The right man for the job

It is becoming clearer by the day why Alister “Union” Jack was chosen to replace David “Fluffy” Mundell. The latter is a functionary. Dull, plodding, unimaginative, but mindlessly loyal and unthinkingly obedient. He could be relied upon to do his masters’ bidding dutifully and with mechanical efficiency. The ideal person to manage the setting-up of the new apparatus of the British state in Scotland. But not the man to operate it.

Some people design and build racing cars. Others drive them. The same applies to bulldozers. And to the machinery of state oppression. Not the state oppression of old. Not the crude, strong-arm oppression of medieval times. Nor the overwhelming, ‘might and main’ oppression of European imperialism. Nor even the relentlessly menacing oppression of the 20th century totalitarian state. Modern state oppression is more subtle. More efficient. More insidious.

Some will object to the use of the term ‘state oppression’ in this context. But think it through. Oppression is subjugation by means of superior power. Who can sensibly deny that the original purpose of the Union was subjugation of Scotland by the superior power of England. Those who seek to preserve this subjugating Union will insist that it has changed over time. They claim that it is a “partnership of equals”; a voluntary collaborative enterprise for mutual benefit. But is that what we see when we look at the way the Union functions?

Is there anything that has happened in the last decade that looks at all like a “partnership of equals” in operation? Is there anything about current relations between Scotland and England that seems “voluntary” or “collaborative”? From the appalling Project Fear to the impertinence of EVEL; the contemptuous disregard for Scotland’s Remain vote; the exclusion of the Scottish Government from Brexit negotiations; the seizure of repatriated EU powers; the denial of Scotland’s right of self-determination; to the competitive Jock-bashing of the Tory leadership campaign and the emergence of an unelected shadow administration accountable, not to the people of Scotland, but to a British executive wielding powers akin to those of an absolute monarch, nothing in any of this speaks of anything other than the subjugation of Scotland by the successors of those who imposed the Union on us more than three centuries ago.

What distinguishes Unionists is that they are in denial about this subjugation. What distinguishes British Nationalists is that they believe this subjugation be the ‘natural order’. What distinguishes campaigners for the restoration of Scotland’s independence is that we refuse to accept this subjugation, considering it a gross insult to the people of Scotland and an affront to democracy.

As awareness of the true nature of the Union has grown, the British establishment has been obliged to respond. That response has been much as we would expect of an oppressor. It follows the perverse logic that if oppression is failing then the solution must be more oppression.

We are not, of course, talking about overt oppression of the kind that relies on batons, CS gas and prison cells. The British state has had centuries to perfect methods of oppression which are, as has been noted, more subtle and insidious; not to mention more cost-effective. The tools of the 21st century oppressor are media and money. Adroitly deployed, these can be every bit as effective as more brutal forms of oppression – and a lot less messy. Modern oppressors don’t occupy the land with military garrisons. They occupy minds with propaganda. They don’t control the populace by means of physical force. They control the people by means of economic pressure.

David Mundell has served his masters well. Doubtless, he will be rewarded as loyal servants of the British ruling elite usually are, with some sinecure or title. For the moment, however, he has been unceremoniously cast aside in favour of someone considered better qualified to actually run the shadow administration that Mundell has been instrumental in establishing. Someone with a rather different skill set.

Alister Jack is the enforcer. Now that the infrastructure has been put in place, the British state needs someone to make sure it works effectively. This requires a certain ruthlessness. Not the violent mercilessness of the vicious despot. But the cold pitilessness of the business executive. Someone who will move the pieces around the board with the same focus on the bottom line whether they are people or plant. Someone who will be quite unmoved by arguments from principle if these get in the way of the deal.

A faithful old retainer such as Mundell has his uses. But the ‘One Nation’ project requires someone who can act on their own initiative. Someone who can manoeuvre and manipulate on the fly. Someone who can spot opportunities and jump on them without waiting for instructions from head office.

The UK Government in Scotland is, unquestionably, the most important part of the British Nationalist ‘One Nation’ project. It is crucial that the British establishment get the right person to run it. Alister “Union” Jack’s educational, business and political background is such as would, in an earlier time, have fitted him well to the role of colonial governor. It’s not difficult to see why he was considered the perfect candidate to take on the task of dismantling Scotland’s democratic institutions and readying the country for exploitation on a massive scale.



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In place of truth

David Mundell

There is certainly hypocrisy in David Mundell’s screeching U-turn on the matter of his willingness to serve under Boris Johnson. Just as there is dumb arrogance in Ruth Davidson’s bombastic pronouncements on the subject of a new referendum – her actual authority being in inverse proportion to her pomposity. Similarly, it is difficult to explain Richard Leonard’s dire performances at First Minister’s Questions (FMQ) without including stupidity as a significant factor.

But is there something more to all this than rank hypocrisy, vaunting arrogance and abysmal stupidity? Is it, perhaps, a mistake to dismiss such things as mere gaffes or to discount them as just evidence of the kind of character flaws which seem ubiquitous among British politicians? When taken together with the various form of dishonesty by which the British media allows the gaffes to go unreported and the character flaws unremarked, might we be looking at a much larger phenomenon?

Some time ago. in an article for iScot Magazine called ‘The death of truth’, I wrote,

It seems not enough to say that truth is being supplanted. That it is being overwhelmed by a “narrative contrary to reality”. For all its vivid persuasiveness, the concept of a “vast, permanent chasm between reality and perception” is wanting. Possibly because it leaves reality distanced, but intact. And the sense I get is, not of truth being set-aside or distorted or obscured, but of truth being demolished. Obliterated. Eradicated.

Not that I am suggesting some Orwellian plot to murder truth. But if making the concept of truth indistinct and elusive serves the agendas of a sufficient number of people with a sufficient amount of influence then what emerges from their behaviours and interactions may be all but indistinguishable from a conspiracy.

What is certain is that the British establishment has developed doubt as a powerful weapon in its propaganda arsenal. Pretty much everything that British politicians do seems designed to foster uncertainty. The British media does a bang-up job of spreading that uncertainty. This results in a generalised erosion of confidence, not only in politicians, but in the entire political system. It also leads to much confusion among voters and, at the very least, a reduced ability to make informed choices.

When people are confused and uncertain they are more easily led. Or steered. They are more readily deterred from effecting change. They are more averse to anything that can be portrayed as a risk. They are more inclined to favour the familiar and cling to the status quo.

An atmosphere of uncertainty and confusion also makes people more susceptible to anyone who offers a risk-free option. Or an option which, with the help of the media, can be portrayed as risk-free. It was doubt, generated and exaggerated by Better Together / Project Fear, which the British political elite deployed so successfully in the 2014 independence referendum. It was the plausible promise of a simplistic certainty that launched the Brexit fiasco.

Pervasive doubt leaves space for manufactured truth. When truth is diminished, reality is defined by the loudest and most intrusive voices. Last week, Mundell said he wouldn’t work with Boris Johnson. This week, he says he would. Next week, nobody is sure what he said – or when he said it.

Nicola Sturgeon is First Minister. She has the authority of that office. She has the democratic mandate. Ruth Davidson is treated by the British establishment – particularly the media – as if she has the same status as the First Minister. She is presented as speaking with similar authority. She is allowed and enabled to claim a mandate that she doesn’t possess. Keep this up for long enough and with sufficient intensity and the distinction between First Minister and nonentity is blurred. Davidson’s pronouncement are afforded a weight they cannot legitimately have.

At FMQ, Richard Leonard persists in asking questions about reserved matters. This may be, wholly or partly, attributed to stupidity. But, deliberate or not, it has the effect of causing confusion about the powers of the Scottish Parliament and makes it easier to blame the SNP administration for the deleterious impact of British government policies.

Leonard’s evident stupidity is appalling. Davidson’s pretentiousness is offensive. Mundell’s hypocrisy is disgusting. The British media’s dishonesty is despicable. But put all this together and you have a phenomenon which is quite frightening.



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Challenging power

The National asked Scotland Secretary Mundell and the Scotland Office to comment. In response, a UK Government spokesman said: “The role of the Secretary of State for Scotland is to champion Scottish interests at the heart of government and to strengthen Scotland’s place in the UK. With the Scottish Government proposing an unwanted and divisive second independence referendum next year, that role is more important than ever.”

Scrap Mundell’s role and the Scotland Office, says MPs’ report

Let’s just take a wee look at the above excerpt from Kirsteen Paterson’s article. The first thing we note is that when The National approached Mundell and the Scotland Office for comment it was the UK Government which responded on their behalf. That alone tells us all we need to know about the role and status of Mundell and the Scotland Office. They are no more than a front for the British state in Scotland. Their voice is the voice of their masters in London. They most decidedly do not speak for Scotland in any way.

Imagine you were talking to a couple and asked the woman’s opinion on something only for the man to respond on her behalf. What would that suggest about the man’s attitude to the woman? Would it suggest an attitude of respect?

Despite the Scotland Office being part of the British establishment, it is clearly regarded as inferior by the British political elite who operate David Mundell as a ventriloquist operates his dummy. Why? Could it be because they are nominally ‘Scottish’ and the Union dictates that Scotland must be subordinate in all things and at all times?

Now, in the light of what we know about the nature of the relationship between England-as-Britain and Scotland as presumed by the UK Government, let’s examine the statement made by the UK Government because Mundell was not trusted to speak. It begins with the patently false assertion that “the role of the Secretary of State for Scotland is to champion Scottish interests at the heart of [UK] government”. We know this to be false. The true role of the Secretary of State for Scotland is made totally explicit in the fact that he works for something called ‘The UK Government in Scotland’. And, of course, by the way Mundell disports himself. No dispassionate observer would ever suppose Mundell was making any effort to “champion Scottish interests” even if said observer was unaware of the fact that Mundell has absolutely no mandate from the people of Scotland.

Mundell is quite open about his ambition to trample all over the devolution settlement and re-impose direct rule from London. That’s what is meant by the term “UK-wide common framework”. How can contempt for the Scottish Parliament be in Scotland’s interests?

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Mundell is also the power behind the throne occupied by Ruth Davidson as ‘Queen of the BritNats’. He is at least her equal in his determination to deny Scotland’s right of self-determination. He does not champion Scotland’s interests in the British state, he champions anti-democratic British Nationalism in Scotland.

Which brings me neatly to my main point – Scotland’s right of self-determination which is inalienable and, notwithstanding the dictatorial rhetoric of Mundell and Davidson or the macho posturing of Tory leadership candidates, cannot be denied. Go back to that ‘His Master’s Voice’ statement from the UK Government again. Note the claim that the Secretary of State for(?) Scotland has an “important” role in a new independence referendum. Let’s scrutinise that claim.

If, as is evidently assumed, the UK Government represents the superior party to an asymmetric political union then, according to well established principles of international law, the Secretary of State for Scotland – being an agent of said superior party – can have no role whatever in the process by which the right of self-determination is exercised.

See, for example, the ‘Principles Guiding Relations between Participating States’ which form part of the Helsinki Final Act, adopted by the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe in 1975. Principle VIII states,

By virtue of the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, all peoples always have the right, in full freedom, to determine, when and as they wish, their internal and external political status, without external interference, and to pursue as they wish their political, economic, social and cultural development.

Helsinki Final Act

The British state cannot have it both ways. If it is a superior entity asserting the power to impose policies on Scotland regardless of the will of Scotland’s people as expressed by the Scottish Parliament, as well as the authority to deny or constrain Scotland’s right of self-determination, then it cannot also be a participant in the process by which the people of Scotland “in full freedom” determine “their internal and external political status”. This would clearly constitute unlawful “external interference” and a breach of internationally recognised principles.

The power and authority over Scotland which the British state asserts must be robustly challenged. When it is, it will surely be found to lack any standing in law as well as any democratic legitimacy.



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Lies and liars of every sort

David Mundell

There are many different types of lie. Human beings don’t want for ways of being dishonest. Lies can, for example, be artful or clumsy, They may be cleverly contrived and fully detailed accounts lacking only the element of veracity. Or they may be obvious untruths lacking all credibility.

As well as being differentiated by the skill of the person telling them, lies are often assessed on the degree of harm caused or intended. White lies are supposed to be at least relatively harmless. These are lies purportedly told to avoid giving offence or causing hurt. The repulsive Christmas gift is received with effusive, but entirely false, gratitude. The prior engagement excuse for non-attendance is deployed in preference to the more honest, but rather hurtful, explanation that the individual concerned is a crashing bore whose company you would avoid even at risk of serious injury or death.

White lies are lies that we forgive ourselves for. The term is a euphemism for what, were we more honest, we would call insincerity. A character flaw we tend to deplore in others and are reluctant to admit to.

Exaggeration is another form of dishonesty which, depending on context, can be considered quite forgivable. Who doesn’t embellish a story that would otherwise be too mundane to be worth retelling? Who doesn’t put a light coat of varnish on their CV? Who among us doesn’t take a futile stab at trying to convince the doctor that we’re more abstemious than is actually the case?

Of course, there is a line to be crossed. The line between deducting a few pints from your weekly alcohol consumption in the forlorn hope of impressing a doctor who has heard it all before and adding a few zeros to your annual income in an attempt to secure a loan. Or between polishing an otherwise factual anecdote to make it funnier and trying to pass off a total fiction as an honest account.

Broken promises are rarely, if ever forgivable. Perhaps, if there is good reason to believe the commitment was made in good faith and/or there is a genuine excuse for failure to deliver, the culpability may be lessened. But this very seldom applies in the case of political promises. Few politicians are felt to have earned a presumption of good faith. And the authenticity of a political excuse is, for good reason, deeply suspect.

Fabrication and deception are forms of lying which commonly accompany one another. Fabrication involves imparting information which is known to be false. Or, at the very least, information which is unverified. This becomes deception when the purpose is to cause others to believe something which is untrue. Invariably, with malign intent.

The political smear story is an example of a lie which usually adds distortion to exaggeration, fabrication and deception in order to mislead the public about the conduct and character of a particular individual. By the manner in which they are presented, details which are, in themselves, entirely true can be made to serve a narrative which is totally dishonest.

There are exceptions – which we shall come to in a moment – but, generally speaking, senior politicians prefer not to lie. Direct lies can be difficult to sustain when one is constantly in the public eye. It’s all too easy for an inept prevaricator to become the fly in the tangled web they weave when first they practise to deceive. Politicians would much rather that others lie on their behalf. Which is where the media come in.

The skilled political actor will keep themselves at one remove from the smear. Character assassination is best left to the professionals. The politician merely provides the ammunition. They studiously avoid making allegations. But will happily comment in such a way as to lend currency to innuendo and insinuation. Masters of the art of the smear can seem to be defending the target while actually directing the dagger and giving it an extra thrust. The best liars lie with complete conviction and casual ease.

And so to the penultimate type of lie in a catalogue which may not be comprehensive. The audacious lie. Otherwise known as bare-faced, bold-faced, bald-faced or brazen.

Instances of such insolent dishonesty are not difficult to find. One need only listen to pretty much any British politician. David Mundell, for example, is a man known for little else besides his capacity for treating truth as an inessential adornment to his increasingly bilious British Nationalist rhetoric. Absolutely nobody, I hazard, would have been genuinely shocked to see a Wings Over Scotland headline declaring, ‘David Mundell is a liar‘. Evidently, Stu Campbell considered this too much of a commonplace to warrant an exclamation mark.

The article beneath the headline is a characteristically forensic excoriation of a particular instance of Mundell’s mendacity. Namely, his audacious assertion, in an interview with the BBC’s Brian Taylor, that the people of Scotland voted in the 2014 independence referendum knowing that there was to be a referendum on the UK’s EU membership. To put it another way. Mundell flatly denied that, throughout the 2014 referendum campaign, the British propaganda machine repeatedly and explicitly claimed that a No vote was necessary to ensure continued EU membership. He did so knowing this to be completely untrue. It was a lie as brazen as it might be without actually being cast in brass.

I have nothing to add to Stu Campbell’s scathing condemnation of Mundell’s shameless dishonesty. But, out of curiosity, I decided to find out what the BBC’s North British political editor had to say about the episode. Holding my nose against the stench, I ventured into the mire of prejudice and partiality that is the BBC Scotland website and read Brian Taylor’s column for the relevant date. Despite – or maybe because of – the magnitude of David Mundell’s lie, it wasn’t considered deserving of so much as a passing mention.

Which neatly brings us to the last in our list of different types of lie. Lies of omission.


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Good Tory! Bad Tory!

David Mundell

The notion of David Mundell being concerned about treating the people of Scotland with fairness is, of course, risible. While he can hardly be held personally responsible for the preceding three centuries, there can be be no bout that Mundell has played a key role in the British Nationalist ‘One Nation’ project in recent years.

Maybe he had no part in actually creating the Union which ensures that the people of Scotland are denied, in perpetuity, full and effective exercise of their sovereignty, but he has certainly taken full advantage of the fact that the Union enshrines democratic injustice in what passes for constitutional law in the British state.

The perverse logic of the British Nationalist fanatic never loses its power to stun. According to Mundell, it would be “unfair” to the people of Scotland if anything should be allowed to interfere with them getting something they voted decisively against. Mundell actually believes we should be grateful to beneficent Britannia for relieving us of the onerous task of making crucial decisions about our future. To Mundell, it is an obvious and unchallengeable fact that such decisions are better made by the British political elite, of which he likes to consider himself part.

Mundell is tasked by his masters in London with overseeing the subversion of Scotland’s democratic institutions, the eradication of Scotland’s distinctive political culture and the obliteration of Scotland’s identity as a nation. A task to which he seems unshakably committed. Let none doubt this man’s utter conviction that, if Scotland wasn’t entirely ‘extinguished’ by the Union, then it damned well should have been. Mundell seeks his place in history as the man who finally completed the ‘Greater England’ project.

When I was a boy, around sixty years ago, it was considered fairly normal for working class people in Scotland to vote for the Scottish Conservative & Unionist Party, which was then a quite distinct party. It was acceptable to vote for what I now call ‘traditional’ Scottish Tories because, for all that they were Unionists, they were also perceived as trusted custodians of ‘Scottishness’. They were content that Scotland should be part of the UK, but sought to further Scotland’s particular interests – as they saw them – within the Union.

Traditional Scottish Tories of that period would be appalled and disgusted by what David Mundell and his cronies are doing. They would despise his ‘One Nation’ British Nationalism. They would be outraged that, while bearing the once honourable title of Secretary of State for Scotland, he was a leading player in an ideologically-driven effort to destroy the very things that they were dedicated to preserving.

My suspicion is that tradition Scottish Toryism still survives. I reckon many present-day Scottish Tories are distinctly uncomfortable – at the very least – with what is being done in their name. All that prevents them revolting against the odious ideologues who have taken over is residual partisan loyalty and a vague hope that the values which once made their party respectable and respected in Scotland might somehow be restored.

The great irony, of course, is that the only way this can happen is if Scotland’s independence is restored. Traditional Scottish Tories face a stark choice between the values they espouse and the Union which denies their right to have those values inform public policy.


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To be a Unionist

David Mundell

To be a Unionist in Scotland, one must be prepared to accept humiliation, not as an insult to be stoically borne or desperately rationalised, but as a natural part of ones condition as a subject of the British state.

To be a Unionist in Scotland, one must be so persuaded of the superiority of the British ruling elite that ones own inferiority is worn with the same ease as ones own skin.

To be a Unionist in Scotland, one must consent to the denial by the British state of democratic rights which in all other circumstances would be considered inalienable.

To be a Unionist in Scotland, one must stand ready to sacrifice the needs, priorities and aspirations of ones country to the imperative of preserving the structures of power, privilege and patronage which define the British state.

To be a Nationalist in Scotland, you need only maintain that Scotland, its people, its land, its culture and its democratic institutions are worthy of being treated with the respect generally regarded as the due of any nation.

To be a Nationalist in Scotland, you need only believe that good government is never further removed from the governed than is consistent with its function. And that decisions about Scotland’s future must be made by the people of Scotland.

To be a Nationalist in Scotland, you need only insist that the people of Scotland are sovereign. And that they must never be denied the full and effective exercise of their sovereignty.


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Something fishy

iscot_promoBritish Nationalists make a big fuss about getting out of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). What we don’t hear from the likes of David Mundell is any detail on what is to replace the EU quota system. We know that there will have to be a quota system. We know that this new quota system will continue to involve negotiation with the EU. The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea requires countries sharing maritime borders to jointly manage shared fish stocks. The EU and the UK share more than 100 fish stocks.

We know that existing independent coastal states such as Greenland and Norway continue to be effectively bound by the CFP. The latter negotiates annually a quota swap just as EU member states do under the CFP. The former institutionalises the CFP quota system in exchange for various concessions.

All the evidence, then, suggests that the new UK quota system is unlikely to represent a dramatic departure from the CFP. Which leads one to wonder why Mundell and other British Nationalists attach so much importance to getting out of the CFP. They certainly aren’t explaining their reasoning. We can be certain that it has nothing to do with what might best serve Scotland’s economic interests. Mundell has made it abundantly clear that his overriding priority is the preservation of the Union at whatever cost to Scotland and its people.

This being the British state, and Mundell being a Tory, might we find a clue to their motives in a recent Greenpeace investigation which found, among other things, that –

Five families on the Sunday Times Rich List own or control a third (33%) of all Scottish quota. When taking into account minority stakes, companies wholly or partly owned by these families hold close to half (45%) of all Scottish quota.

Not for the first time, we find something very fishy about Mundell’s attitude. Ask yourself, how easy is it to believe that this man and the regime he represents are looking after Scotland’s interests? Or that they are concerned with the welfare of ‘fishing communities’? How much easier is it to believe that their sole concern is to preserve the structures of power, privilege and patronage which define the British state. How easy is it to believe that, whatever replaces the CFP afer Brexit, it will be part of the corrupt British political and economic system which serves the few at untold cost to the many?


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