Viewer discretion is advised!

This is a warning to those who may be prone to despair. If you are intending to read the Sunday National piece headlined Alex Salmond writes to FM and Scottish Greens outlining vision for independence, you should at all costs avoid so much as glancing through the below-the-line (BTL) comments lest you find yourself plunged into a Stygian pit of despondency. I made the mistake of skimming the first half-dozen or so and my already rather low mood rapidly worsened.

I woke feeling a bit down this morning because the Saturday evening I’d been very much looking forward to didn’t turn out quite as I anticipated. I was at the show in Perth Concert Hall celebrating the life and musical talent of my sadly missed friend, Gavin Munro. The music was great, as expected. The performances were brilliant, as expected. Unfortunately, the show finished early when bassist Dave Shaw collapsed on stage. I’m happy to say he’s reported to be doing well in Ninewells Hospital. I wish him a full and speedy recovery.

It was not the curtailing of the event that spoiled the evening for me, however. Under the circumstances, it would be beyond churlish to complain even if it had. No! The fly in the ointment was, as ever, people. Specifically, the pig-ignorant bastards who suppose their conversation to be more important than the musicians’ performance. They plagued me! It all started well. I had a front row aisle seat and the adjacent seat remained empty during the first couple of numbers. Then I was joined by two individuals who, having arrived late, proceeded to talk through every song. Needless to say, I was not well-pleased. My younger self might have given full vent to that displeasure. These days I strive for saintly forbearance – outwardly, at least. Inwardly, the language is distinctly not as one would expect of a saint.

Returning after a ‘comfort break’ and having first checked with the attendant as a courtesy, I settled in a seat at the rear of the stalls. All was well until, unbelievably, somebody sat down next to me and immediately engaged in a garrulous exchange with a group in the next row which lasted until the interval. Pretty much the whole of the first half of the show had been spoiled for me by these mindlessly selfish people. Not that they were talking loudly. But the fact that they were talking at all during the performance was enough to get my back up.

Things improved after the interval – at least, until Dave took a dive in the third round. While looking for yet another change of seat I happened on an old friend; the father of one of the acts due to play in the second half. I took the seat next to his which happened to be vacant and we enjoyed a wee catch-up blether until the show restarted. At which point, we both shut up, as is proper. I was able to enjoy what remained of the concert, although the irritation of the early rudeness still niggled.

All of this set the mood for my perusal of the Sunday National this morning – having first checked up on Dave Shaw and been assured that he was okay. The article mentioned above immediately drew my attention as I continue to hope that something significant might come from the Alba Party conference this weekend. I was naturally interested to find out what Alex Salmond was saying. It was not what I hoped for. His letter is a much needed and very welcome prod in the ribs for Humza Yousaf and the SNP, no doubt. I have issues with his suggestion for the coming Westminster election – of which more later – but the man makes serious points worthy of mature discussion. Not that you would know from reading those BTL comments. At the risk of ruining a few breakfasts, I’ll give just one mercifully if inadequately brief example by way of illustration.

Bloody fed up of him and his ego. Did he not notice folk didnt [sic] elect him.

Mature discussion this is not! Regrettably, it is all too typical of the reaction from SNP loyalists when Alex Salmond speaks. Distressingly, this comment characterises much of the discourse around the constitutional issue. Scant attention is paid to what is said. The focus is entirely on who is saying it. A veritable cornucopia of wisdom and genius might flow from Alex Salmond’s mouth and idiots like the one quoted would discount all of it for the sake of some sub-playground-level sniping at the man. Not so much the seething cockpit of adult political debate as the shoddy sandpit of petulant toddler squabbling.

I despair! I’m sure many others feel the same when confronted with this kind of puerile insult to the human intellect. The pity is that there is no cure for it. Rather, the only remedy for such inane tribalism rests with the individuals guilty of promulgating it. And they are all oblivious to their own tribalism. It’s always the other that’s being tribal. Tribalism is rife and worsening while all those doing it declare themselves 100% innocent. I despair!

The part of Salmond’s letter to the SNP/SGP Scottish Government which is easy to agree with is his urging that they rethink the priorities of their policy agenda,

Bin the the Highly Protected Marine Area proposals. They are causing consternation around the fishing communities. Bin them now.

Bin the proposals for juryless trials. They are causing consternation among every decent lawyer in Scotland. Bin them now.

Bin the pursuit of self-identification. The proposals have caused consternation among the majority of people in Scotland. You can’t beat Westminster by dividing Scotland. Bin them now.

Regardless of what you think of these policies – and polling indicates little public support for any of them – if you are a supporter of Scotland’s cause you cannot sensibly consider them, individually or collectively, more important than the fight to end the Union and restore Scotland’s independence. Alex Salmond may go a bit heavy on the political rhetoric. But there is nothing at all wrong with him making a valid point as forcefully as he might. I venture to say that if not a majority then a substantial minority of people in Scotland would have no dispute with him on these points. To totally ignore those points while flinging childish jibes at him insults not just the man, but all those who are nodding their heads in agreement with him.

Salmond’s other ‘demand’ is more problematic.

I have been publicly extolling the virtues of the pro-independence parties fielding one agreed independence candidate in each Scottish seat at the next UK General Election, on a manifesto commitment seeking a mandate to negotiate independence.

For a start, if as per Salmond’s suggestion, independence is demonstrated to be the settled will of Scotland’s people, then it is not up for negotiation.. What remains to be negotiated is only the post-independence settlement. Saying the words “negotiate independence” exhibits a mindset conditioned to regard the British state as the superior power which must be petitioned for something which in reality is ours to take. Language matters! It is much to be pitied that our politicians appear to be unaware of how much it matters. Even politicians as experienced as Alex Salmond.

The idea of a deal by which the Scottish parties collaborate to maximise the number of nationalist candidates returned in the Westminster election also troubles me. Not because it is a bad idea per se. It certainly isn’t. But is it politically practicable? How likely is it that the SNP and Scottish Greens will agree to this “convention”? If, as I am persuaded, they are highly unlikely to agree, what is to be gained by demanding that they do? The demand strikes me as suspiciously similar to Alba Party’s rather impertinent insistence in the 2021 Holyrood election campaign that the SNP instruct voters to give their regional vote to Alba. For reasons I have previously explained, it was transparently obvious from the outset that the SNP was never going to agree to this. Politicians as long in the game as Alex Salmond and Kenny MacAskill MP must have known this. Leading to the strong suspicion that the suggestion was only made so as to elicit refusal and thus provide Alba supporters with a stick to beat the SNP. Which is exactly what they have done incessantly and inanely ever since. With no indication that they intend to stop any time soon. I despair!

As I say, this “convention” idea looks to be in similar vein. I find myself wondering about Alex Salmond’s priorities. Is his first and greatest concern the progressing of Scotland’s cause? Or is it the election of his own party’s candidates where there is little chance of this happening without some kind of generous accommodation from the SNP and SGP? It’s a legitimate question. Sadly, I cannot anticipate it being treated as such by Alba supporters blind to their own tribalism. I despair!

Lastly but by no means leastly, I am uncomfortable with the whole idea of a plebiscitary election; even more uncomfortable with pretending an election to the British parliament is a Scottish referendum on a constitutional question of the utmost importance; and unbearably discomfited by the apparent intention to by-pass the Scottish Parliament.

It is vital that when the matter of Scotland’s constitutional status is put to the Scottish people it is done in a manner which stands unarguably as the formal exercise of our right of self-determination in the eyes of Scotland’s people and the world. Even if not that corner of the world that is for now England-as-Britain. The democratic exercise by which the Union is ended and Scotland’s independence restored must be decisive, conclusive and impeccably democratic. I am not at all convinced a de facto referendum can ever satisfy these conditions. I have great difficulty believing a nominally plebiscitary Westminster election might meet the criteria that will put the outcome beyond question as the will of Scotland’s people.

I take the view that the constitutional issue is not a matter for the British parliament in any way. I maintain that it is a question which can only be appropriately dealt with by the Scottish Parliament on account of the unique democratic legitimacy it is afforded by the mandate granted by the sovereign people of Scotland. The notion that the Scottish Parliament can be by-passed by Westminster in any form is anathema to me. Even if it is Scotland’s representatives in the British parliament. I am very, very dubious about any of the supposed ‘short cuts’ being proposed. To my mind, it matters not just that Scotland’s independence be restored, but that it be done in a manner that is appropriate to the momentousness of the question.

It is already ludicrously and tragically late to be debating such things. It would be gratifying, however, if that debate could take place, and be conducted in a suitably mature and rational fashion. But when I see those below-the-line comments, I despair!

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19 thoughts on “Viewer discretion is advised!

  1. Also I wouldn’t fret too much on the comments. You can more or less count the detractors on one hand. The National now very much looks like Paul Kavanagh’s blog where the selected faithful congregate to share their grief.

    However ‘ego’ comes up three times from different people. I always thought ‘ego’ was an American thing and so this sounds a little bit coordinated.

    I wonder how much the SNP spends on influencers, professional commentors aka public relations. It has to be a figure much, much greater than zero. They’d have to be spectacularly inept to pass on the opportunity to push the conversation in a direction they would prefer.


    1. My experience with the SNP bids me assume they haven’t even heard of social media. Remember Sturgeon’s cease and desist order to the Yes movement at the start of lockdown? If she hadn’t been so obsessed with controlling every aspect of the independence campaign she would have seized the opportunity to develop a formidable online campaigning machine exploiting what was virtually a captive audience of housebound voters desperate for stimulation. She didn’t want it because she knew it would grow into something she couldn’t control.

      All that is happening is that the Salmond-haters are picking up on the propaganda cues fed to them by the likes of Paul Kavanagh. If they are good at it, there’s a lesson for the rest of us. A lesson which should have been learned from the 2014 campaign. Better Together had a far smaller online army than the Yes campaign. But they were much better at picking up on propaganda cues fed to them by the British media. Mainly because the British media was better at feeding them the propaganda cues.

      As I have been saying rather a lot recently, you don’t counter propaganda by complaining about it. You counter propaganda only with better propoganda.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I cannot agree that any supporter of Scottish independence must hold it as their highest priority. Admittedly, if they all did so it would be more likely to be achieved at any given moment, but for an extreme example I wouldn’t expect them to put it over the lives of their loved ones.

    There are many supporters of Scottish independence, I assume, that have higher priorities in less extreme circumstances than described above. I would probably disagree with most of them regarding their prioritisation. However, these people would still move for independence when the cause isn’t otherwise superseded.

    In essence this only reinforces your accurate point in previous articles that the independence question cannot afford to be muddied by any other debate or issue. Aside from any other reason it cannot afford to split independence supporters on any other lines. Pro/anti GRA, republican/monarchist, environmentalist/materialist, etc. are all issues that Alba should have no opinion on until independence is secured.

    It’s slightly more awkward for the SNP as the governing party: while the party itself should espouse no views on matters outwith independence the government needs to, well, govern, which necessitates positions on some matters. This should be restricted however to absolute essentials. That the SNP has allowed nearly a decade to pass without either establishing independence or being ousted for focussing on independence (depending on what Scots actually want) shows just how far it needs to be redirected towards its original purpose.


    1. Further to the above I should acknowledge that your article doesn’t state that independence is the highest priority, only that is more important than the three examples given.

      Personally I rate the world’s health as more important than any country’s sovereignty. If the worst case predictions are accurate and humanity is exterminated any individual country is rather moot. As such if a specific environmental policy were sufficiently significant to outweigh the lack of control over general policy forc d by the Union I could potentially prioritise it.

      I’m not familiar with the marine policy mentioned. I doubt if any policy within Holyrood’s means could cross the threshold of significance. I am aware that some purportedly environmental policies are far more likely to have a deleterious effect, ie. the deposit return scheme. Still, on researching it I could potentially support it, and that awareness provoked the above post.


      1. Gavin, you state; ‘I’m not familiar with the marine policy mentioned. I doubt if any policy within Holyrood’s means could cross the threshold of significance.’

        It would be a bold individual who would address the West coast inshore creel fishing industry communities with the notion that the proposed HPMA policy would be of no consequence should it ‘cross the threshold of significance’ into law.

        A wee bit of research might give some food for thought


    2. Good point about it being “awkward for the SNP”. There’s no doubt it is. They have three roles – a ‘normal’ political party; a governing party; and ‘party of independence’. This makes life particularly difficult for the party leader who must be able to switch hats constantly. Credit where it’s due, Sturgeon was adept at this. She balanced her three roles quite effectively. Unfortunately, her personal character and concerns came to intrude too much – in particular her profound aversion to confrontational politics and her vaunting personal ambition. The rest is history.

      When I say that independence supporters must make the constitutional issue their highest priority I don’t mean putting it before the welfare of their families. I would have thought that too obvious to need stating. We are talking politics. In particular, constitutional politics – which MUST take precedence over the politics of public policy because the constitution governs the power used to implement policy.

      The SNP is supposed to be the political arm of the independence movement. That is its primary purpose. In order to fulfil this role, it must be the party of government. Only then can it provided the independence movement with the effective political power that it needs. The power to actually do stuff. This has meant that for decades the SNP has been obliged to concentrate on winning elections, as that is the only way to become the governing party. That concentration has become an obsession with associated tunnel-vision. Where the party started out wanting electoral success so as to serve Scotland’s cause, that cause has now become the means of achieving electoral success.

      This is entirely down to bad management. All organisations that grow beyond a certain point tend to come to serve their existence rather than their founding purpose. They become career ladders for individuals and tools for various interest groups. They lose touch with their principles. They become corrupt. Management’s job is to prevent this happening. The SNP’s management has failed catastrophically. Given that the membership had oversight and ultimate control, they too are culpable in allowing the rot to take hold. That includes myself as I was a member while this was happening.

      Alba is going the same way except at a much accelerated rate. The fact is, none of Scotland’s political parties is providing or offering to provide the effective political power that Scotland’s cause requires. Our entire political class has failed us. Is failing us. And they are getting away with it while the members and supporters of the politicians and parties squabble about who is failing worst.

      If instead of going into electoral competition with the SNP, Alba Party had positioned itself as the vanguard of Scotland’s cause and distinguished itself from the SNP by comprehensively reframing the constitutional issue then it could have made a difference. The leadership (management) squandered that opportunity. Because the leadership of Alba thinks just like the leadership of the SNP. Alba is the child of the SNP. They are not two alternatives. They are two branches of the same rotten tree.


      1. I see Independence as the only way to free us from the corrupt and lying policies of westminster which are in actual reality killing people in scotland through hunger, cold, homelessness, and long waits for essential medical treatment.
        Surely the chance to elect a governmentfor our country that actually cares about the people who live in it is an example of putting our loved ones first.
        Unfortunately I am not convinced that the current SNp government under Mr Yousaf will do this, if he is still prepared to push fot the unamended Gender recognition Bill, which will endanger women and girls without the necessary safeguards being included.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Very few Scots are dying from starvation, but a whole lot of Scots are dying from being over-fed to gross obesity. It’s much more our own fault than anyone in Westminster. Our modern culture, which we Scots have strived to create, includes square sausage (with skeleton leftovers that can’t be sourced this side Bulgaria), scotch pies (drain before eating the mysterious grey filling), chips you can eat through a straw, and cheese dyed orange for some reason. Hence almost all of the Scottish shellfish catch has to be exported. Hardy anyone wants to buy it here because we eat farmed prawns from Vietnam if we’re posh. Our blaeberries are flown to us from the other side of the planet, our general idea of poverty is a grossly bizzaire relative income compo, and we seem to wish to ulimately evolve into internet-enabled mobile phone creatures, possibly governed by O2.


    3. Sturgeon crafted a career for herself engaging (in her opinion) with priorities of greater importance all of which she championed to supersede our nations Independence! Who or what will lead ‘these people’ you refer to?


  3. I think people forget that when we voted for the Scottish Parliament to be reconvened, devolution wasn’t on the ballot paper. Just the Parliament and whether it should have tax raising powers. In reality, the current westminster parliament is a parliament exercising power devolved from both the English and Scottish parliaments under treaty.As has been oft stated, power devolved is power retained and just for good measure there is no law which prevents one party to a treaty from withdrawing from that Treaty should it consider it is in its own best interests, as stated by England’s attorney general. Domestic law is irrelevant and subject to treaty law, however much of our current difficulties arise from domestic law imposed unlawfully by politicians from our treaty partners and it must be said our own politicians refusal to repudiate and challenge westminsters claim to absolute sovereignty. We have not to date been asked the simple question, do we wish to withdraw from the 1707 Treaty of Union? It’s for the international community to accept or deny a yes vote, not westminster.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Constitutionally it doesn’t matter whether the “international community” or Westminster accept it. If the people of Scotland choose to end the Union, the Union must end.


      1. Absolutely, however international recognition that Scotland is leaving the union under the ToU ensures Scotland is a continuing state and not a new state. No annexation of Faslane and much else including our oil and gas. If westminster dispute out status they would have to do so in the international court.


      1. Sorry Peter, the ballot paper does not mention devolution as a foreword to either question. Had the people of Scotland answered no, their would have been no devolution because their would have been no parliament. At no point prior to the referendum was there ever a clearly defined settlement and what became the 1998 Scotland Act was imposed on Scotland without reference to the people of Scotland.


        1. The question corresponds to a proposal. I don’t know a simpler way to say it. This is common practice in referendums. The proposal being voted on may run to dozens if not hundreds of pages. It could hardly be printed on every ballot paper. What is printed on the ballot paper is a simple question that corresponds to the proposal. I’m pretty sure there isn’t a simpler way to explain it.

          In elections, do all the manifestos appear on the ballot paper? No! You vote for a candidate or party that corresponds to your preferred manifesto.


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