Locked in!

When politicians start ruling on what is and isn’t democratic, you know the political system is broken. When that politician is Boris Johnson, you know the political system is diseased unto death.

In a properly functioning political system, it should never be necessary for anyone to rule on the democratic legitimacy of any action or process or policy. It should be obvious. There should never be any doubt because the criterion for assessing democratic legitimacy is so simple and all-encompassing – the people decide.

That’s it! That’s the only rule. At every opportunity, the people decide. Wherever there is doubt, the people decide. If the people have the final say, it’s democratic. If the people are prohibited or prevented from having the final say, it’s undemocratic. If the role of the people as the final arbiters in all matters concerning the nation is in any way limited or constrained, it is undemocratic. If politicians seek to usurp that role, that is undemocratic. If the status of the people as the source of all legitimate political authority is fully recognised – in principle and in practice – that is democratic. If that status is contemned, that is undemocratic.

The very last people who should rule on what is and isn’t democratic ere those who wield the power that is authorised and legitimised by being ruled democratic. That is a recipe for despotism.

I’m sure Boris Johnson entertains a conceit of himself as a benign despot. I have not the slightest doubt that when he looks in the mirror, the face he sees staring back at him is the face of a strong leader such as has historically come to England’s aid in her time of need – rather than the pouting, smirking balloon-face of a petulantly malicious child-clown that the rest of us see. His is a mind in which despotism is easily rationalised as a firm hand on the rudder of state. In that mind, democracy is whatever serves this warped, deluded self-image.

Boris Johnson supposes himself a born leader; the inheritor of all the qualities which define the heroes who inhabit the Great British Myth from Saint George, Slayer of Dragons to Saint Margaret, Destroyer of Communities. If he is destined to lead, the people must be fated to follow. Is that not the natural order?

If there is one thing worse than a wannabe autocrat in a position of political power, it is the people who pander to the delusion in order to turn political power to their own purposes. Purposes which are rarely of the benign sort which might be pursued by less devious means. Purposes which can be discerned by noting the things that are declared ‘undemocratic’.

We should be able to dismiss the nonsense about there being a “very clear promise” attached to the 2014 referendum stating that it would be a “once in a generation event”. This is a lie. There never was any such promise. Nor could there be. No politician can constrain the inalienable right of self-determination. Even if such an undertaking had been given and could be valid, in order to be so it would have to be enshrined in the legislation relating to the referendum, or in the Edinburgh Agreement. Next time some British Nationalist comes out with this drivel about “once in a generation”, ask them to show you the relevant legal provision. Ask them to tell you the precise wording of the alleged promise. Just don’t ask them how it could possibly be democratically legitimate as this would require an understanding of democratic principles that is evidently absent from British Nationalist ideology.

We should be able to discount this “once in a generation” lie. But we have to allow for the British media’s efforts to give such lies the status of truth, if only by means of repetition without challenge. The BBC and the British press will, as a matter of habit and practice, insinuate the idea into the public consciousness. That’s their job, as they see it.

But this may not be the worst of it. We are well-advised to attend carefully to what British politicians say so as to discover what they are thinking. And the most telling part of Boris Johnson’s reported remarks is not the the old lie about a “once in a generation” promise. A disturbing hint of what noxious notions are gestating in the British Prime Minister’s mind is to be found in the following,

I think that it’s odd that both Jeremy Corbyn and the SNP claim to be attached to democracy when their mission is to smash up the oldest and most successful political partnership in history, in the form of the Union …

Boris Johnson: ‘No reason’ for second Scottish independence referendum

The bit about Jeremy Corbyn is just another lie, of course. Corbyn is avery bit as much a British Nationalist as Boris Johnson. What is significant in this remark in the clear implication that proposing to dissolve the Union is undemocratic. The utterance falls just short of declaring that the campaign to restore Scotland’s independence is undemocratic.

When politicians start ruling on what is and isn’t democratic, you know the political system is broken. When that politician is Boris Johnson, you know the political system is diseased unto death.

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Bring it on?

As talk of a General Election mounts, I say ‘bring it on’…but it must be before Oct 31. MPs must not allow Johnson to game the date as a ploy to push through a no deal Brexit.— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) September 2, 2019

A nice soundbite from Nicola Sturgeon. Although the “bring it on” thing is getting a bit tired and threadbare, she carries it off. Perhaps well enough that people will cheer at the words without considering the content. They may applaud here steely determination and her grit and all that, but never think about the implications of a UK general election being brought on.

Our First Minister – and therefore, presumably the SNP group of MPs – seem bent on trying to force a snap election. She, and they, overstate their power to do this, of course; but that’s just politics. SNP MPs have no real power at Westminster. If they did, it’s unlikely they’d be tolerated at all in the parliament of England-as-Britain. The SNP is just part of an effort to block Brexit and/or prevent a no-deal Brexit and/or force a UK general election that is being mounted by a disparate, disjointed and disordered mob of MPs lacking any leadership or coherent plan or even agreed objective.

Nonetheless, this being British politics, such a random rabble may be effective. It may do something. Although whether what comes out of their effort in any way resembles what they intended or hoped for, is almost entirely a matter of luck.

But suppose what transpires is what Nicola Sturgeon appears to want when she urges the Johnson regime to “bring it on”. Suppose there is a UK general election called for mid-October. So what? What does Nicola Sturgeon stand to gain from this? What does the SNP stand to gain? What does the anti-Brexit campaign stand to gain? Most importantly, what does the cause of restoring Scotland’s rightful constitutional status stand to gain?

Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP almost certainly stand to gain more seats in the British House of Commons. So what? The Union is, and always has been, designed to prevent Scottish MPs being effective. The Union’s purpose, from its inception, has been to ensure that Scotland’s voice could never be meaningfully represented in British politics. Having 52 or 56 or even 59 MPs who actually speak for Scotland will make no difference.

The campaign to spoke the wheels of the Brexit juggernaut stands to gain… nothing! All the indications are that a UK general election will result in a British parliament even more committed to Brexit at any cost than the current one, If that is even imaginable. It will result is a British executive further empowered to wrench the UK out of the EU, trampling over democracy as it does so and dragging unwilling Scotland with it. This will be the outcome of a UK general election because this is what voters in England want. And they are the only voters who matter. A general election alters the make-up of the British parliament. But it doesn’t dilute the British Nationalism in that place. It only further concentrates it. The already vile mix would be made even more pungent and more potent by the addition of extremist followers of Nigel Farage.

The calling of a UK general election could warrant a further extension to the Article 50 process. Which might be regarded as a small victory for the ‘rebel rabble’ that the SNP is siding with. But only if all 27 real EU member states agreed to it and, even more crucially, only if the UK Government requested such an extension. Which simply isn’t going to happen.

It will be claimed that increasing the number of SNP MPs will strengthen Scotland’s cause. But will it? As already noted, the Union makes those MPs powerless regardless of their number. And they are now faced with a British executive which sees great virtue in emphasising and exploiting that powerlessness. A British regime which is eager to pander to British Nationalism’s anti-Scottish prejudices. A British political elite which will, therefore, relish every opportunity to demonstrate its contempt for Scotland’s elected representatives and democratic institutions.

Apart from which, a UK general election cannot possibly be both a proxy Brexit referendum and a proxy independence referendum. I trust that is obvious enough not to require further explanation.

Just as a UK general election will surely result in a British parliament and government which is even more determined to pursue Brexit at any cost, and which is empowered so to do, so it will result in a British administration even more committed to the ideology of ‘One Nation’ British Nationalism.

It will be claimed that having a massive majority of Scotland’s MPs will give the SNP some sort of enhanced mandate to pursue a new referendum and independence. But what difference might it actually make? If the British state is prepared to discount the existing “triple-locked” mandate, what reason is there to suppose it will not also discount any mandate no matter how ‘enhanced’. Especially when there is a British government that sees considerable political advantage in slapping Scotland down.

Bear in mind that Nicola Sturgeon has committed herself, and thereby Scotland, to the Section 30 process. A process which affords the British government ample scope for ensuring that no referendum ever takes place. There is no numbers of SNP MPs which will be able to force or persuade the British ruling elite to ‘allow’ a new independence referendum. Or to agree to a referendum on terms that would make a Yes victory anything more than the remotest possibility.

So! Bring it on! Bring on a UK general election. Just realise that after it is over we will be exactly where we are now. Brexit will still happen. At 23:00 on 31 October 2019 Scotland will be wrenched out of the EU despite our democratic will and ignoring all our protests. The people of Scotland will be stripped of their European citizenship with all the disbenefits and hardships that this implies. We will have imposed on us all the economic horrors that have been talked about and all the constitutional abominations that have been largely left unremarked.

The cause of restoring Scotland’s independence will also be no further forward. Doubtless those in the Yes movement are correct who say more people will be encouraged to support independence because of what they see happening in England and to Scotland. But without the means to express their democratic will, it means nothing. It changes nothing. And Nicola Sturgeon has effectively ruled out providing the means by which the people of Scotland might exercise their inalienable right of self-determination by inexplicably granting to the British government the authority to deny our right of self-determination.

That means of exercising our right of self-determination can only be provided by the Scottish Government acting through the Scottish Parliament with the support of the Scottish people. And it must inevitably and inescapably involve breaking the rules imposed by the British state. This is where we are now. And it is where we will still be after a UK general election.

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Choosing sides

Five years ago mine was one of very few voices warning of the British Nationalist threat to Scotland’s democratic institutions. It seemed obvious to me that, not only did the ‘One Nation’ project require the emasculation or closure of the Scottish Parliament, but that the political culture growing in England could not tolerate the continuing existence of a contrasting and competing political culture in Scotland. An effort to eradicate Scotland’s distinctive political culture would be inevitable. Such distinctiveness is anathema to British Nationalist ideology and contrary to the interests of the forces which have put Boris Johnson in power.

I mention this not by way of saying “Ah telt ye!” – although I reserve the right to do so – but by way of highlighting how significant it is that my warnings are now being vindicated by politicians as senior as Mike Russell.

I just responded to a Tweet from a businesswoman saying that, only a week or two ago, she would have considered my anxieties misplaced and my calls to action “extremist”. Her views have changed. People are waking up to the true nature of what I refer to as the British state, or England-as-Britain. By which I mean those forces which have co-opted Boris Johnson to serve their interests. The very forces which, by means of the Union, have foisted Johnson on Scotland in the same way as they have imposed on an unwilling nation Brexit and austerity and much besides.

Please do not imagine that those forces will be discouraged by this growing awareness of their purposes and intentions for Scotland and the rest of what they regard as the periphery of their domain. Do not imagine they will be in any way deterred by Mike Russell’s warning. Just as these forces see democracy and the law as things to be flouted or circumvented, so they see democratic dissent as something to be suppressed. From the British Nationalist perspective, the most effective way to suppress the wave of democratic dissent rising in Scotland is to eliminate the Parliament which gives a voice to that dissent. It is the obvious thing to do if your purpose and intent is the eradication of Scotland’s distinctive political culture, along with all those aspects of Scotland’s national identity which are not considered exploitable.

Gratifying as it is to see our political leaders recognising the real and imminent threat to Scotland’s democracy, this is worthless unless it is backed up with action. Both Nicola Sturgeon and Mike Russell have now acknowledged the reality of this threat. Many other politicians and commentators will surely follow. We need to know that they are prepared to effectively address this threat. We need to know that they are ready to do whatever is required to counter the threat. And we need to back them to the hilt as they confront the might of the British state.

Scotland’s Unionists are faced with a choice. It is important that those of us who long since realised the true nature of the Union should be mindful of how difficult this choice is going to be for many who have maintained a lifelong loyalty to the Union. But choose they must. Scotland is in jeopardy of a kind that it has faced only rarely in it’s long history. Jeopardy such as might sensibly be regarded as unprecedented. Sometimes, you just have to pick a side. Sometimes the choices are just so stark that there can be no compromise; no middle way.

The choice now confronting everybody who calls Scotland their country is between the Scotland we know, the Scotland we aspire to, the Scotland we hope to bequeath to future generations; and a Scotland pressed into serving those forces which put Boris Johnson in power.

What side are you on?

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We need a different ‘Plan A’

Well, of course the amendment has been ruled out of order. It was, as the “SNP insider” said, having been assigned the task of feeding some information to The National in the hope of reducing the impact of the official statement when it comes, “completely incompetent”.

The amendment submitted by Angus MacNeil and Chris McEleny was bound to be thrown out, not only because it sought to take one resolution and turn it into another, but because the resolution it sought to shoehorn in was the same one as had already been rejected.

I am not surprised that the amendment has been ruled out of order. And I will not be joining the inevitable knee-jerk protests about the SNP supposedly ‘suppressing debate’. I do not strongly object to the amendment being thrown out for precisely the same reasons as I accepted the initial ‘Plan B’ resolution being rejected. It just isn’t a very good plan. Whether put forward as a resolution that was never going to get past the conference agenda committee or as an amendment that was never going to get past the conference agenda committee, the fact remains that ‘Plan B’ is deeply flawed – as I explained back in July.

I was not merely being negative about it. I also suggested an alternative course of action which would have achieved much of what was intended by the original resolution. What I proposed was that Angus and Chris table an amendment to the resolution in the names of John Swinney and Maree Todd – which is what they did; although it’s hardly likely that it was at my urging. But, rather than the somewhat clumsy way the pair went about trying to hijack that resolution, my idea was to submit an amendment which would hitch a ride on it.

I would like to have seen Angus and Chris table an amendment that fitted with the self-congratulatory tone of the Swinney/Todd resolution but added a plea for the Scottish Government to recognise the urgency of Scotland’s predicament and the need to be aware of all the ways in which the UK Government would seek to put obstacles in the way of Scotland’s journey to independence. It would have been very difficult for the committee to reject such a motion. And ‘Plan B’ could have been referred to in moving and seconding the amendment.

Of course, this would not be a debate on ‘Plan B’ that would lead to a vote by conference delegates. But that’s probably just as well. Because any debate would surely expose some or all of the issues identified in the article mentioned earlier. It is even possible that the resolution could have been voted down. Which would pretty much be the end of the matter.

Angus MacNeil is correct when he says,

The clock is ticking, but we still don’t have a plan to save Scotland from a no deal Brexit in just two months time.

He goes awry, however, when he adds that he and Chris support ‘Plan A’. Because that ‘plan’ is doomed. It is, if anything, even more flawed than the alternative which they proposed.

I find it incomprehensible that Nicola Sturgeon should have so resolutely committed to a process in which Scotland is the inferior party in every respect. A process which acknowledges the superiority of the British state and all its agencies. A process which puts Scotland’s cause totally at the mercy of the British state’s rules and apparatus.

She is unquestionably right to maintain that the UK Government’s continuing refusal to grant a Section 30 order would, under prevailing circumstances, be wholly unreasonable and definitively undemocratic. What she does not seem to realise, or stubbornly refuses to formally recognise, is that the requirement for a Section 30 is iself anti-democratic in that it imposes constraints on Scotland’s inalienable and unconditional right of self-determination.

We do not need a debate about an alternative plan. We need an urgent reexamination of the plan to which the First Minister has committed. We don’t need a ‘Plan B’. We need a ‘Plan A’ which relates to the situation as it is now, not as it was in 2012.

We need a plan which recognises that there is no route to independence which adheres to the rules made by those who are determined to preserve the Union at any cost. A plan which recognises that those rules must be broken if the Union is to be broken. A plan which recognises that there is no route to independence which does not involve direct and acrimonious confrontation with the British state – and which prepares us for that confrontation.

That must be ‘Plan A’. Because, if ‘Plan A’ fails then it is highly unlikely that there will be an opportunity to implement any ‘Plan B’. The British state is far from averse to closing down democratic routes to social and constitutional reform. It is now clear that it is determined to do so in order to lock Scotland into a Union which is unilaterally redefined to serve a British Nationalist ‘One Nation’ project. A project which requires that Scotland’s democratic institutions be dismantled; our distinctive political culture eradicated; and our public services readied for feeding to the hyenas of corporate America.

Right now, the Scottish Government looks like it is isn’t even trying to save Scotland from this fate. In fact, it gives the impression of being oblivious to the threat. Only the power of the Yes movement can change that. And only if the Yes movement unites to put pressure on the First Minister.

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The hippies were wrong

There’s an odd contradiction in Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh’s scathing denunciation of the British political elite. At one point she says “as long as the books get balanced”, clearly implying that economic considerations are the primary concern of the corrupt and incompetent clique which has inexplicably inveigled its way into power. Later, however, she refers to British Nationalism’s isolationist obsession with “taking back control of borders, whatever the human or economic cost”, implying that economic considerations are subsidiary to ideological imperatives.

I do not for one moment suppose this contradiction to be the product of loose-thinking on the part of Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh. Rather, it is an inconsistency which derives from and reflects the bedlam chaos at the heart of the British state. Chaos in the sense of disorder. Disorder in the sense of both pandemonium and disease.

British politics is beset by a chaos in which the dogmas of neo-liberal economic orthodoxy and elitist nationalism clash and cooperate and combine and compete in ever more erratic ways. It is a disorder of politics and of basic humanity. A disease which strips the afflicted of all inexpedient empathy.

The hippies got it wrong. As did dystopian cynics – or whatever the opposite of a hippy may be. It is not love that matters. Nor is it hate. It is fear. Fear is the great engine of life. For life is simply the avoidance of fearful death. It is fear which drives all human affairs from the interpersonal to the international. Fear and its antidote – power! We are all afraid of everything all of the time. So we all seek power in order to allay the fear. Thus, all human interactions are transactions in power; a constant and largely unconscious bargaining process in which we seek to optimise our power so as to minimise our fear.

Money gives form to this trade in power. Politics is what we call the bargaining process. An inordinate lust for money and power betokens great fear. An excessive imbalance between power and fear denotes a failure of politics.

The politics of fear breeds fearful politicians. Fearful politicians crave and accumulate extraordinary power. This unnatural accretion of power creates an insupportable social imbalance. On the losing side of that imbalance, fear inevitably increases. Politicians exploit this fear. The politics of fear breeds fearful politicians. A vicious cycle resulting in an inexorable descent into chaos.

Empathy hinders the acquisition of power. The greater the fear, the greater the hunger for power. The greater the hunger for power, the greater the need to suppress empathy. Eventually, empathy is crushed out of existence. What remains is Iain Duncan Smith.

It is not difficult to see how the processes outlined here must lead to chaos. Or how chronic inhibition of empathy can develop into a pathological disconnection from society, humanity and reality. And we’re back to Iain Duncan Smith again.

Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh tries to describe the imbecilic haphazardness and mindless cruelty that characterises what the British political elite has become. But the senselessness and insensitivity defy language.

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Beware of swans

I don’t suppose Derek Mackay really believes that a British government minister being caught in a blatant lie will be “hugely embarrassing for the Tories”. I expect that, like most of us, he learned long ago that British Nationalists have absolutely no qualms about lying in defence of their precious Union. In fact, it is expected of them. Liz Truss wouldn’t be where she is today if she was not ready and eager to participate fully in the British state’s anti-Scottish propaganda campaign.

Far from being embarrassed, Liz Truss will be very pleased with herself. she got the headlines disparaging Scotland; she knows the media will play down the rebuke from the UK Statistics Authority; and she can be confident that there will be no consequences for her, other than being bought congratulatory drinks by her colleagues.

They just don’t care. British Nationalists don’t care about their lies being exposed because they don’t consider it wrong to lie for the Union. Any behaviour, however reprehensible in other contexts, is totally justified if it’s purpose is to further the British Nationalist cause. He (or she) who casts the first, biggest and most stones is without sin.

Derek Mackay, I’m certain, is well aware of this. The stuff about the Tories being embarrassed is just political rhetoric. No harm in that. Or is there?

It is common to see on social media comments about how the Tories are panicking and the British government is in meltdown and the suggestion that, if we just wait long enough and expose enough of their failures and wrongdoings, the whole lot will collapse and leave us a clear run to independence. And it is true that, on social media, there is to be found much evidence to support this notion of the British establishment being fearful and discombobulated. But what we see on Twitter is the webbed feet frantically paddling. Above, the swan of the British ruling elite glides gracefully on, unperturbed by any number of chastisements from any number of Sir David Norgroves. Impervious to Derek Mackay’s political rhetoric. Unmoved by being ‘slammed’ on Twitter for the umpteenth time by the First Minister.

They don’t care. They don’t care because the Union means they don’t have to care. They don’t care because, in 2014, we told them they didn’t have to care. When Scotland voted No it boosted the already vaunting confidence of British political elite in its power to deal with the ‘Scottish problem’.

The idea that if we give them enough rope they’ll hang themselves is utter folly. The more rope the are given the better they can bind us. We keep on giving them rope and they just use it to string Union flag bunting along every street in Scotland. The notion that the more the British state’s lies and misdeeds are exposed the more people will turn to thoughts of independence is just naive. Because, in general, people don’t care anymore than the likes of Liz Truss does. Tell them a UK Government minister has been talking Scotland down with brazenly dishonest statements and, supposing they even hear you, their thoughts turn to soap operas and football and sex and the problem of affording new shoes for the kids and sex.

The British state is not crumbling. However frantically the feet may be flapping under the water, on the surface the swan goes calmly on about its business. While some urge independence supporters to hang on in the hope that the swan of the British establishment will panic under a hail of exposés in The National and drown, the thing just keeps on going. Swans don’t forget how to swim.

Whatever it may look like from the social media perspective, the British political machine is not close to cracking. The juggernaut of rabid ‘One Nation’ British Nationalism isn’t measurably slowed by all the indignation and outrage at lies told by British politicians. The threat to Scotland’s democracy isn’t lessened one iota by revelations of British perfidy.

We cannot afford to wait in the hope that the Union will break. We must act to break it.

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Tether’s end

Nicola Sturgeon makes an important point. As she didn’t quite say, you can be pro-independence and non-SNP; but you can’t be pro-independence and anti-SNP. If you want independence then you have to support the SNP at least to the extent of keeping them in office until independence is restored. The party is one of the four critical components which must work together for the independence project to succeed. It is the lever by which we will prise Scotland out of the Union.

Scottish National Party (SNP) = Lever
Scottish Government (SG) = Fulcrum
Scottish Parliament (SP) = Base
Yes Movement (YM) = Force
snp + sg + sp + ym = i

This is well understood across the independence movement. Even among the myriad factions of the radical left, there is grudging acknowledgement that the SNP, being the only available source of effective political power, is essential to the process of restoring Scotland’s independence.

The question now tends to be whether the SNP has fully taken on board that the Yes movement is important for more than just providing campaign foot-soldiers and photo-op extras. There seems little to indicate that the party leadership realises what a valuable resource the Yes movement is. Even at this late stage, there is only tentative and overly cautious reaching-out to the wider independence movement. The SNP appears intent on keeping Yessers at arms length, only prepared to interact via some intermediary organisation. This is not an effective way of providing the leadership that the independence cause requires. Hopefully, the relationship between party and movement will change. But that needs to happen in a hurry.

Reading what the First Minister’s said in the interview with LBC broadcaster Iain Dale, we at last see some indication that she recognises the urgency of Scotland’s predicament.

“I think there is growing support for independence in Scotland and I think there is, accompanying that, a growing sense of urgency that if we don’t want to get dragged down a path, and I’m not just talking about Brexit here although largely that’s what I mean, but dragged down a sort of political path that we don’t want to go down, then we need to consider becoming independent sooner rather than later.”

Two phrases stand out in the above. The remark about a “growing sense of urgency” will be welcomed by the increasing number of people across the Yes movement who have been expressing concerns about the lack of of any sense of urgency on the part of the Scottish Government. Many people will also be heartened by Nicola Sturgeon’s assurance that she’s “not just talking about Brexit”. There is a widespread view that, both as a party and as an administration, the SNP has been entirely too focused on England’s self-inflicted Brexit problems – to the extent that it has somewhat lost sight of the independence cause.

These comments seem to give renewed hope and encouragement to those of us who feel the hot, stinking breath of rabid British Nationalism on our necks. But we’ve been here so often before. All too often we’ve seized on something Nicola Sturgeon has said desperate to believe that it portends bold and decisive action to save Scotland from the looming ‘One Nation’ project. All too often we have been disappointed.

There is a limit to how long this can go on. We may be reaching that limit now.

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