the SNP and the wider Yes movement – succeeded in generating enough doubt around the word ‘independence’. This is an example of the lessons that the SNP has unforgivably refused to learn. One of the greatest mistakes of the first Yes campaign was the failure to make the case against the Union. The negative side without which any political campaign is incomplete and therefore ineffective.

As things stand, Nicola Sturgeon is working tirelessly to ensure all the same mistakes are made again.

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12 thoughts on “Seeking the magic message

  1. I was never much of a project manager when I worked – I preferred to do the graft that would achieve the end goal. However, I did recognise the absolute need for a plan, or plans, in order to attain the ultimate aim.

    Without a decent well thought out plan, or plans, everything can quickly descend into a mess of uncoordinated activity, duplication of effort, loss of sight of the target, overshoot of budget, resource and deadlines and, ultimately, project failure. (Sound familiar in the context of the SNP leadership since 2014 in respect of restoring Scottish statehood?)

    So I understand why there is a need for a ‘critical path’, that some things have to be done serially as they have prior dependencies whist others can be carried out in parallel since they are autonomous activities. This is the cost-effective and time-efficient way to do things. (I’m sure this WON’T sound familiar regarding the SNP leadership of the last 8 years in pursuit of the restoration of Scotland’s full self-government).

    It’s a pain to do but without investing the effort up front in developing a ‘route map’ and ‘check points’ along the way you end up directionless and lost quite quickly.

    Which brings us to the current SNP leadership.

    Nicola Sturgeon is not a strategic thinker. She does not possess original thought. She is a one-trick pony. And somebody else’s pony at that: The Section 30 referendum was the plan for 2012. It’s not, or it should not be, the “plan” for 2022.

    I expect the ‘blueprint’ will, at best, be a regurgitation of the aim to hold a S30 referendum by the end of 2023, perhaps containing some futile non-details much like Mike Russell’s “11 point plan” from 18 months ago. (Not that the likes of bulk of The National’s commentators and readership care too much – to them the holy grail is holding the referendum rather than actually dissolving the Union – the means has become the end).

    And, if you were to follow directions in a route map developed by the SNP leadership for how to travel between Scotland’s two largest cities you would most likely end up proceeding from Edinburgh to Glasgow by way of Tokyo.

    Liked by 10 people

  2. Oh Peter, you’re such a killjoy. Instead of ordering in extra popcorn, musing over all the blog posts you could write and wondering how Sturgeon is going to persuade Scots of a more conservative disposition, that letting men play princess, without all that painful hair removal, is a thoroughly good idea and just what Scotland needs to make it on the international stage, you just had to go and throw a very large bucket of cold water onto the fun before it got started.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. I prefer to be thought of as a devil’s advocate rather than a killjoy. But I take your point.

      There is no joy in the reality of Scotland’s predicament. I didn’t kill it. I just found the body.

      Liked by 6 people

  3. While I think you are partly right, Peter, in saying the defeat of Yes in 2014 was because of the doubts cast on the idea of independence by the anti-independence campaign with the full resources of the British State behind it, that was not the whole story.
    I believe it has been shown that 53% of native born Scots voted yes, but were over-ruled by incomers, including students, those on short-term contracts and second home owners. One huge obstacle now is that the proportions of the population of Scotland has moved in the past 8 years and, because of inward migration by well-heeled incomers who can afford to outbid the locals in desirable parts and the corresponding emmigration of young Scots and their families because they cannot afford to live and work here.
    It is quite possible that by now we are a minority in our own country and that is not a great position to be in when seeking self-determination.

    Liked by 3 people

        1. 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 a referendum on a proposal to dissolve 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


          1. I have been suggesting that for a number of years now, but without the will of the SNP representatives in Holyrood and Westminster, we are going nowhere.


            1. I tried to get a #ManifestoForIndependence campaign going prior to the 2021 election when it might have made a difference. But very few people took any interest. Lots of them got excited about an entirely mythical ‘supermajority’. Only a handful even understood the idea of a ‘supermandate’. The Yes movement – including myself – always had this conceit of itself as more than usually politically aware. There is little evidence of that now.

              Liked by 1 person

  4. Forgive me for chuckling to myself when you liken Independence to selling timeshare in Spain.
    Sadly, we’re already stuck in a timeshare deal and like any timeshare deals, it’s awfully hard to get out of them.

    Liked by 1 person

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