Being odd

I attended an event yesterday (Sunday 29 September) organised by Yes Edinburgh & Lothian. Called ‘The Big Grassroots Conversation’, the even took the form of a number of workshops on various aspects of the independence cause and campaign followed by a Q&A session with a panel answering – or, at least, responding to – questions arising from the earlier workshops.

The following does not purport to be a factual account of proceedings. Neither, however, is it a misleading account. None of it is untrue. Most of it concerns my impressions of and reactions to what I saw and heard. I mention no individuals by name and do not attribute any comments to anyone other than those which may be attributed to myself.

If anybody who attended the event is reading this and recognises any of the attitudes and opinions to which I refer and is overcome by the urge to defend those attitudes and opinions, that is entirely a matter for them. I would say only that they might want to have a wee think first about what it is they are claiming ownership of.

Because I often use the writing process as a way of sorting and clarifying my own thoughts, brevity is not always my first priority. Readability, however, is something I strive for. To that end, I try to limit myself lest following the meanderings should become more trouble than it’s worth. In this instance, I intend to restrict my comments to three areas – the referendum campaign; the referendum process; and what it is all for.


I came away from the ‘Big Grassroots Conversation’ with the clear impression that the consensus within the independence movement is that the campaign should be conducted exactly as for the 2014 referendum. There is much talk of doing things differently. But probe what is being proposed and you find that it is no different from what was done previously. There is an acceptance, of a sort, that the 2014 Yes campaign was in some way defective or deficient. Not massively so. But there’s as sense that people realise it didn’t quite work. I don’t mean simply in terms of the end result, although the campaign obviously didn’t work well enough to secure a Yes vote. What I sense is more a vague unease about the strategy. Too vague and insubstantial to overcome a deep reluctance to consider the lessons that might be learned from a rigorous and honest analysis of the entire campaign – both sides.

I have previously dismissed claims that there was no ‘post mortem’ conducted on the 2014. campaign. I pointed out that there had, in fact, been interminable discussion of the way the campaign was conducted. What I came to realise, however, was that this discussion was almost entirely superficial. In many – perhaps most – cases it was more about rationalising the choices that were made rather than learning the lessons of bad choices.

I am not pointing any fingers here. The shallowness of analysis was a general trait across both the formal (political organisation) side of the Yes campaign and the informal (grassroot movement) side. No lessons were learned by anybody. I recognise that this is a generalisation, but it is one that I feel justified in making because of the evidence of my own experience at events such as ‘The Big Grassroots Conversation’ and in all my observations online and elsewhere. No lessons have been learned and the result is that the Yes campaign will be conducted precisely as previously – but maybe with a bit more polish. Nothing will be done differently in any meaningful way. So, whatever defects and deficiencies there were in the 2014 campaign, those defects and deficiencies will be replicated.

This may not lead to the same outcome. We start with support for independence at a far higher level than was the case prior to the 2014 campaign. And the political environment has changed beyond recognitions. These two facts alone suggest to me that a different approach is required. But nobody seems in the slightest bit interested in even considering a rethink. I guess rethinking is just too hard.

By way of illustrating my point, I want to recount a couple of things I observed at ‘The Big Grassroots Conversation’. I listened to people go on at length about how awful and alien the UK has become. I don’t think that comment requires any further explanation. Unless you’ve spent the last five years with your head firmly ensconced in your lower colon, you’ll know exactly what is meant.

What was curious, however, is that none of this often bitterly vehement condemnation of the British state fed into accounts of the preferred Yes campaign strategy. People would rail against everything that is happening in the UK and everything that is in prospect, but when it came to talking about the Yes campaign it was all back to ‘the positive case for independence’. It was like hearing people say, “Here is this massively powerful weapon we have! And here is how we’re going to avoid deploying it!”.

I also saw lots of people crowding around the table where reframing was being discussed. I heard, and continuously hear, Yes activists talking about the importance of reframing. Usually just before they offer some comment or ask a question which puts them at some astronomical distance from the entire concept of reframing. I hear people extoll the potential of reframing the arguments then immediate ask how we should answer the question of what currency Scotland will use. And I want to scream. Because no lessons have been learned.

But that’s because I’m odd.

I’m odd in that I analysed the 2014 campaign differently. I learned important lessons. I came to different conclusions. The very opposite conclusions, in fact. I don’t for one moment suppose that I was the only one to do so. But I can only speak for myself. If others learned the same lessons and came to similar conclusions as myself, I happily acknowledge that they too are odd. Like me, they are the exception to a very general rule. We are a tiny minority. I strongly suspect that each of us feels like a minority of one. A lone voice forlornly trying to make a dent in the armoured certainty of the masses. And increasingly wondering whether it is all worth it.


The issue of the process by which we get to a new constitutional referendum and then conduct it was little discussed at ‘The Big Grassroots Conversation’. at least, not in my hearing. It didn’t come up at all in the Q&A and I was unable to engage anybody in discussion on this topic. Which is not to say they were avoiding such discussion. But it did strike me as strange that something which is such a hot topic elsewhere should be so pointedly off the agenda. As I said at the outset, this may be no more than a personal impression.

The one occasion that I did hear the Section 30 process mentioned is likely to stay with me for some time. I heard the words ‘gold standard’, and cringed just as I always do when I hear such an obviously unworthy and untenable process described in such terms. But the jaw-dropping moment was when I was offered the bland assurance that continued denial of a Section 30 order by the British political elite was ‘unsustainable’.

Unsustainable!? No word about what prevents it from being sustained. No indication of when the evident sustainability would end, or how. Just believe that it is ‘unsustainable’. What a remarkable rationalisation that is for political folly! The demeaning, undignified, sovereignty-denying strategy of requesting a Section 30 order hasn’t worked up until now and shows no sign whatever of working at any point in the foreseeable future, but rest assure there will come a point sometime in the future when it will become ‘unsustainable’, so just put up with being demeaned and having you dignity trashed and your sovereignty compromised until then.

What could make the refusal of a Section 30 order ‘unsustainable’? What conceivable consequences could there be for the British establishment which would force the conclusion that they could no longer persist in refusing to ‘allow’ a new constitutional referendum?

What kind of persistence on the part of the Scottish Government might wear down the resistance of the British state? Will this resistance become unsustainable after five requests? Or ten? Or fifty? Will it be a matter of time? Will the denial of a Section 30 order become ‘unsustainable’ after a further year of waiting? Or five years? Or fifty?

Why would something become unsustainable when there is no cost? It costs the British Prime Minister nothing to say “Now is not the time!”. There is no effort involved. Every British Prime Minister for the next fifty years could repeat that phrase on a daily basis and it would be no more problematic for them at the 15,000th iteration than at the first. So how the hell does it become ‘unsustainable’?

Loss of democratic credibility? Is that it? Is refusal of a Section 30 order going to become ‘unsustainable’ because the British Prime Minister loses democratic credibility as a result? If that was a concern, would it not have been so from the outset? Does the British political elite look to anyone as if it gives a shit about democratic credibility or democratic legitimacy or democratic principles? I simply do not understand how refusal of a Section 30 order could become ‘unsustainable’. Or why anybody would believe it might. Although I can all too easily comprehend why politicians might make such a facile, vacuous claim.

But that’s because I’m odd.

I’m odd because I ask all these questions. Although I’m not quite so odd as to expect sensible answers. Most people don’t ask any questions at all. The individual trying to rationalise the Scottish Government’s commitment to the abominable Section 30 process uses the word ‘unsustainable’ because they know that their audience’s instinct is to agree. To the people in that audience, refusing a Section 30 order already is ‘unsustainable’. It is ‘unsustainable’ by their standards and from their perspective. They are primed to accept that it is ‘unsustainable’, so they won’t ask awkward questions. Unless they’re odd.

Being odd, they will immediately realise that the British state’s standards are not their standards. Being odd, it will occur to them that the perspective of the British political elite is hardly likely to match their own. Being odd, they will hear the claim that denial of a Section 30 order is ‘unsustainable’ and instantly recognise it for what it is – a pile of pish!

The commitment to the Section 30 process is part of the same phenomenon by which people are immovably persuaded the 2014 campaign strategy remains valid and relevant despite the defects and deficiencies and despite the drastically altered circumstances. Everything has changed. But the campaign strategy must not change. If you don’t get the logic of that, it may mean that you are as odd as me. Rejoice!

Ends and means

I’m not sure what term to use to describe what happened after I attended ‘The Big Grassroots Conversation’. Epiphany? Revelation? Realisation? Aye. That. I think realisation is the word. I realised just how odd I am.

It wasn’t just ‘The Big Grassroots Conversation’, of course. It’s just that this was where it happened. It may be what triggered it. The things I heard may have been the prompt for a realisation that had been coming anyway. The circumstances were just right. This may be due to the fact that the Yes Edinburgh & Lothians group invited and attracted such a representative swathe of the independence movement to their event. For which the organisers are to be congratulated. Part of my perception – a very large part and a very strong impression – was that I was listening to the voice of the independence movement in the Nelson Community Halls. As you will have gathered from the foregoing, I was not entirely enamoured of what I heard that voice saying.

Sitting in that hall listening to the voice of Scotland’s independence movement, I realised that I was alone in regarding the Union as an injustice. I was alone in regarding the ending of that injustice as a worthwhile thing in its own right. I was alone in regarding independence as an end in itself because it eliminates a grotesque injustice. I am, it seems, the only person who sees Scotland’s cause in this light.

But that’s because I’m odd.

I should stress again that this was a personal impression. A feeling, if you like. There may have been others in that room who felt the same as myself. I can say only that I saw no evidence of this. There are all but certainly others in the independence movement who share my perspective. But, again, we are a tiny minority. And each one who feels as I do will also feel as alone as I do. As odd.

Is injustice a matter of social consensus? Can an injustice be said to exist if only one person identifies it as such while others simply accept it as the ‘natural order’? If consensus is required, at what point does it kick in? If two people see an injustice and feel its impact – even if others are blithely unaware of it or inured to its effects – does that make it valid as an injustice? If not two, then how many?

Or is injustice an absolute? Do injustices differ only in terms of their impact on people? Is the injustice of slavery the same, in essence, as an injustice that isn’t even noticed or identified as such by the vast majority of people?

Is the elimination of an injustice an end in itself? If it is, then eliminating a relatively trivial injustice must be as much of a moral and ethical imperative as ending an injustice such as slavery. Eliminating injustice must be worthwhile in any instance or circumstances. That is my view. But I am odd.

Of course, an objective being its own end does not preclude it being also the means to other ends. Eliminating the injustice of girls being denied education is an end, not the end. Much else can surely flow from eliminating this injustice. But we would not demand that certain specified things must flow from it as a condition of righting the wrong of denying girls an education.

Thinking as I do, I would never have campaigned to give women the vote, had I been around at that time. I would have campaigned against the vote being withheld from women. I would have campaigned to end the injustice of women being excluded from the franchise. I would have demanded an end to this injustice. And I would have regarded the ending of the injustice as a worthwhile thing in itself. I would not, for example have qualified my demand by insisting on a guarantee that there would never be a Margaret Thatcher as a consequence of enfranchising women.

I was quite taken aback by the vehemence with which the idea of independence as and end in itself was rejected by the independence movement as represented at ‘The Big Grassroots Conversation’. Not that I hadn’t encountered this before. Only that circumstances conspired to bring home to me in a new and forceful way just how much of an oddball I am within the independence ‘family’. Naturally, I wondered why what seemed uncontroversial to me aroused such ire in others.

This essay was never intended to be an exercise in blame or condemnation. That’s why I have chosen to avoid names and other identifiers. But I have long been aware that ‘independence’ is regarded by some as little more than a convenient device by which to market their own ideology and policy agendas. It seems to me that those who reject the idea of independence as an end are motivated by a fear that to acknowledge this would risk their agendas being relegated.

Or it could just be that they genuinely don’t see the Union as being an injustice and, therefore, that they cannot see independence as an end in itself as well as the means to their own ends.

I hold the Union to be a grave and ongoing injustice imposed on the nation and perpetrated upon the people of Scotland. I maintain that the remedying of this injustice is Scotland’s cause, and an entirely worthy aim in its own right – just as is the righting of any wrong and the elimination of any injustice.

What I have now realised is that I am alone in perceiving Scotland’s cause in this way. Or, if not alone, then one among relatively very few. This realisation has quite drastically altered my perspective on the independence movement and my role in it. I have been in the company of people who represent the breadth of the independence movement, and I have felt that I didn’t belong.

I felt that their cause is not my cause. Their motivations are not my motivations. Our aims are only superficially similar. I am now aware of being on the outside looking in. I find that very unsettling.

I was content with being odd. I was resigned to being ineffectual. I’m not sure I can cope well with being irrelevant.

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Why? The ‘King of Questions’! We surely all can agree on the necessity of a good reason for any course of action.When assessing any proposal the first question asked has to be ‘Why?’. There is little point in proceeding to the ‘How?’, ‘When?’, ‘Where?’, ‘What if?’, ‘What then?’ etc. until and unless it has been determined that there is sufficient cause to be doing a particular thing. Although some preliminary consideration of the last of these – ‘What then?’ – may be involved in answering the question, ‘Why?’.

Why remove Boris Johnson? I mean, apart from the fact that he is a thoroughly odious individual. I find all British Prime Ministers objectionable. It is only a matter of degree. Johnson may be a particularly unpleasant example of the breed, but he is the product of the British political system. There seems no reason to suppose that the same system will produce something markedly better. Remove Johnson and all we get is a different kind of objectionable.

So, why remove Boris Johnson from his present position? For the satisfaction of humiliating him, perhaps? That does seem a bit petty. And does anybody who has observed Johnson over the last few years get the impression that he has any capacity for embarrassment? Might we reasonably expect that being thwarted in his ambitions would leave him feeling humiliated? Angry? Yes! Indignant? Certainly! A deep sense of injustice at being denied that to which he is entitled and feelings of contempt for those who have failed to discern his greatness? Absolutely! But humiliation? I don’t think there would be any room for that.

No departing tears on the doorstep of No. 10 for the bold Boris! Barely controlled rage and barely coherent ranting would be the order of the day. Demented railing against the fools and knaves who brought about his downfall would be his parting shot. All rounded off with a Schwarzenegger-channelling “I’ll be back!” that would seem like a cheering promise or a chilling threat depending on the politics of the listener.

Why remove Boris Johnson? I guess that depends on what you hope to achieve. What you priorities are. I, for example, want Scotland’s Remain vote honoured and Scotland’s rightful constitutional status restored. So, I have to ask myself how these ends would be served by removing Boris Johnson. After some reflection, I have to conclude that they would not be served in any way at all.

Brexit is going to happen regardless of who is British Prime Minister. Nobody who might revoke Article 50 is in line for the job. Anybody who proposed to revoke Article 50 either won’t get the job and wouldn’t be able/allowed to stop Brexit if they did. So, removing Johnson cannot result in Scotland’s democratic will being treated with anything other than the total contempt shown by the British political elite to date. Removing Johnson changes nothing in that regard.

Would removing Johnson do anything to help me see Scotland’s independence restored? I don’t see how. It is not Boris Johnson alone that is determined to lock Scotland into the Union. It is the entire British establishment. Remove Boris Johnson and he will be replaced with another British Nationalist. Because all the candidates for British Prime Minister that there are now or ever could be are British Nationalists.

Removing Boris Johnson doesn’t serve my purposes at all. I get nothing out of it. Scotland gets nothing out of it. The imposition of Brexit goes ahead. The denial of our right of self-determination continues. The anti-democratic abomination of the Union remains.

So, why does Nicola Sturgeon want Johnson removed? Obviously, her priorities cannot be the same as mine. She cannot be seeking to achieve the same things as me. We’ve seen that this is a forlorn and foolish hope. Whatever else she may be, Ms Sturgeon is most assuredly not foolish.

From the First Minister’s own comments and those of an SNP spokesman, it seems that the ‘Why?’ of removing Johnson is to put in place a caretaker PM who will “secure an extension” to the already ludicrously protracted Brexit process and then call a UK general election. Which is where the ‘What then?’ query kicks in.

This is all very well if your priority is, not to have Scotland’s democratic choice respected, but to put off for a while longer the major deleterious impact of our Remain vote being ignored. And only if the 27 real EU nations agree. There being not the slightest reason why they should, as the only ‘deal’ on the table will be no more acceptable to the British parliament with a new Prime Minister than it was with the previous two.

Our First Minister’s concern appears to be to avoid Scotland being dragged out of the EU without some kind of ‘deal’ and maybe to get some kind of a ‘deal’ that isn’t a ‘bad deal’. Although she will be allowed no role in negotiating this ‘not a bad deal’ even supposing the EU deigns to reopen negotiations. There being not the slightest reason why they should, as there is no discernible possibility of a deal which will be acceptable to both the EU members states and British MPs – who want nothing less than that the EU should abandon its very core principles to accommodate Little England’s xenophobic prejudices.

The problem I have is that there is no ‘deal’ – good, bad or indifferent – which negates Scotland’s Remain vote. The First Minister and her colleagues have put considerable effort into telling me how a No Deal Brexit is unacceptable and how a Bad Deal Brexit is unacceptable, but I have heard no attempt to explain to me how any kind of Brexit can possibly be acceptable when Scotland voted so decisively to Remain part of the EU.

Taking it for granted that I will meekly accept British contempt for Scotland’s democracy, the First Minister’s other objective in removing Boris Johnson is to bring about a UK general election. That may happen. But it would happen even without removing Boris Johnson. He wants an election. He is, with good reason, confident that the Tories will win that election. Or, at least, be in a position to form a government with the help of others determined to “get Brexit done”. The electoral arithmetic is, to say the least, problematic. But it seems certain that the only way an election might resolve anything is by returning enough Mad Brexiteers for them to be in a position to thumb their noses at the sane people.

If there is some credible permutation of the electoral numbers which leads,directly or indirectly, to Scotland getting what we voted for in 2016, I have yet to see it. Or imagine it!

Why remove Johnson? Maybe, and it’s a very big maybe, to get an extension. Maybe to stop a No Deal Brexit. although that is always the default and so, ultimately, unavoidable unless something unimaginable intercedes. The SNP gets more MPs in the election. But to do what? It’s undoubtedly better to have as many as possible actual Scottish MPs from an actual Scottish party. But what can 56 oreven 59 do at Westminster that 35 can’t?

Perhaps they might be in a position to force the new Prime Minister to concede a Section 30 order. But that is a remote chance, at best, given the generalised dominance of anti-democratic British Nationalism in British politics. And, as anyone who has thought about the matter will be aware, getting a Section 30 order may be only the start of the problems. But this is what Nicola Sturgeon wants.

Why remove Boris Johnson? From my personal perspective as a Scottish nationalist, it serves no purpose at all. From the perspective of the First Minister it may allow her to sweeten the toxic pill of an imposed Brexit with some kind of ‘deal’. And it may allow her to pursue her stubborn commitment to the Section 30 process regardless of the potential consequences and the gross insult to the sovereignty of Scotland’s people.

Can somebody explain to me how this constitutes progress? Can somebody explain why I am supposed to get excited about the prospect of removing Boris Johnson? Can somebody explain what I, or Scotland, gets out of this exercise? Or is it all worth it so that the opposition parties can squabble over who gets to wear Boris’s considerable scalp on their belt?

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Quality matters

A simple spelling mistake can undermine the credibility of an infographic.

Credibility is a fragile thing. When somebody makes the assertion that “there are far more people in Scotland who aren’t on social media than are” they really should ensure they’ve got their facts right. Particularly if they are claiming to represent a group of ‘professionals’. And especially is they are asking Yes supporters to dip into their pockets yet again.

The most recent statistics discovered by a quick search are a few years old and for the UK as a whole. They indicate that the share of monthly active social network users was 58.38% of the population in 2015. It seems safe to assume that level of social media usage in Scotland was not massively lower than in the whole UK; and that social media has not declined in the past four years. So the assertion that “far more” people aren’t using social media than are is starting to look a bit dubious.

Bear in mind that I found this information after the most cursory of searches. Surely anyone making such a bold claim about a statistical fact would be expected to put somewhat greater effort into ensuring veracity and accuracy.

This is not a criticism of the idea itself, of course. Although, knowing the author of the article in the Sunday National as I do, my expectation must be that it will be portrayed as such. In fact, I think a multi-media informational campaign is an excellent idea – if it is properly executed. That is a crucial caveat.

People have certain expectations of what a ‘proper’ media presentation looks and sounds like. Fail to meet those expectations and your presentation is likely to be dismissed as an amateurish effort or, even worse, be turned against your campaign using mockery. I have had people argue that media presentations produced by or on behalf of the Yes movement should look a bit rough and ready so as to differentiate them from the ‘big boys’. While this may have been to some extent true in the early days of the 2014 campaign, it most assuredly is not so now. Even during that campaign there were those who recognised the importance of a professional approach.

If they are to have any hope of being effective, media presentations must match audience expectations in terms of production values. The Yes movement has come a long way in this regard. One need only look at the work being done by the likes of Broadcasting Scotland and Phantom Power to see how much progress has been made. The bar has been raised. Anybody entering this market must be able to clear that bar. If they are asking for cash, they better be able to demonstrate that they are at least making an effort to clear that bar.

The early indications for ‘It’s Time Scotland’ have not been great. In private communication with a representative of this group I offered what I considered to be constructive criticism and helpful suggestions. The manner in which these were rejected left me with the distinct impression that honing and perfecting the media presentation was not a priority. I’ll put it no more strongly than that.

The Yes movement is phenomenally generous. But there has to be a limit. It is important that resources go where they will be most effectively used. A great idea and boundless enthusiasm simply aren’t enough without an uncompromising commitment to quality. It’s what people expect.

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Explanations required!

I take no pleasure whatever in comparing Nicola Sturgeon to Richard Leonard, but I cannot help but note the inconsistencies and contradictions in her own position.

The First Minister recognises that the British parties will try to ‘rig’ the referendum in any way they can. Nothing at all surprising about this. We know them to be totally unprincipled and shameless. We had evidence enough of that during the 2014 referendum campaign, and since. That British Nationalists will do anything to preserve their precious Union and further the ‘One Nation’ cause is a truism of Scottish politics. They will rationalise absolutely any conduct – however deplorable this might be in any other context – if it is in furtherance of their anti-democratic aims and in defense of the British ruling elites.

The First Minister knows all this. She knows as a matter of incontrovertible fact that the British parties squatting in the Scottish Parliament – in collusion with their masters in London and the British media – will seek to ‘rig’ the referendum. She knows this for the same reason the rest of us know it. She knows because the British parties are already speaking openly about the ways in which they intend to manipulate the referendum process to their advantage. It’s not a secret! It’s not a suspicion! It’s a fact!

And it is something that we have been aware of for some considerable time. Certainly since before the First Minister committed so completely and exclusively to the Section 30 process. Which is where the contradictions and inconsistencies in her position start to show. If the First Minister is, as she should be, concerned about the referendum being rigged by British Nationalists, why has she committed to a process which provides them with the means and opportunity to do so?

By committing to the Section 30 process, Nicola Sturgeon has ‘invited in’ the very forces which she acknowledges as being a potentially serious threat to the fairness and democratic validity of the referendum. She has granted to the British political elite the power to impose rules and conditions on the referendum which amount to the rigging that she says she is concerned about. It does not compute, as I’m sure the kids stopped saying many moons ago supposing they ever did.

This is not the only contradiction and/or inconsistency in the First Minister’s position. She has also acknowledged the possibility – some would say probability or even certainty – that the British government intends to ‘suspend’ the Scottish Parliament. Again, this is something which has been, at the very least, on the cards for a very long time. Some of us saw the writing on the wall as far back as 2007, when the SNP formed its first administration. That writing on the wall was carved in stone when the voters broke the system in 2015 to give the SNP a majority.

The Scottish Parliament is an obvious target for those who seek to lock Scotland into the nightmare of a ‘One Nation’ British state where democracy is regarded as an impediment to ‘success’ measured solely in terms of the increasing wealth of a tiny clique; and human rights and civil liberties as a hindrance to ‘efficiency’ measured only in terms of the British executive’s ability to do whatever it pleases. Scotland’s claim to, and pursuit of, constitutional normality is critically dependent on four components working together – the SNP; the Scottish Government; the Scottish Parliament and the Yes movement. Of these, the British state only has direct and immediate authority over the Scottish Parliament. It stands to reason that they will seek to ‘neutralise’ Holyrood so as to disable the machinery of Scotland’s cause.

Knowing this, as she must, the First Minister seems determined to afford the British state as much time as it needs to put in place the measures and infrastructure that will enable it to shut down the Scottish Parliament and transfer all its powers to the so-called ‘UK Government in Scotland’ – an unelected and unaccountable shadow administration which has been constructed right under the noses of Scotland’s people. As telling a testament to British imperialist arrogance as might be imagined.

Brexit – which Scotland voted against and which the Scottish Government had a solemn duty to prevent being imposed on us – seems inevitable. That Scotland will be wrenched from the EU against our will and without even the minimal protection of a bad deal looks to be all but certain. It appears that this is what the British government is waiting for. Brexit will be the signal that sets off a major assault on Scotland’s democratic institutions. Anyone who doubted this before now has to contend with the reality that the pen which can eradicate the Scottish Parliament at a stroke is in the hand of a malignant child clown called Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson.

The Scottish Government has failed to act to save Scotland from Brexit and it has failed to act to prevent the Scottish Parliament being crippled or destroyed. A duo of failures which stand in stark contrast to all the indignant speechifying and Twitter ‘slamming’ which has been the ineffectual background noise to events over the past five years.

I am not, of course, suggesting that Nicola Sturgeon is in any way similar to Richard Leonard. She is acute, where he is dull. She is articulate, where he is incoherent. She is committed to serving Scotland, where he is committed to serving the ruling elites of the British state. Where the similarities begin and end is with these deeply unfortunate contradictions and inconsistencies.

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I do not consent!

I doubt if many reading this would change a word of the excoriating assessment of Boris Johnson’s character and competence offered by Nicola Sturgeon; unless it was to use less politic and more expressive language. Johnson is, indeed, disgusting, craven, reckless and, above all, untrustworthy.

But we already knew that. The First Minister was perfectly well aware of how untrustworthy and duplicitous and dishonest Johnson is long before he became British Prime Minister. And yet she did not modify her ‘strategy’ accordingly when he was maneuvered into Downing Street by whatever shadowy forces conrive such things. While she denounces Johnson on Twitter, in her day-to-day dealings with his regime she continues to behave as if he were just a run-of-the-mill British politician – arrogant, vacuous, venal, corrupt, incompetent, but not downright malicious and wanton and irrational.

Our First Minister acknowledges the uncontested fact that Boris Johnson cannot be trusted, but she insists on entrusting to him ultimate authority over Scotland’s democratic right of self-determination. Sturgeon scathingly denigrates Johnson in statements to the press and on social media, but maintains her commitment to the Section 30 process, thus putting Scotland’s future in the hands of a man she judges to be totally unfit to have any influence over the future of the UK.

Surely this requires some explanation. What is it that the First Minister is hoping for? Is she hoping for a final reel epiphany in which Johnson sees the sense that he has been blind to almost since birth? Does she anticipate a last-minute Damascene conversion to the ways of a sane world? Is she banking on Boris undergoing some sort of eleventh-hour metamorphosis such as transformed Scrooge overnight from grasping miser to beneficent philanthropist?

I have news for Nicola Sturgeon. Boris Johnson won’t be visited by the Ghost of Christmas Past because he is the ghost of all our past mistakes and misjudgements and misdeeds come to offer us, not redemption, but a future lived in a mire of corrosive regret. He is not a ‘bad apple’. He is the rot that afflicts all apples. He’s not Jekyll and Hyde. He’s just Hyde. He is not a freakish phenomenon thrown up by a political system in total disarray, but the inevitable product of a British political system which is inherently corrupt. Boris Johnson is exactly what he seems, and worse. He is all you take him to be, and less. He is everything you would want scrubbed, scoured and grit-blasted from the political life of any nation, and more. He is unprincipled, unscrupulous, amoral, self-serving and treacherous.

Knowing all this, the First Minister asks the people of Scotland to accept that our sovereignty be subordinated to an authority that is not derived from any democratic legitimacy, but bestowed on Boris Johnson by the corrupt British political system and imposed on Scotland by the Union.

Knowing what Boris Johnson is, Nicola Sturgeon continues to insist that he should be allowed to prohibit the exercise of our sovereignty. She persists in asserting that a referendum cannot be legitimated by the sovereignty of the people of Scotland, or by the international laws and conventions guaranteeing our right of self-determination, but only by the imprimatur of whoever has been elevated to the office of British Prime Minister by the apparatus of power, privilege and patronage which is the British state.

I find that insulting! Offensive! Belittling! Wholly inexplicable! And totally unacceptable!

I do not consent to this.

I do not consent to Boris Johnson, or any of his successors, being granted any effective veto over, control of or influence in the process by which the people of Scotland determine the constitutional status of our nation and choose the form of government which best suits our needs.

I do not consent to the sovereignty of Scotland’s people being compromised.

I do not consent to the Section 30 process.


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Rethink required!

To request a Section 30 order is to compromise the sovereignty of Scotland’s people. The sovereignty of Scotland’s people is not negotiable.

Sovereign people do not require permission to exercise their sovereignty.

Sovereign people do not require permission to exercise their democratic right of self-determination.

Sovereign people should not take lightly attempts to trade their sovereignty for some legalistic bauble and an easier life for those we elected to defend our sovereignty.

Requesting a Section 30 order is an affront to the very concept of popular sovereignty. It is, thereby, an affront to democracy. The requirement for a Section 30 order is an insult to the people of Scotland and a blatant breach of international laws and conventions.

Why is our First Minister intent on pandering to a requirement which is clearly unlawful and unenforceable? Why is our First Minister not challenging this requirement instead of submitting to it? Why is the First Minister willing to compromise the sovereignty of Scotland’s people by insisting that it is subject to the consent and approval of a British government we didn’t even elect?

Either we are sovereign, or the British monarchy / parliament is! If we are sovereign, we require nobody’s consent and approval to exercise our sovereignty. If our own political leaders concede our sovereignty, on what do we base or constitutional claim?

Committing to the Section 30 process is the most appalling political folly. Asserting that is is the only and essential ‘legal’ process by which Scotland’s right of self-determination may be exercised goes beyond political folly. What happens now when a Section 30 order is refused? What alternative course of action can Nicola Sturgeon fall back on having declared them all ‘illegal’?

And supposing a Section 30 order is granted, how will Nicola Sturgeon go about re-asserting the popular sovereignty that has been compromised? How will she respond when the British political elite sabotage the Section 30 process – as they certainly will, this being the only reason they would grant the Section 30 order in the first place.

When the Scottish Government compromises the sovereignty of Scotland’s people by requesting a Section 30 order they are giving a solemn undertaking only to proceed to a referendum when and if (a) the Section 30 order is granted; and (b) when there is an agreement between the two governments on all aspects of the referendum. How easy would it be for the British government to sabotage the negotiations for that agreement? They need only make one unacceptable demand. Is there seriously any doubt that they could and would do so?

No Section 30 order! No referendum! Section 30 order but no agreement! No referendum! And no alternative process because the First Minister has declared that ONLY the Section 30 process is legal.

Nicola Sturgeon is banking on the British political elite acting in good faith. She is gambling the entire independence cause on a process that is designed to thwart the independence cause. And, in the process, she is undermining the sovereignty of Scotland’s people.

This is not acceptable.

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Not quite green, more of a dirty yellow colour*

I was led to understand that the Scottish Greens were the party that takes the climate change issue seriously. But how can such a claim be compatible with their puerile posturing over the Scottish Government’s carbon emission reduction targets?

Surely simple logic dictates that it is better to have a 70% target which could be exceeded by a few points than an 80% target that might prove to be a few points beyond reach. In practical terms, the result is pretty much the same either way. Five points over a 70% target is exactly the same as five points under an 80% target. What’s the difference?

For the Scottish Government the difference is that the ‘optics’ of exceeding a target are better than the ‘failure’ associated with not meeting the target. But it’s not just a matter of making the government look good. Success breeds success. Success generates enthusiasm. Being able to trumpet the smashing of a target is a great way of getting people onside and willing to join the effort. It’s good PR. It’s good politics. It’s good campaigning.

Of course, if that’s all there was to it then governments could just set easily achievable targets all the time so as to ensure they always had a success to celebrate. So there has to be some limit to how low the target can be set. And what better limit that scientific evidence. As Roseanna Cunningham says, the interim target of reducing carbon emission by 70% by 2030 more than meets the recommendations of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Setting the target at that level is a rational choice.

What is rational about the Greens’ insistence on an 80% target? (We may discount the fact that they are supported in this by two of the British parties as we can be certain that they are motivated solely by the petty need to score points against the hated SNP.) What, from the perspective of the Scottish Greens is the difference between a 70% target and an 80% target? Obviously, by demanding the higher target they get to look bolder and more radical. Which they can do without risk because they know they will never be held responsible for falling short.

There is no downside for the Greens, as a party, in demanding the 80% target. Which is fine if all you are interested in is partisan advantage. They get to look good while they demand it and, should the target not be met, they get to look good all over again as they pompously condemn the Scottish Government’s failure. That falling short of the target might impact negatively on the broader climate change campaign doesn’t seem to be a concern for the self-proclaimed champions of the planet.

This is always the problem with the Greens. While much of their agenda is laudable, even if often inadequately thought through, and they are nominally a pro-independence party, their fondness for infantile, British-style politicking makes them unreliable allies in the fight to save both Scotland’s democracy and the planet.

*The title, lest you be wondering, is a line from the Goon Show episode titled Tales of Men’s Shirts first broadcast on December 31, 1959. Script by Spike Milligan. And yes, I am that old.

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