No sympathy for Unionists

Andrew Tickell is hardly the first to suggest that we all should sympathise with “the very sorts who really bought into Better Together vision of Britain“. That we should show some understanding for people who were grievously deceived. That we should be supportive of people who have suffered a great loss.

Maybe so. But, while I don’t for one moment doubt Andrew’s sincerity, I often sense a measure of self-indulgence about the more extravagant displays of fellow feeling. More than a hint of self-righteousness. Perhaps a pinch of condescension. All bound together with a generous helping of moral superiority. Virtue-signalling is very much the dish of the day.

I am generally in favour of sympathy. If I say society has deteriorated over recent decades largely due to a declining capacity for human empathy, this may be more than just the tendency to rose-tinted hindsight which often comes with age. But if sympathy is a scarce and, arguably, diminishing resource, should it not be apportioned judiciously. As individuals, we cannot possibly sympathise with all who may be deserving. If this ever were possible, advances in communication mean that there are now vastly more calls on our sympathy than we can hope to satisfy.

Unless we’re Luddite hermits, we spend much of our days immersed in stories and images evidencing man’s inhumanity to man in graphic and gory detail. Rolling news on TV and online is a litany of atrocities, each with its list of victims for whom we are expected to grieve. We are obliged to be selective. We must be parsimonious with our sympathy lest we be reduced to a dessicated husk, sucked dry of all emotion. And if this makes us seem betimes hard-hearted or heartless, then I’m sorry. But only as sorry as I can afford to be.

Where should those suffering No voters be placed as we prioritise the calls on our stock of sympathy? What is it they have lost? Only their illusions. The scales have fallen from their eyes and, discomfiting as this may be, it hardly compares with the loss of limbs or loved ones. An emotional attachment has been severed. But the wound bleeds only in the sense of an over-contrived metaphor.

Losing something to which we are inexplicably and irrationally bound is part of the human experience. It can be painful. But it can also be formative. Before we lavish too much sympathy on Unionists coming to terms with the collapse of so much that had seemed to them solid and dependable, consider the true nature of their plight. Theirs is not a loss of the kind that leaves an aching void that can never be filled. It is more in the nature of a moving on. What they feel is, not the life-blighting pain of bereavement, but the passing pangs of nostalgia. They have not been permanently deprived of something irreplaceable. They have shed the burden of something that has proved unworthy.

Listen to those who have made the journey from No to Yes. Do they seem bereft? Do they give the impression that a part of their being has been stripped from them leaving a raw and festering wound that will not heal? Or is it more as if a layer has been peeled away to reveal something fresh and fulfilling?

Losing the Union doesn’t leave you alone. It leaves you in better company. It does not call for sympathy. It is cause for celebration.

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The formula

There’s a distinct note of desperation in the way senior SNP figures can’t speak of the Ashcroft poll without using terms such as “phenomenal”. Like those people at major celebratory events who are trying just that wee bit too hard to look like they’re having the most fun anyone has ever had. Who are they trying to convince?

In Keith Brown’s case, that would be us – party members and the rest of the Yes movement. The SNP leadership has seized on the Ashcroft poll with the eagerness of someone accused of a serious crime who has suddenly been offered an alibi. At last! Something they can represent as vindicating the relentless waiting that has become their only discernible strategy.

But all the purple prose and rhetorical superlatives cannot long divert from the fact that, approaching five years after the first referendum, the independence cause has not been advanced one millimetre by anything attributable to the SNP. It will be protested that they are doing stuff now, such as Citizens’ Assemblies and the Referendums Bill. But that merely prompts questions about why these things weren’t done two or even three years ago.

By their reaction to the Ashcroft poll, if nothing else, the SNP demonstrates the importance it attaches to such indicators of the public mood. So the fact that the polls have barely twitched while the British political elite has been behaving like a troupe of demented clowns must say something about the SNP’s ‘strategy’. And nothing very complimentary. If there was a ‘secret’ plan to take advantage of the disarray among British Nationalist politicians then it has been so secret as to leave no impression either on the polls or on the consciousness of observers.

And before the idiot SNP-haters get their smug faces on, this also demonstrates that the Yes movement can’t do it alone. Because nothing the Yes movement has done in the last few years has had a significant impact on the polls either. If anything, this simply proves the need for the SNP and the Yes movement to work together.

But even if all the parts of the independence movement were working well together, they would still require some kind of strategy. And ultimate responsibility for setting that strategy must rest with the SNP. The Yes movement has a vital role to play in developing the strategy. Having no hierarchical structures of its own, however, the Yes movement has to rely on leadership provided by the SNP. The SNP has not done nearly enough to connect with and draw on the people power and campaigning resources of the Yes movement. The Yes movement has to do better at utilising the political power and organisational resources of the SNP.

Kenny MacAskill’s criticisms of the First Minister may be largely, if not wholly, justified. But this is not a time for recriminations. Opportunities have missed. Time has been squandered – in particular the extra year’s grace afforded by the Article 50 extension. Rather than making us bitter or despondent, this should goad us into efforts to make up for the time that has been lost and create new opportunities to replace those that have been missed.

Developing an effective campaign strategy requires that the SNP and the Yes movement work together. As I wrote three months ago – evidently to no avail,

An accommodation must be found. Factionalism is most certainly not any kind of solution. It is, in fact, a way of avoiding the difficult task of finding that accommodation between the SNP and the Yes movement – and among all the elements of the independence cause – which will allow each and all to be effective.

In the Yes movement, we have come almost to worship diversity as the greatest of virtues. For a movement, this may be true, But for a campaign, the greatest virtue is solidarity. In celebrating our diversity, we have fallen into the habit of talking about our differences, rather than that which we hold in common. Recognition that “we all want the same thing” tends to come as an afterthought to lengthy discussion of distinctive policy platforms – if it comes at all. We talk about our respective visions for Scotland’s future, relegating consideration of the key to that future to somewhere lower down the agenda.

The single point at which all the elements of the independence cause meet is the Union. The thing that everybody in the independence movement agrees on is that the Union must end. It cannot even be said that all agree on independence. Because there are differing ideas about what independence means. There is no ambiguity whatever about the imperative to end the Union.

It is a happy coincidence that the point at which all the elements of the independence campaign come together also happens to be the British state’s weakest point. So, let’s not talk of factions. No faction is going to prise Scotland out of its entanglement in the British state. This will only be achieved by the four constituent parts of the independence campaign acting in accord. The SNP as the lever. The Scottish Government (Nicola Sturgeon) as the fulcrum. The Scottish Parliament as the base. The Yes movement as the force.

And let us all agree that the object we are acting against is the Union.

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The country formerly known as Scotland

I sincerely hope that the First Minister is not taken in by this talk of a “rebranding exercise”. I trust she is aware that this is merely a precursor to, and preparation for, major constitutional reform which will be conducted over the heads of Scotland’s elected representatives and without the consent of Scotland’s people.

Prior to the 2014 independence referendum, people were warned that a No vote would be regarded by the British state as a licence to do what they want with Scotland. What they want is to lock Scotland into a political union on their own terms. A unilateral redefining of Scotland’s constitutional status without any consultation and in total contempt of democratic principles.

This had hardly got underway when the EU referendum came along and shifted the political ground. But Brexit did not deter or hamper the project to lock Scotland into a unilaterally redefined Union. On the contrary, it provides the ideal opportunity. Which people were also warned about prior to the vote in 2016.

To put it briefly and in the simplest of terms – the UK was constitutionally redefined by joining the EU (as it became). It stands to reason that the UK will again undergo constitutional redefinition on leaving the EU. The British political elite has ensured that Scotland, together with the other devolved parliaments, has been all but entirely excluded from the Brexit process. Therefore, the British political elite is ideally placed to dictate the form of the redefinition which the UK will undergo.

Brexit is the British state’s chance to close and barricade the democratic route to restoring Scotland’s rightful constitutional status. This was going to happen anyway. But Brexit makes it easier to ensure that democratic niceties don’t interfere with the process of tightening England-as-Britain’s grip on Scotland and reinforcing the structures of power, privilege and patronage which constitute the British state.

This isn’t something that is going to happen. It is something which is happening right now. The “rebranding exercise” is part of it. The ‘UK Government in Scotland’ is part of it. The ‘UK-wide common frameworks’ are part of it. The ‘EU power grab’ was part of it. The ghastly ‘unionjackery’ defacing our foodstuffs is part of it. Mundell’s new castle in Edinburgh is part of it.

And still people refuse to see!

The anti-democratic British Nationalist ‘One Nation’ project is behind schedule – by about a year. The Article 50 extension granted by the EU gave us a year’s grace. A year in which we could have acted to save Scotland. A year which has been wantonly squandered.

I genuinely despair for our country. The ‘One Nation’ project is gathering pace. The Scottish Parliament is in recess. The Scottish Government seems paralysed. SNP politicians talk as if delay is a consequence-free option. The Yes movement is marching but, for want of political leadership and an actual campaign strategy, it is going nowhere.

Brexit will soon be upon us. The jaws of the ‘One Nation’ project will close. Holyrood, no more! Dignity, fairness and respect, no more! Democracy, no more! Hope, no more!

But doubtless Nicola Sturgeon will “slam” the UK Government in a Tweet.

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The redcoats are coming! They’re wearing grey suits!

Sometimes, things happen and you think to yourself how obvious it was that this would happen. There was never any doubt that the British establishment would respond to the Referendums Bill. The ‘review’ of devolution ordered by Theresa May is just the kind of response we might have expected and is, without doubt, partly prompted by what is regarded in London as a rather impertinent piece of legislation.

This is dominance behaviour. It is political scent-marking. It is a blunt and imperious message from the British state reminding us that they own devolution. They own the Scottish Parliament. They own Scotland. Devolution and all that has flowed from it – largely unanticipated by its architects – was a gift to her northern subjects from beneficent Britannia. And what is given can be taken away.

Scotland is being told to behave. Or else!

Look at who May has appointed to conduct this ‘review’! Andrew Dunlop! Who, unless I am very much mistaken is the individual who, together with Alistair Darling, cooked up all the inane scaremongering about currency in the final stages of the 2014 referendum campaign. If the appointment of a British lord isn’t a contemptuously calculated slap in the face to Scotland, then the choice of this particular example of that species surely is.

I say this ‘review’ of devolution is only partly a characteriscally high-handed and overbearing response to the Referendums Bil because this, or something similar, was inevitable anyway. As the British state prepares to exploit the constitutional implications of Brexit in order to restore and reinforce its grip on Scotland, there had to be an initiating act. It was never likely that the British political elite would simply close down the Scottish Parliament and declare the devolution experiment a failure. Although, as recent history teaches us, it would be unwise to discount anything as being beyond their capacity for arrogant idiocy, the British pride themselves on being devious and, from their own rather biased perspective at least, subtle.

A ‘review’ is as good a way as any to start the process of dismantling devolution. It is something that can later be referred to as if it justified the process. It helps to make suspending or closing the Scottish Parliament look like the outcome of a process that is rational and dispassionate. Or, at least, that is how it will be spun by the media arm of the British establishment.

Please don’t say you weren’t warned. Some of us have been warning about this since before the 2014 referendum. We recognised that the fate of Scotland’s Parliament was sealed in 2007 when, despite all the precautions to ensure that it would never happen, the British parties lost control of Holyrood. When, in 2011, the Scottish electorate broke the system that was supposed to keep the Scottish Parliament on a tight British leash, its fate was confirmed beyond any hope of reprieve.

The No vote in the 2014 referendum gave British politicians licence to do as they pleased with Scotland. The Leave vote in the 2016 EU referendum created a need to redefine the constitutional status of UK; and an opportunity to unilaterally redefine Scotland’s status within the UK. The nature of the Union ensures that neither the people of Scotland nor their elected representatives need be consulted.

Some may insist that saying the British state’s moves against the Scottish Parliament were foreseeable is just a case of being clever with hindsight. They will point to particulars that were were not predicted – such as ‘Dunlop’s review’ – and claim that this ‘proves’ the actions of the British state are such that nobody could have foreseen. But, quite apart from the fact that articles written as long ago as 2012 warning of the British state’s intentions, are still available online, any appreciation of the imperatives driving the British political elite and the options available made it obvious what was coming.

I say all this, not by way of a big “Ah telt ye!” – although I do reserve gloating rights – but in the hope that, realising we were right before, people may heed the warnings being issued now. It is to be hoped that people will at least attend to the voices saying how urgent it is that Scotland get out of the Union and warning of the consequences of failure to do so.

There may well be another purpose to the ‘Dunlop review’ of devolution. We are assured that “the review will look at areas within the UK Government set-up and not at devolved areas”. That, surprisingly, may actually be almost entirely true. It is difficult to see how any meaningful ‘review’ of devolution might exclude devolved areas. But the project makes perfect sense if the purpose of the ‘review’ is actually to gauge the preparedness of the ‘UK Government in Scotland’ to take over the powers and functions of the Scottish Parliament. It is unlikely that such a ‘review’ could be conducted in secrecy. So the sensible course of action is to announce it, but disguise its purpose.

And, of course, announcing the ‘Dunlop review’ means that it also serves the ‘scent-marking’ purpose referred to at the start of this article.

Be warned! The British government is gearing up to bypass and then eliminate the Scottish Parliament. It is preparing for an ‘end game’ in which Scotland’s distinctive political culture is eradicated. This is the ultimate playing-out of the Greater England project which aimed to obliterate Scotland’s national identity. All of this will come to pass because the imperatives of ‘One Nation’ British Nationalism demand that it must be so.

Be warned! Unless the Scottish Government, the Scottish National Party and the Yes movement act promptly and in solidarity to prevent it, the juggernaut of British Nationalism will roll over our land and crush Scotland’s democracy.

Be warned! The consequences of acting and failing are now no different from the consequences of failing to act. And those consequences are catastrophic for Scotland. We must act now! We must #DissolveTheUnion!

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Time to choose

Am I alone in having difficulty dealing with the torrent of idiocy and mendacity gushing out of the British political elite like effluent from a burst sewer? Am I the only one who struggles to relate what these British politicians say to observable reality? Does anyone else entertain niggling doubts about their own mental state as they listen to the increasingly brazen lies and the ever more fantastical claims? Do you, betimes, catch yourself thinking, is it me?

I surely can’t be the only one experiencing the sensation that truth and facts are being so eroded as to have become ethereal and elusive. The world is shifting and crumbling under a barrage of delusion and dishonesty delivered with such easy conviction as to make one momentarily doubt ones senses and ones intellect – and even ones sanity.

I listen to Jeremy Hunt talk about negotiations with the EU and have to constantly remind myself that there are no such negotiations. As he claims to be qualified to conduct these negotiations, I find myself on the verge of disputing this in a way that would imply acceptance of the reality of the negotiations. I am in danger of becoming submerged in Hunt’s delusion and must push my head out of the cloying mire to gasp a breath of truth.

There are no negotiations with the EU. There is no remotely realistic prospect of such negotiations. But Hunt’s delusion is so complete in its construction as to take on the qualities of reality. I understand how easy it would be for this manufactured reality to supplant actual reality as the former steals the attributes of the latter. I see how truth is diminished as it is pillaged for materials from which to build lies. I have to peer ever more intently to distinguish one from the other.

It is not just truth and reality which are under attack. Discharge from the festering pit of British politics is corroding the very concepts which underpin civilised society. Concepts whose concreteness we rely on – and all too often take for granted. Concepts such as justice and democracy are in danger of disintegrating as arbitrariness, expediency, imperiousness and authoritarianism are normalised in a calculated perversion of political discourse.

Nested within the intertwined fantasies of further negotiations and “orderly transition” and an advantageous Brexit ‘deal’ is a denial of fundamental democratic principles so nonchalantly delivered as to give the impression that those principles have no value – and never did. It’s not that democracy is being discarded so much as it is being erased, eradicated. Just as Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia not Eurasia, so it has always been the case that the criterion for selecting members of bodies such as that which forms part of Jeremy Hunt’s delusion is, not democratic legitimacy, but devotion to the structures of power, privilege and patronage which constitute the British state.

That British state is the place where truth and democracy go to die. It is the place where it is normal to discount any kind of democratic mandate and denigrate the very idea of parliamentary authority. It is the place where political leaders are anointed, not elected. Where political authority derives, not from the people, but from a divinely-ordained monarch whose powers are wielded by an executive answerable only to forces unseen and unaccountable. It is the place where reality is whatever serves the interests of established power. It is the place where truth belongs to the ruling elite; theirs to shape using the tools of tame mass media.

For Scotland and its people, the British state is a daily more alien and threatening place. It is a place where we don’t belong. A place where our needs, priorities and aspirations count for nothing. Where our democratic choices are dismissed. Where our political culture is despised and derided. A place of insult and iniquity.

Scotland is shackled to the British state and all its corruption and dishonesty and incompetence and deluded imperialist pretensions by an archaic, asymmetric, anomalous Union. The people of Scotland hold the key to those shackles. We can free ourselves from the chaos. We can choose not to be dragged down by the British political elite.

We can choose truth over lies. We can choose the reality we make for ourselves over the the demented fantasies constructed in the diseased minds of ‘One Nation’ British Nationalist fanatics. We can choose to #DissolveTheUnion.

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Contradictions and inconsistencies

As ‘Minister of the Union’, Boris Johnson might well be expected to defend his assertion that it is the most successful political and economic union in history. He won’t, of course. That would involve stating the ‘positive case for the Union’; a thing of myth and rumour which, if it had any basis in reality, would surely have been enunciated long ere now by one of the countless people who are better qualified than Johnson to speak on such matters.

As with pretty much all such pronouncements from British politicians, Boris Johnson’s claims for the political and economic success of the Union do not stand up to the scrutiny they won’t get from the British media.

A political union which can only be maintained with lies, deceit, denigration and intimidation is not a political union which can sensibly be described as a success.

A political union which at least half the people of Scotland want dissolved and a significant part of the remainder want substantially reformed cannot sensibly be described as a success.

An economic union which is claimed by its proponents to have left Scotland in such a parlous economic condition as to be unable to survive without the financial support of ts neighbour cannot sensibly be simultaneously described as successful.

An economic union cannot sensibly be described as a success even as its media supporters pump out propaganda saying that it has left Scotland’s essential public services limping from crisis to catastrophe.

It is a commonplace that the utterances of Boris Johnson and other ‘One Nation’ British Nationalist fanatics tend to be riddled with inconsistencies and contradictions. Much of which is quite deliberate. Even if these utterances were to be subject to the kind of scrutiny which British political journalists are too professionally incompetent and/or intellectually indolent to undertake, it is advantageous for dishonest political actors to ensure that they cannot be pinned down on a particular position.

The inconsistencies and contradictions which aren’t part of the British politician’s arsenal of deviousness can generally be attributed to their repertoire of idiocy.

The truest indicator of an economic union’s success is surely the prosperity of both, or all, parties to that economic union. But here we have Boris Johnson asserting the success whilst denying the prosperity.

The truest indicator of the success of a political union is surely the contentment of both, or all, parties to that political union. But here we have Boris Johnson asserting the success whilst admitting that extraordinary measures are required to maintain that political union in the face of growing discontent.

Does it really matter whether these contradictions and inconsistencies are the product of malicious mendacity or simple stupidity? Isn’t the sensible response the same either way? Is it not clear that the Union has failed Scotland and must be dissolved?

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Bring down the clowns!

It has, for very good reason, grown all too easy to dismiss the actions of the British state in relation to Scotland as being motivated by pettiness or as the result of incompetence. We see in the likes of Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson (Not to mention the Tory leadership candidates rejected in their favour. Imagine how that must sting!) bumbling clowns playing to an audience so beguiled by the bright lights and sequin sparkle as to think this performance important politics and the tawdry, torn and precariously tilting big-top in which it is being enacted the only place of any consequence.

The clowns know their audience well. They know how it likes to watch the whiteface abuse and humiliate the auguste. They are aware that the loudest and most demonstrative section of the audience identifies with the superior status of the lead clown. They are conscious of how this claque subconsciously associates its myriad hate-figures with the inferior and afflicted fall-guy.

When Hunt, or another of his British ilk, throws a custard pie in Nicola Sturgeon’s face, the audience screams with amused delight as they see in their lumpen imagination Britannia’s bold favourite asserting dominance over her possessions and inflicting defeat and mortification on those who dare challenge her divinely-ordained status. The clowns are adept at pandering to the basest urges of their audience. And should that audience’s enthusiasm for the circus show any signs of flagging, the media is ready to play ringmaster, urging the crowd to renewed frenzies of righteous outrage and vicarious triumph.

To those of us catching glimpses of this spectacle through gaps and rents in the fabric of the circus tent, it seems just that – a show; an entertainment; an interlude. We may readily forget that such performances are, not mere distractions from the serious business of the British state, but the actual conduct of that business. We tend to abstract performances such as the Tory leadership contest from the context of British state affairs and lose sight of the fact that this really is the British political elite doing its day job. We tend to see the clowns as stage actors playing a part when, in fact, they are state actors playing with the lives of real people and the fate of nations.

When the British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs withdraws his office’s support for overseas trips made by Scotland’s First Minister, we should not take this lightly. We should not see it as just a clown lashing out with a flimsy paper plate piled high with harmless foam. We should not regard it as only a bit of macho posturing in the hope of impressing the select few who will select the next British Prime Minister not least on the basis of how ‘tough’ the candidate promises to be with those uppity Jocks.

We must take this seriously. We must see this as offensive action on behalf of the ‘One Nation’ British Nationalist ideology which now stands as the greatest threat to Scotland since England’s armies northwards rushed rebellious Scots to crush.

We must see this for the anti-democratic abuse of power that it truly is. We must recognise that this is a senior Minister of the British state seeking to impede the democratically elected First Minister of Scotland in the performance of her solemn duty to the people of Scotland.

We must know this as one of the most explicit manifestations to date of the British state’s imperative to crush democratic dissent in Scotland and eradicate our distinctive political culture.

The First Minister’s primary responsibility is for Scotland. She is wholly and solely accountable to the people of Scotland. The sworn duty of our First Minister is, first and foremost, to safeguard and further Scotland’s interests in accordance with the mandate afforded by the electorate. Whether or not you voted for Nicola Sturgeon or her party, she represents all of Scotland – nation and people – at home and abroad. That is democracy.

To slight our First Minister, as the British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs has done, is to slight Scotland. To show contempt for the office of First Minister is to show contempt for the people of Scotland who own that office regardless of who the incumbent may be. To attempt to prevent our First Minister from performing her duties and fulfilling her responsibilities is an offence against Scotland’s democracy. To offend against democracy is to offend against all the people who serve and are served by democracy.

We must take this action by the British establishment as a declaration of war. A war to be fought, not with swords and spears on some blood-soaked field, but with truth and justice in the arena of democratic politics. A war, not against a foreign invader, but against an increasingly alien political culture and an appallingly pernicious ideology.

A war, not to assert dominance over another land or people; nor even to defend our own land and people against overt subjugation, but to affirm the fact that Scotland exists as a nation and defend the principle that legitimate political authority in Scotland derives solely and exclusively from the people of Scotland.

Our First Minister acts with that authority. Her every word and deed carries the authority of the people of Scotland. Notwithstanding the pretensions of
certain media-hyped nonentities, Nicola Sturgeon is the head of Scotland’s democratically elected Government sitting in the only Parliament with democratic legitimacy in Scotland.

This is a war, not against England, but against the Union which perverts and corrupts relations between our two nations while encouraging debauched and feckless British politician to presume themselves above the will of Scotland’s people and beyond the reach of our reproach.

Nicola Sturgeon is under attack because the forces behind both Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson are aware of how crucial she is to Scotland’s cause. We have to take seriously the threat of ‘One Nation’ British Nationalism. And we can only counter that threat by dissolving the Union and restoring constitutional normality to our nation.

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