I am not picking on Kirsty Strickland. I have selected her column in today’s National only because it so neatly exemplifies the fallacy that has gripped a substantial part of the Yes movement. I could have taken the First Minister’s appearance on Sophy Ridge on Sunday and her conclusions regarding the latest anti-democratic pronouncements from Liz Truss.
That is a sign of fundamental weakness and a lack of confidence in her case for the Union.
I could have taken any of numerous below-the-line comments from Yes activists who think in a similar vein. Not all of them known Sturgeon/SNP loyalists who’s thinking always shadows that of the FM. I was spoilt for choice when looking for material to illustrate the delusion rife among independence campaigners that the British political elite is running scared. I chose Kirsty’s column because there is just so much that is just so wrong in it. Almost every sentence is suffused with the delusion of a British state in a state of panic and the grotesquely quaint notion that right can be expected to triumph over might. In the world inhabited by Ms Strickland, the good guys win because they are the good guys and the bad guys get their comeuppance because everybody loves it when the bad guys get their comeuppance.
In the real world, might shites on right. The good guys get reamed and the bad guys prosper. Fade to black. Roll credits.
Kirsty opens by summarising the measures being suggested by which the next British government might thwart Scotland’s democratic campaign to restore independence. There is little of deviousness in these proposals. Not unless you think using Thor’s hammer to crack a nut is the height of Machiavellian craftiness. There is no subtlety at all in the ‘refinements’ to the rules of British ‘demockracy’ intended to (a) make it impossible to hold a constitutional referendum and/or (b) make it impossible for the pro-independence side to win any such referendum. There is no longer even the pretence of respect for Scotland or Scotland’s people or democracy or basic human decency or fundamental fairness or logic or coherence or consistency. There is just conscienceless brute force behind the blunt instrument of the Union. There is just the overweening mechanistic force of the British establishment roused in defence of its power, privilege and patronage.
Not that Kirsty or the First Minister or any of the below-the-line commenters are daunted. They are unafraid because by some deft twist of logic they see the British state’s power as working against it. They suppose the diktats being handed down by Truss and her ilk are signs of weakness. As Kirsty puts is,
This is desperation on the part of Unionist politicians. They are so unconvinced by their own arguments that they are prepared to subvert democratic norms to get what they want.
It is not desperation. It is determination. Preservation of the Union is an imperative for the British. They will do anything to maintain possession of Scotland. Literally, anything. They do not regard the measures being proposed as extreme or even extraordinary. For the British, it’s just what they do. The British ruling elites don’t have to work themselves up to crushing democracy under the heel of self-interest. They do this quite casually. Denying fundamental democratic rights is all in a day’s work.
They are not “unconvinced by their own arguments”. They are totally and unshakeably convinced of their own entitlement. There is only one “argument” and that is that there can be no argument about British supremacy. This is not mere political conviction or ideological dogma. It is belief. It is the absolute faith of the religious fanatic.
So, they are “prepared to subvert democratic norms to get what they want”! So what? This and much more besides is easily, instantly, automatically justified by the imperative to preserve the Union. This is not the British state doing something untoward. This is the British state doing what comes naturally. This is the British state doing what it evolved to do.
Here’s Kirsty Strickland again.
That’s the thing about democracy: it only really works if the rules and norms are applied equally and with a degree of logical consistency.
Wrong! For the British, democracy is only working if they are winning. Democracy is only working to the extent that it serves whatever are regarded as being the British state’s interests at any given time. As those interests change so then must the “rules and norms of democracy”. In the lexicon of British imperialism “applied equally” means favouring the British state and “logical consistency” means consistently benefitting the British state. What they do is democratic because democracy is defined as what they do.
We know how indyref2 would work because (as Unionists love to remind us) we’ve already had an independence referendum.
The standard has been set and the rules have already been decided. They cannot be changed on the whim of an incoming UK prime minister whose only contribution to the debate so far has been to pledge to ignore Scotland’s First Minister.
Wrong! What we know if we’ve been attending to the lessons of the first referendum and taking due account of all that has changed in the intervening period is that the same standard and rules cannot apply. The British have made it abundantly clear that they have no intention whatever of playing the same game by the same rules. Those rules bloody well can be “changed on the whim of an incoming UK prime minister”. The rules can be whatever the British Prime Minister wants then to be. The Union says so! The Scotland Act says so! The 2014 referendum result says so!
Not only can the British change the rules to suit themselves, that is exactly what they are doing all the time. It’s what they are doing right now. And Nicola Sturgeon has no grounds for complaint given that she has conceded the British state’s right to make and alter the rules. She did that when she requested a Section 30 order. She does that every time she insists that we must be bound by the British state’s laws. It makes no sense to complain about British interference when you have not only permitted but invited that interference.
These bullish attempts to gerrymander the referendum come from a place of weakness, not strength. Not only are they doomed to fail, but they also have the opposite effect to that which is intended.
Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! This is most emphatically not weakness. It would only be weakness if the threats were empty and idle. But they’re not. So long as we allow that the British state has a role in the process by which Scotland exercises its right of self-determination, then we better resign ourselves to the fact that it will be a dominant role. If we allow that British law and British rules take precedence over democratic principles then we better get used to the idea that the British will ‘adjust’ those laws and rules in such a way as to ensure our defeat.
These efforts by the British political elite to ride roughshod over Scotland’s democracy are not “doomed to fail”. They are destined to succeed if we imagine they will be defeated by their own iniquitousness.
Those efforts do not “have the opposite effect to that which is intended”. The iniquitousness of British behaviour does not translate to advantage for Scotland’s cause. If it did, Yes would surely be sitting at 80% in the polls. The British state keeps getting worse and worse, but the polls show no inclination to move in correlation.
I say all of this not to portray the British state as invincible or to suggest that the efforts of the Yes movement must be futile. I say it because I do not think the British state is invincible. I do not regard the fight to restore Scotland’s independence as doomed. But we have no chance of succeeding so long as we pretend that we’ve already won. We absolutely must recognise the true nature of the forces arrayed against us. We cannot possibly develop an effective strategy while we imagine the British state to be weakened and failing.
We must rid ourselves of the fallacy that being right is enough to ensure victory even against an opponent so clearly in the wrong. We must not succumb to the folly of thinking today’s British Nationalism can be fended off using strategies designed for the Unionism of ten years ago.
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