All hypocrites together

Does anybody other than Jo Swinson believe that Jo Swinson might be the next British Prime MInister? She obviously believes it with all her mendacious, duplicitous, hypocritical heart. How else might she revoke Article 50 absent a new referendum on the matter – a so-called “peoples’ referendum”. Which, we note in passing, continues to be official Liberal Democrat policy despite the fact that Swinson made no mention of it.

Of course, she was speaking in Scotland. Like all British politicians, Swinson has two faces – the one she shows to voters in England, and the mask she puts on when she ventures north. In Scotland, she must occupy the throne recently vacated by Ruth Davidson. She must don the crown as ‘Queen of the BritNats’. She must strive to be the champion of British Nationalism in Scotland, because she is chasing the same votes that the ‘Ruth Davidson Say No To Indyref2 Party’ took in 2017. The votes of the most ardent British nationalists.

Although she has yet to be formally crowned by the British media, Swinson is the de facto ‘Queen of the BritNats’ and, as such, she must be as fervently opposed to a new independence referendum as her lately de-pedestalled predecessor. To avoid the accusations of hypocrisy and double-standards which inevitably follow from supporting a new referendum on EU membership whilst opposing a new referendum on restoring Scotland’s independence, Swinson has hit on the brilliantly simple tactic of omitting any mention of official Liberal Democrat policy on the former in the hope that nobody will contrast it with her opposition to the latter.

But then, we all do that, don’t we? We try to conceal or minimise inconvenient truths. I’m guilty myself. Look at how I’ve avoided alluding to the discomfiting hypocrisy of the SNP criticising Swinson for prioritising ‘Tory Brexit’ over Scotland’s cause.



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Realism and honesty

When I saw the headline Nicola Sturgeon lists demands to Jeremy Corbyn the first word to pop into my head was ‘why’. Why is Nicola Sturgeon making demands of the leader of the British Labour Party? He has no power to deliver on any of those demands. More to the point, he is very unlikely ever to have such power. Recent polling indicates the most likely outcome of the UK general election is a Conservative majority government at Westminster. The British Labour vote looks a lot more like “crumbling” than the British political elite’s determination to prevent a new independence referendum.

The polls can be wrong, of course. But even supposing British Labour did pull of an electoral miracle, the reality is any minority British Labour government that wanted to deliver any of its policies and sustain itself in government would do anything rather than rely on the support of the SNP. The imperative to preserve the Union transcends ideological differences and partisan rivalries that are, in any case, mostly theatrical. We know as a matter of absolute fact that the British parties will collude to thwart Scotland’s independence movement. We know this because they have done so in the recent past.

In theory, the SNP would have “significant influence and significant power” over a minority British Labour government. In practice, even the Tories would contrive to come to their aid if this was what was required to protect their “precious” Union. And the same is true of the Liberal Democrats – who may also have “significant influence and significant power” in the event of a minority government under Jeremy Corbyn.

Nicola Sturgeon observes that,

Jeremy Corbyn is somebody who supports self-determination for literally every other country in the world, it would be quite strange if he didn’t support it for Scotland.

No it wouldn’t! It wouldn’t be strange at all. In the context of British politics, duplicity, hypocrisy and mendacity are perfectly normal. It’s what we expect.

The British Labour Party has been as slippery on the matter of a new independence referendum as on many other issues. Nicola Sturgeon chooses to see this vacillation as opposition to a new referendum “crumbling before our eyes”. But it is at least as likely to be nothing more than reluctance to be as explicit about such opposition as the other British parties. A feeble effort to find a distinct position on the issue. A forlorn attempt to appeal to independence supporting traditional British Labour voters in Scotland whilst avoiding heaping further humiliation on the local chap up there – what’s his name? – Richard something?

But why are we even talking about deals with British Labour when, if the polls are anything like accurate, Nicola Sturgeon will be facing a triumphant Boris Johnson on 13 December? What is her thinking about that scenario?

… this election is a great opportunity for us to show Boris Johnson exactly what we think of such a contemptuous and disrespectful attitude towards Scottish democracy.

Undoubtedly, it is. And undoubtedly we should. We most assuredly must use this election to demonstrate our rejection of imposed British governments and our determination to defend Scotland’s democracy. But let us not be under any illusions! If Boris Johnson – and British politicians in general – are as contemptuous of Scottish democracy as Nicola Sturgeon says, why would they be at all concerned about any message the people of Scotland send via the ballot box?

Nicola Sturgeon says,

… the position Boris Johnson articulated yesterday is not a sensible, serious or sustainable position – that he will block Scottish democracy forever and a day.

As with the comment about Jeremy Corbyn’s support for self-determination above, this fails to recognise the nature of British politics. A position doesn’t have to be “sensible” or “serious” to be totally “sustainable” in the context of British politics. Look at the Mad Brexiteers! If ever there was a position that defied logic and rationality it is the determination to take the UK out of the EU in the absence of any compelling reason; any viable plan; and any credible alternative. For all the self-evident insanity of Brexit, it is happening. An insane position has proven to be perfectly sustainable.

Boris Johnson is not going to back down in the face of Scottish public opinion. There is no reason why he would. The polls suggest a majority approaching 100. With such a majority, he can pretty much do as he pleases. He may well contrive a no-deal Brexit. He will certainly dismiss Nicola Sturgeon’s demand for a Section 30 order.

Nicola Sturgeon notes that,

Nothing Boris Johnson has said in his short time as Prime Minister has turned out to be the case, so perhaps that should give us all hope for the future.

I note that, despite what must be the most disastrous premiership ever, Boris Johnson is still there. The malicious child-clown hasn’t been harmed at all by all those defeats in the House of Commons and the courts. He has come unscathed through numerous scandals. He lies with total impunity. So perhaps that should bid us despair for the future.

This is not intended as an attack on Nicola Sturgeon. Although it will inevitably be portrayed as such by those who have nothing more meaningful to say. All I’m doing is attempting to inject a bit of political reality into the discourse. And, maybe, a bit of honesty into the election campaign.

Asked if she would compromise on the timing of the new independence referendum in order to strike a deal with the British Labour minority government that almost certainly isn’t going to be more than hypothetical, Nicola Sturgeon responded saying that the timescale is “not for Westminster politicians to determine”. The reality is that the Section 30 process to which she has committed means that Westminster politicians can determine the timescale. Committing to the Section 30 process puts that power in the hands of those Westminster politicians. They can drag out negotiations on Edinburgh Agreement 2 for as long as they wish. And even as those negotiations are laboriously conducted, they can implement all manner of measures to hinder or prevent the referendum.

That is the reality. And I see no reason why we should not be honest about it. All it does is prove, as if further proof were needed, that the Union is disastrously detrimental to Scotland. It makes voting for the SNP in this election even more clearly an absolute imperative. Because, bad as the reality may be with a massive vote for the SNP, it will be many times worse without it.

By voting SNP in this UK general election and sending 50+ SNP MPs to Westminster, we at least keep our options open. When reality hits and the fantasy of British goodwill, good grace and good faith evaporates, only such an expression of our determination to defend Scotland’s democracy will sustain Scotland’s cause. It may seem horribly ironic, but is only by voting SNP that we can be prepared for whatever happens when the Section 30 process fails.



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Who do we trust?

So, Patrick Harvie thinks it’s a good idea for the Scottish Government to trust the British Electoral Commission. But Patrick Harvie also thinks it a wizard wheeze to stand candidates in constituencies such as Perth & North Perthshire where the SNP’s Pete Wishart is defending a majority of less than two dozen votes. All things considered, I’m not inclined to put much faith in Mr Harvie’s judgement.

That is not to say that the British Electoral Commission is untrustworthy. It is only to say that it may not be entirely wise to take Patrick Harvie’s word for it. We should make our own assessment based on what we know, or can learn, about the British Electoral Commission and how it operates.

On paper, the British Electoral Commission looks to be sound. The organisation, which was set up in 2000, describes itself as

“The independent body which oversees elections and regulates political finance in the UK. We work to promote public confidence in the democratic process and ensure its integrity.”

A trawl through the British Electoral Commission’s website is very reassuring. If one takes everything at face value. The way commissioners are appointed, the decision-making processes, the expertise all appear totally satisfactory. One might be impressed by the fact that there is a dedicated commissioner for Scotland (and Wales) and, as the third largest party in the House of Commons, the SNP gets to nominate a commissioner. On the face of it, there seems no reason to disagree with Patrick Harvie’s assessment.

But there’s another organisation which, on paper, looks every bit as independent, fair and impartial – the BBC. And we all know how different the reality is from slick presentation.

But it’s not actually about trust. Whether or not the Scottish electorate can have confidence in the British Electoral Commission is not the point. It is a question of appropriateness. Regardless of whether or not we consider the British Electoral Commission trustworthy, we have to ask whether it is appropriate for an agency of the British state to have oversight of a referendum in which the people of Scotland exercise their right of self-determination. We have to wonder about the propriety of an agency of the British state having significant authority over a referendum in which the British state itself has a massive stake.

Much fuss is made about ensuring that the new independence referendum is ‘legal and constitutional’ in order that there should be no impediment to Scotland gaining international recognition once the nation’s independence is restored. We hear rather less about the fact that what the international community is most concerned about is that the process by which independence is restored should be impeccably democratic. Nor do we hear very much about how important it is that the people of Scotland have total confidence in the process.

We are entitled to question whether the democratic validity of Scotland’s referendum – actual and perceived – is served by the involvement of the British Electoral Commission. Or whether this is likely to be regarded as external interference such as would tend to undermine the democratic legitimacy of the referendum in the eyes of the international community and the Scottish electorate.

Ask yourself this, would you trust the BBC with a formal role in the referendum process? Would you think it appropriate?



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Don’t arm Goliath!

It is easy to understand why Nicola Sturgeon talks about opposition to a new referendum “crumbling”. We are in a UK general election campaign. She has promised to put independence at the heart of the SNP’s effort in this campaign. It is entirely fitting and proper that she should be talking up the potential to advance the fight to restore Scotland’s independence by voting SNP and returning as many SNP MPs as possible. It is only to be expected that she will seek to promote the idea that the the British political elite’s determination to prevent a new independence referendum will “crumble” in the face of the “irresistible” demonstration of the democratic will of the Scottish people that a massive vote for the SNP would represent. Nicola Sturgeon’s rousing rhetoric is absolutely fine. Just so long as she doesn’t entirely believe it herself.

Let’s be clear about one thing – everybody who cares about Scotland is bound by their conscience to vote for their SNP candidate in this election. Scotland’s constitutional claim has, for some years now, been the dominant issue in Scottish politics. But, not since the 2014 referendum has the divide between the two sides in the independence debate been so starkly presented as the issue on which the people of Scotland are voting. All other issues are subsidiary to the constitutional question because all other issues crucially depend on whether the power to decide resides with the people of Scotland or with the British ruling elites.

Assuming you agree that Scotland’s future should be in the hands of Scotland’s people rather than the fumbling paws of British politicians such as Boris Johnson, you must vote SNP. Voting for any of the British parties in Scotland should be unthinkable for anyone who values the fundamental principle of popular sovereignty. If you maintain that the people of Scotland are sovereign, then to vote for any of the British parties is to vote against your own conscience. And to vote against basic good sense.

This election will not decide the independence issue. Nor even the issue of a new referendum. Sending as many as 59 SNP MPs to Westminster will not precipitate a crumbling of the British state’s determination to preserve the Union. This election is not about securing yet another mandate for a new referendum. It is about denying the British political elite a mandate to block a referendum and to proceed with the British Nationalist project to reimpose direct rule from London via the apparatus of the ‘UK Government in Scotland.

No demonstration of the democratic will of Scotland’s people can be sufficient to overcome the British political elite’s resistance to the restoration of Scotland’s independence. The imperative to preserve the Union is too compelling. Even if the SNP took all 59 seats and more than 50% of the vote in a high turnout, the British government and the British parties would refuse to acknowledge this as a valid expression of demand for a new referendum. There will be no buckling. There will be no crumbling of their resolve. For the British state, the imperative to preserve the Union is existential.

For Scotland, the imperative to dissolve the Union is existential. That is why anyone who cares about Scotland must vote SNP in this election. It is not so much about battering down resistance to the people of Scotland exercising their right of self-determination as it is about denying the British political elite a mandate to prevent us exercising that right. Because anything short of a massive victory for the SNP will be deemed such a mandate. Anything less than a landslide for the SNP will be interpreted as affording the British state a licence to do as it will with Scotland – just like the No vote in the 2014 referendum.

Power is finite and relative. Due to the grotesque asymmetry of the Union, voting SNP in huge numbers and sending 50+ SNP MPs to Westminster may not greatly empower Scotland. But failure to do so disproportionately increases the power of the British state over Scotland. Power that will certainly be deployed to Scotland’s severe detriment.

Nicola Sturgeon has chosen to focus on the importance of voting SNP because of what this might achieve. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s a positive and honest message. Only SNP MPs put Scotland’s interests above all else. So it stands to reason that the more SNP MPs there are, the better Scotland’s interests will be represented. But the Union means that Scotland’s interests can never be adequately represented no matter how many SNP MPs go to Westminster. But the First Minister could just as honestly and accurately have stressed the need to elect as many SNP MP’s as possible, not for what they might achieve, but for what they will prevent.

Given her preference for a positive message, it is only natural that Nicola Sturgeon will choose to run with the line that voting SNP will provide the David of the independence movement with the sling that brings down the Goliath of the British state. She leaves it to others to point out that the most important thing about voting SNP is that it avoids giving Goliath a mighty club with which to demolish all that Scotland holds dear – and all that we aspire to.



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And another thing

It would have been good to set aside the debate about the Section 30 process for the duration of the election campaign. But that is rather difficult to do when independence is, at least nominally, at the heart of the SNP campaign, and while Nicola Sturgeon continues to talk and Tweet on the topic. Every mention of the Section 30 process serves to remind us of the concerns that have never been addressed and the questions which remain unanswered.

Mention of the Section 30 process can also prompt fresh thinking about it – at least in minds that are not already closed to any thinking at all. When I wrote the original material for the iScot Magazine article. Section 30 is not Scotland’s salvation, I said nothing of my worry that too strong a commitment to this process would rule out other options. In part this was because, at the time the material was written, the First Minister had not yet, to my knowledge, described the Section 30 process as the only ‘legal and constitutional’ way to hold a referendum. I only became fully aware of this new language at the SNP Conference in October when it seemed to be the mot du jour for all SNP ministers, elected representatives and spokespeople.

With this change in language, my worst fears were realised. Not only had the SNP leadership committed to a process which is questionable at best, they had effectively declared any and all possible alternatives ‘illegal and unconstitutional’. Such squandering of options I find incomprehensible. Especially so as there was absolutely no need to do it. The Section 30 process could have been presented as the preferred option. Instead, it has been pronounced the only option. Nobody has yet explained why.

Another thought concerning the Section 30 process occurred to me just recently. Which only proves that, no matter how long and hard you’ve thought about a matter, it’s always possible that there will be something you hadn’t considered. No subject should ever be closed. Your mind should always be open to new thinking on a topic. You’re never done thinking things through. There is always another question to be asked.

Just such a question occurred to me when I was reading some things Nicola Sturgeon had said about refusing her ‘demand’ for a Section 30 order being undemocratic. My habit and practice with any statement from a politician is to figure out where they are trying to point you, and look elsewhere. In this instance, it was obvious that the words were intended to direct us to ponder the democratic legitimacy of a British Prime Minister blocking a referendum for which there is evident public demand and an incontestable mandate. Instead, I chose to reflect on Nicola Sturgeon’s ‘demand’ and the nature of the authority behind it. A question quickly formed in my mind.

What is the difference between the power to demand a Section 30 order and the power to demand recognition of a referendum?

If the First Minister can claim that the mandate she has from the Scottish people and the Scottish Parliament is sufficient authority to demand a Section 30 order and to render refusal of that demand a breach of fundamental democratic principles, why can’t that same authority be sufficient to demand recognition of referendum regardless of a Section 30 order?

It’s the same authority in both cases. The democratic principles and political reality which justify and give weight to the demand for a Section 30 order are precisely the same as the democratic principles and political reality which justify and give weight to the demand that a referendum be recognised.

Where there is both an electoral and a Parliamentary mandate together with significant public demand, a Section 30 order is redundant. Under these circumstances, on condition only that the vote is impeccably democratic, recognition of the referendum’s legitimacy is every bit as obligatory as the granting of a Section 30 order.

It seems that the more one examines the Section 30 process the less satisfactory it becomes. Concerns keep growing even as they are pointedly ignored.



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Wishful thinking

I read Nicola Sturgeon’s Tweet yesterday in which she wonders, with evident scepticism, whether the British media might subject Boris Johnson’s position on a new independence referendum to “serious scrutiny”, and into my head popped that Lerner and Loewe song from the musical My Fair Lady in which the heroine of the piece reflects wistfully on the simple things that would make her life perfect. In my head, and totally without the aid of Spotify or any other music streaming service, I could hear Julie Andrews singing “Wouldn’t it be loverly!” in an accent betokening origins well outside artillery range of Bow Bells.

If memory serves, Eliza Doolittle eventually realised her heart’s desire for a comfy chair, a coal fire and a secure supply of confectionery. I fear Nicola Sturgeon may be asking for far too much if she hopes the British media might ask awkward questions of British politicians. Particularly in the matter of the Union and Scotland’s status within the UK, the British media defer totally to the British establishment. There is more chance of a porcine fly-past to mark Donald Trump’s Nobel Peace Prize than of the British media subjecting Boris Johnson’s stand against a new independence referendum to any serious examination. It’s just not what they do.

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Why don’t they do it? Why don’t they interrogate Boris Johnson about the democratic legitimacy of denying Scotland’s right of self determination? After all, it would make great theatre, wouldn’t it? Putting the British Prime Minister on the spot would surely get the kind of unrehearsed reaction that tends to go viral on social media. So, why does this so rarely happen?

The simple explanation – and, therefore, the explanation likely to be the least satisfying – is ‘bias’. That the British media is, generally, pro-Union is doubtless the case. But this is both unsurprising and inadequate to explain why media professionals don’t do what they might be expected to do. It doesn’t explain why journalists so consistently fail to follow journalistic instincts. It doesn’t explain why they so rarely ask the obvious questions. It doesn’t explain why they almost never succumb to the urge to create a spectacle. Is that not the business they’re in?

I’m sure many (most?) journalists would insist that they are not in the business of creating spectacle. I am confident they’d insist that their profession is the noble one of informing the public; discovering and disseminating the facts; speaking truth unto power, or whatever. But that only leaves us wondering why so little of this noble professionalism (or professional nobility?) manifests itself when these champions of the public’s right to know confront British politicians who take highly dubious positions with regard to Scotland’s right of self-determination.

We know what the role of political journalism is supposed to be. Ideally, it contributes to the electorate’s capacity to make informed choices. By providing accurate information and insightful analysis, political journalists help to ensure that political power is, as far as possible, exercised only with the informed consent of the people.

Aye, right! I hear you scoff. And with considerable justification. With exceptions notable for their rarity as much as for their integrity, political journalists are now regarded, less as a resource which interprets political messages for the purpose of improving public understanding, and more as a conduit by which the powerful insinuate their messages into the public consciousness.

There is no one simple explanation as to why interviewers don’t challenge the likes of Boris Johnson when they talk about ‘not allowing’ the people of Scotland to have a referendum. Or when they spout patent nonsense such as the stuff about a ‘once in a generation’ event. High on that list of explanations is the likelihood that it just doesn’t occur to the interviewer, or their bosses, to question any of this. It’s not so much that they are purposefully letting Johnson off the hook, as the fact that they are not even aware that there is a hook.

There is a famous incident in which TV political pundit Andrew Marr says to Noam Chomsky, “Do you think I’m censoring myself now?” and Chomsky retorts, “No, you don’t need to. Otherwise you wouldn’t be sitting in that chair.”

The journalists who get to a position where they have access to senior politicians only get to that position after a career spent immersed in exactly the same culture as those senior politicians. These journalists may not be ideologically aligned with the politicians they interview, but they think alike in ways that run far deeper than political philosophies which are, in any case, only superficially different. Whether they are on the left or on the right they are on a spectrum entirely confined within a shared space of Britishness. A space defined by common perspectives and attitudes which transcend mere political roles. And mere roles within the same British establishment.

The cosy consensus of Westminster-centric British political journalism sits comfortably with the cosy consensus of Westminster-centric British politics. Comfortably enough that it simply doesn’t occur to British political journalists to question an established order in which Westminster is superior in all regards and at all times.

In major news gathering and disseminating organisations such as the BBC, there are people whose role it is to ensure that the awkward questions do get asked. Managers whose task it is to prevent the people at the sharp end falling into bad habits. In any large organisation, the most important thing senior managers have to do is prevent the organisation coming to serve itself rather than the purpose for which it was created. But news and current affairs media in the UK are dominated by organisations where the management has failed in this regard. These organisations’ relationship with news has altered dramatically.

It used to be that news was ‘out there’ waiting to be found. Or, at the very least, waiting to fetched. The role of the news organisation was to go out and get the news. Collect it, if it was just there to be collected. Uncover it, if it was being concealed. Hunt it down, if it was elusive. The job involved bringing news into the organisation so that it could be processed – mediated – for presentation to the public in a comprehensible form.

Now, to a disturbing extent, these organisation have changed from being the mediators of news to being assembly plants for propaganda. News is no longer harvested from the world by highly skilled people. Parcels of pre-processed news are delivered to the news organisation for assembly, packaging and onward transmission to the masses in as unmediated a form as possible. Print and broadcast news and current affairs is no longer created from ingredients like a fine meal, it is bolted together from pre-formed components. The highly skilled people no longer work for the news organisations. They work for the organisations which supply the pre-formed components.

Attributing the grotesquely distorted news and current affairs coverage we get in Scotland to ‘bias’ doesn’t describe the situation at all. In relation to individual journalists, the term ‘bias’ implies a tendency to favour one perspective over another. It can hardly be described as bias if the people involved aren’t even meaningfully aware that there is more than one perspective. Even if they are aware of other perspectives – or the possibility of other perspectives – the journalist can only work with the material they are given. And they are at the public-facing end of a production line which only outputs the news which can be put together using the components supplied.

Asking a journalist to scrutinise Boris Johnson’s position on a new independence referendum may go beyond mere wishful thinking. It may be an impossible dream. Which reminds of of another song.



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Reports of “buckling” greatly exaggerated

With all due respect to Ian Blackford, he is talking patent nonsense. There is absolutely no indication that “the Westminster parties are buckling under the pressure”. None! They are not “buckling” because there is no “pressure”. Not, at least, of the sort that they might be impacted by.

He says it himself. He refers to a “democratically unsustainable position”. By definition, this supposes that what renders the position “unsustainable” is respect for democratic principles. Until Ian Blackford can show evidence of such respect, his claim that the position is unsustainable entirely lacks credibility.

As does his analysis of the election campaign. Mr Blackford opines that the Tories’ denial of Scotland’s right of self-determination will “go down like a bucket of cold sick on Scotland’s doorsteps”, and that is true for many doorsteps. But the ‘Scottish Tories’ won 13 seats in 2017 by the simple expedient of portraying themselves as the party of the Union. With the active collusion of the mainstream media, they elevated a nonentity called Ruth Davidson to the status of ‘Queen of the British Nationalists’ and hoovered up the bulk of the hard-line Unionist votes from across all the British parties in Scotland.

The Queen may be politically dead, but those hard-line Unionist votes are still there. And the “Scottish Tories” know that those votes are theirs for the asking. In fact, they barely even have to ask. British Labour in Scotland is in no position to compete for them. The LibDems are benefiting from the BBC’s obsession with Swinson. But it is doubtful if that might be enough to overcome the inertia which will keep Unionist crosses in “Scottish Tory” boxes.

The Tories’ denial of Scotland’s right of self-determination will NOT “go down like a bucket of cold sick” on the only doorsteps that matter to them. On Unionist doorsteps, it will be lapped up the way Winnie The Pooh guzzles honey. In this election, the British parties in Scotland – and particularly the Tories – don’t have to win, they only have to avoid losing too badly.

It is absolutely crucial to Scotland and to the independence campaign that the SNP take as many seats as possible in the coming UK general election. That requires that the campaign be informed by a realistic appreciation of the situation. It also means the party must be honest with its supporters, the Yes movement and the electorate. Rather than regaling them with triumphalist rhetoric about the Westminster parties “buckling”, tell them the truth – that the opposition is as strong as it ever was and that the threat to Scotland is more real and imminent than it has ever been.

The challenge facing the SNP and the Yes movement in this election is huge. The task of targeting all of Scotland’s 59 Westminster constituencies is unprecedented in scale and ambition. Don’t let politicians carried away with the sound of their own voices persuade you otherwise.

Borrowing the words of Canadian author, Dennis Leigh, Scotland’s own Alasdair Gray urged us to “Work as if you live in the early days of a better nation!”. In this election we must work like we might otherwise find ourselves in the worst, and perhaps the final, days of our nation.



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