The beast stirs

By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes.

Macbeth Act 4, scene 1

Do you feel it? Do you not sense that something significant has just happened? Something has changed. Something ominous. It is not something new. More of a qualitative shift in an ongoing process. Just as a passenger in a car may feel even quite subtle acceleration or braking or changes of direction, so it is often possible to sense analogous alterations in the flow of events we call current affairs – until we call it history. A ferryman long accustomed to the tides and currents and eddies and shallows of the waters he navigates may become aware of a subtle anomaly amidst the roiling mass when all others see only the river as it always is. So, on occasion, we may discern a change that while seemingly minor, might well presage a major upheaval.

I sensed just such a change recently when Jackson Carlaw was so ignominious deposed as leader of the British Conservative & Unionist Party in Scotland (BCUPS). It is all to easy to view such goings-on among British politicians as the random twitchings and squirmings of pond-life viewed through a microscope. Encouraged by the media, the general public may focus on the relative trivialities of personalities and what they do and what they say to the exclusion of the connections to the bigger picture which make the petty portentous.

We have long known that the British state has plans for Scotland. Or perhaps we had better say intentions. The term ‘plan’ suggest a set of moves plotted in advance for the purpose of bringing about a specific outcome. Such plots and conspiracies exist almost entirely in fiction alone. In the real world the affairs of humankind are messy. Writers tell their stories from the perspective of one who starts from the outcome and works backwards in meandering fashion selecting only the things that relate most directly to that outcome until the chosen starting point is reached. Discard the other stuff, straighten the zigs and zags of that meandering path then when run forward you have the neat plot of a tale that can be told in less than a lifetime.. Reality does not have a plot. It does not proceed according to any plan. For all the great schemes that men or mice may pretend to, our story would unfold in chaotic fashion but for the imperatives and capacities of the players.

There is no plan. There are only more or less evident trends arising out of the chaos as certain imperatives coincide with concentrations of power.

It is evident that the concentration of power referred to as the British state has coincided with an imperative to quell the democratic dissent arisen in Scotland on account of the anti-democratic iniquities stemming from a grossly asymmetric political union. Details of neither end nor means need concern us greatly. All that matters is that the British state is being driven by an imperative to restore something closer to the power relationship between Scotland and England-as-Britain created by the Union than was permitted to develop by a devolution experiment which, from the perspective of the British establishment, has gone badly awry.

Whether this restoration of what the British regard as the natural order is achieved by, for example, closing down the Scottish Parliament completely or simply by transferring all significant powers to the UK Government in Scotland depends on opportunity. As do the methods by which either of these ends might be realised. It will always be possible to go to a granular view and find things that in isolation can be presented as piffling and not worthy of fuss. But undo the abstraction and reconnect the seemingly insignificant with the overarching imperative and the capacities which serve it to gain a better sense of what is happening.

The ousting of Jackson Carlaw together with the almost simultaneous elevation of Douglas Ross and Ruth Davidson as well as surrounding and subsequent antics is one of those things our hypothetical writer would surely regard as a major plot development. For a start, the whole thing is so obviously premeditated. It was arranged. And one can detect the patterns which speak of coordination among various components of the apparatus by which the British state gives effect to its power.

Note, for instance, the sudden frequency with which the ‘once-in-a-generation’ trope is being aired. Consider the likelihood that this is striking our consciousness anew because in every case it is the same variation on that trope stating as fact that the Scottish Government had given a formal undertaking that no further referendums would be sought until a generation had passed. In a recent radio interview, another of the British establishment’s discards, David Mundell, said,

We perhaps thought, as had been signed up for ahead of the referendum, it was going to be a once in a generation event and the result would be respected and we would move on but that’s not what happened.

David Mundell says no indyref2 even if pro-Yes parties win big

The emphasis has been added to highlight the relevant reference to ‘once-in-a-generation’ being part of the Edinburgh Agreement. Here’s Douglas Ross a couple of days earlier.

Nicola Sturgeon did sign that agreement with the UK and Scottish Governments that it would be once in a generation.

Douglas Ross ‘rewriting history’ with indyref2 claim

This is, of course, a lie. A quite deliberate and malicious falsehood told with the intention of deceiving the public. A very British thing done in a very British way.

The lie was not challenged by the British media. They rarely are. But outside that bubble of systemic dishonesty there was a great deal of comment about the lie being peddled by British politicians. As, indeed, there was about the removal of Jackson Carlaw to make way for someone more adept at telling such lies. But focus on these incidents diverts from the way they fit with the imperative to override and trample Scotland’s democracy. Regarded in that context it seems almost as if a signal has been given. Word has gone out to start ramping up attacks intended to undermine Scotland’s democratic institutions and, not at all incidentally, to prepare our essential public services for disposal.

Some may say that these attacks have been such that it is hardly possible to suppose they might be increased in either rate or intensity. You ain’t seen nothing yet! Here’s another lie from David Mundell.

Essentially the Yes campaign continued, and we didn’t continue at the same level of intensity or effectiveness at making the case for Scotland’s place in the United Kingdom.

David Mundell says no indyref2 even if pro-Yes parties win big

This is an example of a lie which turns truth on its head. A BIG lie! A rewriting of history which defies any effort to avoid the clichéd term ‘Orwellian’. The great thing about the BIG lie is that if you can make people believe it then you can make it a container for lots of smaller lies. Again there is something about this that suggests the British state’s propaganda machine moving up a gear or two.

The beast is stirring. It has sensed a vulnerability that can be exploited. Something wicked this way comes. It’s coming for Scotland. It’s coming for us. I have never been less persuaded that we are prepared to meet the coming onslaught.

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Changing the game

If Ross and Davidson turn the 2021 Scottish election into a plebiscite on the Union and indyref2, they stand to lose badly. Which will make it very difficult for Boris and Co to refuse a referendum.

This is how we know the Tories are about to play dirty

In the midst of George Kerevan’s otherwise excellent analysis we find the above unsupported assertion. George is far from alone in making this unsupported assertion. It has become a widely accepted, and hence seldom questioned, assumption that a decisive victory for the SNP in the next Holyrood election is essential because this “will make it very difficult for Boris and Co to refuse a referendum”. But I question it!

That a decisive victory for the SNP is absolutely essential is certainly true. And the notion that this will make it difficult – or even impossible – for Boris Johnson to refuse a Section 30 request is a very convenient explanation for those who consider that decisive victory for the SNP an end in itself and those who are strongly committed to the Section 30 process. It will not have escaped your notice that both these categories are populated almost entirely by the SNP leadership and its most loyal servants.

There is another way of explaining why that decisive SNP victory is essential. A way which finds considerably less favour with the party leadership and those most loyal to it. But we’ll come back to that.

First we must examine the claim that the Tories and other British parties losing badly enough in the Scottish Parliament elections might be enough to force Johnson to change his stance on refusing a Section 30 order. We start that examination by asking why. Why would it have this effect? Regardless of what he claims – and what others claim on his behalf – is the reason Boris adamantly refuses permission for a second referendum that there is no demand for it? Because only if that is genuinely the reason might a massive win for the SNP cause him to change his mind.

Who actually believes that British Nationalists are determined to block a second referendum because they feel bound by what they choose to believe is the will of the people? Who actually believes that British Nationalists would not continue to be determined to block a new referendum even if it was demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt that the will of the people was to have such a referendum?

Whatever the reason(s) for the British political elite seeking to deny the people of Scotland the exercise of our fundamental and inalienable right of self-determination we can be absolutely certain it has nothing at all to do with what the people of Scotland want. When was that ever a consideration?

So why believe that even the clearest and most undeniable demonstration of popular demand for a new referendum would change anything? It wouldn’t! So that cannot be the reason for a decisive SNP victory being so crucial.

To understand the real reason we need the SNP to win and win big I want to refer you to something said in a comment on my blog and my response. The comment was as follows.

Politicians may delude themselves that they have the power to change history. They don’t. Only the people can do that.

To which I responded –

Sentimental drivel! The people have no power. The people have strength. It is the political class which translates that strength into effective political power. Commonly, they will seek to persuade the people that it was popular power wot won it. All too many will be taken in by the stirring rhetoric. Strip away the deceptive varnish, however, and what you find is that as an all but invariable rule revolutions are initiated by the middle classes – academics, artists, professionals, civil servants and minor politicians – who then enlist the strength of the people.

Were you to find any exception to this rule – a true popular revolution which was successful – then what you would also and absolutely without exception find is that the success of that ‘people’s revolution’ came only after it engaged the same middle classes.

The reason a massive SNP victory in the next Holyrood election is important to us – the people – rather than to the SNP hierarchy is not because it changes anything about Boris Johnson or the British political elite or British Nationalist ideology and the determination to preserve the Union at any cost, but because it changes the SNP. More precisely, it changes the relationship between the party and the people.

We, the people, want and need an unprecedented SNP landslide not because it will stop Boris Johnson denying our right of self-determination but because it will stop the SNP denying it. We want and need that political and constitutional game-changer not because it will force Boris Johnson to grant a Section 30 order but because it will force Nicola Sturgeon to stop asking for it.

We want and need that SNP victory not because it will somehow cause the British political elite to respect Scotland’s people but because it will oblige Nicola Sturgeon to respect us. Not because it will require the British establishment to facilitate the end of the Union but because it will force the SNP to be the lever which prises Scotland from the Union despite the continuing and intensifying anti-democratic efforts of the British state.

We want and need that SNP win because it would represent Scotland’s popular independence movement engaging Scotland’s political class for our purposes as opposed to the political class laying claim to the strength of the popular movement in pursuit of its own agenda.

Neither the British political elite nor the SNP leadership want you to recognise this political reality. Not because they are in league, as I see some fools suggesting, but because there is a coincidence of interests such as happens in the real world. Otherwise we wouldn’t have so many dumb conspiracy theories.

In my response mentioned earlier I went on to observe that,

Perhaps more than anything else what Scotland’s cause needs right now is several heavy doses of hard-headed political realism. Fuck knows we’re not wanting for sentimental drivel.

Here is your first dose of hard-headed political realism. The British state will do whatever it reckons is necessary to preserve the Union. The British political elite will continue to deny the sovereignty of Scotland’s people and subvert Scotland’s democracy regardless of what happens in any election or referendum. That is why Douglas Ross and Ruth Davidson are being placed in the vanguard of the British state’s efforts to quell democratic dissent in its annexed territory.

Ross and Davidson are being put in place precisely and solely because they can be relied upon to follow orders without hesitation, absent any reflection, unimpeded by scruples and unhindered by principles.

There is no route to the restoration of Scotland’s independence which does not require that this aggressive obduracy is confronted with assertive determination.

There is currently no way to channel the strength of Scotland’s popular independence movement and translate that strength into effective political power other than through the SNP. And no time to find or create an alternative way.

There is every reason to assume that the coming Scottish Parliament elections represent our last chance to rescue Scotland from the forces of anti-democratic British Nationalism.

I urge and implore everyone who aspires to more for Scotland than an increasingly subordinate status with a ‘reformed’ Union to heed these words.

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Here be monsters!

What the independence movement didn’t do much of in 2014 was making the claim that remaining a part of the UK was a danger to Scotland, that it risked our democracy, that it was the road to fascism.

Wee Ginger Dug: Scotland isn’t ‘safe’ in this insane right-wing UK

Some of us did. Some of us have for years been warning that the Union is inherently anti-democratic and that the true nature and purpose and effect of the Union needed to be conveyed to the people of Scotland. Some of us have long argued that the question should never have been whether Scotland could survive as an independent nation but whether Scotland could survive as a nation without independence. Some of us have been saying for years that what is needed is not a campaign which behaves as if independence were a nice thing we might have if we could just jump through enough of the hoops set up by the British state, but an essential condition for the survival of Scotland’s democracy and distinctive identity that is being denied us by a malign British ruling elite.

Some of us are determined that the ongoing struggle to restore Scotland’s independence should move away from the obsession with being ‘positive’ that hobbled the 2014 Yes campaign. Some of us are insistent that we recognise that we are in a fight to rescue Scotland from forces which are not just farcically inept but fanatically malevolent. There is a darkness behind the bumbling blonde mop-top facade presented by Boris Johnson within which lurk fearsome monsters; deeply unpleasant ideologies and profoundly disturbing dogmas. Here be monsters!

This is no exaggeration. Were I given to such comparisons I might point out that Adolf Hitler was once regarded as a figure of fun. Having now done just that, I hasten to point out that this is not to suggest that Boris Johnson has latent genocidal tendencies. Only that before your enemies come at you in full armour they approach you in more innocuous garb. Until the mask of artless affability slips you will not see the face of your foe.

If you consider terms such as “enemy” and “foe” to be excessively hyperbolic then take a moment to reflect on the harm being wrought on Scotland by the British state and ask yourself if this is the behaviour of a friend. Or a partner. Or even an ally. The British political elite is embarked on a massive social engineering project designed and implemented by people who see society as a machine which must be controlled. and themselves as the ones best qualified to be in control. The design may seem haphazard and the implementation half-arsed, but the underlying direction of travel is all one way – towards what is euphemistically referred to a ‘managed democracy’. How better to demonstrate the need for a mechanic than to have the the car break-down. How better to convince people of the need for ‘extraordinary measures’ that to to create the kind of chaos which defies ‘normal politics’.

Here in Scotland we don’t have to wait to see what British managed democracy looks and feel like. We have lived with managed democracy as long as we have any form of democracy. We have lived with it so long that many people are only now coming to realise that our democracy is being managed. The Union ensures that whatever democracy we may have it will always be subject to the approval of England-as-Britain. We can always be outvoted. And failing that our democratic choices can be refused regardless.

We have seen this managed democracy starkly illustrated throughout the Brexit process. Properly democratic countries freely negotiate the terms on which they associate with other nations. Scotland has been denied this. It is the Union which affords a varnish of legitimacy to this denial.

We see the unmistakable imprint of managed democracy in the Section 30 process. A legislative device which allows the British political elite an effective veto on and controlling role in the exercise of the right of self-determination which in a true democracy is the exclusive preserve of the people.

Devolution is supposed to be a testament to British democracy. In fact, it testifies only to a a slight easing of the choke-chain but with jealous Britannia ever poised to yank it tight at any moment. Our democracy is by definition being managed if powers are being withheld from our Parliament. If your democratic rights are constrained in any way then you are not enjoying democracy you are enduring a form of low-level tyranny

The purpose of the Union was from its inception and remains to this day to make Scotland manageable. To rein us in. To put a choke chain around the nation’s neck. Lately, Scotland has started to growl. The British can only respond by tightening that choke-chain. The gradualist approach to resolving the constitutional anomaly of the Union has been effective inasmuch as it has allowed us to develop the capacity to growl. But this approach can only work to win us room to manoeuvre. Britannia’s grip on the on the other end of that choke- chain is not going to loosen because we pull at it. It will have to be wrenched from her hand. It will have to be wrested from her grasp. If we do not do this now then the leash that binds Scotland to the British state will be more securely fastened. Escape may be impossible.

Some of us see the monsters. Some of us see the Union for the threat that it is. It’s time more people did.

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The line

…eventually even the meekest in Scotland will run out of cheeks to turn.

Wee Ginger Dug: There’s only one cure for British exceptionalism

How long have I been hearing assurances that the next straw will be the one that breaks the camel’s back of Scottish apathy and alienation? How often have my expressions of weary disgust at being defecated upon by the British state been met with exhortations to suffer yet more British contempt in the name of independence. Always just a bit more.

Whence this craven conviction that the road to independence must be paved with the mistakes, misdeeds and malign actions of others? Whither the proud principle that our fate should lie in our own hands?

British exceptionalism cannot be cured. Not least because the effort to cure it would only be required were the British exceptional. Exceptionalism isn’t susceptible to remedy or vulnerable to attack because it feeds on both triumph and victimhood. Exceptionalism is equally affirmed as either oppressor or oppressed. British exceptionalism shifts effortlessly from ‘Poor Old England Suffering The Slings And Arrows Of A Cruel World’ to ‘Brave Little England Triumphing Over Seemingly Unbeatable Odds’ to ‘Great Britain A Force For Good In A World That’s Just Not English Enough’ and back again. Exceptionalism means never having to say you’re ordinary.

How likely is it that British exceptionalism might be undermined by continuously submitting to the impositions of a British political elite so replete with self-regard as to be unable to conceive of regard for others?

Why would we want to cure British exceptionalism anyway? It’s their affliction. Let England-as-Britain tend to its own problems. We have our own problems that urgently demand our attention. Perhaps the greatest of these being a willingness to pander to British exceptionalism by meekly accepting the defamation, degradation, abasement, exploitation and humiliation served up by coldly contemptuous British ruling elite.

It’s not a cure for British exceptionalism that we require. Its a corrective for our own pusillanimous behaviour. Dutifully dancing in a rain of British effluent to the martial anthems of imperial Britannia does not betoken a nation capable of asserting its sovereignty, far less a nation preparing to do so. A policy of accommodating and appeasing British exceptionalism can never serve Scotland’s cause. If people are persuaded that being abused will bring rewards then they will tend to suffer abuse willingly and go on suffering abuse until a line is drawn. It is long past time to draw that line.

We cannot cure British exceptionalism. But we may at any time of our choosing decide that we will no longer be the inferior by which England-as-Britain measures its superiority.

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It’s all gone wrong!

Recent experience suggests the constitutional imagination of many senior UK politicians and commentators still seriously struggles to encompass the idea of devolution. They don’t understand it. They don’t understand what it is for. In their heart of hearts, they don’t value it.

Andrew Tickell

Or perhaps they do understand what it is for. Perhaps their frustration derives, not from a failure to understand devolution, but from the failure of devolution to fulfil what British Nationalists understand to be its purpose. If your understanding is that the purpose of devolution is to kill Scotland’s constitutional aspirations “stone dead” then the last twenty years must have been a torment of thwarted anticipation. If you take to heart Enoch Powell’s assurance that “power devolved is power retained” then you may well respond with annoyance to continued questioning of where power lies – or should lie. If you acceded to the devolution experiment having been persuaded that the experiment was devised so as to constitute no threat to the Union then you are bound to be a bit pissed off about how things have actually worked out.

Devolution didn’t prove Tom Nairn wrong when he said “the last thing the British state was prepared to do was to re-evaluate the centre of its politics”. Devolution was not, for British Nationalists, a re-evaluation of Westminster’s supposed sovereignty over all things. It was an affirmation of that superiority. The act of granting power is itself an assertion of superior power. The power to grant power necessarily implies the power to withdraw the power that has been devolved. Real power is not given. To be real, power must be taken. If your purpose is to preserve a power relationship which is being challenged than one very effective way is to forestall the taking of power with devolution.

As British Nationalists understand it, the purpose of giving a modicum of power to those uppity Jocks was to forestall them taking all the power to which they are entitled. Devolution was, for British Nationalist, always about withholding power more than granting it. The abiding condition of devolution is that ultimate power must always reside with the British state. The British political elite felt unthreatened by devolution because they retained a de facto veto over all devolved powers. The structures of power, privilege and patronage which constitute the British state remained sacrosanct. The Union would be preserved.

Believing this, the reality must be hard for British Nationalists to accept. The outrage they evince at Scotland’s First Minister conducting herself as a real political leader is not feigned. They are genuinely affronted by the fact that Nicola Sturgeon has earned the status that she has. This is not how it was supposed to be. They are profoundly perplexed by the fact that Scotland’s independence movement didn’t evaporate in the wake of the No vote in 2014. They are baffled by the continuing electoral popularity of the SNP in defiance of a propaganda campaign that should have seen them off years ago.

None of this is because the “constitutional imagination” of the British Nationalist “struggles to encompass the idea of devolution” so much as that they have their own idea of devolution. And this ain’t it. They thought to subdue Scotland with a strong sedative and it has instead acted as a stimulant. They thought to create a placid servant but have contrived to make a monster. They understand very well what devolution was supposed to do. What they can’t understand is why it isn’t doing it.

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Nae bother tae Uncle Tam!

We know that Tom Gordon has a functioning imagination. We see the Herald’s political editor deploy that imagination regularly – nay, incessantly – as he contributes to the campaign of denigration against any identifiably Scottish institution or organisation demanded by the British Nationalist propaganda effort. Tom Gordon is a leading exponent of the ‘Scotland-as-hellhole’ genre of journalism. Indeed, he may have a credible claim to be the originator of the sub-genre pertaining particularly to NHS Scotland. He is certainly the most accomplished. And prolific! Hardly a day passes but that Uncle Tam has at least one article devoted to undermining public confidence in our health service and those who, by his account, barely make it work.

This doesn’t make Tom Gordon a bad journalist. Not in terms of proficiency, at least. (Whether it makes him bad in any moral or ethical sense of that word is for each of us judge for ourselves.) On the contrary, it takes a highly competent journalist to slant, spin and distort information in the way he does without crossing the line into blatant dishonesty more often than he does. If there is a glowing report on any aspect of NHS Scotland that Tom Gordon can’t transform into a damning indictment then there isn’t one that he can’t assiduously disregard. Good news is no news! It is the mark of his manipulative skill that he is only very rarely not up to the challenge of conjuring crisis, collapse and catastrophe from material which to less professionally jaundiced eyes would seem to suggest that NHS Scotland performs extremely well by the impossible standards of a genuine public health service.

All of which makes the dearth of imagination in his little diatribe about Universal Basic Income (UBI) the more perplexing. It is remarkable that Tom Gordon can glance at an Audit Scotland report on NHS Scotland and immediately see the single vaguely negative point which can by his magic become the only thing worthy of the public’s attention and consideration, and yet he can peer at a widely commended proposal such as UBI and be utterly unable to discern anything positive about it at all. All he can focus on is the fact that the proposal referred to by Reform Scotland is more than four years old and that the figures used dated from 2014. On this basis Uncle Tam dismisses the entire concept of UBI as one of those “wonder-remedies” peddled by politicians and sneeringly accuses its proponents of “flogging dead hobbyhorses”.

OK! We know that in these straitened times journalists are denied the resources to do the little extras like research. But for being prevented from doing his job properly by being too impoverished to possess even the most basic computer, Tom Gordon might have discovered that UBI in a variety of forms is taken very seriously by many authoritative experts and that from at least the 1960’s to the present numerous pilot schemes have been or are being run in countries as diverse as the US, Namibia, Canada and Finland. Of course, not all of the completed experiments have been deemed a success. But is that not the nature of pilot projects? Is it not their purpose to find the ways that a scheme may fail every bit as much as the ways in which it might succeed?

In 2018 the Scottish Government committed £250,000 to a feasibility study for four UBI pilot schemes in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Fife and Ayrshire. The study, which was partly prompted by a report from the highly respected Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) examining the benefits and challenges of a basic income system in Fife, was due to be completed in September 2019. The resulting report will doubtless be to some extent a casualty of the current public health crisis. But the First Minister has made clear her continuing interest in UBI.

That may be the problem. If it is capable of being described as ‘Scottish’, then it must be denigrated. If it is supported to the slightest extent by the Scottish Government, it must be calumniated. If Nicola Sturgeon is expressing an interest, it must be belittled. If it is SNP policy or even looks like it might become SNP policy having been debated at party conferences, then it must be besmirched. Them’s the rules of British Nationalist propaganda!

It turns out that Uncle Tam hasn’t lost his imagination. He has simply deployed it more subtly than is his customary practice. I don’t believe he is as unaware of the facts about UBI as he pretends. He must be aware that rather than being peddled as a “wonder-remedy”, UBI is widely regarded as having a great deal of potential. He must realise that the economic fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic will both require a major rethink and provide an opportunity for reform. But UBI is being talked about by Nicola Sturgeon and considered by the Scottish Government. That makes it ‘Scottish’ enough for the strictures of the Herald’s British Nationalist editorial line to require that it be denigrated and defamed. A job for Tom Gordon.

It takes imagination to imply that UBI is simultaneously a dangerously draconian economic measure and a pathetically unimaginative policy proposal. Nae bother tae Uncle Tam!

It takes skill to suggest to the reader that it is not possible to look past dated numbers to the underlying principle. Nae bother tae Uncle Tam!

I’ve no idea what it takes to consistently portray Scotland as a depressed and depressing ‘failed state’. But it’s nae bother tae Uncle Tam.

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The message and the language

I note the now standard indignation quotes from Pete Wishart and Mhairi Black. The outrage seems very routine these days. The language has grown dull with overuse. The same stock phrases deployed for every new outrage. Had they not specified the British political elite’s proposal to gerrymander the Scottish Affairs Committee it would have been impossible to tell which iniquity the two SNP big-hitters were talking about. In short, it’s boring! Mind-numbingly boring!

I am an unabashed political anorak and proud keyboard warrior in the battle to restore Scotland’s independence. If I find these rote renderings of scandalised sensibilities ditch-water dismal imagine what effect they might have on a wider public purposefully alienated from politics and disengaged from the democratic process. I’ll tell you what effect it will have. None! Joe and Jane McPublic were switched off before either Pete Wishart or Mhairi Black opened their mouths to speak. And nothing in what was said or the way it was said was going to switch them on. They’ve heard it all before. It’s the magnolia emulsioned woodchip in the unregarded background of their lives.

Mhairi Black and Pete Wishart could be reciting the End User Licence Agreement for some Microsoft product for all the attention they’ll get from the very people who urgently need to be told what is happening.

Here’s an interesting fact! The Tories are very bad! What’s that you say? It’s not an interesting fact? Everybody in Scotland already knows this? It is actually a banal, hackneyed commonplace and not in the slightest bit interesting to anybody? Well! Colour me astounded! So, why do SNP politicians keep proclaiming the badness of the Tories as if they were imparting a novel gobbet of political wisdom? What’s the point? Who are they talking to? Won’t everybody who happens to hear them rightly assume that they’ve heard it all before and turn their attention back to the sports pages or that riveting afternoon soap opera about the everyday antics of stereotypical characters in a generic English town? Of course they will!

Nobody in Scotland needs to be told that the Tories are bad. But the Tories are not the real problem for Scotland. Anyone who imagines the constitutional situation would be much different or any better with a British Labour government in London is very naive. They might introduce some superficially progressive policies. But if history is our guide then they would do little or nothing to roll back the economically damaging and socially corrosive changes made by their dancing partners in faux rivalries foxtrot of British politics. The superficially progressive reforms would be invariably inadequate, ill-thought, badly implemented and short-lived. Most importantly, they would be intended for the benefit of communities very different from Scotland and to address issues that are not necessarily relevant to Scotland, or which call for a solution that is shaped by Scotland’s particular needs, priorities and circumstances.

Whether in government or in opposition, the policies and positions of British Labour will always be formulated to appeal to or avoid offending the relatively tiny number of voters in England who actually decide elections within the managed democracy of the UK. The very same voters who are foremost in the minds of British Tories as they develop policy. They’re both hunting the same beast. So they both use the same bait and the same traps – with different camouflage.

In Scotland – and perhaps elsewhere – the epithet ‘Red Tories’ is often used in referring to British Labour. As is often the case this is an oversimplification. It implies that British Labour is not at all different from British Tories. Self-evidently, this is not the case. There are marked differences in many policy areas, even if the difference is less apparent by the time the policies are implemented. What the term ‘Red Tories’ should be taken to mean is that as far as Scotland is concerned they might as well be the same party because both are, first, foremost and incorrigibly British parties. It’s the ‘British’ bit that matters, not the Labour or the Tory bit.

The British Tories treat Scotland with contempt, not because they are Tories, but because they are British. British Labour, being every bit as British as the British Tories, will always treat Scotland with a disdain that is barely distinguishable from the British Tories. The contempt and disdain derive from the same British exceptionalism and British nationalism in both cases. The authority for this total absence of respect is also the same – the Union!

That is what Mhairi Black and Pete Wishart and their colleagues should be talking about. And in such a forceful, forthright and emphatic a manner as might get the attention of a public afflicted with chronic ennui. People should be angry about what is happening. It is perfectly fitting that people should be angered by attempts to further reduce the already derisory influence of Scotland’s elected representatives in the English-as-British parliament. When the ruling elites of England-as-Britain make Scotland’s representatives second-class MPs they make everybody in Scotland a second-class citizen in their own country. If we cannot be roused to anger by that then we deserve all the considerable and increasing contempt that British politicians throw at us.

It is long past time that SNP politicians learned to feed the anger in order that it might energise Scotland’s cause. It is long past time they learned to make the Union the target of that anger. Instead, they urge us to put up with the insults and the threats because this will drive up support for independence. And so it should! But only if the reality is presented to people in such a way as to make them listen and force them to think. At present, the language contradicts the message. It is a powerful message. But SNP politicians suck all the power out of it by the way they speak.

This has to change. The message is both powerful and urgent. The Union is bad for Scotland, and rapidly getting worse. The Union is the problem. All the rest is mere symptoms of the Union’s malignant grip on Scotland. The people of Scotland need to know this. They need to be told this in language that leaves no room for doubt about the Union’s cancerous effect on Scotland or the threat posed to Scotland by rampant British Nationalism armed with the power of the Union. If the SNP will not make the effort to convey this critical message then the task falls to the Yes movement. And even if SNP politicians do decide to alter the tone and target of their rhetoric the Yes movement must amplify and broadcast the message so that it penetrates the heads and hearts of even the most apathetic of Scotland’s people.

It’s time to stop farting about! It’s time to get angry! It’s time to get loud and outspoken and passionate and assertive! It’s time for Scotland to rise up and demand an end to the anti-democratic iniquity of the Union! And it’s bloody high time the SNP got serious about Scotland’s predicament.

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A BritNat referendum?

I doubt very much whether there are any senior ‘Scottish’ Tories who “now back indyref2”. It may well be that there are many senior ‘Sottish’ Tories who believe it necessary to rethink the arid and blatantly anti-democratic denial of Scotland’s right of self-determination which characterised Ruth Davidson’s reign as Queen of the BritNats. Which was, in fact, the sole characteristic of that undistinguished reign.

It would be surprising if anyone of normal intelligence wasn’t prompted to reconsider a one-line manifesto which, having hoovered up the votes of all Scotland’s most hard-line British Nationalists, had nowhere else to go. A party whose appeal is to the extreme must be limited by the appeal of that extreme. Its potential support hits a sharp cut-off point where that extreme comes up against the mass of moderate opinion. In electoral terms that cut-off point seems to be within a point or two of 20%. It is all but inevitable that some in the upper echelons of the ‘Scottish’ Tories must have recognised this. Even if Jackson Carlaw lacks the intellectual acuity and political nous to do so.

But advocating for a new independence referendum? I don’t think so. Preserving the Union is as much, perhaps more, of an imperative for British Tories as it is for the other British parties. None of the British parties will ever facilitate or tolerate any process which places the Union in jeopardy. The Union must be preserved at any cost to Scotland and its people. Unlike when David Cameron agreed to the 2014 referendum, a vote now would all but certainly favour the restoration of Scotland’s independence. So there is no way any senior ‘Scottish’ Tory is going to “back indyref2”. Unless they can be assured that the Yes campaign might be thwarted.

There is a strong possibility that those senior ‘Scottish’ Tories, along with other British Nationalists, have identified Nicola Sturgeon’s commitment to the Section 30 process as a weakness that they can exploit.

Andy Mciver is correct when he says that the SNP administration’s supposed policy problems aren’t sufficient to significantly weaken the party, far less have any knock-on effect on support for independence – which all but the most blinkered British Nationalists realise is a separate thing. But a referendum held under the constraints of the Section 30 process can quite readily be manipulated to greatly disadvantage the Yes side. After all, the whole purpose of Section 30 is to serve as a choke-chain on the Scottish Parliament. Given that the Scottish Parliament is crucial to any process which might lead to independence, the British political elite retains ultimate control so long as the Section 30 process is being adhered to.

The ‘Scottish’ Tories are unlikely to come out in favour of a new independence referendum. They cannot afford to lose the British Nationalist vote. But they may seek to broaden their electoral appeal by softening the rhetoric and being less openly anti-democratic. Carlaw will go wherever the political wind blows him. If it is decided that the party should go into the 2021 Holyrood elections portraying itself as grudgingly prepared to accept a new referendum on certain conditions, Carlaw will read whatever script is handed to him. The worst that might happen is that their vote would hold. Which is probably the best that they might realistically hope for.

Should this less strenuous opposition to a new referendum become apparent it may be seen as cause for cautious celebration in some quarters. It will certainly be hailed by the British media as making the ‘Scottish’ Tories more electable and Jackson Carlaw a credible contender for the office of First Minister. It may even be welcomed by the less thoughtful parts of the Yes movement. Which would be a serious error.

We must all be mindful of the fact that anything British Nationalists are prepared to countenance must, by definition, be contrary to the aims of the independence movement and against Scotland’s interests. Any referendum that British Nationalists find acceptable must be powerfully suspect from a Scottish perspective.

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Welcome to Borissia

Living in Scotland, I tend to greet news of a Downing Street reshuffle with a shrug. How does it affect me? How does it affect Scotland? Isn’t shite still shite no matter how much you rearrange the turds? I have to remind myself that, because of the Union, these people exert extraordinary, totally unaccountable and invariably baleful influence in matters which should rightfully be the exclusive province of people we actually elect. We are therefore obliged to take at least some heed of what manner of individuals hold senior positions in the government of England-as-Britain. Or what I have lately taken to calling Borissia. I may occasionally fall into the habit observing the comings and goings of British politicians much as I would the wrigglings and squirmings of pond-life under the microscope, but it is as well to be mindful that this pond-life bites.

I read that the current Minister for the Constitution, Chloe Smith, is slated to be declared the new Minister for the Union and, tempted as I may be to note this tidbit of info-gossip and move on, I also read that Ms Smith apparently takes the view that the people of Scotland are neither worthy of nor entitled to news presented from a Scottish perspective. The British news is good enough for us. She isn’t about to encourage the idea that Scotland is distinctive in any way. It just the northern territory of Borissia.

Scotland’s cause being purely a constitutional issue it’s maybe a good idea to keep a watchful eye on Chloe Smith. In the Borissian government, the Minister for the Constitution is the official champion of British Nationalist ideology, and Minister for the Union is a diplomatically dishonest euphemism for the Minister for the Subjugation of Scotland.

I read that someone by the name of Rishi Sunak is the new Chancellor of the Borissian Exchequer having formerly been Chief Secretary to the Treasury – a role I inevitably associate with one Danny Alexander now Sir Daniel Grian Alexander having been duly rewarded for his part in creating the false prospectus on which the people of Scotland voted to give the Borissian government licence to do as it will with Scotland.

I know nothing of Mr Sunak other than that he is the MP for a part of Borissia called Richmond and that he must be a British Nationalist or he wouldn’t have been given the job. Of much more interest is the reason there was a vacancy. His predecessor resigned because of Boris Johnson’s intention to create a joint set of economic advisers for the Treasury and Number 10; a move that would further concentrate executive power in the hands of Johnson and his very special adviser, Dom Cummings. We have to refer to them as Boris & Dom now as they are at least as much an ‘item’ as deserves the ampersand. It’s surely only a matter of time before some wag hack with a depleted imagination coins a joint name for them – Bordom or Doris, perhaps. Which would be marginally less excruciating than The Johnster and The Cumster, I suppose.

But we should take this seriously. The combination of Boris Johnson and Dom Cummings may be revolting, but it is revoltingly successful. While BoJo plays the chief clown in the Borissian State Circus, Cummings is pulling strings and levers behind the scenes with such deftness that Boris & Dom have each and both got pretty much everything they want. There may not appear to be a plan. But what if the plan is to appear to have no plan whilst cunningly progressing a cunning plan cunningly concealed by cunningly contrived chaos? What if the shambles of the Brexit process was exactly what was needed to create the conditions for centralising power and upgrading Borissia from satirical epithet to stark reality?

Suppose someone was mounting a coup in the UK. Isn’t control of the treasury the first thing they would think of, given that there’s no need for them to take over the TV and radio stations? Exaggerated as it may seem, isn’t that thought enough to give one pause? Bear in mind that Boris & Dom haven’t only absorbed the team advising the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, they have installed someone they know is amenable to such external influence (control?) over his department. And, perhaps more importantly, removed someone who was evidently minded to resist such a move. And do so publicly.

The Treasury represents a constraint on executive power. That constraint has at least been loosened. We should ask ourselves why?

It seems that Alister “Union” Jack is to stay on as Downing Street’s man in Scotland and titular head of the unelected and unaccountable shadow administration created by the Borrissian government to take over powers stripped from the Scottish Parliament. Thus, my somewhat tongue-in-cheek prediction that Ruth Davidson would be installed as de facto Governor-General of North Borissia. Perhaps BorDom & Doris felt that the task of defanging Holyrood still required the skills and attitude of a predator rather than the gloss and grooming of a show animal. Or maybe Ruth has set her sights somewhat higher. Having lost her crown as Queen of the BritNats in the annexed lands of North Borissia, perhaps she’s not content with her reward for loyal service to the shrivelling Borissian empire. Maybe elevation to the Dead Stoat Cloak Club isn’t enough to satisfy that ravenous ego. Maybe she has her eye on another throne to replace the one she lost. Betty Windsor might be wise to review her security. Maybe employ a food-taster. Definitely don’t accept apples from cackling crones. Just saying.

The more likely explanation is that Jack the Lackey is being kept on because he’s just the man for the job. Unfortunately for the people of Scotland, his job is treachery. His remit is to undermine and then dismantle Scotland’s democratic institutions. In practical terms, his function is to roll out a series of ‘UK-wide common frameworks’ which increasingly impinge on and arrogate the powers of the Scottish Parliament. Alister Jack squats in Queen Elizabeth House like some obscene arachnid charged with sucking the juices from Scotland’s distinctive political culture until all that’s left is a dessicated husk no longer capable of being a nuisance to the Borissian state and its rulers.

We have to know this. We have to know that turds are being rearranged for a purpose. We have to realise that this purpose has only dire consequences for Scotland. If we value Scotland’s democracy and identity as a nation, we have to be prepared to defend them. We can’t afford to suppose that a cabinet reshuffle in London has nothing to do with us.

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A touch of the Daisleys

Stephen Daisley exemplifies the anti-democratic obscenity of British Nationalist extremism. But he serves a useful purpose in that he reveals the reality of a vile ideology that harks back to the supposed glories of belligerent Britannia’s bloody imperialist past.

Read Daisley’s spittle-flecked rants about Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP and you’d think he was referring to some murderous terrorist cult and its super-villain leader rather than the democratically elected First Minister of Scotland and the party chosen by the people to govern Scotland – insofar as the constraints of devolution permit.

Much of this is personal, of course. Daisley has hated the SNP with a vengeance ever since an SNP politician drew attention to something phenomenally stupid and unprofessional that he’d done leading to an embarrassing rebuke and a bit of a career blip. Seeking a vehicle for his bitter resentment, Daisley found a natural home on the far-flung fringes of Unionist loonydom.

His columns offer a stomach-turning glimpse into the manic minds of those who embrace a political philosophy based entirely on a mix of mindless hatred and elitist exceptionalism. Only such a mind could react with Daisley’s venomous malice towards a perfectly legitimate, lawful, peaceful, democratic political movement such as that which seeks to restore Scotland’s independence. Such minds are not uncommon among British Nationalists.

Daisley acknowledges that the “SNP is in its 13th uninterrupted year” of duly elected administration. He admits that support for independence is “close to 50 per cent”. He allows that “almost half of Scots want to walk away from the UK”. How does he respond? Does he respond with reasoned counter-argument and some approximation of the mythic ‘positive case for the Union’? Does he evince a determination to pursue his political aims through the democratic process in the way that Scotland’s civic nationalist movement does? No! Faced with a democratic threat to the constitutional arrangements he favours he immediately reaches into an arsenal of draconian measures reminiscent of the repressive impositions of totalitarian governments.

Much as one’s instinct might be to dismiss Daisley’s demented diatribes as the ravings of a political outlier, it would be a mistake to do so too readily. The frustration of hard-line Unionists who supposed the 2014 referendum would kill the independence movement and the SNP ‘stone dead’ is such that the bilious barbarism spewed by the likes of Daisley is entering the mainstream of British Nationalism.

Don’t think of Daisley’s fervid fulminations as a curiosity. Regard them rather as a symptom of the cancerous British Nationalist fanaticism that now poses a real and imminent threat to Scotland’s democracy.

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