I begin to suspect that Gerry Hassan doesn’t want to talk about process because that is the difficult bit. Any fool can talk about policy. We regularly elect scores of such fools. Anyone with a bit of imagination can speak of their ‘vision’ of Scotland with independence restored. But without a process by which independence can be restored and those policies implemented, it’s all just wind and pish.
Not that I have anything against visionary politics or ambitious policies. Far from it. All political and social progress begins with a dream and a refusal to accept that the dream cannot be realised. But without a viable process, dreams and ambitions remain no more than that. For anybody serious about effecting change, process is never secondary. In Scotland’s case, process is particularly problematic, of course, on account of the British state’s determination to ensure that there is no process by which Scotland can escape their ‘precious’ Union. Which may at least partly explain why Gerry Hassan and many others shy away from this aspect of Scotland’s cause.
Which is fine. If they don’t want to talk about and/or are reluctant to even think about the process by which Scotland will be extricated from the accursed Union, others will surely take on that task. What irks is the implied (at least) belittling of those who do apply themselves to the matter of process. Gerry says we are “putting process above the substance of independence”. The trouble is that there is no substance to vision and ambition absent a workable plan by which they can be realised. The things he mentions dismissively at the start of the article – “the “de facto referendum” election of 2024; a specially called Scottish Parliament election in 2023, and the forthcoming SNP conference on tactics in March next year” – are not in fact about process at all. They are devices for avoiding the topic of process or for controlling discussion of process so that it no longer even resembles anything deserving to be called a discussion. Therein lies the great stumbling block for Scotland’s cause. The SNP/Scottish Government is as loath to talk about process as Gerry Hassan.
Before getting to Gerry’s column today, I read with sadness of the death of Derek Bateman. Although I admired and respected and enjoyed his journalism, I cannot claim to have known Derek well. Or at all, really, having met him only briefly on no more than a handful of occasions during the 2014 referendum campaign. My sadness at his passing is more sadness at the passing of that time than of the man himself. On then reading Gerry Hassan’s column, it occurred to me that in large part what makes now different from then is that during the first Yes campaign we were convinced enough that we had a viable process that we felt little or no need to consider it. We all thought we knew how independence would come about. Or we took it for granted that the politicians had that part figured out. We – and I think the generalisation justified – genuinely believed that the road to independence stretched before us if we could but get through the turnstile of the referendum.
We now know that we were wrong. The road was a mirage. The referendum was not a gateway but a diversion. We – some of us – now recognise that there was no process. We now see that had the vote been Yes we would very quickly have learned that this was not the end of the matter. We would have discovered that rather than having made a great leap forward, we were still for all practical purposes no closer to our destination than we had been.
We were naïve. It was foolish to imagine that the British state would have honoured the commitment it appeared to have made in the Edinburgh Agreement. In the event, the No side won. Not content with that victory, the British state felt compelled to spit on the defeated foe with EVEL. There is no reason whatever to suppose that their response to a Yes victory would have been any less contemptuous of Scotland and of democracy. That much is plain to see for those who choose to look.
Nonetheless, that was a hopeful time because we thought we had a process. This is a time of little hope because we know that we do not have a process. Eight years on from the largely untapped well of lessons that the 2014 referendum holds, the SNP/Scottish Government continues to cling to the phantom process that had us all fooled back then. Even worse, they refuse to countenance any discussion of alternatives. The “de facto referendum” election of 2024 and the specially called Scottish Parliament election in 2023 no more connect to the restoration of Scotland’s independence than did the 2014 referendum. The ’emergency’ SNP conference on tactics in March next year is intended as nothing more than an exercise in rubber-stamping of current ‘thinking’ within the SNP leadership circle. No fresh thinking or novel ideas will be permitted within the security perimeter.
Gerry is right. The ’emergency’ conference will be a wee chat about campaign tactics. It will not be a serious discussion of the all important question of how we get from increased public support for Yes to a meaningful democratic event and thence to the restoration of Scotland’s rightful constitutional status.. No suggestion will be permitted that our political leaders have got it wrong. The eight years of failure will not be spoken of.
There will be no consideration of process. Gerry should approve.
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