It’s all ours to take!

I always read – and reread – Joanna Cherry’s column in The National with great interest – and great care. She is, after all, a highly respected lawyer with a strong track record in representing Scotland’s interests and a well-established reputation for clear and often novel thinking on the constitutional issue. What she says matters. Her opinions carry weight. Her perspective is influential. She is a person of some consequence and when she speaks or writes on matters of constitutional law her utterances should be attended to minutely.

I’m a big fan of the law. Lawyers? Maybe not so much! But the law as a concept, in my view, ranks among the greatest of humankind’s contrivances. Perhaps the greatest. For without it civilised human society as we know it could not exist. I like rules. Not rules for their own sake, but rules which fulfil a function. Arbitrary or pointless or unfair or unenforceable rules are more hindrance than help and tend to defeat the purpose of rules, which is to make behaviour predictable. Large, complex societies could not function without the rules which allow each to know with a fair degree of confidence what the other will do in any given situation. Or, at least, to be cognisant of the range of options available within the law.

We must have confidence in the law and the parameters of behaviour it defines in order to function. When we enter into a contract we have to be confident that that it will be honoured. When we walk down the street we have to be confident that the person coming towards us isn’t going to knock us down and rob us. We fear and detest lawlessness because it erodes our confidence that the world and society will work the way we expect it to.

It is the law which allows us this confidence. The better the law, the greater the confidence and the better society functions. The quality of the law, at least for the lay person, may best be assessed in terms of two criteria – clarity and fairness.

The other reason I’m a big fan of the law is language. To some, the language of the law may seem convoluted and impenetrable. But I find the quest for precision very satisfying. I refer, of course, to the best of the law. Because language can as readily be deployed to obfuscate as to clarify. But when the law at its best defines something then there is absolutely to room for doubt about what that thing is. Whether it is ownership rights or contractual obligations or what is acceptable or otherwise in terms of social behaviour, the more tightly it is defined the more likely it is that the law will be applied similarly in all cases and the more fair the law will be perceived to be.

Fairness is entirely about perception. Justice is what is dispensed by the courts. But that which a court of law deems just, people may well perceive as unfair. And, to a significant degree, if it is regarded as unfair then it is unfair. Good law may thus be defined as law which tends to produce outcomes which are both just and fair. That is to say that good law produces outcomes which satisfy both the precise demands of justice and the more nebulous human sense of fairness. Good law is that which is perceived to be fair by both those it favours and those it does not. By this definition, good law is a rarity. The exception to the rule. But we do the best we can.

All of this is by way of preamble to my comments on Joanna Cherry’s article. As I say, I have read and reread the piece and paid close attention to both the words and the language. Words convey meaning. Language conveys ideas. I want to understand both what Ms Cherry is saying and what she is thinking. I am ever mindful that she is both a lawyer and a politician. with all that this implies.

There’s bits I like. There’s bits I don’t like. I really like this,

From time to time activists send me lengthy legalistic arguments about Scotland’s nebulous status in the Union which they believe, if ventilated in “the international courts”, would lead to Scotland’s independence. I’m afraid that belief is misguided. There is no legal shortcut to independence.

Particularly because she goes on to stress that “The route to independence is through the ballot box.” It is gratifying to have this point expressed by someone of Joanna Cherry’s standing in Scotland’s independence movement. The “lengthy legalistic arguments” are part of a particular discourse in the constitutional debate which I refer to as ‘cunning plans’. Among those who want it here have probably always been diverse views on how best to achieve the restoration of Scotland’s independence. For the most part, we no longer consider gathering in a field to smite one another with sharpened metal implements an appropriate way of pursuing a political objective. Although the politics we have may at times fall not far short of that level of brutality. But within the range of behaviours deemed acceptable there is room enough for a considerably variety of solutions.

That there may have been something of a proliferation of ‘cunning plans’ – political, legal and electoral – over the last few years is, I would contend, a measure of popular frustration both with the enmeshing tangle of the British legal and constitutional framework and the SNP administration’s failure to navigate a path through that tangle. People are irked because they see unfairness in what is held to be the law and the people they hoped and expected would rectify this unfairness have not done so. Have made no progress towards. Have failed even to address in a way which inspires confidence.

It is possible that some elements of some of these ‘cunning plans’ may have some utility in the fight to restore Scotland’s rightful constitutional status. I can say only that I have not seen anything that seems useful. For the most part, these ‘cunning plans’ are ill-conceived, ill-considered and over-elaborate. Betimes it seems that those concocting these ‘cunning plans’ suppose that complexity is the key to credibility. My experience is that either at or just beyond the second ‘if’ of the ‘cunning plan’ it enters the realm of fantasy politics. If this and if that then bring on the paste-hued unicorns.

Scotland’s independence will not be restored by endless courtroom wrangles over this and than piece of the constitutional jigsaw puzzle. Nor will it be restored by way of the electoral system, no matter how much the arithmetic kaleidoscope is shaken. Joanna Cherry is right. The route to independence is through the ballot box. The people will decide. Not the courts nor the roll of electoral dice. The people must decide on the specific question of whether to discontinue the political union with England. They will deliver this decision by means of voting in a referendum. And that decision will be binding on all.

Which brings me to the bits that I don’t like about Joanna Cherry’s column. Or, at least, the parts I like less.

I strongly disapprove of the reference to a “wildcat or illegal referendum”. In the first place, I have no idea what a “wildcat” referendum might be other than that it is what British Nationalists will call any referendum that they disapprove of. And they have made it clear that they disapprove of any referendum. So, according to them, any referendum we might have would be a “wildcat” referendum. British Nationalists will deploy the term “wildcat” to exploit its connotations of impetuosity and recklessness. They will use it to suggest that any referendum is unofficial, unsanctioned, unauthorised and therefore illegitimate. Language matters! That term, and that type of language, should never be uttered by any SNP politician. Particularly one as prominent and respected as Joanna Cherry.

Nor should she be lending credibility to the concept of a referendum being “illegal”. If for no other reason than that it makes no sense. How could there be such a thing as an “illegal” referendum? If it is not sanctioned by the relevant and legitimate authority then it is not a referendum and cannot happen as a meaningful exercise. If it is declared “illegal” by some authority other than the relevant and legitimate one, then it is the declaration that is meaningless and the referendum perfectly legal.

What matters is not legality but democratic legitimacy. The democratic legitimacy of the authority sanctioning the referendum and the democratic legitimacy of the process involved in conducting the referendum. So long as there is that democratic legitimacy, mere legality is meaningless.

Joanna Cherry states the issue rather succinctly,

My interest is in the question of how Scotland might hold a legally sanctioned referendum on the question of independence without having to be dependent on the Westminster Government’s permission.

Mine too, Ms Cherry! And I know that the reason the SNP has not found a way through that “enmeshing tangle of the British legal and constitutional framework” is that there is no way through. There is no path to independence within the legal and constitutional framework that has evolved as a carapace for the Union. Therefore, there is no possibility of a referendum that is ‘legal’ in the eyes of a British state unimpeded in its adopting of positions by considerations of fairness or justice or democratic principle.

I get the sense – and it is no more than a personal impression – that Joanna Cherry is aware of the futility of seeking accommodation and cooperation from the the British political elite. I strongly suspect she realises that neither Plan A nor Plan B is viable; nor any plan which allows that the British state can have political authority absent any semblance of democratic legitimacy. I get the feeling that Joanna Cherry may be edging towards the position so ably declared by Jim Fairlie only a few weeks ago.

For a change, the headline over Jim’s column stated the point very succinctly.

Scotland must reassert its sovereignty to decide its constitutional future

Scotland! Assert! Sovereignty! Constitution! Those four words sum up the true solution to Scotland’s constitutional conundrum. Because in reality there is no conundrum. Only the Scottish Parliament has democratic legitimacy in Scotland. Therefore, only the Scottish Parliament can have the political authority to sanction a referendum to decide Scotland’s constitutional status. As Jim Fairlie says,

There is a road through this impasse however. It is bold. It is forthright, and it answers only to the people of Scotland.

More and more people are coming to the same conclusion. Scotland’s predicament has become such that it is increasing ridiculous to think in terms of the British state granting its gracious consent, by way of a Section 30 order, to the people of Scotland exercising their fundamental right of self-determination (Plan A). It is just as ridiculous to entertain notions of the British state acknowledging the competence of the Scottish Parliament in constitutional matters by way of the same Section 30 process. If the Scottish Parliament has that competence then it has it by virtue of its democratic legitimacy and not by the good grace of jealous Britannia.

Even if Plan A and/or Plan B were viable they would not satisfy Scottish aspirations. Maybe there was a time when we would have been content with independence as a gift from the British state. Or maybe there wasn’t and that at least partly explains the tragedy of 2014. But no longer! No longer will Scottish aspirations be content with anything less than the independence that we take for ourselves. For it to be our independence it must be restored by a process sanctioned by our Parliament and none other!

It’s our nation! It’s our right of self-determination! It’s our referendum! It has nothing to do with Westminster and Westminster should have no role or presence in a process entirely made and managed in Scotland under the auspices of Scotland’s democratic institutions.

What we urgently need is to hear this bold and forthright position declared by our political leaders. Or, at least, by those among our political representatives who possess the fortitude to show leadership. Could this be Joanna Cherry?



If you find these articles interesting please consider a small donation to help support this site and my other activities on behalf of Scotland’s independence movement.

Donate with PayPalDonate with Pingit

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.



If you find these articles interesting please consider a small donation to help support this site and my other activities on behalf of Scotland’s independence movement.

Donate with PayPalDonate with Pingit

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.



If you find these articles interesting please consider a small donation to help support this site and my other activities on behalf of Scotland’s independence movement.

Donate with PayPalDonate with Pingit

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.



If you find these articles interesting please consider a small donation to help support this site and my other activities on behalf of Scotland’s independence movement.

Donate with PayPalDonate with Pingit

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.



If you find these articles interesting please consider a small donation to help support this site and my other activities on behalf of Scotland’s independence movement.

Donate with PayPalDonate with Pingit

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.



If you find these articles interesting please consider a small donation to help support this site and my other activities on behalf of Scotland’s independence movement.

Donate with PayPalDonate with Pingit

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.



If you find these articles interesting please consider a small donation to help support this site and my other activities on behalf of Scotland’s independence movement.

Donate with PayPalDonate with Pingit

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!



If you find these articles interesting please consider a small donation to help support this site and my other activities on behalf of Scotland’s independence movement.

Donate with PayPalDonate with Pingit

Your masters’ voice

When will people realise that the BBC is a British institution and that it can only behave accordingly. The BBC is the British state broadcasting to Scotland. It doesn’t matter where its operations are located, it can never be Scottish. It can only be British and therefore it can only treat Scotland with disdain and contempt. Anything that is British must take precedence over everything that is Scottish.

Read the statement made by a BBC spokesperson. They genuinely cannot conceive of how it can possibly be wrong to give what is happening in England-as-Britain priority over what is relevant to Scotland. The fact that doing so risked causing confusion which might even lead to people dying is of absolutely no consequence. The only criterion is the degree of Britishness involved.

Even if you strip away all of the politics, what the BBC did was wrong in terms of basic good news broadcasting practice. But that too counts for nothing when the BBC assigns values to news. The content isn’t even considered. The assessment never gets past the fact that one is British and one is Scottish. Some primal instinct set unreachably deep in the lizard-brain of the organisation compels the BBC’s Britishness. It cannot be other than it is.

Which is not to say that the BBC as an institution cannot or should not be a model for public service broadcasting that is Scottish. Appending the word ‘Scotland’ to ‘BBC’ does not make the BBC Scottish any more than appending the word ‘Mars’ would make it Martian. Public service broadcasting that is truly Scottish is Scotland holding up a mirror to itself and telling the world how we would like to be seen. It is us talking among ourselves about ourselves and our perspectives on Scotland and the rest of the world. And it is us talking to the rest of the world from our perspective.

BBC Scotland is the British state transmitting TO Scotland. It is the British establishment talking AT Scotland. And it has but one message. Its purpose is to constantly remind us that British is best. That we are not important. That we are not respected because those who accept that they are less cannot be due respect.

However refined the delivery may be, the BBC is the voice of an imperial force addressing annexed territory.



If you find these articles interesting please consider a small donation to help support this site and my other activities on behalf of Scotland’s independence movement.

Donate with PayPalDonate with Pingit

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.



If you find these articles interesting please consider a small donation to help support this site and my other activities on behalf of Scotland’s independence movement.

Donate with PayPalDonate with Pingit