Evasion, distraction and silly games

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, probably more than once, ideas for blog pieces are often sparked by below-the-line comments on otherwise not very interesting news stories. Stories such as The National’s attempt to generate some excitement about a politician dodging a question (Independence Minister declines to say if he supports a civic-led Yes Convention). It’s not easy to squeeze any sensationalist juice out of such desiccated fruit and , unsurprisingly, The National fails to get a drop. Jamie Hepburn responds to a question from Ash Regan about an “independence convention” by talking about something else complete. Please don’t ask me what. I keep returning to the article in order to remind myself, but it is so unmemorable it slips from my mind in the moment it takes to get back to this article. Holding onto it is like trying to knit custard. Suffice it to say, we are no wiser as to what the Independence Minister thinks about an “independence convention”. Or, for that matter, what he thinks about independence. Although I vaguely recall him saying something about it being urgent – while evincing no sense of urgency at all.

To be fair to Jamie Hepburn, there’s not a lot he can say about the constitutional issue because he has been handed an empty brief by Humza Yousaf. The SNP has nothing to say on the subject of how it intends to go about restoring Scotland’s independence because nobody in the party has given the matter much thought in the last eight or nine years. They let Nicola Sturgeon do all the strategic thinking and now that she’s not there to maintain the pretense of a plan, the void is exposed. Jamie Hepburn isn’t expected to fill that void with fresh thinking and novel ideas. Quite the contrary. His job is to put the cover back over the yawing chasm where a strategy should be. Nicola Sturgeon’s ‘gold standard’ has turned out to be base metal so tarnished and worthless that the SNP would rather we forgot they’d ever mentioned the Section 30 process. But they have nothing else. They have nothing else because for almost nine years to talk of alternatives to the Sturgeon doctrine was treated as treachery. So it is that any questions with the word ‘independence’ in them send Jamie straight into full evasion mode.

But that isn’t the only reason he dodged Ash Regan’s question about an independence convention. This occurred to me as I was skimming through the comments below the story and noticed someone ask “Why won’t the Scottish government have an independence convention?”. As is my wont, I immediately questioned the question. I turned the question around. I asked why would the Scottish Government have an independence convention? Why would they commit to having an independence convention? Why is Alba demanding an independence convention? What is this independence convention anyway? What is it for? How will it work? What chance is there that it might hasten the end of the Union?

Here’s another wee political insight that you might want to take away with you. When politicians demand something, it tends to be the demand that is significant rather than the thing being demanded. The thing being demanded may be impossible to deliver. This non-delivery can then be presented as a failure to deliver in the certain knowledge that most people will focus on the failure and never consider the feasibility or efficacy of what was being demanded. It’s similar to asking an impossible question then criticising the failure to answer. Which is exactly what happened between Ash Regan and Jamie Hepburn. She asked an impossible question. He dodged it. Alba attack him for dodging the question. If it seems like a silly game, there’s good reason for it looking that way. The best reason, in fact.

But why is it an impossible question, I hear you ask. Which brings us back to the commenter’s question as to why the Scottish Government won’t have an independence convention. I can think of two reasons right away. Firstly, it’s not clear what is meant by the term “independence convention”. I know there are a lot of people saying what it is and what its for etc. But that’s just the problem. Because the term is largely empty, people fill in the gaps for themselves. They will say that it’s obvious what an independence convention is. While someone else says it’s just as obviously something else entirely.

Think of the No vote in 2014. Think about what it meant. What it implied. What people were getting for their No vote. The fact is that it was never defined. Or rather, it was defined differently by different people and for different purposes and depending on what was expedient at the time. The reality was that when people voted No, they voted for something that was going to be defined after they’d voted for it. The No vote gave the British government license to do whatever it pleased. So we got EVEL and Brexit and all the rest.

For the Scottish Government, agreeing to an independence convention would be undertaking to do whatever ended up filling the emptiness of the term. That would be stupid. Which doesn’t mean there isn’t a chance that the SNP would do it. They’ve done far more stupid things. Referring the draft Referendum Bill to the UK Supreme Court, for example. So, it is heartening, in a way, that Jamie Hepburn didn’t fall into that trap.

Was it a trap? Was that what Ash Regan intended? Did she ask the question knowing that it would be impossible for Hepburn to give a straight answer? There has to be a very strong suspicion that this was her motive. Not least because she would be well aware that he couldn’t commit to something so vaguely defined but also because she would be very aware of the other reason he could be expected to dodge the question – the SNP’s notorious control-freakery. Whatever the independence convention is defined as, it sounds very much like something that would be outwith the control of the SNP and the Scottish Government. In fact, this is one of the few specifics we have on the idea and one of its big selling points.

Alba Party has form on this. Their demand that the SNP should effectively give Alba all their regional ballot votes was and impossible ask. It was never going to happen – for reasons I’ve previously explained. Alba’s leadership must have known this. The only possible reason for making such an unreasonable demand was that they wanted the rebuff to use as a stick to beat the SNP. They are doing something similar with the demand for an independence convention.

Of course, Alba can only get away with this kind of tactic because they know that the SNP has nothing with which to come back at them. Stretch your imagination to the very limits and you may be able to picture Jamie Hepburn responding to Ash Regan by saying the Scottish Government definitely would not be pursuing Alba’s idea of a time-wasting and powerless convention because instead they were going to immediately implement this strategy [presents document] that is all worked out in every detail and is a wondrous thing to behold!

You best give your imagination ten minutes to cool down after that exercise.

That was never going to happen. Ash Regan could be very confident that it wouldn’t. Because she knows that there has been precisely no work done by the SNP on developing a strategy to end the Union and restore Scotland’s independence. But neither has Alba. Which is why they resort to trying to embarrass the SNP for its lack of strategy. They hope thus to conceal the fact that they have no more idea of how to go about restoring independence than does the SNP. If they have a strategy, why demand an independence convention to discuss strategy?

There you have it! That is the condition of Scotland’s independence movement a decade on from what must now be seen as its high point. An acme from which we have fallen mightily. Nearly two and a half decades form the reconvening of the Scottish Parliament where the self-styled ‘party of independence’ has ruled for more then a decade and a half. What do we have to show for it. Certainly not the independence to which we aspire. Nor any progress towards it. Nor any prospect of progress. After all this time we look to our politicians and the have nothing to show us. All the Scottish parties now agree that restoring Scotland’s independence is a matter of great urgency, while none of them exhibits any sense of that urgency. They all talk about independence – at least when they want our votes – but not one of them has the vaguest idea of how to make it happen. All we get from them is evasion, distraction and silly games.

Where is the anger? Where is the outrage that the politicians – all of them – have so tragically failed Scotland’s cause?

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18 thoughts on “Evasion, distraction and silly games

  1. “ “The Scottish Independence Convention (SIC) is a cross-party, non-partisan group with the aim of bringing together pro-independence parties, groups and organisations to promote the concept and ideals of an independent Scotland……

    ……The SIC was created in 2005 as a forum for those of all political persuasions and none who support independence, and to be a national catalyst for Scottish independence.”


    I don’t know of this incarnation still exists. I never participated myself but know some people who did.


    1. This is an extract from an announcement SIC made in March this year – I don’t know how it has developed since then.

      “The name of SIC should be changed to the Movement for Scottish
      Independence (MSI)

      All existing SIC members will automatically be members of the reformed
      organisation unless they opt out. There are two exceptions to this. It is
      proposed that political parties are no longer members. It is proposed that
      there are no longer permanent individual members, such as individual leading
      activists. However, there can be co-option as required to bring in talent and

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks Mike.

        While having had a continuing NOMINAL existence, it seems to have given up the ghost of its old name.

        Is this connected, I wonder, with recent enthusiasm for a “ Scottish independence convention” ( discussed here by Peter ) and proposed by some SNP parliamentarians who seem ignorant that a body of the same name, already existed?


    2. It is gone. Morphed into something else entirely forgettable. SIC was always an SNP puppet organisation. You only ever heard of them when they were looking for money.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Independence will come about through overwhelming popularity, not committees.

    As it is on the edge of the radar for most people, it’s about as long-term a project as building ferries in Greenock, and it has moved out of the mainstream into the realms of TUC demos, but less organised. At least when you pay union dues you know that it will not be spent on camper vans. I think that most have figured that it is just empty electioneering when used in Scottish politics, and Scottish politics has thus been dominated by empty electioneering for nine years. The future looks yet more dismal for the cause, with even politicians not believing the messages they are given to publicise on the subject. I think it’s got about 10 years to succeed or fizzle out through lack of interest. Unfortunately, the latter looks more likely at the moment.

    I suppose you could enthuse the younger generation by wedding independence to climate action if the where-with-all to do much actually existed, but that would probably be unfavourable to the pensioners that turn up to Yes meetings.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Whatever one thinks of the Alba Party they are committed wholeheartedly to the concept of Scottish Independence. (Whether or not they have the best plan to achieve it is a separate matter).

    The Scottish National Party, on the other hand, seems to me to be comprised of those that would settle for Devolution and those that still support the full restoration of self-government for Scotland. The latter group would appear to be a diminishing band if not in number then certainly in influence. This is the true legacy of the Nicola Sturgeon era.

    It seems likely to me that by prodding at the SNP the Alba party are trying to split those genuinely uncompromising in their belief in the return of Scotland’s independent statehood from the rest in order to form some kind of new loose alliance with that cohort at some “convention” (if it is ever convened) in order to rest leadership of YES from the clutches of the clique at the top of SNP.

    For sure something is going to have to give otherwise the thin gruel offered by both the Secretary for the Constitution and Minister for Independence will continue to be ladled in our direction.

    Although I will not be slurping.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Alba has neither plan nor the power to implement it. There is no way for Alba to get that power before it ceases to matter. The SNP has no plan but it has all the power that it needs. It will have that power for as long as it matters.

      Now, ask yourself which of these is the best bet for Scotland’s cause. Be entirely pragmatic. Set aside your feelings about either party. In purely practical terms, which would you select to work on in the hope of saving Scotland?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Obviously the party in power is, theoretically speaking, the better option.

        The trouble is it will not use that power. No matter how many election mandates it has obtained since 2015, no matter the opportunities that have presented themselves in that same time frame, no matter the change in ‘leadership’, it simply will not act. Whether that is through lack of confidence, competence, nous or whatever, it will not act. In fact they have said so – they are no longer planning for a referendum this year. In fact there is not even a ‘special conference’ to discuss what to do. Just vague comments about getting Independence support in the polls to some arbitrary level, at some stage, for an undefined period of time, measured by somebody, somehow.

        I don’t see how they can be bent to our will either. Maybe there is a way … but what?

        For that reason, and the and the fact that Alba is not in power, I see neither one practically as a better bet than the other.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. The SNP Scottish Government won’t be made to act because nobody is trying to make them do what is required. Literally nobody. Like you, many have just given up. Others have been sold some fantasy ‘solution’. Still others think the SNP is doing a fine job and we should just let them get on with it – like they’ve done for nearly nine years. There’s the odd wee demo outside The Scottish Parliament or Bute House. Maybe twenty or thirty people turn up. Maybe two or three. Mostly, it’s difficult to tell that these demonstrations are about independence. There’s all sorts of placards and banners. No voice. No message. No impact.

          I have been on dozens of marches and attended scores of events and I’ve yet to see a demonstration that was designed to impact the Scottish Government or the SNP. Nothing is happening because nobody is making it happen.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. How can we are mear mortals put pressure on the SNP masters to implement a constitutional convention. It’s so frustrating that all we can do is watch in disbelief as the political classes mismanage our country

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There isn’t a choice. It’s the SNP or nothing. Because the SNP is the party of government. I have to repeat that phrase dozens of times every day because it keeps slipping the minds of fantasists. Along with the British state and the concept of time.

      It’s frustrating because we actually might be able to mount a campaign sufficient to force the Scottish Government to act. But a massive portion of the Yes movement refuses to even try and/or are putting all their energies into project which cannot make the slightest difference.

      Alba claims to be putting the SNP/Scottish Government under pressure. But when I ask for evidence to indicate that this supposed pressure is having any impact, I get evasion and abuse.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. The Minister for Independence said that the three currently published papers were “compelling” and that he intends to publish “many more” in the coming months.

    So let me see, that’s 3 in a year, if many is 9 at least, then there’s another 3 years before anything else happens than papers that are indeed, lightweight; all rhetoric, no substance, a will-o-the-wisp, a cloud.

    Where’s Maria when you need her, we need to escape the UK?

    So far he’s a sad disappointment, all flutter no substance.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. All I want to see is the paper setting out the process by which independence will be restored. But not a single party or politician knows how to do it. Or if they know, they’re not speaking about it. Which makes then just as useless as the genuinely ignorant ones.

      The situation calls for a leader – so called because they go first. They say the things others are not prepared to say. They propose things that are far too bold for other politicians. The do things other politicians would be afraid to do. THAT is leadership.

      The first party to adopt the #ManifestoForIndependence will be the party that leads us to independence, if that ever actually happens. If Alba genuinely wanted to put pressure on the SNP, that is what they’d do. Start talking about repudiating the Section 30 process and asserting the primacy of the Scottish Parliament then watch the support mount. Only with something as radical as a #ScottishUDI proposal – by some other name if they must – will Alba make a significant impression in the coming Westminster election. They could make a very big impression indeed.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. “Where is the anger; where is the outrage…?

    Well, 52% of the population couldn’t give a monkeys.

    40% have seen their hopes and aspirations dashed year after year and have become so blunted and disillusioned that they don’t have the energy or inclination to be angry or outraged. Their state of mind is more akin to that of Richard II:

    ‘For God’s sake let us sit upon the ground,
    And tell sad stories of the death of Kings’

    (Act three, part one).

    Which leaves a very frustrated 8%, most ofwhom spend most of the time (albeit with considerable justification) finding reasons to blame the SNP for everything.

    The wish for Independence needs a sharp edge to its blade (mataphorically speaking), not the dull axe being wielded by the present bunch of politicians.

    There are few signs of any of them having any honing skills. Without inspiration the people will, like Richard, talk ‘..of graves, of worms, and epitaphs; make dust our paper and with rainy eyes write sorrow …’

    Liked by 1 person

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