What ensues? What follows? What comes next? How are things connected? How does one thing lead to another? What is the logical sequence of credible actions? How do all the components mesh? These are some of questions that should be asked any time something is proposed, which purports to be a plan or whenever something is presented as a process leading to a desired outcome. Unless such questions can be answered satisfactorily, there is no process. Unless such questions are asked, there can be no plan.
A process is a series of connected actions which lead to a defined endpoint. A plan is a proposal for implementing those actions. There can be no plan unless it relates to a credible process. A process without a plan for initiating and managing it is pointless. If someone presents you with a plan but is unwilling or unable to answer questions about the process, you should at least suspect that you’re dealing with a charlatan.
This nicely describes the situation after Nicola Sturgeon’s statement outlining what she wants us to believe is a plan for restoring Scotland’s independence. Although she would never use such language. She made the statement and with only a handful of exceptions, the Yes movement reacted with frenzied enthusiasm. Only a relatively tiny number of Yes activists thought to ask any of those questions. The vast majority asked no questions at all as they erupted in an ecstasy of admiration for this brilliant plan. They gave no thought whatever to the process to which the plan was supposed to relate. They gave no thought to whether there even was a process, far less whether it was credible.
Asking questions does not elicit information or explanation. Asking questions elicits only abuse. To ask if there is a process and if that process is credible is, according to the mob, to be a ‘Yoon’ and therefore conveniently unworthy of a meaningful response. It is maintained that Sturgeon has come up with a work of genius which has left the forces of Unionism and British Nationalism in a state of total discombobulation. Strangely, however, not one of those hailing this work of genius wants to discuss it. Nobody wants to answer questions about it. Nobody wants to explain how it actually works in real life. Nobody wants to allay concerns about possible flaws in this Machiavellian masterpiece.
No of those greeting Sturgeon’s brilliant plan is prepared to proudly set out the process to which it relates. Is this not strange? Would we not expect that they would be eager to demonstrate just how clever Sturgeon had been in devising this ploy? But no! We are supposed to just accept that she has been remarkably clever and to request evidence of this cleverness is to exhibit a lack of faith. To suggest a possible flaw in the process is to be unforgivably disloyal. To attempt scrutiny of the plan is an act of betrayal.
I don’t do blind faith. I owe no loyalty to Nicola Sturgeon or her party. If I am betraying anything it is not Scotland’s cause but the truth about those charged with advancing that cause. If that truth is discomfiting to members of what used to be the Yes movement then before they start trying to shout me down perhaps they should ask themselves why it upsets them so much. Shoot the messenger if you wish. I’m bulletproof. But you can’t shoot the message. The points I make remain even if the messenger is silenced. They remain until they are adequately refuted. Given the desperate reluctance on the part of Sturgeon/SNP loyalists to discuss their leader’s cunning plan, there is no way these points can be refuted.
I will describe what I consider to be the two greatest flaws in Sturgeon’s cunning plan. One is a serious flaw. The other a fatal flaw. (See also Stu Campbell’s excellent forensic analysis – Catch 2022.)
Sturgeon’s decision to go to the UK Supreme Court (UKSC) is being hailed as a masterstroke. As I understand that term, this would imply that it is the best possible move. It is not. First, it must be understood that Sturgeon is not going to the UKSC asking that they confirm the competence of the Scottish Parliament to authorise a proper constitutional referendum. She is not seeking confirmation of our right of self-determination by having the UKSC rule that the Scottish Parliament has the authority to facilitate the full and proper exercise of that right. That is what we are supposed to believe the court action is about. It’s what a remarkable number of gullible people believe she is doing. In fact, she is merely asking the UKSC to rule that we can have a referendum that is “consultative and non-self-executing” and therefore by definition not the full and proper exercise of our right of self-determination.
Those who haven’t bothered to ask any of those questions are presenting the decision to go to court now as a deft political move that has wrong-footed the anti-independence forces. But think about it for a moment and you’ll realise that this was always an option and therefore something which the British establishment must have anticipated. They will have gamed this situation.
Was going to court now the best option? Again, asking such questions leads us to some less than pleasing conclusions. If the plan was to have the UKSC confirm our right of self-determination it might have been a different matter. As that is not what is happening, as I have just explained. But even then it is not the best move. The best move would have been to force the British government (or a proxy) to go to court to defend its denial of our right of self-determination. As things stand, the best outcome Sturgeon can hope for is the UKSC’s blessing to hold a referendum which has no constitutional effect. The better option would have been to proceed as if our right of self-determination is assumed and challenge the British to argue in court that Scotland is not a nation; the people are not sovereign, and they have no right of self-determination. Or only that fraction or facsimile of said right which the British state sees fit to allow us. That is what would really have discombobulated the British political elite. But it’s not what Sturgeon is doing.
The fatal flaw in Sturgeon’s plan has already been mentioned. The fact that the proposed referendum, even if impeccably ‘legal’ having been granted the imprimatur of the UKSC, can have absolutely no constitutional effect. When you ask what ensues from a Yes vote in the proposed referendum the only honest answer is – nothing! The referendum decides nothing. It is a consultation, not the exercise of our right of self-determination. It can produce a result. It can potentially produce a significant majority for Yes. But it cannot be decisive. It cannot produce a decision. It cannot trigger further action. It cannot set in motion any further process which leads to the restoration of Scotland’s independence.
This is not just my opinion. There may be a way to sensibly argue that the point about the court action is a matter of opinion. Somebody might be prepared to try and argue that going to court to ask permission to have a pointless referendum is better than having the British state forced to show its true anti-democratic colours before the highest court in the British state. There can be different perspectives, even if one of them is ridiculous. But the fact that the proposed referendum cannot produce a decision on what happens next is confirmed by Nicola Sturgeon herself. When she says that the referendum is “consultative and non-self-executing” she is saying that it cannot do anything. Nothing ensues from it. It is a referendum with no constitutional effect because the best or only chance of winning in court is by asking for something essentially meaningless and posing no threat to the Union.
We are being offered a referendum which doesn’t count as a formal exercise of our right of self-determination in terms of triggering the restoration of Scotland’s independence but which does count as a proper independence referendum in terms of public perception. Especially after that perception has been manipulated by the British propaganda machine.
Even if we win, we lose! If we win we don’t get independence. Win or lose we’ll have had our second referendum and it will be well-nigh impossible to win support for another one in the next couple of decades at least.
All for the want of asking a few questions.
See also Stu Campbell’s excellent forensic analysis – Catch 2022.
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