There is no route to independence which does not pass through a point at which there is direct and acrimonious confrontation with the British state. This confrontation is inevitable. It is unavoidable. If Scotland’s independence is to be restored, this confrontation must be faced. Preparations must be made. Scotland must prevail. If any doubted the truth of this before, they surely cannot doubt it having witnessed the behaviour of the British government over the past several years.
Confrontation is inevitable because the constitutional issue is a contest between two wholly incompatible and irreconcilable doctrines ─ popular sovereignty versus parliamentary sovereignty. It is unavoidable because it is existential. If the British state prevails, Scotland will cease to exist as a nation. If Scotland’s cause succeeds, the British state’s conceit of itself will become unsustainable.
Let’s not deceive ourselves. Confronting the British state may be necessary, but it is nonetheless a daunting prospect for any politician. The British state machinery is massive and powerful. The British state is, after all, derived from ─ at no great distance ─ absolute monarchy. The Crown in Parliament is a compromise between absolute monarchy and a superficially democratic institution resulting in a form of managed democracy. In addition, the British state can call on the support of almost all the UK media. And this is all before we start to consider the extraordinary power over Scotland that the Union gives the British state. It makes the British political elite a formidable opponent.
But for what do we in Scotland elect politicians from the SNP and other pro-Scotland parties if not for their claimed preparedness to face this formidable foe? We vote for them not merely in the hope that they will confront the British state as required, but in the expectation that they will do so. would we vote for them if they said the task of restoring Scotland’s independence was too difficult? No! We vote for them on the basis that their assurance that they are prepared to do whatever is necessary to ensure that Scotland prevails in that existential battle. We vote for them because they tell us they have the wherewithal to take on the British state and win!
It now seems to me ─ and I know I am far from alone ─ that these politicians have been getting themselves elected on false pretences. At least those voting for the British parties know what they’re getting. They know that when they elect British party candidates, they are getting the dregs from the pool of political ambition. They know they are voting for people who will talk Scotland down and work against Scotland’s interests in the name of their allegiance to the ruling elites of the British state. They know they will get exactly what they are voting for. They know they will get the likes of Anas Sarwar and Dougla Ross. I rest my case.
Would that those of us who vote for Scottish, rather than British, politicians could be so sure of getting the bonnie fechters for Scotland that we expect. Oh! They talk a good fight. They are fine so long as it is no more than talk that is demanded of them. If there were prizes for bold rhetoric, bluster and virtue-signalling, the mantlepieces and display cabinets of Scotland’s political class would be groaning under the strain. There are damned few prizes for action competing for space.
We know how powerful is the British state. We are daily reminded of the way Scotland is massively disadvantaged by the Union. We know that to succeed our politicians will need to fight clever. We vote for them on the promise of their cleverness. We see very little evidence of that cleverness once they are elected. Right now, we see only jaw-dropping stupidity when we observe the antics of the SNP/Scottish Government. The farce of Nicola Sturgeon’s gender recognition reform (GRR) legislation is undoubtedly the most glaring example.
The main advantage that Scotland has over the might of the British state is that it is available to us to choose the ground on which the inevitable final confrontation occurs. We get to pick the basis of the fight. We get to select the issue at stake in this confrontation. Unfortunately, we have elected a government dominated by someone who is absolutely convinced that she can avoid a confrontation for which she has no appetite whatever, regardless of the convincing show she put on in order to get to the dominant position she now holds like some medieval baron in his keep surrounded by troops both loyal and mercenary.
We can but speculate on the reasoning ─ or lack thereof ─ behind the confrontation that Sturgeon has contrived ─ or stumbled into ─ over the GRR Bill. As readers will surely be aware, the British government has stymied that Bill with an intervention under Section 35 of the Scotland Act 1998. There is evidence or reasoned argument for believe both the contriving and the stumbling scenario. The persuasive evidence is that Sturgeon was fully aware that a Section 35 intervention was on the cards. She was well warned. This makes it look as if she has deliberately provoked this action by the British government. The persuasive evidence that Sturgeon simply stumbled into this situation while her mind was out to lunch is that it is just too stupid to be explained in any other way.
I have never thought of Sturgeon as a stupid person. I had come to be persuaded that she was not the astute and adroit politician that I once thought she was. I had long since concluded that she was no kind of leader for Scotland’s cause. But I’ve never considered her to be stupid. Once upon a time, I would have contended that genuinely stupid people don’t rise to positions of power, for the simple reason that the competition for positions of power demanded cleverness on the part of those who hoped to succeed. That was before Boris Johnson. That was before Liz Truss. These examples, and others, make it clear that no smarts are now required of any individual who rises to the top in politics. They need only be the chosen puppet of the apparatus behind the curtain. Being not very clever actually helps. Clever people make poor puppets.
There’s also the effect of being in power. It is said that ‘the job makes the man’ or presumably, the woman. Sometimes people rise to the demands of high office. They become better leaders than was expected. I suspect that there are many more instances in which the job unmakes the man or woman. There must be countless examples of the status and privileges of high office going to the head of an incumbent and rendering them stupid never mind how clever they were before. I look at Nicola Sturgeon and can’t help but wonder if she has succumbed to this ‘unmaking effect’. It would explain a lot.
But let’s suppose it was not stupidity which led her to pick this particular fight with the British government. Let’s allow that this was, in Sturgeon’s estimation, a clever move. Maybe she thought poking the bear so it lashed out would demonstrate that it was a lashing out kind of bear to which Scotland is shackled. Perhaps this intervention by the British state was intended as yet another of those things that was supposed to boost support for independence so that the British state buckled under the pressure and agreed to fully and honestly cooperate with a process whose purpose was to end their ‘precious’ Union. This, after all, has always been Nicola Sturgeon’s ‘plan’ for getting independence. No need for confrontation. We’d just build support for independence to a point where the British state was intimidated by it.
There’s at least a couple of things wrong with this ‘plan’. Firstly, support for independence hasn’t increased. Secondly, the British state is never going to cooperate with a process that might end the Union. It’s existential, remember!
There are good grounds on which to initiate the final confrontation with the British state, and there are bad grounds. Brexit would have been good grounds. There was a clear democratic iniquity involved and, crucially, majority popular support was almost guaranteed. That’s what makes good grounds. A winnable fight with most of the Scottish people cheering you on. The only fly in the Brexit ointment is the small but loud contingent of independence supporters who see the EU through the eyes of Nigel Farage. But there’s always going to be a few people not prepared to lend their support. It’s a question of numbers. And that’s what makes GRR such a monumentally bad choice of ground on which to confront the British state.
The UK government has given its reasons for the Section 35 intervention. As Sturgeon was warned, they have a very solid case. Nonetheless, she has implied that she intends to seek a judicial review. It is all but certain she will lose. She simply doesn’t have the kind of case that would make this sensible ground on which to confront the British state.
Neither can she be certain of the necessary public support. GRR (self-ID) is a wedge issue that has split voters ─ with what appears to be a considerable majority either actively supporting the UK government’s intervention or at least declining to support Sturgeon as she fights it. She knew this too. Just as she was told that a Section 35 intervention had to be anticipated, there was ample evidence of deep and widespread concerns, particularly regarding the self-ID aspect of GRR.
Sturgeon looks to have picked a fight with the British state that she cannot win and for which she has little support. If this was intentional then there’s even more stupidity involved than if she had just stumbled into the situation.
Thankfully, this is highly unlikely to be the decisive confrontation with the British state. It looks more like being an embarrassing fiasco along the lines of the last time Sturgeon went to the UK Supreme Court in an ill-advised adventure. But even if this isn’t the final confrontation it serves as a test of Sturgeon’s judgement as to what grounds are chosen for the final confrontation. And it shows clearly that she is totally unfit.
Quite what we do about that I’m not sure. But be in no doubt that so long as Scotland’s cause is in Nicola Sturgeon’s hands it is in grave jeopardy.
If you find these articles interesting please consider a small donation to help support this site and my other activities on behalf of Scotland’s independence movement.