Never mind the journey! Look at the destination!

It isn’t difficult to understand why Alyn Smith is so anxious to steer discussion away from independence and the process by which it will be restored to Scotland. It’s easy to see why he wants to talk about the conjectural policies of a hypothetical SNP administration in an imagined future rather than the process by which that future might be realised or the strategy by which that process might be implemented.

He casually dismisses the referendum which in all circumstances will be essential to the process of restoring Scotland’s rightful constitutional status. He disdainfully sweeps aside any and all alternatives to the Section 30 process as unworthy of consideration. He declines to address the frustration with SNP strategy on the constitutional issue which has led directly to people seeking magical solutions to a political problem.

Of course, Alyn Smith insists that he’d be delighted to discuss these matters. But he chooses not to do so because they are “not that interesting to anyone but us”. By “us” he presumably means party members and the rest of the Yes movement. Apparently, we are not important enough for him to engage with. Why would he trouble himself with the nuts and bolts of process or the complexities of campaign strategy when there’s a crop of glittering generalities and elegant soundbites to be harvested in talk of policy? Why focus on the difficulties of the journey when you can paint whatever picture of the future might tempt your present audience to choose your vehicle?

He is delighted to discuss process having just airily rejected the idea of that being “anything other than a Section 30 Order”. He is delighted to talk about process. Just not with anybody who recognises the critical importance of following a process that actually connects to the desired outcome. He is delighted to talk about strategy. But not with anybody who has actual ideas about strategy.

Alyn Smith doesn’t want to talk about process lest someone ask how the Section 30 process to which he is wedded might actually work – as in take us to a referendum and/or the end of the Union. He doesn’t want to discuss strategy lest he be asked to account for the mistakes, missteps and missed opportunities of the past five years.

Mostly, he doesn’t want anybody pointing out that while he is chasing the “centre ground of middle Scotland” he risks losing the core support of the Yes movement; lured away by opportunists seeking to exploit frustration with the SNP for the sake of personal and/or partisan agendas which reduce Scotland’s cause to a mere marketing device.

Am I alone in noting the jaw-dropping contradiction to which Alyn Smith himself seems totally oblivious? He rightly states that “independence is not a luxury, it is essential…”. But given this acknowledgement that independence is the prerequisite for everything that we aspire to for Scotland how might we explain Alyn Smith being so uninterested in the “how” of restoring Scotland’s independence?



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The Union abides

Union no more

Ruth Davidson will fail to save the Union from whom or what? The Union isn’t under threat. Nobody is doing anything that threatens the Union. What is meant by “fail” anyway? The notion that the Union is going to self-destruct is utterly deluded.

In order to define failure in this context it is first necessary to understand the purpose of the Union. Only when the Union’s capacity to fulfil this purpose can it be said to be failing. Only when it ceases to fulfil its function altogether can it be said to have failed.

The purpose of the Union is to give England-as-Britain a permanent and significant advantage in the management of its relations with Scotland. Or, to put it another way, the Union serves to keep Scotland at a disadvantage relative to England-as-Britain. It does this in a number of ways, not the least of which is denial of the sovereignty of the people of Scotland.

If anything, this denial of our sovereignty has become ever more explicit over recent years. Imposing Brexit on Scotland contrary to the democratic will of the people of Scotland is a particularly egregious example of our sovereignty being denied. Our votes counted for nothing. The so-called “power-grab” of competencies being repatriated from the EU is another. When the British Prime Minister refuses a Section 30 request they are exercising powers associated with absolute monarchy. They are saying that the people of Scotland in their nation, the British Prime Minister is sovereign.

It is the Union which permits and enables this denial of our sovereignty. The Union absolutely requires that the sovereignty of the people of Scotland must be denied. The British Parliament may endorse Scotland’s Claim of Right, But it does so fully aware that the Union makes the endorsement a meaningless gesture.

So, where are the signs of failure? It seems that portents of the Union’s imminent collapse are being seen in the antics of the current regime in London. But British Governments have been riddled with incompetence and corruption for all of the three centuries of the Union. These governments come and go and the only thing that differentiates them is the amount of avaricious bungling they manage to cram into their period in office. The Union abides!

The behaviour towards Scotland of the Boris Johnson Clown Troupe provides ever more and better cause for Scotland to end the Union. But there is no reason to suppose that mere continuation of the British political elite’s centuries-old custom of contempt intimates the imminent spontaneous disintegration of the Union. It never did before.

The Union is not failing. The Union is working perfectly. There has been no measurable or meaningful shift of power in Scotland’s favour. Nor shall there be. The Union continues to lurk like some malign, anti-democratic beast prowling just beneath the deceptively bright surface of Scotland’s politics.

The Union won’t fail. It sure as hell isn’t depending on Ruth Davidson preventing it from doing so. Only if and when the Scottish Government, mandated by the people of Scotland, seeks and obtains the authority of the Scottish Parliament so to do will the Union end. Only bold, decisive action by the Scottish Government can save Scotland’s democracy and identity.



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Know your power

Boris Johnson’s ‘sheer might’ may be the stuff of fantasy. It may, in fact, be “dishonest weakness”. Maybe it does reveal “a fantasising, insecure, bullying Prime Minister, leading a fantasy fuelled, and failing, administration”. But it’s evidently enough. However fantastical may be the “sheer might” of the UK, the Union is clearly sufficient to its purpose.

Mike Russell – or Michael Russell as it seems we must now refer to him – is a politician. One would therefore be forgiven for supposing that he’d be aware that power is relative. What matters in the context of the constitutional issue is not the “sheer might” of the UK in relation to the rest of the world, but the power relationship between the British state and Scotland. From that perspective, the might of the Union is as sheer as it needs to be.

It’s all very well to illuminate the grotesquely asymmetric nature of that power relationship – which Michael Russell does exceedingly well – but what I and I’m sure many others want to know is whether and when the SNP intends to do anything to alter that power relationship so that it ceases to disfavour Scotland to the extent that he so ably describes. He makes a great job of conveying the gross injustice of the Union. But he has nothing to say about the SNP’s plans for rectifying the situation.

Michael Russell’s words are nicely chosen to provoke anger at the democratic iniquity of the Union. But he offers no constructive outlet for that anger. So he should not be surprised if that anger turns inward.

You may have noted that I asked only whether and when the SNP intends to do anything to alter the power relationship between Scotland and the British state. I made no mention of how this might be done. That’s because there really is only one way a power relationship may be re-balanced and that is by bold, assertive action taken by the disadvantaged party.

Power begets power. Power accrues to itself. It would seem that the default tendency of power relationships is to favour established power. Given that established power controls the terms on which power is distributed and exercised it is only to be expected that the rules will be such as to preserve and maintain the arrangement which has allowed established power to become and remain the dominant party. But the relationship is not as fixed and immutable as this suggests. No matter how one-sided, power relationships are still subject to a dynamic.

One of the ways in which established power achieves and maintains dominance is by asserting power on the basis of asserted power. Once a certain form and level of power is accepted, it becomes the foundation for further claims to power. The dynamic would tend always to totalitarianism and stagnation but for the disadvantaged party’s capacity to challenge asserted power by asserting its own power. It may seem that the default tendency of power relationships is to favour established power. In reality, however, the dynamic favours equilibrium within a range of power differential that is liveable for both or all parties.

There is no prevailing power without countervailing power. Because prevailing power gives rise to countervailing power. The potential of countervailing power is always there awaiting agency. We look to the SNP to give agency to the countervailing power which challenges the prevailing power of the British state. The “sheer might” of the British state relative to Scotland is a function of the Union. The obscene imbalance of power is the purpose of the Union. All the power over Scotland asserted by the ruling elites of England-as-Britain derives from the Union. Nothing changes in Scotland’s favour unless and until that power is challenged.

It is not necessary to wonder how the prevailing power of the British state might be challenged because countervailing power is not only born of prevailing power but defined by it. Countervailing power can do no other than take the shape of the space left to it by prevailing power. The exercise of countervailing power is, if not dictated, then certainly constrained by the space in which it can operate. Countervailing power redresses insupportable imbalances by testing the limits of that space. That is what the SNP is supposed to be doing. That is what the SNP is not doing.

What I want to say to Michael Russel and Nicola Sturgeon and all our elected representatives is this. By all means try to increase awareness of the appalling nature and effect of the Union. By all means seek to inspire with visions of a better future liberated from the shackles of an anachronistic and inherently anti-democratic political union. But unless you also show willing to be the agent of Scotland’s countervailing democratic power, what the hell use are you?



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Cherry on top

If people are seeking a ray of hope in the understandable gloom of the constitutional issue, it to be found in Joanna Cherry’s weekly column for The National. Not that I have no quibbles with what she says. It would be a remarkable feat indeed for Ms Cherry – or anyone else for that matter – to write something with which I was in total agreement. But the basics are sound. And growing more sound over the weeks.

I anticipate that this column will become one of the most referenced articles in the constitutional debate. It’s fair encrusted wi’ gems o’ truth an’ pearls o’ wisdom!

Acts of the UK Parliament cannot be challenged in court. Westminster could abolish the Scottish Parliament if it wanted to and no legal action could change that.

Joanna Cherry: Politics is not on hold – we must keep independence in sight

A truth long known but all too seldom told and recognised.

Well, first off, we must not fall into the trap of conceding that the fight against the coronavirus and dealing with its economic fallout precludes pursuing the goal of independence. Politics is plainly not on hold. Brexit is proceeding at full speed. Devolution is under attack. The Tories are continuing to pursue their constitutional agenda. We must do likewise.

Joanna Cherry: Politics is not on hold – we must keep independence in sight

Denying this is not a good look for any politician. It’s the wrong shoes for Nicola Sturgeon.

A strategy which rests solely on the assumption that Boris Johnson will grant a Section 30 Order if the SNP win just one more mandate is a risky one.

Joanna Cherry: Politics is not on hold – we must keep independence in sight

An understatement, for sure. But an understandable one. Joanna Cherry is working towards a position that would be difficult for her to approach other than with a modicum of caution. As someone who has the utmost regard for gravity and an abiding awareness of the almost proverbial inelasticity of rock and who has, therefore never looked at a mountain and thought it’s height a gauntlet thrown before my ego, I hesitate to deploy a mountaineering metaphor. But we might think of what Joanna Cherry is doing as hammering in pitons to aid her ascent to the summit of a position on the constitutional issue which (even more) directly challenges that taken by the First Minister.

I for one look forward eagerly to the moment when Ms Cherry plants Scotland’s flag atop that peak.

Meanwhile, I cannot possibly agree that “the route followed in 2014 is the gold standard”. But I can appreciate why Ms Cherry might say such a thing. It is politic for her to do so at this stage. Nor can I go along with the focus on developing post-independence policies in the hope of winning over wavering No voters. Quite apart from the fact that restoring Scotland’s independence is a question that will be decided in a referendum and not an election, any policy position is liable to be disliked as much as it’s liked. As Elliot Bulmer so succinctly put it in a comment an a recent Facebook post of mine “The choice is between states, not governments.”

Policy development is essential, and much good work is being done in that area. But none of it should be thought of as part of a referendum campaign. That was one of the mistakes made in the 2014 referendum. The constitutional issue got lost in a fog of policy debate. When (if?) a new referendum is held, we will not be electing a party to govern after independence. We will be choosing between the British state and the Scottish nation. We will be choosing between the constitutional anomaly of the Union and the constitutional normality of independence. That is all we will be choosing! These will be the only two options! Focus!

But we can surely forgive this lapse. It relates to matters of campaign tactics rather than overall strategy and is something that can be fairly easily rectified. Besides, Joanna Cherry has other things to say which are more deserving of our attention and consideration both for what they say and what they imply. My pick of the quotes would be the following,

But the reality is that because “power devolved is power retained” we cannot win this fight in the context of a devolved settlement which is designed to ensure Westminster’s supremacy. Nor, in the face of Westminster legislation, can we win this fight in the courts.

Joanna Cherry: Politics is not on hold – we must keep independence in sight

What is not explicitly stated but is necessarily implied is the matter of what’s left when you discount the courts and the “context of a devolved settlement” – which must be understood as implying the constitutional and legal framework constructed by the British state for the purpose of preserving the Union and “the dominance of England[-as-Britain] in our unequal Union”.

What is left is the Scottish Parliament and a new constitutional and legal framework constructed for the defence of democracy in Scotland. A constitutional and legal framework informed by the distinctive political culture which British Nationalists are seeking to eradicate along with such other distinctiveness as is deemed inimical to the ‘Little Britain/Greater England’ fantasised about by those British Nationalists. A constitutional and legal framework built on the solid foundation of the sovereignty of Scotland’s people and the democratic legitimacy of the Scottish Parliament.

Joanna Cherry may well be hinting at, and perhaps working towards, the very conclusion arrived by myself and others in the thoughtful portion of the Yes movement. The conclusion that Scotland’s independence can only be restored by the Scottish Parliament. And only if we break free of the “context of a devolved settlement”. Precious few listen to me when I say this. Very many listen to Joanna Cherry. As they should.



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So what?

Apparently, those pesky Russkies may have been interfering in the UK’s democratic processes. Or maybe they haven’t. I’m tempted to congratulate our new Russian overlords on finding the UK democratic processes with which they interfered. Or not. But in an effort to avoid sarcasm I’ll simply wonder how they hoped to figure out how their interference would interact with the interference carried out by other governments. Including the UK government. If, of course any governments interfered at at all. Because the evidence seems not very evidence-like. In fact, I’d like to see some evidence that the evidence is evidence. But that’s just me slipping into facetiousness again.

Not that I’m saying the alleged interference by the Russians (and assorted others) didn’t happen as alleged. In fact, my default assumption would be that there was foreign interference in the alleged democratic processes. Allegedly. Because that’s what states do. It’s what they’ve always done. I’ll warrant there isn’t a nation in all the world or in all of history that didn’t attempt to influence the course of events in some other nation at some point. They’re all at it! WE are at it! Everybody’s doin’ it! Everybody always has done it. It’s politics.

Long, long before Machiavelli was born state actors were being Machiavellian. There never was a state actor that didn’t think itself the most masterful practitioner of the Machiavellian dark arts since Machiavelli. Or before. They all think they’re running the world. They all see themselves as the ‘Great Engineer’ manipulating the levers of espionage and diplomacy to ensure advantage. And they all fail more or less disastrously more or less all the time.

All that changes is the technology. The underlying motivations and machinations haven’t changed. When carrier pigeons were cutting edge technology the coded messages strapped to their legs concerned precisely the same kind of things that now fly massively farther and faster and in infinitely more indecipherable form courtesy of the carrier pigeon’s successors. State actors have always wanted to know what other state actors are doing and thinking and thinking of doing. And they’ve always sought to manipulate what others do, think and think of doing. It’s kinda their job. Otherwise they’d be state non-actors.

In one of those curious quirks of human nature, these state actors simultaneously think themselves the secret bee’s covert knees when it it comes to the state acting and fret endlessly that other state actors might be out-Machivelliing them with devious new devices and gadgets and techniques and methods. State actors are desperately in need of counselling. But who can they trust!?

What we are being encouraged to worry about is nothing more than the environment in which politics proceeds. Of course, we should be on the lookout for serious abuses. But if any of those state actors had found a way of interfering in the affairs of other states that was effective in any significant way even in the face of efforts to counter that interference then, by definition, we wouldn’t even know about it. And all that would happen if we found out would be a shift to a new reality that was a product of the same process that was the product of the old reality. It to would be a political reality that had been subject to interference and manipulation and, just as importantly, the measures implemented to prevent interference and manipulation every bit as much as the old reality.

If you want to worry about Russian interference in Scottish elections and referendums then you are, of course, perfectly at liberty to do so. But doing so makes no sense unless you also worry just as much about American interference and EU interference and Israeli interference and Chinese interference and – worst culprit of all – British interference.

I’m going to take a wild stab in the dark here and venture that most people aren’t looking to expand their worry-list to anything like that extent.

What can’t be cured must be endured! There are many ills in life for which we are well-advised to develop coping mechanisms given the remoteness of the possibility of a solution. By far the most effective way of coping with and minimising the impact of unwelcome external interference in the democratic process is mass engagement and participation. State actors become small in the presence of the people united.

The Russkies almost certainly do have their tentacles reaching into Scotland. But when there is a frantic pointing at them and their activities (alleged) then my first response is to wonder which state actor’s activities I’m being distracted from. Being in Scotland, I don’t have to wonder long.



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On with the show

Why would Boris Johnson or Michael Gove or anyone else be in a panic over the Union? What would be the cause of this panic? What is the threat to the Union which might have prompted such panic? Apparently, Yes polling 54% has prompted pant-wetting among those charge with preserving the Union. The same people who with contemptuous insouciance totally disregarded an actual 62% Remain vote and barely stopped to spit on numerous mandates from Scotland’s voters have been moved to panic by a very tentative opinion poll uptick in support for independence.

Why?

For a start, it’s just polls. Nobody has actually voted for anything yet. More to the point, there is no way they can vote. There is no process by which that 54% could be translated into a solid expression of democratic will even if the 54% were real and sustainable in the face of the kind of propaganda storm that the British state can launch with ease. There is no discernible reason why Boris Johnson should be concerned far less panicking. The Union is not in jeopardy. If Johnson had ever doubted this, Nicola Sturgeon has put his mind at rest on that count.

The Sweaties are troublesome, for sure. The whole devolution thing has gone frightfully skew-whiff and those SNP upstarts can be a dreadful nuisance and the Sturgeon woman, well, the less said about her the better. But it’s all under control. Plans for shutting down the devolution experiment are proceeding nicely. The SNP at Westminster is lumpen and lethargic and locked into a perpetual grievance mode with Ian Blackford popping up at intervals like an automaton to provide The National with yet another headline about how he’s ‘slamming’ the Tories for this or that and Pete Wishart looking more like part of the House of Commons furniture with every passing day.

In Edinburgh, meanwhile, it’s very much the ‘Nicola and Covid Show’ – a freakishly popular daytime soap opera that has pushed ‘Scotland’s Cause’ off the schedules completely and seems set to run for years. The Sturgeon woman has signed an exclusive contract and while her team keep promising fans new episodes of ‘Scotland’s Cause’ the production schedule for the ‘Nicola & Covid Show’ makes this highly unlikely.

Spotting a potentially lucrative gap in the market, numerous independent production companies have started churning out cheap knock-offs of ‘Scotland’s Cause’ some of which have gained a small cult following. It’s not yet clear what effect these amateurish efforts will have on the prospects for a ‘Scotland’s Cause’ comeback. But they could potentially cause some upsets in next year’s glitzy Holyrood awards as some of the judges appear to be mistaking then for the real thing.

All in all, then, there’s nothing for Boris Johnson to bother his tousled, muddled head about. Scotland’s Cause isn’t going back into production any time soon unless the fans get together to demand it. And that’s not going to happen because they are all too busy arguing about what actually happened in earlier episodes and what this or that bit of dialogue actually meant and where the various plot lines might go and who should play the lead and what they love about it and what they hate about it and which of the rip-offs might succeed and so on and so on.

So why is the ‘Great British Travelling Circus’ coming to Scotland? If it’s not because the people back at head office are fretful about the future of the Union, then why are they dispatching Boris the Clown to put on a few tightly stage-managed shows in the annexed territory? Well, what are circuses and clowns usually for? Entertainment! Distraction! Diversion! The Jocks hate it, of course. They are not amused any more by the antics of Boris and his clown-troupe, But while they’re busy booing and hissing at him – and hopefully worse? – the poor dupes aren’t paying attention to what’s going on behind them. The tour will generate hour upon hour of rolling news coverage. Boris will be shown either performing to admiring photoshopped crowds at invitation-only ‘public’ meetings behind the razor-wire of some military site or fleeing hordes of vicious, woad-painted separatist hooligans waving Saltires and sporting inexplicably large but undoubtedly telegenic SNP badges. Win! And win!

Boris Johnson isn’t coming to Scotland in a fog of panic. He’s coming in the customary bubble of British arrogance. He’s coming to put on a show. And it isn’t even for the benefit of the natives. This is for his audience back home. Viewers in Scotland get their own programme. Repeats of the ‘Nicola & Covid Show’. Yay!



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Our nation! Our rules!

However, we are fast learning that the problem with devolution is that the powers and competences of the Scottish Parliament exist only at Westminster’s pleasure.

SNP need independence ‘contingency’ plans as Tories rip up the rule book

I am not sure who the “we” is in this sentence, but the “we” that includes me have known this ever since devolution was first conceived of. If anyone is only just figuring this out now then “fast” is not the appropriate word to describe their learning process. If someone is just learning for the first time that “power devolved is power retained” – as Canon Kenyon Wright put it – then let me be among the first to welcome them to our planet. We might well add that it is not only “powers and competencies” but the Scottish Parliament itself which lives in the constant shadow of the British state’s boot heel.

Few things, excepting the British government’s behaviour towards Scotland, better exemplify the precariousness of Scotland’s democracy under the Union than Section 30 of the Scotland Act (1998).

Basically, Section 30 means that any British Prime Minister, wielding monarchical powers, can do as they please with the devolution settlement and the Scottish Parliament. It will be argued that this authority is not absolute; that there are formal (legal/constitutional) and informal (political) constraints that stay the hand of the British Premier. But Scotland’s status in the Union means that those formal constraints are no more guaranteed to us than are the competences of the Scottish Parliament. Because they are guaranteed to us only by the British state. Which, as Section 30 of the Scotland Act (1998) makes clear, is no guarantee at all.

As to the informal constraints, they are no more secure than the formal ones. Politics is the dynamic management of relationships of power. The important word here being “dynamic”. Circumstances are never fixed. Situations are always fluid. The purpose of the Union is to give England-as-Britain a permanent and very considerable advantage in managing power relationships with Scotland – which to all intents and purposes is regarded as annexed territory. It is never a question of whether the ruling elites of nascent Little Britain have the advantage but only ever a question of whether and how they use that advantage.

For much of the latter half of the period of the Union to date the British ruling elite have opted to take a ‘soft’ approach to matters. In this, they were enabled by having placemen in Scotland giving them control of much of the apparatus of the Scottish state while giving the appearance of control being local. But that changed with devolution. Or, to be more precise, it changed with the rise of the Scottish National Party. The Scottish Parliament was intended to be permanently under the control of the British parties. It mattered not at all to the British which of the British parties it was as they also had control of the British parties – the British political parties being part of the British establishment.

Devolution was only permitted by the British ruling elite because and on condition that the Union was fully protected. Only when the right interests had been persuaded that the Union would never be placed in jeopardy was the devolution experiment allowed to proceed. Section 30 is the belt to go with the braces. It is there to persuade doubters that devolution poses no threat to the parliamentary sovereignty which legitimises the structures of power, privilege and patronage which define the British state.

The important dates on the devolution time-line are 2007, when the British parties lost control of the ‘pretendy wee parliament’, and 2011, when the Scottish electorate via the SNP gave jealous Britannia a bit of a kick on the arse. That got her attention.

Ever since 2011, and in some regards since 2007, the British political elite has been intent on undermining, sidelining, denigrating and delegitimising the Scottish Parliament. The distinct political culture that had always existed in the depths of Scotland’s culture began to rise to the surface. Under the SNP, this distinctiveness was being formalised in Scotland’s institutions and infrastructure. This could not be permitted. The soft approach to keeping Scotland reined and hobbled had to harden. Britannia had to rule, whatever the cost.

We are not just learning all of this. It was known as long ago as 2007 that the British were coming to burn down our Parliament and enfold all of Scotland once and for all into the chill embrace of Greater England. Is is absolutely no surprise to find that the British state has found in Boris Johnson a British Prime Minister who will facilitate the re-annexation of Scotland. It comes as no shock at all to witness the British government taking an ever harder line in its dealings with Scotland. It was only to be expected that the advantage afforded British Nationalists by the Union would be exploited with increasingly explicit rigour. That’s just politics!

The 4th dimension

One of the more perplexing things about political discourse around the constitutional issue is the strange tendency on the part of many people to exclude the fourth dimension from their thinking. It’s not just that they analyse and speculate as if time didn’t matter. Very often they proceed as if time didn’t exist. They will articulate proposals or solutions as if time was not a consideration. If they detail process to any extent at all, that process is time-compressed in a manner reminiscent of the way time is compressed in movies and TV shows. Characters are in one place and then they are in another and the time taken to get from one place to another doesn’t exist unless that time is useful to the telling of the story.

Call me what you will. I once did a rough calculation which made my point. I no longer have the details to hand and can’t even remember what the TV programme was, other than that it was a UK crime drama or an episode of a police procedural series. Noting all the locations in which the lead character appeared within the time period represented in the story, I calculated the journey times involved. The result showed that in a period of less than 24 hours the character had spent more than 20 hours travelling. Virtually all of that time had been ‘disappeared’ by the programme makers.

And so it is with much of the ‘thinking’ about Scotland’s constitutional situation. People will insist that we need a new party to be the political arm of the independence movement. Having decided this, they then go straight to the new location omitting completely the time it takes to get there. Mention the fact that it’s taken the SNP 90 years to get where it is and you will be accused of being a party loyalist. I could give many more examples. But I think you get the idea. The thing that tends to be omitted from proposals and plans is a time-frame. Or at least a realistic time frame.

Time matters. In the context of Scotland’s predicament time is of the essence. The time-frame is not something we can manipulate to squeeze in however much action we want. The time-frame within which we must act it restricted, restrictive and growing tighter by the hour. It is most definitely not open-ended, as implied by Nicola Sturgeon in recent remarks made in an interview with Andrew Marr. The journey time to the location at which the coronavirus crisis and its “economic legacy” is dealt with is undefined and undefinable, but without doubt far longer than the duration of the episode we are in.

Things are happening. Things are about to happen. Things that will be to the severe detriment of Scotland and its people and its democracy. We know this! We have a copy of the script. We can see the other players cards. The other player is now so emboldened as to be making no attempt to conceal those cards. There are mere months at most until Scotland arrives at what will effectively be a point of no return. A point at which we are locked into a new Union on terms unilaterally decided by the British political elite – absent any meaningful consultation with Scotland’s political leaders and without the consent of Scotland’s people. A point at which all democratic routes to the restoration of Scotland’s independence are closed and sealed. A point at which England-as-Britain finalises the annexation of Scotland. A point at which Scotland effectively ceases to exist as a nation other than for certain marketing purposes. (Ironically, ‘Scotland The Brand’ will survive. But it will be wholly owned by the British ruling elite.)

No hurry!

It is not only in the general political blethering that there is a strong tendency to disregard the time factor. The same tendency has afflicted ‘thinking’ within the SNP. For the last five or six years the upper echelons of the party have behaved as if populated entirely by Pete Wishart clones. But let’s not get into that. The failures and failings of the SNP over the period since 2014 are a matter of record. This issue has been endlessly discussed and minutely analysed by countless people – myself concluded. And that is as it should be. It is entirely fitting and absolutely essential that these failures and failings be known and understood.

But we know! We understand! There comes a point where you have to pack up that knowledge and understanding and take it with you as you move on – always aware that you have that knowledge and understanding still and for whatever use it might be.

We have to move on. Because, like it or not and regardless of whatever else may be going on in the world, we are caught in a time-frame from which we cannot escape. Everything that has happened since 2007 has been building up – at an accelerating pace – to developments that will unfold over the coming six months or so. Brexit at the end of this year is destined to be a defining moment in Scotland’s history every bit as much as the SNP landslide of 2011. At that point, the true nature and purpose of the Union will be made abundantly clear to all. The advantage afforded England-as-Britain will manifest as naked domination rather than the disrespect, disregard and clumsily subtle delegitimisation we’ve seen up to now. Unless we do something about it. And do it now!

What to do?

What should we do? What can we do? Taking due account of all factors including the constraints of time, how should we proceed? Avoiding the error of supposing that the end is the process, what should that process be? What is the end anyway?

If you suppose the end to be flooding the Scottish Parliament with pro-independence MSPs, you will think primarily in terms of a process which leads to that end. Or, as is presently the case with certain actors on the fringes of Scottish politics, you will disdain to consider the process at all.

If you suppose the end to be implementation of a particular policy agenda, you will think primarily in terms of a process which leads to that end. Or, as is presently the case with certain actors on the fringes of Scottish politics, you will disdain to consider the process at all.

If you suppose the end to be the dissolution of the Union and the restoration of Scotland’s independence, you will think primarily in terms of a process which leads to that end. Or, as is presently the case with the SNP leadership, you will exhibit no outward indications of considering the process at all.

But the SNP is hardly at the fringes of Scotland’s politics. It is right there at the centre. It is one of the critical components of the apparatus and process by which Scotland will be saved from the trundling juggernaut of British Nationalism. There are four such critical components – the people of Scotland; the Scottish Parliament; the Scottish Government; and the Scottish National Party. Remove or disable any one of these components and you also remove any possibility of Scotland having and retaining the power to determine its own future.

Only one of those components is disputed within the independence movement. The SNP! It is just a political party! It is not the whole independence movement! It’s not all about the SNP! How often have you heard such things said? Are you not sick of it?

The SNP is ‘just a political party’. But political parties are important. They are the means by which people exercise collective power in the realm of public policy in the same way as trade unions are the way people exercise power in the realm of employment. The only ones who disparage the utility of political parties are those who have reason to fear the collective power of people. Or those who are ignorant of what political parties actually are and what they are for.

If a political party ceases to be a vehicle for collective power then that can only be because the people who own that party aren’t using their collective power to control it. Power that is not exercised does not evaporate. It goes by default to those who are prepared to exercise it. Thus, through apathy and indolence, the collective power of political parties falls to an elite within the party. Then the apathetic and the indolent disparage political parties for not allowing them the power they disdained to exercise. The more political parties are disparaged, the more those with a tendency to apathy and indolence disdain to use them as vehicles for their democratic power. So, the more that democratic power falls to the elite that is prepared to seize it and use it for its own purposes.

See the vicious cycle?

If you do, you’ll recognise what has happened to political parties through the ages and what is happening to the SNP now. Members forsake their power within the party and that power is taken by a relatively small clique and members disengage because they cease to see the party as a means to exercise collective power so they forsake that power and… so it goes on.

Now place this in the context of the immediate constitutional predicament and the urgent need to end the Union before the Union ends Scotland. The SNP is a crucial part of this because it is the only political party in a position to turn popular power into effective political power. It is the only party which is available to us right now through which the people can exercise collective power in order to achieve the end of restoring independence.

There may be other parties which lay claim to this role. It may be claimed that this role may be fulfilled by a number of parties. Think about that one for a moment. Collective power exercised through numerous agencies!? It is a glaring contradiction in terms! And the parties which proclaim themselves alternatives to the SNP are guilty of the fallacy of the missing fourth dimension. There is no time! What must be done must be done now! Not in however many election cycles it takes for an alternative to emerge! A party which will, in any case, be susceptible to the same problems as are now besetting the SNP!

Hands up everybody who thinks the British political elite respects the collective and the consensual and ‘rainbow coalitions’. All the naive fools may now lower their hands. The British state respects only brute political power. Even if there were another party or parties in a position to give effect to the collective power of the people that party or parties would not be effective because to split collective power is to weaken it. That is why trade unionists have a certain antipathy for ‘scabs’.

The logic goes thus. The SNP plays a crucial role in the fight to restore Scotland’s independence. No viable alternative is available and there is zero possibility of such an alternative becoming available in time to be a viable alternative. The SNP is not fulfilling its role as a component of the apparatus by which independence will be restored. Conclusion! Make the SNP fulfil its role!

Why is this not obvious? Why are people abandoning the SNP and running around grabbing at any magical solution or cunning plan whose glitter catches their eye? Why are they abandoning the simplest logical path to go wandering in the desert of ineffectual whining? Why are they not choosing to be effective? Why are they not using the democratic power they possess in the most effective way possible by deploying the tools already at their disposal? Is it only because they have lost the capacity to appreciate time? Is it because they are unaware of Scotland’s true predicament and the imminence of the threat to our nation?

A question of loyalty

It should be clear from the foregoing that I regard the SNP as a tool. Just as I regard all political parties as tools. One can have a certain fondness for tools. One can have favourites. One can appreciate the particular attributes of a tool and the efficiency with which it performs its function. One will certainly favour a particular tool over another when it comes to a specific function. One may even be said to ‘love’ a tool because it has a prominent place in your life. But can one be loyal to a tool? I certainly couldn’t. I wouldn’t know how.

There is a job to be done. We, the people, are the only ones who can do that job. We cannot do that job without the proper tool(s). If we have a tool and it isn’t doing the job then whose fault can that be but our own? If the tool is not well maintained then who should we blame but ourselves? If we need that tool put in good working order who but ourselves should we expect to do that?

Choosing the right tool for the job is not a matter of loyalty. It is a matter of practicality.

Job specification

What is the job that we have to do? Knowing what it is that we want to achieve, how do we go about it? What is the process that leads to the stipulated objective?

The end point is independence. But what does that mean in plain language. It means the end of the Union. It means the restoration to the Scottish Parliament of all the competencies of a democratically elected Parliament. It means the restoration to the Scottish nation all the assets and attributes which are its due. It means the restoration to the people of Scotland the full capacities of the sovereignty that is theirs by absolute right.

None of this will be given. All of this must be taken. The Union will not be ended unless we end it. The parliamentary competencies presently arrogated by England-as-Britain will not be restored unless we restore them. That which is Scotland’s will not be returned to Scotland’s ownership unless we assume possession. The people of Scotland will not exercise the full capacities of their sovereignty unless they choose so to do.

In practical terms this means that people, party, government and parliament must combine to effect the dissolution of the Union by declaring the Union dissolved. All must combine to effect the restoration of our Parliament’s rightful powers and competencies by asserting those competencies in that Parliament. All must combine to affirm ownership by Scotland of all that is rightfully Scotland’s. All must combine simply to be the sovereign people of Scotland and its genuine voice.

The Scottish National Party will be fit for purpose when it commits to this process and this agenda. It is for us – all of us – to ensure that it does.

Upbeat

I did not set out to write all that I have. But that’s how it turned out. Because, for me, writing is thinking. And I want to end on the kind of positive note I’ve been finding it very difficult to strike of late. To this end, I return to the article in The National by Joanna Cherry and something she writes at the very end of the piece.

This Tory Government has a significant majority. Most of its MPs are 100 per cent signed up to project Little Britain. In order to realise their dreams, they are quite prepared to undermine the devolved settlement that has been the settled will of the Scottish people for more than two decades. The question for the Independence movement and for the SNP is whether, with this level of disrespect for Scottish democracy, we can be sure that a second independence referendum will be guaranteed simply by the SNP winning yet another election.

The answer, of course, is no. In terms of the constitutional issue, the SNP winning the next Scottish Parliament election will achieve nothing other than continue to keep the Parliament out of the hands of the British parties. A worthy enough achievement in its own right and something which is, for obvious reasons, the first and only priority of any election strategy. But as things stand this takes us no nearer either a referendum or independence. So we have to change how things stand.

What makes the difference is the SNP winning the next election having adopted a Manifesto for Independence which commits the Scottish Government to the actions outlined above. Principally, renouncing the Section 30 process; affirming the sovereignty of Scotland’s people; and asserting the competence of the Scottish Parliament in all matters relating to the constitution.

Make it happen! For in this instance it most assuredly is correct and fitting to say ‘there’s no other way’.

Another word from Joanna Cherry.

This Westminster Tory Government is ripping up the rule book. It is time for some serious contingency planning.

With respect, I’d like to rephrase that. This Westminster Tory Government is ripping up the rule book. It is time for us to write our own rules.



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What hope?

Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.

Saint Augustine

No mention from St Augustine of Hope’s bastard sons, Despair and Despondency. It would have given his aphorism a somewhat different resonance, to be sure. But it would also have made it more honest. But then, honesty and denial aren’t related at all. And what is hope but denial dressed for church.

Dreams are fine. Dreams are good. Every gruelling step of progress made by humankind began with a dream. As, it must be admitted, did every backward stumble. Perhaps we should better say that big things flow from dreams. What these things are depends on the nature of the dream. What is done is a function of what is dreamt.

If anything is done at all. Dreams don’t necessarily lead to anything at all. Dreams never have any effect if they are connected to realisation only by hope. The dreams which have effect are the dreams which are connected to their realisation by a process. We should not dismiss dreamers lightly. But if they substitute hope for process then we can dismiss them without harm.

A man, whilst he is dreaming, believes in his dream; he is undeceived only when he is awakened from his slumber.

Mahatma Gandhi

I am undeceived. I dream of restoring Scotland to her rightful status as an independent nation. But I am awake. And, being wakeful and aware, I see the process that connects that dream to its realisation fading and crumbling. Soon, all that will be left is hollow hope.

Hope’s daughters, are grown old. Anger that once was a fiery furnace now barely makes a flickering flame. Courage fails; weighed and weakened by the wounds of failures and betrayals.

It seems that with every word she utters Nicola Sturgeon widens the gulf between the dream that will never die and the realisation that will never happen. When Andrew Marr (Sunday 12 July) suggested there might be “no more talk about the next referendum, maybe for the rest of this year at least” Sturgeon replied,

Look, as long as I need to be focusing on the Coronavirus crisis and the economic legacy of that crisis, that is going to have my 100% focus.

Nicola Sturgeon

Perhaps realising in the moment how this sounded she went on to insist that she hasn’t changed her view on independence and that she thinks Scotland would be better off as an independent country and that she wants Scotland to be an independent country – sounding every bit the lady who doth protest too much. An impression reinforced when she dropped the big, clunking “but” that everybody was surely anticipating by this point. She wants Scotland to be an independent country, but…! She thinks Scotland would be better off as an independent country, but…! She hasn’t changed her view on independence, but…!

The particular qualification she cited was, of course, the Coronavirus crisis. Which may seem reasonable. However, she then tags onto this “the economic legacy of that crisis”. Thereby creating a totally open-ended get-out clause from a commitment to independence that was already looking woefully weak. Stood next to her impassioned commitment to the British state’s anti-democratic Section 30 process, Nicola Sturgeon’s dedication to Scotland’s cause looks a pale and fragile thing and highly susceptible to the buffetings of political expediency and self-interest.

This affects me. It affects me because my dream of restoring Scotland’s independence is connected to its realisation by a process which crucially requires a First Minister and a Scottish Government that is absolutely committed to the restoration of Scotland’s independence. Not just as something on the to-do list that they might get around to when they have a moment but as a desperately urgent necessity. Something that has long been a desperately urgent necessity. Something that remained a desperately urgent necessity even in the face of an unprecedented public health crisis. Something that has been made even more of a desperate necessity by the things that the British government has been doing while Nicola Sturgeon has been 100% focused on something else and the ensuing something else.

Why 100%? Every other political leader in the world, it seems, has managed to afford a percentage of their focus to other matters. Boris Johnson, for example, has managed to keep the Brexit bus hurtling towards the cliff-edge while making the same arse of handling the Coronavirus crisis as he would surely have done had he devoted the entirety of his meagre and flitting attention to it. But many leaders have coped with Covid-19 rather well while still fulfilling their other duties and responsibilities. There will doubtless be others who use the pandemic as an excuse for this or that. But I challenge anyone to name any political leader who, in the face of a real and impending and explicit threat to their nation’s democracy has said sorry but I’m too busy doing this other thing.

I believe Nicola Sturgeon. I believe her when she says she has a list of things that she regards as more important than getting Scotland out of the Union. I believe her when she intimates that she is prepared to expand that list. I believe her when she says she has on that list things that are not subject to any constraints of time – such as the “economic legacy” of the pandemic.

I have to believe she is sincere when she disowns political and constitutional interests. I have to at least accept that she is following some private logic when she assumes complete responsibility for dealing with the public health emergency and its economic aftermath while having no interest in the political authority and constitutional powers which are essential to this and every other matter that our First Minister and her government were elected to deal with.

I therefore have to accept that there is no process and that in its place I am being offered only scant and paltry hope. I have to accept that, while Nicola Sturgeon is First Minister – and by her own account – there is no process by which my dream of a Scotland free of the Union may be realised.

Nicola Sturgeon has, apparently knowingly and willingly, opened up the yawing space between herself and Scotland’s cause. We may amuse ourselves with speculation about her motives. But the distance between her and the cause of independence doesn’t get any less. The space between the dream and its realisation expands in direct proportion to the distance between the First Minister and the cause of ending the Union. It grows until it cannot be bridged by the process. Hope does not fill the gap. Hope has no substance. Hope merely denies the gap. Or denies that the gap is such as cannot be filled by some novel device. There are always opportunists ready to take advantage of the hopeful by selling them useless novel devices painted to look like genuine process.

According to Napoleon Bonaparte a leader is a dealer in hope. Nicola Sturgeon has nothing I want to buy.



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Ghost teacher

People who, for some inexplicable reason, think now is the right time to claim that independence can’t or won’t be achieved under the current SNP leadership.

Caitlin Logan: Infighting must not get in the way as independence nears

There is nothing “inexplicable” about the reason people are coming to the conclusion that “independence can’t or won’t be achieved under the current SNP leadership”. The reason is simple and obvious and has been set out countless times by numerous commentators – myself included. Either Caitlin Logan is too blinkered to have seen these explanations or she is being downright dishonest.

Nor can she sensibly claim that she is ignoring the explanation on account of it being unworthy of a response. Because the reason I and others doubt independence can’t or won’t be achieved under the current SNP leadership is that the current SNP leadership has declared that it will not or cannot play its role in achieving independence. (Independence is not an ‘achievement’, by the way. But that’s a whole other scolding.)

The current SNP leadership has declared an unwavering and uncompromising commitment to the Section 30 process. That process cannot lead to the restoration of Scotland’s independence. (See! Not ‘achievement’!) Therefore, it is perfectly reasonable for anyone to assume that the present SNP leadership is not genuinely intent on the restoration of Scotland’s independence. In fact, you’d have to be pretty stupid not to harbour doubts in the face of the current SNP leadership effective declaring that it can’t or won’t do the job we put it there to do.

Caitlin Logan is correct about many things. She is correct to maintain, as is implied, that independence will only be restored by an SNP administration. But there is no rational reason to believe it will be an SNP administration wedded to the Section 30 process. That means there must be either a change in the personnel or a change off the personnel. And if that is too blunt for some delicate SNP sensibilities then I have to tell them that I do not give a proverbial for their silly sensibilities. My priorities are evidently not theirs.

Caitlin is also correct about the list party nonsense being nonsense. But I don’t think she understand’s why people are resorting to such nonsense. People resort to magical solutions when they no longer have confidence in the people and agencies that are supposed to implement real-world solutions. That does not justify them putting their faith in mumbo-jumbo. But it is an explanation. The explanations are there if you choose to look for them, Caitin!

People have lost confidence precisely because the current SNP leadership doesn’t have a plan other than planning to wait and see how things turn out and if they turn out well pretend that’s what they planned and if it turns out badly use that as an excuse to wait a bit longer in the hope that things go right and they can claim that their ‘plan’ is back on track.

Nicola Sturgeon’s greatest asset is not her leadership skills or her abilities as a communicator but her luck!

Caitlin Logan would have us believe there has been a plan of action for the past five – nearly six – years. Don’t tell me! Show me! Show me the plan! and don’t give me that slippery drivel involving metaphors about chess or poker or medieval Japanese warfare or the dubious ‘wisdom’ of dead European emperors. Those metaphors evaporate under the slightest scrutiny. There may be a potentially infinite number of unique chess games but there is not an infinite number of moves available at any given point in any game. Good chess players know what moves are available. And so do their opponents. So unless Nicola has invented a new chess piece and is keeping it hidden under the table, STFU about politics being like a game of chess!

Want me to destroy the other specious rationalisations for their being no evident plan? Maybe another time. I’ve a final point to make.

Caitlin Logan does what many apologists for the SNP leadership are doing at the moment. She presents Nicola Sturgeon’s unquestionably superb handling of the public health crisis and the resultant blip in the polls as ‘proof’ that there is a plan and that it is working. I’m not fooled by this. Nor should you be. The coronavirus crisis is only tangentially related to the constitutional issue at the very most. But however large it may loom in our lives right now, the present crisis is a passing issue. The Union and its severely and increasingly deleterious impact on Scotland is an abiding issue.

In a month or two and certainly before a new referendum the public health crisis will have slipped off the rolling news and out of public consciousness. Nicola Sturgeon’s handling of it won’t be forgotten. But it will have rapidly diminishing value as a campaigning gambit. Banging on about it may even become counter-productive as it begins to prompt the question, “Aye! But whit huv ye done fur us lately, hen?”

I thank and congratulate Caitlin on avoiding the ‘never closer to independence’ ordure favoured by certain of our elected representatives. (I’m not going to say who he is. But am I the only one who has a tendency to put the “y” in ‘Smyth’ rather than in ‘Alan’?) She skirts close, however, in her final paragraph.

As it stands, things are looking up for Scottish independence. If there’s anything that can shatter that momentum, it will be a refusal to learn from the ghosts of politics past

Things are not “looking up for Scottish independence”, Caitlin. There is no momentum to shatter. It was smothered long since by the inaction and inertia of the current SNP leadership. To deny this is to refuse to “learn from the ghosts of politics past”.

Sana et Vincere!

Methinks George Kerevan doth too lightly dismiss stupidity and personal ambition as he examines the rifts which presently beset Scotland’s independence movement. I almost certainly spend more time than he in the cellars of below-the-line comments and the sub-basements of social media where the baser aspect of human nature tend to be over-represented and I don’t discount the likelihood that this may skew my perspective somewhat. But the virulent inanity and vacuous dogmatism and mindless bigotry and the rest doesn’t just materialise out of some special ether existing only in Twitterworld and its sister planets. It is drawn from an ample reservoir in the general population. Social media isn’t an exception to reality so much as a distillation of it.

If social media is a concentrate of human folly and general awfulness then it is equally true that what we regard as ‘the real world’ is a dilute solution of the same foolishness and unpleasantness. So which offers the most accurate insight? Is the view we get of our fellow human beings in the ‘real world’ overly kind? Or is the view through the lens of social media excessively harsh? Can those who completely eschew social media precisely because it exposes more of the rawness of their fellow creatures than they are comfortable with really be said to have a less distorted impression of our species than those who only know the ‘real world’ as occasional visitors?

Maybe George needs to spend a bit more time among the denizens of Twitter and Facebook. Maybe then he would be less inclined to underestimate in terms of both quantity and quality, the stupidity that humankind is capable of. He will find vast, viscous oceans of stolid idiocy barely stirred by currents of thinking so slight as to test the lower limits of sentience. Vacuousness so profound as to constitute a novel form of mental activity. Intellectual acuity which attains its acme in the selection of an appropriate emoji or gif. He will never again give only passing consideration to plain stupidity as an explanation for any human behaviour.

Nor, as someone with the advantage of much relevant experience in the realm of politics, should he suppose there to be any need to pretend that personal ambition is a pervasive factor influencing behaviour. Which is not to say that personal ambition is necessarily a bad thing. It all depends what price is to paid in the pursuit of that ambition; commonly in the currency of cherished principles.

Were one to seek sharply illustrative examples of both the stupidity and the grasping self-interest that is simultaneously cause and effect of divisions within the independence movement one would surely light on the proliferating ‘list parties’ as a rich source. Having given an only slightly over-egged account of the SNP’s dominance as suggested by polling, George Kerevan asks,

So why is the national movement at odds with itself, just as success moves into view? Why are sections of the movement planning to run candidates for a new independence party on the regional lists – a move that risks both voter confusion and media mayhem – when a large pro-indy majority already seems assured? Surely this is self-indulgence on the part of individuals? Or some conspiracy by who-knows-who?

The independence train is nearing the station but this is what could derail it

Why indeed? It is certainly a phenomenon which demands explanation. As anyone who has ventured onto this ground in social media will be well aware, it also has the richest vein of pure stupidity and more than a few garish gems of personal ambition. It seems odd, therefore, that George Kerevan’s analysis dwells on these things only long enough to be able to say that he didn’t disregard them completely. Is this perhaps because he’s reluctant to give offence?

Just as well I’m here then! Because I have no qualms whatever about denouncing these cunning plans and magic solutions and stating with absolute conviction that witlessness and covetousness are pretty much all the explanation needed to understand why people are happy to risk voter confusion and media mayhem and worse.

It is easy to understand the frustration with the SNP which provided the motivation to reach once again for the facile fantasies that RISE so ignominiously failed to flog to the electorate in 2016. It is a human trait to seek solace in magical solutions when they perceive more mundane methods as being futile. The SNP leadership made the clumsy, amateurish error of smugly assuming the Yes movement would always be there. That they could keep activism in standby mode to be instantly restored at the touch of a button. You don’t treat people like that. And if you do, you better anticipate a reaction that you are not going to like.

The stupidity – and personal ambition – come into the equation when one must explain why this knee-jerk reaction persists far beyond the point where thoughtfulness should have kicked in bringing the realisation that magic is no solution at all. Instead, what should have been a momentary flash of frustrated anger has congealed into a dull glutinous mass throbbing with petulant rage and quite impervious to reason. The stupidity is illustrated not least by the assessment of the SNP’s electoral prospects provided by George Kerevan. These are the very circumstances which make cunning plannery and resort to magic even less relevant than such things ever could be. And yet the less sense these cunning plans and magic solutions make the more determinedly they are clung to. If that isn’t stupidity then stupidity doesn’t exist!

Not that all of those involved in this ridiculous sideshow to real politics are entirely stupid. The dire inertia of the SNP and Nicola Sturgeon’s inexplicable commitment to the Section 30 process have generated a frustration that is ripe for exploitation by those who crave a taste of political power and covet the status of an MSP. The situation is a veritable magnet for chancers, scammers and snake-oil pedlars. Plunge a suitably gloved arm through the sludge of stupidity and I wager you’ll find at least one mire-dweller on the make.

I don’t disagree with George Kerevan regarding the divisions he classes as more significant than the ‘alternative party’ claptrap. I accept that there are differences about policy. But I’m not sure this is as problematic as he supposes. I suspect that if some people are not now prepared to set aside policy agendas and partisan interests for the sake of the overarching issue of principle at the heart of Scotland’s cause then they will become more inclined to do so as the fight to restore our independence regains momentum. There is already something approaching a general consensus that independence comes first. It’s not so much that this attitude is absent as that it wavers quite a bit in the course policy debate. Or appears to do so. Whatever topic is under discussion tends to take precedence for the duration of the discussion. But ‘independence first’ is the position most folk return to when such discussion ceases to be a diversion.

The matter of “who is in control of the independence movement itself” may well be divisive. But that’s because there is no leadership. It is my fervent hope that this leadership will shortly emerge from the Yes movement. Or be provided at last by the person who would be the obvious choice but for the fact that she has shown not the slightest interest in the role. Rather the contrary. Nicola Sturgeon appears to have been actively shunning the independence movement for some time now.

No matter whence it comes, this leadership must reframe the entire constitutional issue and refocus the independence campaign as a campaign to end the Union. The divisions over policy issues cannot be resolved. The differences run too deep and are too bound up in ideology to ever be reconciled or become aligned. A referendum campaign fought on issues that are not relevant to the referendum will almost certainly fail – as happened in 2014. The reason leadership is needed is that this is how unity is achieved. A movement is not a campaign. A campaign requires a form and level of unity, focus and discipline that is unnecessary in a movement and possibly even detrimental.

Leadership. Solidarity. Focus. Discipline. These are all part of the lexicon of the real politics I mentioned earlier. Which is why I am less concerned about divisions related to these than I am about the sideshow of pop-up list parties all being promoted with language that has more connection with hustlers, spivs and time-share sellers. I recently compared what they are selling to the financial derivatives we heard so much about the last time the global economic system suffered one of its periodic one-off implosions. It’s a metaphor worth exploring.

Divide and rule has been the unacknowledged motto of established power for millennia. Let our watchword be heal and overcome.



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