Precious to whom?

Yet the most devastating finding in today’s new poll is that people in England identifying as Conservative supporters are evenly split on the subject with 49% saying they support independence against 51% who were opposed.

Nearly half of Tory voters in England back English independence, poll finds

Think about it! If almost half of voters in England want to see an end to the Union then this is likely to be true also of English people living and voting in Scotland – at least to some extent. An approach to the constitutional issue which framed it as a campaign to end the Union – effectively restoring the independence of both countries – is likely to appeal to more of those people than a campaign which is presented as being all about getting something for Scotland. Especially when that something is portrayed as negatively as Scottish independence is by the British media.

Scotland’s cause may have been to some degree anti-English historically. But for a handful of holdouts who imagine history to have a rewind and pause function, it has not been about ‘the English’ for many decades.The modern independence movement is not concerned with the ancient animosities which poisoned the relationship between our two nations. Scotland’s cause experienced a reformation in the 20th century and our modern civic nationalism is concerned only with building a new relationship between Scotland and England. A relationship informed by 21st century democracy rather than one derived from archaic political, social and economic thinking.

More and more people are recognising that the Union is an obstacle to achieving that new relationship. More and more people in both our nations are realising that the Union is ‘precious’ only to a pustule of privilege within a relatively small constituency which pines for a world to which they cannot return any more than that handful of holdouts who refuse to accept that “Those days are past now; and in the past they must remain,”. Or that when Scotland does “rise again” it will not be a Scotland of warlike and warring clansmen, but as a Scotland capable of preserving the best of its traditions while casting off the worst of its old arrangements. A Scotland still holding to core principles, but happy to abandon outmoded practices.

Scotland will be transformed by the restoration of our independence. But the same is true for England. The England of today is as much a product and function of the archaic, asymmetric and anti-democratic Union as is Scotland. Both nations have been shaped by the increasing toxic relationship fostered by a political union forged, not in friendship and trust but in enmity and suspicion. A political union devised exclusively for the purposes of the privileged few and at whatever cost to the many who have been stripped of their power by just such devices as the Union. The Union which is ‘precious’ only to those intent on maintaining the structures of power, privilege and patronage which underpin and sustain an elite which today wears the face of Boris Johnson and which promises tomorrow to wear something even uglier.

As much as it is time to end Scotland’s status as the annexed territory of our southern neighbour it is time to relieve England of its status as the political and economic plaything of a decadent and decaying elite.

To this highly appealing end, we must rethink our whole approach to the constitutional issue in Scotland. We must reshape the mindset which bids us petition for that which we need only assert. We must reframe the constitutional question as frank, honest and penetrating scrutiny of the Union rather than a test of Scotland’s fitness for something that is ours as a nation as much as sovereignty is the inalienable possession of the individual. Framed thus, constitutional normalisation can be shown to serve not only the citizens of both Scotland and England-as-Britain but democracy itself.



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How to stop a pandemic

Take very special note of those last three words in Devi Sridhar’s quoted remarks. The words “chains of infection” provide the most apt description of the problem. We must break all chains of infection so as to be able to claim a measure of success. Obviously, we have had considerable success. But as long as one chain remains it can grow and branch and grow again.

The only certain way to break chains of infection is to starve the virus of new hosts. The only effective way to do this is to isolate everybody and keep them isolated until there are no more chains of infection. If this is not possible, then you get as close to it as you can. Success in eradicating the virus from a population is a function of the degree of success in achieving total isolation.

Isolation happens at the level of the individual and takes two form – distance and barrier. Or, obviously, some combination of the two. The more effectively distance is maintained the less need there is for some form of barrier – which could be anything from a simple face-mask to a full Hazmat suit. The converse is also true. Distance isolation hardly matters if you’re fully suited up. But the less complete and reliable the barrier isolation the more need there is to maintain distance isolation.

All of which sounds like little more than ‘common sense’. But the most important bit is yet to come. Because all chains of infection must be broken, and because there is no way to know if you are a link in a chain of infection until after you’ve functioned as a link and because you have no way of knowing if the chain of infection you might be on will be broken by someone else, you have to proceed as if you are a link in a chain of infection and must be the break. You be the break in the chain of infection by implementing the strictest isolation you are capable of and maintaining it as long as possible.



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A ‘promising’ proposal

It takes a lot of flawed thinking to believe in the magical powers of these new pop-up list parties and their cunning plans to game the voting system. But that’s OK. Because there are myriad ways for thinking to be flawed. I shall mention just three. Let’s call them.

  • Arithmetic/plan conflation
  • Virtue by association
  • Partial assessment

To illustrate the first of these, let me put a proposition to you. I want every pro-independence voter to give me £100. I plan to accumulate £100,000,000. I then plan on using this to get another £100,000,000. I will then have £200,000,000 which I will use to do whatever each of you considers to be your most favoured amazing and wonderful things.

How many of you immediately reached for the ‘Pay Now’ button? Probably not many. Your first instinct would be to ask questions about the plan. My response is to insist that you look at the arithmetic. Given the number of pro-independence voters it is perfectly feasible to raise £100,000.000 in the way I propose. And look at the amazing and wonderful things! £100,000,000 plus £100,000,000 is £200,000,000. And look at the amazing and wonderful things! The arithmetic checks out. And look at the amazing and wonderful things!

If your thinking isn’t flawed, you recognise that the arithmetic and the plan are quite separate and different things and that the fact the arithmetic works doesn’t mean the plan works. You also recognise that however amazing and wonderful the promise it is worthless if it isn’t connected to the proposal by a viable plan.

The kind of flawed thinking I’ve called virtue by association is the rich vein of human folly which confidence tricksters and political charlatans throughout the ages have sought to mine. The mother lode of mindlessness. Having lent their proposal superficial and spurious credibility by quoting some numbers that add up, the shyster will then produce the promise – an outcome described using an array of constantly repeated glittering generalities. Glittering generalities are words and phrases laden with positive connotations and associations but with no substance or core meaning. Glittering generalities – often combined with plausible science or mathematics – is the language of dishonest politics and dubious marketing.

The idea is that having impressed with the unarguable science (or arithmetic), the snake-oil salesman of instructional fable then dazzles the dupe with a promise that blazes with the light of a million suns so that they fail to notice the absence of any plan linking the proposal to the promise. No mapped path from one to the other.

A marketing phrase which neatly combines the plausible science with the glittering generality is ‘Up to 100% effective!’. This pill is ‘up to 100% effective in relieving pain’. This disinfectant kills ‘up to 100% of known household germs’ (note too the additional qualifiers ‘known’ and ‘household’). This snake-oil is ‘up to 100% effective in curing up to 100% of the ailments listed’.

This tactical voting strategy is ‘up to 100% effective in ensuring more pro-independence MSPs and/or fewer Unionist MSPs!’. And if you have any lingering doubts about the promise, just look at the proposal! Look at the arithmetic! Look at how the arithmetic works! Look at how amazing and wonderful the promise is! Just don’t look for the plan that connects the proposal to the promise. And if you do look for that plan and fail to find it then that is because you fail to understand the arithmetic and/or you don’t value the promised outcome as you would if you were a true believer.

Anyone who has sought to engage with proponents of pop-up list parties will find something eerily familiar in the foregoing.

Partial assessment describes the flawed thinking that the snake-oil salesman (other gender identities are available) is seeking to exploit. What matters to the shyster and the political propagandist alike is not only what the target audience/market/constituency thinks about what’s being sold but what they don’t think about at all. The ‘other stuff’. The stuff that is not covered by either the proposal or the promise. The implications and consequences that flow from the entire package – incomplete as that entire package may be.

Partial assessment involves weighing the proposed solution to a problem – which may or may not be real or as serious as it is made out to be – only against the promise attached to it. It involves excluding all negatives. All the pros and none of the cons. Well! Maybe one very trivial con just for appearances.

The word ‘partial’ is relevant in both its sense of ‘incomplete’ and its sense of ‘favouring’. Never mind the quality! Feel the width! Never mind the risk! Look at the prize! Don’t think about what you stand to lose! Look at what you might win!

Charlatans have descended on Scotland’s politics the way pickpockets descend on tourist hot-spots. Frustration with the SNP attracts power-hungry chancers like blood in the water attracts flesh-hungry sharks. Opportunity breeds exploitation. A fox with a full belly will try to catch and kill anything which is both edible and available. Individuals driven by ambition and factions driven by ideology will scavenge for power wherever it may be found. If sufficiently driven, they will resort to any means to seize the smallest scrap of power. Just as long as it isn’t power of the type or in the measure which brings with it responsibility.

It takes a lot of flawed thinking to believe in the magical powers of these new pop-up list parties and their cunning plans. It takes only a little rational thinking to see though the scam. For Scotland’s sake, make sure rationality wins.



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I am not a pigeon

I am not sure which of my personalities is writing this. I don’t know if it’s the virulently anti-SNP blogger who undermines the cause of restoring Scotland’s independence with incessant vicious attacks on Nicola Sturgeon – as described by Pete Wishart and similarly shallow-minded individuals – or the mindless party loyalist who considers independence to be ‘all about the SNP’ and is a devoted member of the Nicola Sturgeon personality cult as portrayed by various online commentators giving vent to absolute conclusions about who I am on the basis of one uncomprehended Tweet or the title of one unread article or some uninformed third-party account of my opinions and attitudes.

I am, if you believe those total strangers who purport to know my mind better than I do, both unquestioningly loyal to the SNP and implacably opposed to the SNP. I am, by various accounts, simultaneously obsessive in my veneration of Nicola Sturgeon and in my hatred of her. I am at one and the same time someone who is totally committed to the restoration of Scotland’s independence and someone who is determined to obstruct and impede progress towards this worthy goal.

And all of these things are true… partly… sort of. Like most people, I don’t fit easily (or willingly) into any hole designed for a pigeon. I am not a pigeon.

Who I am depends on what you ask me. Ask me how I feel about the SNP and I will reach for words such as disappointed, frustrated, angry, impatient, perplexed, exasperated and more in the same vein. For some, this can mean nothing other than that I am fervently opposed to the SNP. Ask me what I think of the SNP and I will state with the confidence of protracted and thorough consideration that the party is the only source of the effective political power without which no strategy fro restoring Scotland’s independence can possibly succeed and therefore absolutely essential to that process. For some, this can mean only that I am a mindless party loyalist who discounts all other parts of the Yes movement.

Not being a pigeon I can’t comment on a pigeon’s capacity for pragmatism. All I can say is that my own is considerable. I can recognise that a coat is threadbare, torn and dirty while being pragmatic enough to accept that wearing it is better than succumbing to hypothermia. I am certainly pragmatic enough to use that coat in preference to freezing to death if it is merely a little ill-fitting or unfashionable.

Ask me how I feel about Nicola Sturgeon and I will freely admit to being slightly in awe of her. I truly admire her abilities as a politician and insofar as I can discern these from a distance, her qualities as a person. I respect and trust her. Just not totally and implicitly. Ask me what I think of Nicola Sturgeon and I will say that for all her undeniable abilities and qualities she is as prone to misjudgement and folly as any other human being. Or maybe just a wee bit less prone. Perhaps that is part of what makes her a bit special.

Not being a pigeon confined to a hole, I can quite comfortably feel great admiration for Nicola Sturgeon and recognise when she has made a mistake. I don’t hate her for her mistakes. If human error was cause for hatred then there would be more hatred in the world than any one planet might contain. I regret her misjudgements and decline to draw a veil over them other than in circumstances where those misjudgements are trivial enough that they fail to tip the scales when weighed against Scotland’s cause and Scotland’s interests. Where I judge the misjudgements to be serious, I will question and criticise and challenge. Because I am not a pigeon.

I am not extraordinary in any way other than that I may think more deeply and analytically than most people. This is not a boast. It is perfectly possible for these traits to be faults. It is possible to think so deeply about things that one never reaches any kind of conclusion. It is possible to be analytical to the point that it becomes nit-picking. But it is essential to think beyond the shallows of superficial presentation and analyse beyond the facile explanations. It may, for reasons of practicality, be necessary settle upon a conclusion and call a halt to the analysing. But this should always be done reluctantly. It should never be done lightly. It should never leave important questions unasked. It should never be a compromise that you are uncomfortable with.

You should not go easily into a pigeon-hole of your own making. You are not a pigeon.



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The viability test

If Plan A can work, then why are its proponents completely unable to explain how it will work? If the Section 30 process is a viable route to independence then it should be possible to describe each step in that process. Those steps should individually be credible and in aggregate lead to a free and fair referendum. Why is it that none of those who insist that the Section 30 process must adhered to are able or willing to lay out the process that they have in mind when they refer to that process? Why is it that nobody who claims that Plan A will work is prepared to even respond meaningful to any enquiry about the details?

All we know about Plan A – the Section 30 process – from direct observation is that it has a near perfect record of failure. The only time it even came close to working was 2014. But even though the 2014 referendum happened, the circumstances were totally different. Those circumstances will never arise again. We have to consider whether Plan A is viable now. And since 2014 Plan A has only failed. Requests for a Section 30 order have either been refused or they have not been made because refusal was a certainty. Plan A falls at the second hurdle. The first being persuading the Scottish Government to request the Section 30 order in the first place.

We either know or, mindful of the precautionary principle, we must assume from the available evidence that Plan A is bound to fail. The usual thing would be for the proponents of the plan to seek to persuade others of its viability. The absence of any meaningful effort to make a case for Plan A stands as further evidence that it is not viable. Simply asserting that it is the only ‘legal and constitutional’ process does not constitute a case. It is perfectly possible for a process to be both ‘legal’ and ‘constitutional’ and still be totally unworkable. Besides which, the onus is on the advocates of the British state’s “gold standard” to clearly demonstrate that the Section 30 process is ‘legal and constitutional’. And that it is the only process that is ‘legal and constitutional’. Otherwise, their claim is mere empty assertion.

Plan A’s proponents repeat like some kind of religious mantra the claim that refusal of a Section 30 order is “untenable”. But what does that even mean? I know that the word ‘untenable’ means unjustifiable and/or indefensible. But what does it mean in this context? Suppose we accept that continued refusal of a Section 30 order is, indeed, ‘untenable’. Suppose that it had shot straight to the top ten of the most ‘untenable’ things ever. Suppose it is now holding the number one spot despite numerous challenges from accomplished exponents of the unjustifiable and indefensible such as Donald Trump, Boris Johnson and the Israeli government. In what way does this make Plan A viable?

The insistence that continued refusal of a Section 30 order is ‘untenable’ is intended to suggest that the British Prime Minister is bound to back down. But why would they? Why should the British Prime Minister be in the slightest bit troubled by the fact that their position is unjustifiable and indefensible when there is nothing in law that requires them to justify or defend that position? The language is intended to imply that the position of denying a Section 30 order cannot be maintained indefinitely. But the reality is that it can be maintained indefinitely – and beyond. We know, or must assume this from the evidence. That evidence being the effortless ease with which the position has been and is being maintained.

The British Prime Minister’s refusal of a Section 30 order only becomes unsustainable – rather than merely ‘untenable’ – when there is a cost pursuant to that refusal which is greater than the benefit derived. There is no cost. The benefit is massive. Unless that changes, Plan A cannot sensibly even pretend to be workable.

If it is so certain that Plan A is not viable, why propose it? Why insist on it? That is for the advocates of Plan A to explain. But we might wonder why those who propose an alternative approach might demand that Mike Russell start the run up to the permission hurdle immediately. Why else but to demonstrate to the voting public that Plan A falters even at the first hurdle of getting the Scottish Government to submit a request, and so strengthen the case for their Plan B. Whether the Scottish Government refuses to submit a request or submits a request that is refused, the need for an alternative is more obvious and persuasive.

At this point we may postulate a position which is both untenable and unsustainable. If Mike Russell refuses to act on the demand to submit a Section 30 order he will be in a position that cannot be justified or defended and which could be electorally very costly for the SNP. And if the request is submitted only to be treated as contemptuously as its predecessors, Plan a is once again shown to be unworkable. Which is good news for Plan B.

But is Plan B good for Scotland’s cause? That’s a separate topic. It will be up to Angus MacNeil and Chris McEleny to persuade us that Plan B is viable. They’ll have to do a lot better than the proponents of Plan A.



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The Plan!

By all means read all of Joanna Cherry’s column. But focus on those last three paragraphs. They contain three very significant messages.

The Brexit process has very clearly illustrated the limits of devolution. So, while SNP MPs must do the job we were elected by our constituents to do at Westminster, the reality is that only action taken in Scotland to gain independence can secure a future where this sort of unwanted chaos cannot happen again.

Action taken in Scotland! Presumably, action taken in the Scottish Parliament. Is this not what some of us have been saying for a while now? The Scottish Parliament is the locus of Scottish political authority. Westminster has precisely no democratic legitimacy. Only the Scottish Parliament can speak and act for the people of Scotland whom all legitimate political authority derives.

It’s great to see an increase in support for independence in the opinion polls, but this, together with the SNP riding high in the polls, takes us no further forward unless we have a plan for how to secure our independence and what to do with it.

Unless we have a plan! Suggesting that we presently lack a plan. Something an increasing number of people are beginning to recognise. Joanna Cherry appears to be acknowledging that commitment to the Section 30 process does not constitute “a plan for how to secure our independence”. Unless I am reading too much into her comments, Ms Cherry may be the first senior SNP figure to break ranks on this. And what a welcome breakthrough this would be.

Those who want to discuss and debate such plans are to be applauded. The time for avoiding discussion of Plan B is over. That discussion and proposals like those of the Common Weal for a resilient Scotland should be centre stage if, as mooted, the SNP conference and national assemblies go online this autumn.

No ambivalence or ambiguity here. This amounts to a demand that the SNP leadership cease and desist from blocking discussion of alternative strategies for taking forward the fight to restore Scotland’s independence.

I still have concerns. My fear is that rather than opening up discussion of alternative strategies the party will restrict discussion to the Plan B being promoted by Angus MacNeil and Chris McEleny. The major issue I have with that is that this Plan B does not replace the current failed and failing Section 30 approach. It merely anticipates the next humiliating cycle of our First Minister going to Boris Johnson as a supplicant petitioning her superior for the boon of permission to exercise an inalienable democratic right – and being unceremoniously told to f*** off!

Angus and Chris are basically saying of the Section 30 process “One more chance!”. I maintain that we all should be saying “Never again!”. No more of this indignity! No more validating the British state’s claim to a veto over our right of self-determination! No more bargaining with the sovereignty of Scotland’s people!

The Section 30 process must be renounced. It must be explicitly and emphatically rejected. Discussion of alternative strategies must not be restricted to the MacNeil-McEleny Plan B but must be opened up to approaches which eschew the British state’s “gold standard” in measures to protect and preserve the Union.

As Joanna Cherry says, we need a plan designed to secure our independence. No ‘plan’ which is crucially dependent on the full, willing and honest cooperation of the British political elite can possibly qualify as a plan designed to restore Scotland’s independence. To the extent that the MacNeil-McEleny Plan B still involves the Section 30 process it is as much a plan to fail as the approach to which Nicola Sturgeon has wedded herself.

We have one more chance. We must learn the lessons of past failures. It is not merely a case of renouncing the Section 30 process. We urgently need to go back to first principles. We need to redefine our goal; reframe the entire constitutional issue, and devise a strategy appropriate to this reframing.

But first we must adopt a new mindset. Scotland is not an equal partner in a democratic political union. Scotland is effectively the annexed territory of England-as-Britain. British Nationalists want to formalise this annexation to create a single state moulded in the image of Boris Johnson’s Brexiteer Britain. They intend that Scotland, together with the rest of what British Nationalists regard as England-as-Britain’s periphery – be subsumed into what will effectively be Greater England – an indivisible and indissoluble state. Scotland will cease to exist other than as a marketing brand.

We don’t just need a plan. We need it urgently. We need it to work. We need it to work first time and with all possible haste. We do not need a Plan B for the next time Plan A fails. We need a new Plan A that succeeds.



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Section 30 is a lie!

Another senior SNP figure tries to silence those pointing out that so long as it remains committed to the Section 30 process the party is not offering voters a route to independence. And it is downright dishonest to claim otherwise. That’s right! That’s what I’m saying! Alyn Smith and his ilk are lying to us. And the lies have to be called out.

The truth is that the Section 30 process CANNOT be the democratic route to independence that it pretends to be. That is not its purpose. That is quite contrary to its purpose. Section 30 was slipped into the Scotland Act 1998 to satisfy those in the British establishment who were only prepared to tolerate devolution on the strict condition that the Union was safeguarded. To imagine that there might be a route to independence within a legal and constitutional framework designed for the preservation of the Union is nothing short of idiocy. Almost as idiotic as the claim that “we’ve never been closer to independence”. A line that has been discreetly dropped from Alyn Smith’s rhetoric.

That was a lie of another sort. It was a lie so transparent as to be almost comical. As, in its way, is the only marginally more subtle effort to pin the blame for the party’s failures in relation to the constitutional issue on the public heath emergency. The truth is that the fight to restore Scotland’s independence long since ran onto the rocks of Nicola Sturgeon’s inexplicable devotion to the British state’s “gold standard” in maintaining its grip on our nation at whatever cost to the Scottish people.

I issue this challenge to Alyn Smith or anyone else who continues to insist that we must abide by the Section 30 process. Explain, in step-by-step detail how the Section 30 process can possibly take us from where we are now to a referendum and the restoration of Scotland’s independence, or admit that you have been lying to the party membership and the people of Scotland.

Enough of the lies!



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The fartmills of your mind

People don’t so much fear change as resent it. One of the myriad curiosities of human nature is that we come equipped with this truly remarkable pattern detecting and modelling machine – surely the most complex and powerful device in the known universe – the primary purpose of which is to build models of our environment which allow us to foresee possible changes in that environment, and yet we have this distinct tendency to proceed as if nothing will change. We tend to suppose – or act as if – the way things are is the way they will always be. At some level or in some part of the tangled psychology which informs and instructs our behaviour, we choose to ignore the dynamic four-dimensional model generated by the most powerful predictive algorithms churned by the most powerful computer in the universe and focus instead on that old familiar photograph.

Why do we have this tendency? Perhaps it’s because we suffer from prediction fatigue. Sometimes the dynamic model is just too dynamic for us and we take refuge in a place where things are more static and manageable. Maybe it’s one of those homeostatic feedback systems and the notion of an unchanging environment operates like a governor which prevents the dynamic model running wild. Not a perfect solution. But evolution isn’t working to a plan. Natural selection naturally selects the first thing that works and only tweaks the solution it has settled on if that solution has a statistical tendency to impair our capacity to reproduce relative to some other mutational novelty.

Explaining why we resent rather than fear change may be easier. We resent change because the ‘now’ that we’ve subconsciously chosen to cling to is the baseline for the dynamic models – the maps by which we chart a course through our physical, social and temporal environment. When the baseline changes, the model must be revised. (More precisely the ‘screen grabs’ we’ve taken from the model have to be updated. The model itself is constantly being revised. It is dynamic.) This is effortful. So we resent it. We resent change which requires us to alter our perceptions our preconceptions and/or our plans. Rather a lot of human behaviour can be explained by laziness.

Such indolence has a cost. If we too resolutely adhere to those outdated ‘screen grabs’ from the dynamic model we may be ill-equipped for, and adversely impacted by, such change as may occur. When this happens, we tend to blame the change rather than our own intellectual inertia. Another quirk of human nature. Rarely is it entirely true when an individual insists that they are no part of the problem, the problem is the entire problem. We are all actors in our own lives – even if betimes it seems we are merely bit players, extras and support acts.

It would be deceivingly simplistic to think of this tendency to refer to an unchanging snapshot of our world as absolute. It is just a tendency. That tendency can be strong or weak varying among individuals and over time. We would not survive long if we weren’t keeping an eye on the dynamic display as well as the snapshot. It may reasonably be argued that much and perhaps all human error and folly can be understood in terms of a failure to properly balance the two perceptions.

Scotland’s cause has been serious afflicted by just such a failure to give appropriate weight to the static model which is good enough for immediate and superficial purposes and the dynamic model which is essential to a more long term and profound understanding of the environment. If we are subconsciously selecting a way things are to be our ‘the way things will always be’ it stands to reason that the one selected will tend to be the one which pushes itself forward most forcefully. You might suppose it would most likely be the pleasing snapshot of a sunny reality. In fact, it can just as readily be a disturbing image of a very dark reality. Basically, when things are good, we tend to behave as if they will always be good and when things are bad we tend to be convinced they’ll never get better. Either of these states, if allowed to persist, can result in the kind of behaviour we call a lapse of judgement.

The campaign to restore Scotland’s independence has been beset by lapses of judgement. Which does not make it unusual in any way. It was ever thus.

I pressed for a referendum in September 2018 or no later than September 2018. That date wasn’t picked out of a hat. It was the product of long consideration and analysis as unfettered by assumptions and preconceptions as any individual’s might be absent specialised training. My thinking on the matter was not, for example, shackled to any notion of a ‘right time’. I considered the matter on the basis, not only of what conditions and circumstances would most closely approach some ideal, but on what circumstances were more or less likely to arise and how conditions were more or less likely to develop.

I focused on the dynamic model generated by my brain – or mind.

I do not claim to have foreseen the SNP’s present travails in any precise detail. Nor do I claim to have predicted any aspect of the British government’s frighteningly erratic and irrational behaviour. But I did take account of the ways in which circumstances and conditions could worsen as well as improve over time.

I do not claim to have foreseen the Alex Salmond affair. But I knew with something approaching certainty that something like that would happen. If the British state is determined to dig some dirt on a leading figure in a cause then eventually dirt will be dug. If a party stays in power long enough then it will eventually suffer the effects of internal tensions and external pressures. If a movement survives long enough the energy which drove it will dissipate and it will eventually succumb to factionalism as some try to renew that energy while others seek to scavenge what remains for personal or partisan advantage.

In short, I foresaw that things would start to go all to fuck at some point and knew that it was essential to move forward the fight to restore Scotland’s independence before that happened – regardless of what other circumstances prevailed. Either we got it done by September 2018, or the chances of it getting done started to diminish.

I was not wrong. Nicola Sturgeon got it wrong. I could take a stab at explaining why she got it wrong when she decided to wait in the hope the the British government would by its actions cause people to look more favourably on independence. I could probably find some explanation as to why she failed to appreciate that things could get worse as well as better and that it might be better to act before things got worse.

But I’m depressed enough about it all without delving into the motives and motivations of the players. There is no satisfaction in watching events unfold as you feared they would. There is only despair in fearing things will now unfold in the way you anticipate. There is little comfort in saying, “Ah telt ye!”. That said, I must take what comfort I may. If people had listened to me (and a few others who I don’t presume to speak for) we would not be where we are. We would by now have restored Scotland’s independence and would be congratulating ourselves on having the foresight to move when we did.



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Lost comment

I posted a comment yesterday on a thread started by one of those cunning plan cult people in which I pointed out a few things that needed to be pointed out despite being perfectly obvious to anybody who care to think about things. As far as I can determine, that thread has now been deleted. In anticipation of this very thing, I kept a copy of the comment. It saves me having to do it all again.

A perfect example of thinking only as far as leaves your preferred conclusion intact. You don’t even address the ‘gamble’ aspects of the issue. Which is understandable given that you want everybody else to ignore that gamble. It hardly suits your purposes to draw further attention to it by addressing concerns about it. You disregard the problematic bits of the arithmetic. And you disregard the fact that politics is about more than just arithmetic. There’s the people stuff!

There is no evidence that the [SNP] parliamentary party is “losing us support”. And I never said or implied that it was. That’s because, unlike you, I am honest. I’m not pretending you said stuff that you didn’t. You’d do well to lose that habit. It makes you look very like the kind of sleekit politician you claim you don’t want to be.

In the reality which causes you such inconvenience, support for the SNP is currently at extraordinary levels. And if it’s not rising that’s probably because it has no further to go.

But let’s get back to that constrained thinking. The thinking which doesn’t include questioning your own prejudices, preconceptions and assumptions. Take this comment for example.

The parliament is largely useless as a means to gain independence, unless enough independence MSPS are elected, to push the SNP into more urgent action.

Again, we have a politician’s trick. State something that is true then associate with it something that is at best highly dubious or unproved and at worst a deception or a lie. The first part of the above statement is totally true. In terms of the constitutional issue – which MUST be separated from matters of policy – the Scottish Parliament is useless without a majority committed to a process that will lead to the restoration of Scotland’s independence.

But then you try to piggy-back on this statement of evident truth the highly contentious – but for you very convenient – notion that the desirable outcome suggested in the first part of the statement is achievable by doing precisely what it is that you want to do. Sensible persons should be immediately suspicious. It’s just too convenient – for you!

In order to dissect the dubious claim we must make some very bold assumptions. And that is an understatement. We must assume that it is actually possible to game the electoral system in such a way as to get elected the “independence MSPS” that just happen to be the ones you are promoting. This involves ignoring realpolitik. Which I’m never comfortable doing. But needs must.

Forcing ourselves to remain blind to all the difficulties involved, we assume you have been successful in getting those non-SNP MSPs into the Scottish Parliament. You now expect us to just accept that this is the only or best way to “push the SNP into more urgent action”. You hijack the truth of the first part of the statement and use it to give a lick of truthiness to the thing you want others to believe.

But what if we don’t just give up thinking at this point. What if we choose to scrape off the varnish of truthiness to examine what lies beneath. (Pun unapologetically intended.)

The fact that the SNP needs to be pushed necessarily implies that they have won the election with enough seats to form the administration. It also necessarily implies that they are in a sufficiently strong position to take that “more urgent action”. But if the SNP is in such a strong position, how might they be pushed? You seem to be suggesting that those cunning plan party (CPP) MSP’s would hold some sort of parliamentary threat over the head of the SNP administration. A threat which could only be to withhold support for all or part of the program on which the SNP was elected.

You are asking voters, having voted for a party on the basis of its manifesto, to then vote for a ‘party’ which intends to block – or threaten to block – the very program for which they are voting. How stupid do you think voters are?

Think it through and what you find is that these CPP MSPs can only be either redundant or irrelevant. If there is an SNP administration committed to a Manifesto for Independence, they are redundant. Because there is already the commitment and the numbers needed to act on that commitment. If there is an SNP administration still committed to the Section 30 process or, nightmare scenario, no SNP administration at all, then the CCP MSPs can’t put any pressure on that administration without behaving in a way that will outrage the voters and delight the British Nationalists.

Let’s finish by taking the true part of your comment and thinking it through rather more thoroughly than you find ‘helpful’. Clearly, we do need an SNP administration. And we need that administration to have renounced the Section 30 process. But is it not obvious when you actually THINK about it that the SNP has to renounce the Section 30 process BEFORE the election. The party can’t go into the election talking about the Section 30 process only to drop it after having been elected on that basis.

Additionally, the more effective political power the SNP has the better it will be able to implement an alternative process. So, those of us who are thinking in terms of Scotland’s cause rather than our own political careers ask what best achieves this. What best enhances the effective political power of the SNP administration?

The answer is obvious. Mandate! The bigger the mandate, the better equipped the Scottish Government is to confront the British state – as it must. The mandate is measured in votes. So it follows that the more votes the SNP gets, the more powerfully armed it is for the fight. You want to take votes away from the SNP. You want to weaken that mandate. (And FFS! don’t start going on about unused mandates. That’s the past. We’re discussing a totally different situation.)

I want the SNP to have that huge mandate. That big stick to wave at the British political elite. You want to siphon off some of that power for yourself. Fuck you!

Thinking rationally about the best imaginable outcome of the election in terms of Scotland’s cause that would be an SNP majority government, committed to a Manifesto for Independence and armed with over 50% of the vote on both ballots. THAT would be the lever we need. THAT is what we should be aiming for.

THAT is where you get to when you think it through with Scotland’s cause at the forefront of your mind.



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It’s the waiting…

I see Pete “The Postponer” Wishart has issued his call to inaction again. All across Scotland his battle-cry echoes, “Once more unto the waiting room, dear friends, once more!”. Apparently, the fight to restore Scotland’s independence must wait while Pete trains a troupe of line-dancing ducks. As rationalisations for indefinite delay go, this has the advantage of novelty. But it is otherwise less than persuasive. Don’t get me wrong! I wish Pete well in his duck-choreographing efforts and I’ll probably watch the YouTube video when he finally manages to get them all in a row; but I may not be alone in holding to the opinion that of all the things that Scotland needs right now, performing farmyard fowl comes pretty low on the list. Just above a second spike of coronavirus infections.

I am curious, however. I’d like to know what he means by “another dead end”. In the title of his latest paean to procrastination he asks ‘PLAN B. PANACEA OR ANOTHER DEAD END?’. What might be the first “dead end” implied by the question? What else could it be but PLAN A? So we must assume, as no other candidate plans are mentioned. Is this Pete Wishart acknowledging that the Section 30 process is a “dead end”? Or is it just more evidence that he talks – and types – faster than he thinks. Never mind the meaning! Look at the cleverness!

Why ask if ‘Plan B’ might be a panacea anyway? Has anybody claimed that it might have the power to cure all ills? Come to that, has anybody claimed that it might be the “solution to all our indy woes”? Or that it could “break the constitutional stand off and get us swiftly and easily to independence”? Who has described ‘Plan B’ in such terms? When? Where?

Don’t ask Pete! (No! Seriously! Don’t ask him. He doesn’t like being asked questions about anything he’s said or written. He gets very upset if people don’t simply accept his pronouncements as gospel. Don’t you know who he is?) It seems he doesn’t know either. Having just told us what he insists people have said it is, he poses the question, “But what exactly is plan B?”. Call me picky, but should he not have asked that question first? Should he not have told his readers what was about to get the benefit of his disparagement? Did he not just give the impression that he knew what ‘Plan B’ was? Or at least enough to know what it was described as? Confused? Just wait! (To coin a phrase.)

Pete Wishart then tells us that “no one has actually outlined what the exact proposal is”. But we know that’s not true. And so does he. Because he goes on to refer to and describe the proposal that Chris McEleny and Angus MacNeil had developed in sufficient detail to be put to conference – and be met with boos from the audience and behaviour from the party bosses that was hardly less reprehensible. Having said that ‘Plan B’ had never been explained Pete Wishart then goes on to explain ‘Plan B’ in the very terms of the explanation he says has never been given. Aye! I know!

To confuse matters further, Wishart then makes some fairly good points about the proposal he says he’s unfamiliar with because “no one has actually outlined what the exact proposal is”. Don’t ask me how that’s possible. More importantly, don’t ask him. Anything. Ever. He doesn’t like it.

I have always been supportive of Chris McEleny and Angus MacNeil not because I agree with their proposal or think it a workable idea but because they at least want to have a discussion about the SNP’s approach to the constitutional issue, while Pete Wishart and others want only to close that discussion down. Wishart says he proposes to “ask a few gentle but searching questions” about ‘Plan B’. We might wonder how he proposes to do that when he says he has no way of knowing exactly what ‘Plan B’ is. We might also wonder why, if it is considered essential that “gentle but probing questions” are asked of a proposal that’s more caricatured than described, similar questioning of ‘Plan A’ is strictly prohibited.

As my regular readers will both be aware, I have been asking searching and latterly non-too-gentle questions about the Section 30 process for years. Just as I have been asking probing questions about Pete Wishart’s notion of an ‘optimal time’ to act on the independence issue. I have had no answers on either matter.

The strategy will be familiar to those who paid attention during the 2014 referendum campaign. The approach taken by the SNP and the Yes movement then was that we had to ‘make the case for independence’. Having put the onus on ourselves, the anti-independence campaign immediately and predictably set about demanding answers to questions asked only because asking them suggested doubt. As any sensible person would have anticipated, the questions were endless and the answers never sufficient even if they were acknowledged as having been given.

Meanwhile, there was no questioning of the Union. The entire campaign proceeded – with the full concurrence of the SNP and the bulk of the Yes movement – on the promise that the UK is unquestionably satisfactory and independence has to be proved a worthy and workable alternative. But no proof could ever be enough. No test could ever be passed. The case for independence can never be made to the satisfaction of the British establishment. And the SNP insist that the British establishment must be the ultimate arbiter.

Pete Wishart insists that “the SNP will enter the next Holyrood election with a route map to secure our nation’s independence”. Why, then, will he not explain that “route map” at least as well as he wants ‘Plan B’ explained? If he is so confident that the SNP’s approach is the right one and that it is winning, why the refusal to set out the steps in the process? He says the SNP has a “route map”. But there are only two points on this so-called route map. The destination – independence – and a starting point which is wherever he needs it to be in order to make that destination seem reachable. A route map, as the term suggests, portrays a route. It lays out all the critical points which must be passed through in order to reach the destination. Nobody in the SNP leadership or the second tier that Wishart occupies is able (or willing) to tell us what any of those critical points are, far less how we get by them.

He dismisses ‘Plan B’ as impossible because the British state can and will just say no and we must accept that refusal because to do otherwise would give them further grounds for saying no.

Isn’t that the very definition of the Section 30 process?

One thing Pete Wishart says caught my attention for reasons other than its evident ridiculousness.

There are only two ways to pursue independence, one is with the participation of the UK state, the other is through a unilateral declaration. 

He almost gets it here. Quite unwittingly, I’m sure, Pete Wishart comes tantalisingly close to pinning an essential idea. It may well be true to say that there are only two ways to pursue independence. But then he succumbs to his inability to question his own assumptions and preconceptions. That he accepts the ‘right’ of the UK state to participate in the process is symptomatic of a colonised mind. That he finds anathema the very idea of Scotland being proactive and assertive speaks of a mind that has fallen prey to British propaganda portrayal of Scotland as ‘Too wee! Too poor! Too stupid!”.

If there are only two ways to pursue independence then one – the one favoured by Pete Wishart and those above him in the SNP hierarchy – is not merely with the “participation” of the UK state, but with the full, honest and willing cooperation of the British state. That is what the Section 30 process requires.

The other way is for Scotland to take responsibility for itself and its own future. To reject the Section 30 process as a constitutional trap laid by the British state and recognise that the only process by which we can successfully pursue the restoration of our independence is a process which we create for ourselves.

One other thing is worth remarking on. When I visited Pete Wishart’s blog there were several comments on it. Not one of them favourable. Many of them highly critical. This is a marked change from a year or so ago, when he could confidently anticipate a sympathetic audience for his brand or timorous complacency trying to pass itself off as political nous. A tide is turning. Given that Wishart dutifully parrots the party line, might we hope that he will notice the rising waters threatening to sweep him away along with all the other worshippers at the altar of the ‘Gold Standard’. Might he recognise that party members, Yes activists and voters will not much longer tolerate the SNP leadership’s obdurate adherence to a process that simply cannot move Scotland’s cause forward.

Maybe. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. Take a number. Mr Wishart will show you to the waiting room.



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