The fate of sheeple

My philosophy of life is that the meek shall inherit nothing but debasement, frustration, and ignoble deaths.

Harlan Ellison

I was spoilt for choice when considering an apposite quote with which to open. I rather like the one from J Paul Getty – “The meek shall inherit the Earth; but not the mineral rights.”. There’s no shortage of quotable wisdom warning of the perils of meekness. You’d think people would have learned. Unless you knew any people. In which case you might be shocked by the docility with which they march to their doom, but not surprised. If scripture is to be our guide then the meek would surely have inherited the entire solar system by now. Instead, all we get is debasement, frustration and ignoble death. Such are the true wages of meekness.

To be meek is to be submissive. Tractable. Manipulable. Docility is a self-reinforcing condition because being meek means that you can be manipulated into being more meek yet. The meek are ripe for plucking by those even moderately skilled in the art and science of manipulation. Everybody thinks that everybody else is too easily manipulated by politicians and the media, while nobody admits that they are. Nobody likes to admit that they’ve been manipulated. Not even to themselves. The the greater the extent that they have been manipulated into a particular conclusion the more fervently they will tend to insist that the conclusion was arrived at entirely independently and by reason alone. The meek inherit more meekness.

Meekness is a close cousin to apathy and complacency. Together, they consign the masses to the fate that has always been the fate of the masses. Complacency, apathy and humility combine to ensure that the many will uncomplainingly accept the discomfort and disadvantage that is the price of comfort and advantage for the few. ‘Twas ever thus.

It is also the case that few resent the activist more than those who are resigned to their fate. The powerful long since learned that the submissiveness of the masses was more cost-effectively ensured by fear of loss than by fear of the sword. The less people have the more desperately they will cling to it. But those who have nothing have nothing to lose. So the trick to keeping the masses in line is to get the right balance of well-being and insecurity. Most lives some of the time and many lives most of the time are too preoccupied with the effort to secure what they have to protest at what they’re denied. And those who protest on their behalf are regarded as putting at increased risk whatever little the dispossessed still possess. And so it goes on.

Scotland seems to have more than its share of meekness. We’re awash with humility. Where apathy hasn’t sapped the spirit complacency has. Here’s tae us! Wh’s like us! Nane, it seems when it comes to turning an endless series of cheeks to be slapped by the British political elite. Nane when it comes to being manipulated. Nane when it comes to being contentedly misled.

Only a week or two after being told that action to restore Scotland’s independence would have to wait indefinitely while Nicola Sturgeon dealt with Scotland’s portion of the coronavirus pandemic and its economic aftermath we are now being assured that she has made an explicit commitment to indyref2 in SNP 2021 manifesto. She didn’t. I listened to the radio interview. I heard no “explicit commitment”. And even if she had made an explicit commitment as claimed the commitment would have been meaningless because it is it would be a commitment to a process that cannot possibly achieve what is promised.

But none of this matters to the meek. There’s a majority for Yes in the polls. Nicola Sturgeon has achieved celebrity status. Now there’s an explicit commitment to indyref2 in SNP 2021 manifesto. This means that independence has never been closer. And this proximity to the goal can only be jeopardised by pointing out that there is a huge difference between something being close and it being reachable. Nobody wants to hear that things they celebrate as signs of approaching success don’t actually relate to success in any way at all. None of it satisfies the criteria of necessity and sufficiency. What they are clinging to may not be worthless, but it isn’t worth what they’ve allowed themselves to be convinced it’s worth. It isn’t worth enough.

A majority for Yes in the polls is a nice thing to have. But it doesn’t bring independence any closer unless there is the means to translate that public support into a formal declaration of the will of the people. A popular leader is a nice thing to have. But it doesn’t bring independence any closer unless that leader is committed not merely to the concept of independence but to the course of action required to achieve it. The promise of a new referendum is a nice thing to have. But it doesn’t bring independence any closer unless the promise can be honoured and honoured in a way which will make the referendum a step towards the restoration of Scotland’s independence.

The meek are content with what they have. The meek are easily manipulated into believing what they have to be more than what it is. The meek are easily convinced that the biggest threat to what they have comes from those who point out that what they have is an emperor in underpants. The sheeple are being herded into the abattoir and bleating protests at anybody who tries to warn them of what lies ahead.

I’ll finish with another quote which should make the meek think, but probably won’t.

The English are mentioned in the Bible; Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

Mark Twain

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The beast stirs

By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes.

Macbeth Act 4, scene 1

Do you feel it? Do you not sense that something significant has just happened? Something has changed. Something ominous. It is not something new. More of a qualitative shift in an ongoing process. Just as a passenger in a car may feel even quite subtle acceleration or braking or changes of direction, so it is often possible to sense analogous alterations in the flow of events we call current affairs – until we call it history. A ferryman long accustomed to the tides and currents and eddies and shallows of the waters he navigates may become aware of a subtle anomaly amidst the roiling mass when all others see only the river as it always is. So, on occasion, we may discern a change that while seemingly minor, might well presage a major upheaval.

I sensed just such a change recently when Jackson Carlaw was so ignominious deposed as leader of the British Conservative & Unionist Party in Scotland (BCUPS). It is all to easy to view such goings-on among British politicians as the random twitchings and squirmings of pond-life viewed through a microscope. Encouraged by the media, the general public may focus on the relative trivialities of personalities and what they do and what they say to the exclusion of the connections to the bigger picture which make the petty portentous.

We have long known that the British state has plans for Scotland. Or perhaps we had better say intentions. The term ‘plan’ suggest a set of moves plotted in advance for the purpose of bringing about a specific outcome. Such plots and conspiracies exist almost entirely in fiction alone. In the real world the affairs of humankind are messy. Writers tell their stories from the perspective of one who starts from the outcome and works backwards in meandering fashion selecting only the things that relate most directly to that outcome until the chosen starting point is reached. Discard the other stuff, straighten the zigs and zags of that meandering path then when run forward you have the neat plot of a tale that can be told in less than a lifetime.. Reality does not have a plot. It does not proceed according to any plan. For all the great schemes that men or mice may pretend to, our story would unfold in chaotic fashion but for the imperatives and capacities of the players.

There is no plan. There are only more or less evident trends arising out of the chaos as certain imperatives coincide with concentrations of power.

It is evident that the concentration of power referred to as the British state has coincided with an imperative to quell the democratic dissent arisen in Scotland on account of the anti-democratic iniquities stemming from a grossly asymmetric political union. Details of neither end nor means need concern us greatly. All that matters is that the British state is being driven by an imperative to restore something closer to the power relationship between Scotland and England-as-Britain created by the Union than was permitted to develop by a devolution experiment which, from the perspective of the British establishment, has gone badly awry.

Whether this restoration of what the British regard as the natural order is achieved by, for example, closing down the Scottish Parliament completely or simply by transferring all significant powers to the UK Government in Scotland depends on opportunity. As do the methods by which either of these ends might be realised. It will always be possible to go to a granular view and find things that in isolation can be presented as piffling and not worthy of fuss. But undo the abstraction and reconnect the seemingly insignificant with the overarching imperative and the capacities which serve it to gain a better sense of what is happening.

The ousting of Jackson Carlaw together with the almost simultaneous elevation of Douglas Ross and Ruth Davidson as well as surrounding and subsequent antics is one of those things our hypothetical writer would surely regard as a major plot development. For a start, the whole thing is so obviously premeditated. It was arranged. And one can detect the patterns which speak of coordination among various components of the apparatus by which the British state gives effect to its power.

Note, for instance, the sudden frequency with which the ‘once-in-a-generation’ trope is being aired. Consider the likelihood that this is striking our consciousness anew because in every case it is the same variation on that trope stating as fact that the Scottish Government had given a formal undertaking that no further referendums would be sought until a generation had passed. In a recent radio interview, another of the British establishment’s discards, David Mundell, said,

We perhaps thought, as had been signed up for ahead of the referendum, it was going to be a once in a generation event and the result would be respected and we would move on but that’s not what happened.

David Mundell says no indyref2 even if pro-Yes parties win big

The emphasis has been added to highlight the relevant reference to ‘once-in-a-generation’ being part of the Edinburgh Agreement. Here’s Douglas Ross a couple of days earlier.

Nicola Sturgeon did sign that agreement with the UK and Scottish Governments that it would be once in a generation.

Douglas Ross ‘rewriting history’ with indyref2 claim

This is, of course, a lie. A quite deliberate and malicious falsehood told with the intention of deceiving the public. A very British thing done in a very British way.

The lie was not challenged by the British media. They rarely are. But outside that bubble of systemic dishonesty there was a great deal of comment about the lie being peddled by British politicians. As, indeed, there was about the removal of Jackson Carlaw to make way for someone more adept at telling such lies. But focus on these incidents diverts from the way they fit with the imperative to override and trample Scotland’s democracy. Regarded in that context it seems almost as if a signal has been given. Word has gone out to start ramping up attacks intended to undermine Scotland’s democratic institutions and, not at all incidentally, to prepare our essential public services for disposal.

Some may say that these attacks have been such that it is hardly possible to suppose they might be increased in either rate or intensity. You ain’t seen nothing yet! Here’s another lie from David Mundell.

Essentially the Yes campaign continued, and we didn’t continue at the same level of intensity or effectiveness at making the case for Scotland’s place in the United Kingdom.

David Mundell says no indyref2 even if pro-Yes parties win big

This is an example of a lie which turns truth on its head. A BIG lie! A rewriting of history which defies any effort to avoid the clichéd term ‘Orwellian’. The great thing about the BIG lie is that if you can make people believe it then you can make it a container for lots of smaller lies. Again there is something about this that suggests the British state’s propaganda machine moving up a gear or two.

The beast is stirring. It has sensed a vulnerability that can be exploited. Something wicked this way comes. It’s coming for Scotland. It’s coming for us. I have never been less persuaded that we are prepared to meet the coming onslaught.

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Do the purge!

What politics anorak in Scotland could possibly resist that headline? How could anybody fail to feel an irresistible urge to find out the identity of this “Senior Scottish Labour activist”? Who didn’t kick themselves on discovering that the “activist” in question was none other than Scotland’s favourite cringe-monkey, Duncan Hothersall? Who else? We should have guessed! It’s not like there are that many “Scottish Labour activists” to chose from. And calling Duncan “senior” is no more ridiculous than awarding yourself the title ‘Editor’ on your own blog. Maybe I could call myself ‘Chief Political Correspondent’. Or, just to outdo wee Duncy, ‘Editor-in-Chief’.

You’ll understand if I don’t ask for suggestions as to what I might be called if I had a by-line.

Duncan has been a bit of a vanishing cringe-monkey of late. Either I’ve perfected the art of ignoring his British Nationalist nonsense or he’s been blessedly quiet this last while. Maybe he was otherwise occupied to the extent that he was unable to fulfil his editorial duties. I don’t know. I confess to ignorance of the seasonal habits of cringe-monkeys.

But he’s back with a bang, as they say. Reprising all the old hits and presenting his latest ideas on how BLiS too might rise from the ashes of self-immolation into a blaze of self-immolation again. I think the headline was supposed to be a shocker. It has the words “expel” and “independence” in it. And at first glance the suggestion that BLiS should throw out nearly half its members seem a tad outré even for the Duncster. But when you think about it, there’s nothing here that we haven’t seen before. There’s the bitter, bilious, burning hatred of the SNP, of course. We can dismiss that as filler. But what else is there?

Essentially, it’s just yet another rehash of the now far too familiar refrain about BLiS needing to ‘Learn and Change!’. How many times have we heard that one? More times than I’ve heard Eden Kane sing Well I Ask You that being the only record that came with the new Dansette record player which Santa brought to our house back in the days when the only thing we knew about streaming was that you had to avoid splashing the rim.

The B-side of this scratchy old record – the BLiS’s Listen and Learn not Eden Kane’s Well I Ask You – is another gold-coloured base metal oldie, Follow The Tories. The feature that Duncan hopes will get him and his band back in the charts is tacked on to these two standards. And it’s not original either. It may be new to younger listeners but those of a certain age will surely be able to whistle along to a tune called Stalinist Purge by Joe and The Commissars. Amazing to think that it’s nearly a century old.

(Remember the dance!? You had to stand stock still as if in the dock at your show trial then shimmy and shake and flail your legs like you were dangling by the neck from a rope. That was fun!)

But Duncan “Beria” Hothersall brings it right up to date with new lyrics calling for a purge of ‘Nationalist Sympathisers’ rather than former Russian Imperial Army officers are members of the White Guard. The underlying theme remains unchanged. It is the rhetoric of purification and renewal that has surfaced at intervals throughout history as one self-glorifying elite or another sought to blame its failure to win the respect and affection of the masses on ‘subversives’ and ‘infiltrators’ and ‘undesirable elements’.

The flip-side is a bit more up-to-date, but still nothing new. Having seen faded star Ruth Davidson enjoy some success with her ‘Queen of the BritNats’ show, Duncan has decided to do his own horribly derivative version. I can’t see it catching on. After all, British Labour has been doing little other than covers of Tory material for some years now. OK! They brought in a new lead singer with the idea of ‘going back to their roots’. This appealed to the purists – the kind of people who refuse to listen to anything Fleetwood Mac did after Peter Green left. But the crowds only want to here the new stuff. So Corbyn had to go and they brought in some nondescript guy they’re still trying to ‘big up’ with PR puffery.

There’s a fundamental flaw in whatever it is that Duncan Hothersall and his ilk have instead of reasoning. Actually, there are several. But I’ll start with the fact that he thinks he can both copy the Tories and keep what BLiS fans regard as their distinctiveness. The trouble with that it that the Tory sound is itself so unique – uniquely awful! – that it’s impossible to copy bits of that discordant noise without sounding exactly like them.

Then there’s the fact that Duncan wants BLiS to emulate a group that is massively unpopular in Scotland in the hope that doing so will make BLiS more popular than the current chart-toppers whose success they view with corrosive resentment and all-consuming envy. Am I alone in failing to find the logic in this?

I think I can explain. Being a British Nationalist cringe-monkey Duncan thinks that “Starmer backing” is totally different from the British Conservative & Unionist Party in Scotland (BCUPS) latest marketing strategy of portraying themselves as “Boris backing”. But that’s not what the voters see. They just see two politicians whose only loyalty is to the British state and who both exude indistinguishable contempt for Scotland. Duncan Hothersall – who shares this devotion to the British state – will protest that there are significant differences between Boris Johnson and Sir Keir Starmer, and he may be right! But the differences a significant only in terms of the politics of England-as-Britain. They don’t relate to Scotland. So Scotland doesn’t relate to them.

Poor wee Duncy seems to imaging that, just like the Tories again, he can turn the clock back to a time when the British two-and-a-bit-party system was all there was. He is in deep denial about the fact that the politics of Scotland and England-as-Britain have diverged beyond compatibility and beyond reversal. He remains convinced that Scotland’s voters have been suffering from some kind of mass hysteria for the last 14 years and that they’ll shortly come to their collective senses and learn to live with the politics they’re given rather than try to create something more in accord with their needs, priorities and aspirations.

One last lesson in how to ‘think’ like a British Nationalist cringe-monkey. Duncan’s cunning plan is to purge BLiS of anyone who is not on record as having referred to Nicola Sturgeon as Wee Jimmy Krankie or who can say the word ‘referendum’ without gagging. Ridding BLiS of independence supporting members, he suppose will transform the pretendy party into something more British Nationalist even than BCUPS and so take them to the dizzying heights of totally hyped ‘success’ enjoyed by BCUPS during Ruth Davidson’s brief spell perched on a shoogly pedestal like a moggy in a cat-show as the British media’s favourite Jockess.

What Duncan fails to take account of is that the 40%-50% of BLiS members expelled will retain their pro-independence leanings while shedding whatever residual loyalty they had to British Labour. Do the math! In absolute numbers, 40%-50% of BLiS members may not amount to much. But it’s minus for BLiS and plus for the Yes side. So that number might be effectively doubled in terms of relative strength. A couple of thousand new activists, while obviously welcome, would be a small increase when compared to the sheer size of the Yes movement. But it’s hard to imagine BLiS might suffer the loss of even one activist without feeling the pain. Unless, perhaps, that activist was the distinctly unhelpful Duncan Hothersall.

Nice to hear from you again, Duncan. Always amusing. But if this is your big idea for bringing BLiS back into the mainstream of Scottish politics, then obscurity beckons with unbecoming impatience.

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Changing the game

If Ross and Davidson turn the 2021 Scottish election into a plebiscite on the Union and indyref2, they stand to lose badly. Which will make it very difficult for Boris and Co to refuse a referendum.

This is how we know the Tories are about to play dirty

In the midst of George Kerevan’s otherwise excellent analysis we find the above unsupported assertion. George is far from alone in making this unsupported assertion. It has become a widely accepted, and hence seldom questioned, assumption that a decisive victory for the SNP in the next Holyrood election is essential because this “will make it very difficult for Boris and Co to refuse a referendum”. But I question it!

That a decisive victory for the SNP is absolutely essential is certainly true. And the notion that this will make it difficult – or even impossible – for Boris Johnson to refuse a Section 30 request is a very convenient explanation for those who consider that decisive victory for the SNP an end in itself and those who are strongly committed to the Section 30 process. It will not have escaped your notice that both these categories are populated almost entirely by the SNP leadership and its most loyal servants.

There is another way of explaining why that decisive SNP victory is essential. A way which finds considerably less favour with the party leadership and those most loyal to it. But we’ll come back to that.

First we must examine the claim that the Tories and other British parties losing badly enough in the Scottish Parliament elections might be enough to force Johnson to change his stance on refusing a Section 30 order. We start that examination by asking why. Why would it have this effect? Regardless of what he claims – and what others claim on his behalf – is the reason Boris adamantly refuses permission for a second referendum that there is no demand for it? Because only if that is genuinely the reason might a massive win for the SNP cause him to change his mind.

Who actually believes that British Nationalists are determined to block a second referendum because they feel bound by what they choose to believe is the will of the people? Who actually believes that British Nationalists would not continue to be determined to block a new referendum even if it was demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt that the will of the people was to have such a referendum?

Whatever the reason(s) for the British political elite seeking to deny the people of Scotland the exercise of our fundamental and inalienable right of self-determination we can be absolutely certain it has nothing at all to do with what the people of Scotland want. When was that ever a consideration?

So why believe that even the clearest and most undeniable demonstration of popular demand for a new referendum would change anything? It wouldn’t! So that cannot be the reason for a decisive SNP victory being so crucial.

To understand the real reason we need the SNP to win and win big I want to refer you to something said in a comment on my blog and my response. The comment was as follows.

Politicians may delude themselves that they have the power to change history. They don’t. Only the people can do that.

To which I responded –

Sentimental drivel! The people have no power. The people have strength. It is the political class which translates that strength into effective political power. Commonly, they will seek to persuade the people that it was popular power wot won it. All too many will be taken in by the stirring rhetoric. Strip away the deceptive varnish, however, and what you find is that as an all but invariable rule revolutions are initiated by the middle classes – academics, artists, professionals, civil servants and minor politicians – who then enlist the strength of the people.

Were you to find any exception to this rule – a true popular revolution which was successful – then what you would also and absolutely without exception find is that the success of that ‘people’s revolution’ came only after it engaged the same middle classes.

The reason a massive SNP victory in the next Holyrood election is important to us – the people – rather than to the SNP hierarchy is not because it changes anything about Boris Johnson or the British political elite or British Nationalist ideology and the determination to preserve the Union at any cost, but because it changes the SNP. More precisely, it changes the relationship between the party and the people.

We, the people, want and need an unprecedented SNP landslide not because it will stop Boris Johnson denying our right of self-determination but because it will stop the SNP denying it. We want and need that political and constitutional game-changer not because it will force Boris Johnson to grant a Section 30 order but because it will force Nicola Sturgeon to stop asking for it.

We want and need that SNP victory not because it will somehow cause the British political elite to respect Scotland’s people but because it will oblige Nicola Sturgeon to respect us. Not because it will require the British establishment to facilitate the end of the Union but because it will force the SNP to be the lever which prises Scotland from the Union despite the continuing and intensifying anti-democratic efforts of the British state.

We want and need that SNP win because it would represent Scotland’s popular independence movement engaging Scotland’s political class for our purposes as opposed to the political class laying claim to the strength of the popular movement in pursuit of its own agenda.

Neither the British political elite nor the SNP leadership want you to recognise this political reality. Not because they are in league, as I see some fools suggesting, but because there is a coincidence of interests such as happens in the real world. Otherwise we wouldn’t have so many dumb conspiracy theories.

In my response mentioned earlier I went on to observe that,

Perhaps more than anything else what Scotland’s cause needs right now is several heavy doses of hard-headed political realism. Fuck knows we’re not wanting for sentimental drivel.

Here is your first dose of hard-headed political realism. The British state will do whatever it reckons is necessary to preserve the Union. The British political elite will continue to deny the sovereignty of Scotland’s people and subvert Scotland’s democracy regardless of what happens in any election or referendum. That is why Douglas Ross and Ruth Davidson are being placed in the vanguard of the British state’s efforts to quell democratic dissent in its annexed territory.

Ross and Davidson are being put in place precisely and solely because they can be relied upon to follow orders without hesitation, absent any reflection, unimpeded by scruples and unhindered by principles.

There is no route to the restoration of Scotland’s independence which does not require that this aggressive obduracy is confronted with assertive determination.

There is currently no way to channel the strength of Scotland’s popular independence movement and translate that strength into effective political power other than through the SNP. And no time to find or create an alternative way.

There is every reason to assume that the coming Scottish Parliament elections represent our last chance to rescue Scotland from the forces of anti-democratic British Nationalism.

I urge and implore everyone who aspires to more for Scotland than an increasingly subordinate status with a ‘reformed’ Union to heed these words.

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Coup d’état in progress

Andrew Tickell’s column in the Sunday National is always a good read. Particularly so when he writes to explain legal situations and processes. But his take on Scottish politics also tends to be well-informed and thought-provoking. What strikes me about his latest article, however, is a point that he seems to have missed as he discusses the dynamics of the Scottish Tories in the aftermath of Jackson Carlaw’s humiliating removal.

Something I couldn’t quite put my finger on troubled me as I read Andrew’s attempt to answer the question of whether Douglas Ross is anything more than Ruth Davidson’s sock puppet. It was not until I noticed the very first comment that I realised what it was.

Even a sock puppet would have the intelligence to know that the union is deed [sic] …

I read that line and immediately thought it horribly wrong. We are talking about Tories. Hard-line Unionists and British Nationalists. Sock puppet or not, none of them is ever going to admit even to themselves that the Union is deid.

And why should they? The Union is presently not in jeopardy at all. The only thing that could threaten the Union would be an SNP administration in the Scottish Parliament determined to pursue the restoration of Scotland’s independence by any democratic means available. What we have is just the opposite. We have an SNP administration which has not only let the constitutional issue slide over the past six years but is seemingly intent on reassuring the British establishment that the SNP will not resume its role as the political arm of the independence movement in the foreseeable future.

Why then would even a remarkably stupid sock puppet suppose the Union to be in its death throes? What do Douglas Ross and Ruth Davidson and Boris Johnson see when they look at the state of the Union in Scotland? Because it is that perception which will inform their current manoeuvrings and manipulations.

The problem with Andrew Tickell’s analysis is that it assumes a future in which the Scottish Parliament is functioning as before and Douglas Ross (possibly with Ruth Davidson’s hand up his arse) stepping into the same role as was briefly and unsatisfactorily filled by Jackson Carlaw. But is that what the Scottish Tories and their bosses in London actually envisage? Or should their current manoeuvrings and manipulations be analysed as preparation for a significantly situation?

British Nationalists do not think the Union is finished. They do not operate on that basis. They operate of the basis that they are winning. They have every reason to suppose that their plans for Scotland will proceed. They have no reason to think otherwise. Whatever the Ross-Davidson duo is being prepared for it is not business as usual.

The British political elite is assuming a Scotland in which the locus of politics has moved from Holyrood to Queen Elizabeth House (left). The British state is planning on a future in which the centre of political authority in Scotland has shifted from the Scottish Government to the UK Government in Scotland. Whatever Douglas Ross and Ruth Davidson are up to at the moment, it is with this in mind. They are being deployed for a role in the transition from devolution to direct rule from London.

Ross and Davidson serve a regime which is in the process of perpetrating what is effectively a coup d’état in Scotland. We must try to understand their behaviour in the light of this realisation. We must ask ourselves how a parcel o’ rogues might once again deliver Scotland to England-as-Britain. We must wonder what role they might play in the process of taking annexation to absorption. We should consider what might be their reward.

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Plane crash

Nicolas Cage is a Hollywood star whose mediocrity as an actor is flattered by his filmography. Con Air is one of those films you can watch repeatedly and still enjoy and 8mm has to be one of the grittiest mainstream movies ever made. In the former, Cage is propped up by an ensemble cast that includes John Malkovich and Steve Buscemi while in the latter all eyes are on Joaquin Phoenix and the late James Gandolfini to the extent that you’d be forgiven for forgetting that Cage was even there.

I mention this by way of leading up to another Cage vehicle that came to mind yesterday as news emerged of the internal manoeuvrings within the SNP against Joanna Cherry. The 2009 movie Knowing is an unremarkable if mildly enjoyable thriller made famous by an astoundingly graphic and horrifyingly detailed plane crash sequence. I was reminded of that scene as I watched a gang of hijackers fly the SNP into the ground.

I refer specifically to the decision by the party’s National Executive Committee to change the candidate selection rules in a way that was bound to be perceived as a deliberate – and as it turns out effective – attempt to prevent Joanna Cherry MP from pursuing nomination as the SNP candidate for Edinburgh Central constituency, thus favouring Angus Robertson. A decision that makes sense only to those who are convinced the party exists solely to further their narrow political agenda. A political agenda which has more to do with ham-fisted, heavy-handed and horribly misguided social engineering than progressive social reform. The film that comes to mind when I consider the antics of the ‘woke’ clique is 1977’s The Island of Dr. Moreau based on HG Wells’ prescient tale of genetic manipulation and its catastrophic consequences.

Factionalism will bring down a political party as surely as metal fatigue will bring down an aircraft. Like metal fatigue, it can start with cracks so slight as to be invisible. It will initially be celebrated as ‘diversity’ – with no thought as to whether diversity is any less toxic to a political party than full-blown factionalism.

Factions breed factions. They breed in two ways. For every faction there is at least one counter-faction. And, of course, each faction is likely itself to succumb to factionalism as internal differences become disputes become divisions become disintegration.

Factions become more toxic as they breed. Each new faction contains a more potent distillation of whatever dogma is driving the process. Further factions arise as ‘moderates’ strive to counter the more extreme factions and become themselves more extreme in the process.

Labels proliferate. A whole new lexicon develops as every faction attempts to define itself with ever greater precision and others with ever more prejudice. The more rigidly the faction is defined the less likely it is that individuals will find an accommodation for their own worldview. So they create their own faction. The more pejorative the labels thrown at opponents the wider the gulf between them becomes. Differences that are definitively trivial become major points of contention. Major points of contention become the basis of further division. Factions breed factions.

No political party can survive this. Long before factions become so numerous and differentiated that the party appears to stand for everything and therefore nothing, the public will grow weary of it and look elsewhere for something less incomprehensibly complicated. Something more cohesive. Something with a core. Something like the SNP used to be.

There’a a chicken and egg dilemma here. Is it the pursuit by some inexplicably influential clique of its own agenda which has led to the constitutional issue being sidelined? Or is it that in kicking the constitutional issue so far down the road as to be out of sight Nicola Sturgeon has removed the core around which the party used to cohere? More likely, it is a combination of and interaction between these two processes which is splitting the party asunder?

Can the situation be remedied? Can the fission be halted? What is needed to prevent the SNP becoming fragmented and weak at the very time when we need it to be most effective as a political force?

Actually, it’s quite simple. All the party leader has to do is put the restoration of Scotland’s independence back at the centre of everything the SNP is and everything it does. Restore that common purpose and renewed unity at least becomes a possibility. But this refocusing on the constitutional issue will have to be convincing. It has to involve a solid commitment to a Manifesto for Independence in next year’s Holyrood elections made by a leader the membership trusts.

Whatever way you look at this, Nicola Sturgeon has some very hard questions to answer. In my head, I’m still seeing that plane crash scene from Knowing.

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The Inadequates

I knew. You knew. Pretty much everybody knew that Jackson Carlaw wasn’t up to the job. Not that the job is massively demanding. But it was fairly obvious he was going to crash and burn sooner rather than later. There’s a fatal flaw in Jackson Carlaw’s character that renders him unsuited to the role of leader of the Scottish Tories. He isn’t shallow enough.

That may seem counter-intuitive. But think about it! By the standards of the population as a whole you have to be exceptionally superficial to be among the British politicians squatting in the Scottish Parliament. Consider the basic qualifications. As a representative of a British political party you are seeking election to an institution that you neither trust nor respect. You do not recognise the authority of the Scottish Parliament. You do not accept that it speaks for the people of Scotland. At the extreme, you would have the whole thing dismantled tomorrow.

You are standing for a fake party. However successful the British media have been at obscuring the truth, the fact remains that the British parties in Scotland are not real political parties. They are mere offshoots of the actual parties. They have no autonomy. They decide nothing. They cannot make policy independently of the party bosses in England. Arguably the largest part of your function as an MSP simply doesn’t exist if you represent one of the British parties. Moreover and for the most part you agree that this policy-making role doesn’t belong in your hands and must be left to your superiors.

Another major part of the role of an opposition MSP – the terms ‘British party’ and ‘opposition MSP’ being virtually synonymous – is also all but entirely absent. Being from one of the British parties you will not be called upon to do very much in the way of scrutinising government policy. In most instances you will default to the ‘Bain Principle’. Also referred to with the hashtag #SNPBAD, this is the automatic and unthinking assumption that if it emanates from the SNP it must be opposed. There are exceptions. Some things are not easy to speak against. But as a rule you will not be required to even look at proposed legislation. As a British party MSP you will be provided with a list of stock words and phrases which can be deployed regardless of the content. Things like ‘ill-considered’ and ‘draconian’.

Thinking is not required. In fact, thinking is actively discouraged if you are an MSP for one of the British parties. Sometimes this discouragement can be too successful. Look at the likes of James Kelly and Murdo Fraser for examples of British party MSPs who have taken to intellectual abstinence as if born to it.

Of course, if you’re not thinking, you’re not thinking things through. You will tend to be oblivious to the consequences of whatever you say and do. An aspect of this is something I call constrained thinking. As a British party MSP you will be expected to think things through only as far as the first thing that can be used against the SNP administration or any organisation or institution that is closely associated with that administration – Police Scotland and NHS Scotland being two examples of what can stand as a proxy for the hated SNP. Damage the NHS and you hurt the SNP. That’s the guiding principle for British party MSPs.

I use the word ‘principle’ very loosely here. Because principles are not useful if you are part of the British political elite. Come to think of it, the word ‘elite’ may be inappropriate too – given that we are not only talking about that part of the British establishment which extends into the annexed territory of Scotland, but the small subset of same which chooses to squat in the Scottish Parliament. I hesitate to use the term ‘dregs’. But it is generally allowed even within the British parties in Scotland that the squatter contingent is what’s left over when those with larger egos and ambitions to match have headed south.

Getting back to those ‘principles’ that for British parties are advantageous in direct proportion to their absence, it may be said that anything resembling a moral or ethical code is a distinct handicap for a British party MSP. As much as or perhaps more than in the case of others who aspire to the British political elite. Bear in mind that these are people who have sought election to Scotland’s national Parliament, not to champion their constituents nor to defend and further the interests of the Scottish nation, but to represent solely the interests of England-as-Britain. Where there is a choice to be made, British MSPs will tend to favour the British state and the Union at whatever cost to the people of Scotland. I feel no need to expand on something we have all witnessed and continue to see enacted every day.

Given the foregoing it should not be surprising to find the the most important deficiency for a British party MSP is a total lack of self-awareness. Some can survive even encumbered by principles. We immediately think of Malcolm Chisholm in this regard. But none can rise to any prominence unless they have rid themselves of any capacity to be embarrassed or ashamed. Or even to reflect on whatever they’ve done that would normally be expected to induce embarrassment or shame.

Of course, the more the individual British party MSP is required by the duties of office to appear and speak in public the greater the need for lack of self-awareness. Because, self-evidently, being a public figure brings both increased scrutiny and more opportunities to do or say something cringeworthy or outrageous. The British party MSP cannot afford to be affected by any of this. Aided by an entourage of sycophantic advisers and such, the British party spokesperson will remain convinced that they are performing brilliantly despite having just appeared before a TV audience of millions delivering a catalogue of gaffe and gaucherie with a string of luminous green snot hanging from their nose.

Jackson Carlaw’s problem, and the reason he has lasted mere months as ‘leader’ of the British Conservative & Unionist Party in Scotland (BCUPS) is not that he is lacking in deficiencies or that he is defect-challenged. It’s not that he is burdened with principles – as forensic examination will surely reveal. It’s not because he’s rendered unsuitable for the role due to possession of an intellect impressive enough to interfere with his performance. Quite simply, Jackson Carlaw isn’t shallow enough.

In terms of superficiality he cannot compete with his predecessor. He’s not in the same league as Richard Leonard, nominal ‘leader’ (pro tem) of British Labour in Scotland (BLiS). He doesn’t compare favourably with Willie Rennie, a man who is known for taking shallowness to the molecular level. Jackson Carlaw just hasn’t got the shallowness the job demands.

Not that I’m suggesting the possibility of hidden depths. Not a bit of it! To survive as BCUPS ‘leader’ it must be that the slings and arrows of cruel FMQs either bounce off a carapace of self-regard or pass straight through without hitting anything vital. Or anything at all. Jackson Carlaw’s frailty is a membrane of self-doubt that makes him vulnerable to the barbs. The skin is just thick enough for those barbs to stick.

Jackson Carlaw is inadequate. He’s inadequate enough to be a British party MSP. He’s just not inadequate enough to be the face and voice of British Nationalism in the Scottish Parliament. His going is neither to be mourned nor celebrated. Peak inadequacy has yet to be reached. All eyes are on Douglas Ross.

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Thank you!

It’s long past time I did one of my far too infrequent thank you messages to all those who support this site with donations. The generosity is remarkable. Maybe people aren’t total shite after all.


Peter A Bell

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A home for hope?

Like many people, I have come to regard Joanna Cherry as the person who might jolt the SNP leadership out of the cloth-eared inertia which has beset the party since 2014 and left the independence campaign run aground on a reef of obdurate hyper-caution. I saw in Ms Cherry someone who might look at the increase in support for independence indicated by polls over the past year and rather than unthinkingly accepting this as a vindication of the SNP’s approach to the constitutional issue, would ask the awkward questions. Such as, why only over the past year? Circumstances have been close to ideal for an anti-Union campaign since Friday 19 September 2014. Since then, there have been numerous opportunities to further Scotland’s cause. All of them were missed. Why? If the SNP’s approach to the constitutional issue is appropriate and effective, why was there no evidence of this over a period of five years or more?

I thought Joanna Cherry might be the bold voice within the SNP pointing out the unpalatable facts. Such as the hard reality that high and rising support in the polls is utterly meaningless in the absence of a process by which that support is connected through actions and decisions to an outcome. Strength of public opinion alone changes nothing without the means to translate it into effective political power. The SNP in government is supposed to is supposed to provide that means. Instead, the party’s leadership remains absolutely committed to a process – Section 30 – which does not connect to anything. And now has indefinitely postponed action even on a process which suits only the purposes of the British state.

I was encouraged in my hopes of Joanna Cherry when I read that she was urging the SNP to accept that the anti-Brexit campaign was over and lost. I would have been happier if she were to explicitly acknowledge that the obsession with Brexit should never have been permitted to supersede and supplant the commitment to restoring Scotland’s independence which gets top-billing in the party’s own constitution. But we take what we can get.

Some will say that it is pointless harking back to the past. Generally, these would be the people who stand to be embarrassed by the past. Their sensitivities should not be allowed to stand in the way of learning lessons from past mistakes. Not only has the current leadership of the party failed to learn any lessons, it is in denial about there being anything to learn. Nicola Sturgeon – for it is she as First Minister and party leaders who must shoulder the blame – has ignored and/or denigrated anyone who suggests alternative approaches which take due cognisance of past errors.

But we are where we are. Even if all too many in the Yes movement imagine we’re in a different place altogether. We must move on. With each passing day the need to extricate Scotland from the Union grows more urgent. Only the SNP can provide the means to translate popular support for Scotland’s cause into effective political action on behalf of that cause. I had come to look on Joanna Cherry as the individual who, with popular support of her own, might snap the SNP leadership out of its Brexit-induced torpor and make it fit for purpose.

Imagine my disappointment when I got to the final third of Joanna Cherry’s column in The National only to find something that reads like it has been pinched from Pete Wishart’s blog. She does that thing that so many SNP politicians do. She reaches out to the British state’s propagandists and validates their carping. She hints at fresh thinking, then proceeds to trot out stale material left over from the 2014 referendum campaign. She says, “we need to advance a fresh positive case for an independent Scotland”. No we don’t! We need to advance the idea that independence is simply normal. We need to make the case that it is the Union which is the constitutional anomaly and that Brexit isn’t the problem. The problem is the Union which allows the British political elite to ignore the democratic will of the sovereign people of Scotland in all matters and at all times!

She goes on,

This means providing answers to the questions that in the full glare of an independence campaign will come into focus…

No it doesn’t!

Joanna Cherry needs to ask how these questions are brought into focus, by whom and for what purpose. Only by asking such questions might the realisation dawn that these questions are brought into focus through British propaganda fed to us through the British media on behalf of the British state for the purpose of manufacturing doubt about independence.

She says,

From my experience talking to voters these questions revolve around three issues: the economy and concern about what currency an independent Scotland will use, including whether we could be forced to join the euro; how the process of accession to the EU would actually work, and how to maintain cross-border trade with England.

But where did these people get the questions form? The got them from the British media! The vast majority of voters have neither immediate interest in nor any knowledge of these matters. They are told by the media that it is absolutely vital that they get an answer to the ‘What currency?’ question. So the think they need an answer to that question – notwithstanding the fact that even if any answer they could be given constituted real knowledge, it would be knowledge that they could do nothing with. And whatever answer they are provided with and however comprehensive and convincing that answer is, the British media will tell them that they didn’t get an answer and they will thereby suppose that they didn’t get an answer and they will be outraged despite the fact that they had previously accepted an answer that is of no real use to them to a question it would never have occurred to them to ask in the first place.

Even if the ‘What currency?’ question is answered there is no answer that can be given that doesn’t spawn a score of other questions. Merely by being asked every one of those questions generates doubt. By attempting to answer them the SNP validates the questions asked, amplifies the doubt and prompts further doubt-inducing enquiries.

Joanna Cherry says,

These are all legitimate questions.

No they’re not!

The ‘legitimate’ question would be is Scotland capable of managing its monetary affairs? Why doesn’t that question “come into focus”? Because attempting to answer that question would cause the British political elite considerable and obvious difficulty. So they use the facile ‘What currency?’ question to divert attention.

The same or similar applies to every other question. Politics for Dummies! When your opponent asks a question the purpose is rarely if ever to elicit useful information. Always assume malign intent. Always ask yourself what question is not being asked. Then ask it!

How do I know all this? Because it is exactly what happened in the first referendum campaign!

I have grown accustomed to SNP politicians and Yes activists behaving as if Scotland needed to pass an exam to even be allowed to exercise the right of self-determination that is ours by absolute right. I had hoped that Joanna Cherry would be different. I had hoped that she would understand the need to reframe the constitutional issue and rethink the campaign strategy. If not quite dashed, that hope is now seriously undermined. Which leaves me with a genuinely legitimate question. If not Joanna Cherry, then who?

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