The fate of sheeple

My philosophy of life is that the meek shall inherit nothing but debasement, frustration, and ignoble deaths.

Harlan Ellison

I was spoilt for choice when considering an apposite quote with which to open. I rather like the one from J Paul Getty – “The meek shall inherit the Earth; but not the mineral rights.”. There’s no shortage of quotable wisdom warning of the perils of meekness. You’d think people would have learned. Unless you knew any people. In which case you might be shocked by the docility with which they march to their doom, but not surprised. If scripture is to be our guide then the meek would surely have inherited the entire solar system by now. Instead, all we get is debasement, frustration and ignoble death. Such are the true wages of meekness.

To be meek is to be submissive. Tractable. Manipulable. Docility is a self-reinforcing condition because being meek means that you can be manipulated into being more meek yet. The meek are ripe for plucking by those even moderately skilled in the art and science of manipulation. Everybody thinks that everybody else is too easily manipulated by politicians and the media, while nobody admits that they are. Nobody likes to admit that they’ve been manipulated. Not even to themselves. The the greater the extent that they have been manipulated into a particular conclusion the more fervently they will tend to insist that the conclusion was arrived at entirely independently and by reason alone. The meek inherit more meekness.

Meekness is a close cousin to apathy and complacency. Together, they consign the masses to the fate that has always been the fate of the masses. Complacency, apathy and humility combine to ensure that the many will uncomplainingly accept the discomfort and disadvantage that is the price of comfort and advantage for the few. ‘Twas ever thus.

It is also the case that few resent the activist more than those who are resigned to their fate. The powerful long since learned that the submissiveness of the masses was more cost-effectively ensured by fear of loss than by fear of the sword. The less people have the more desperately they will cling to it. But those who have nothing have nothing to lose. So the trick to keeping the masses in line is to get the right balance of well-being and insecurity. Most lives some of the time and many lives most of the time are too preoccupied with the effort to secure what they have to protest at what they’re denied. And those who protest on their behalf are regarded as putting at increased risk whatever little the dispossessed still possess. And so it goes on.

Scotland seems to have more than its share of meekness. We’re awash with humility. Where apathy hasn’t sapped the spirit complacency has. Here’s tae us! Wh’s like us! Nane, it seems when it comes to turning an endless series of cheeks to be slapped by the British political elite. Nane when it comes to being manipulated. Nane when it comes to being contentedly misled.

Only a week or two after being told that action to restore Scotland’s independence would have to wait indefinitely while Nicola Sturgeon dealt with Scotland’s portion of the coronavirus pandemic and its economic aftermath we are now being assured that she has made an explicit commitment to indyref2 in SNP 2021 manifesto. She didn’t. I listened to the radio interview. I heard no “explicit commitment”. And even if she had made an explicit commitment as claimed the commitment would have been meaningless because it is it would be a commitment to a process that cannot possibly achieve what is promised.

But none of this matters to the meek. There’s a majority for Yes in the polls. Nicola Sturgeon has achieved celebrity status. Now there’s an explicit commitment to indyref2 in SNP 2021 manifesto. This means that independence has never been closer. And this proximity to the goal can only be jeopardised by pointing out that there is a huge difference between something being close and it being reachable. Nobody wants to hear that things they celebrate as signs of approaching success don’t actually relate to success in any way at all. None of it satisfies the criteria of necessity and sufficiency. What they are clinging to may not be worthless, but it isn’t worth what they’ve allowed themselves to be convinced it’s worth. It isn’t worth enough.

A majority for Yes in the polls is a nice thing to have. But it doesn’t bring independence any closer unless there is the means to translate that public support into a formal declaration of the will of the people. A popular leader is a nice thing to have. But it doesn’t bring independence any closer unless that leader is committed not merely to the concept of independence but to the course of action required to achieve it. The promise of a new referendum is a nice thing to have. But it doesn’t bring independence any closer unless the promise can be honoured and honoured in a way which will make the referendum a step towards the restoration of Scotland’s independence.

The meek are content with what they have. The meek are easily manipulated into believing what they have to be more than what it is. The meek are easily convinced that the biggest threat to what they have comes from those who point out that what they have is an emperor in underpants. The sheeple are being herded into the abattoir and bleating protests at anybody who tries to warn them of what lies ahead.

I’ll finish with another quote which should make the meek think, but probably won’t.

The English are mentioned in the Bible; Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

Mark Twain


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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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A home for hope?

Like many people, I have come to regard Joanna Cherry as the person who might jolt the SNP leadership out of the cloth-eared inertia which has beset the party since 2014 and left the independence campaign run aground on a reef of obdurate hyper-caution. I saw in Ms Cherry someone who might look at the increase in support for independence indicated by polls over the past year and rather than unthinkingly accepting this as a vindication of the SNP’s approach to the constitutional issue, would ask the awkward questions. Such as, why only over the past year? Circumstances have been close to ideal for an anti-Union campaign since Friday 19 September 2014. Since then, there have been numerous opportunities to further Scotland’s cause. All of them were missed. Why? If the SNP’s approach to the constitutional issue is appropriate and effective, why was there no evidence of this over a period of five years or more?

I thought Joanna Cherry might be the bold voice within the SNP pointing out the unpalatable facts. Such as the hard reality that high and rising support in the polls is utterly meaningless in the absence of a process by which that support is connected through actions and decisions to an outcome. Strength of public opinion alone changes nothing without the means to translate it into effective political power. The SNP in government is supposed to is supposed to provide that means. Instead, the party’s leadership remains absolutely committed to a process – Section 30 – which does not connect to anything. And now has indefinitely postponed action even on a process which suits only the purposes of the British state.

I was encouraged in my hopes of Joanna Cherry when I read that she was urging the SNP to accept that the anti-Brexit campaign was over and lost. I would have been happier if she were to explicitly acknowledge that the obsession with Brexit should never have been permitted to supersede and supplant the commitment to restoring Scotland’s independence which gets top-billing in the party’s own constitution. But we take what we can get.

Some will say that it is pointless harking back to the past. Generally, these would be the people who stand to be embarrassed by the past. Their sensitivities should not be allowed to stand in the way of learning lessons from past mistakes. Not only has the current leadership of the party failed to learn any lessons, it is in denial about there being anything to learn. Nicola Sturgeon – for it is she as First Minister and party leaders who must shoulder the blame – has ignored and/or denigrated anyone who suggests alternative approaches which take due cognisance of past errors.

But we are where we are. Even if all too many in the Yes movement imagine we’re in a different place altogether. We must move on. With each passing day the need to extricate Scotland from the Union grows more urgent. Only the SNP can provide the means to translate popular support for Scotland’s cause into effective political action on behalf of that cause. I had come to look on Joanna Cherry as the individual who, with popular support of her own, might snap the SNP leadership out of its Brexit-induced torpor and make it fit for purpose.

Imagine my disappointment when I got to the final third of Joanna Cherry’s column in The National only to find something that reads like it has been pinched from Pete Wishart’s blog. She does that thing that so many SNP politicians do. She reaches out to the British state’s propagandists and validates their carping. She hints at fresh thinking, then proceeds to trot out stale material left over from the 2014 referendum campaign. She says, “we need to advance a fresh positive case for an independent Scotland”. No we don’t! We need to advance the idea that independence is simply normal. We need to make the case that it is the Union which is the constitutional anomaly and that Brexit isn’t the problem. The problem is the Union which allows the British political elite to ignore the democratic will of the sovereign people of Scotland in all matters and at all times!

She goes on,

This means providing answers to the questions that in the full glare of an independence campaign will come into focus…

No it doesn’t!

Joanna Cherry needs to ask how these questions are brought into focus, by whom and for what purpose. Only by asking such questions might the realisation dawn that these questions are brought into focus through British propaganda fed to us through the British media on behalf of the British state for the purpose of manufacturing doubt about independence.

She says,

From my experience talking to voters these questions revolve around three issues: the economy and concern about what currency an independent Scotland will use, including whether we could be forced to join the euro; how the process of accession to the EU would actually work, and how to maintain cross-border trade with England.

But where did these people get the questions form? The got them from the British media! The vast majority of voters have neither immediate interest in nor any knowledge of these matters. They are told by the media that it is absolutely vital that they get an answer to the ‘What currency?’ question. So the think they need an answer to that question – notwithstanding the fact that even if any answer they could be given constituted real knowledge, it would be knowledge that they could do nothing with. And whatever answer they are provided with and however comprehensive and convincing that answer is, the British media will tell them that they didn’t get an answer and they will thereby suppose that they didn’t get an answer and they will be outraged despite the fact that they had previously accepted an answer that is of no real use to them to a question it would never have occurred to them to ask in the first place.

Even if the ‘What currency?’ question is answered there is no answer that can be given that doesn’t spawn a score of other questions. Merely by being asked every one of those questions generates doubt. By attempting to answer them the SNP validates the questions asked, amplifies the doubt and prompts further doubt-inducing enquiries.

Joanna Cherry says,

These are all legitimate questions.

No they’re not!

The ‘legitimate’ question would be is Scotland capable of managing its monetary affairs? Why doesn’t that question “come into focus”? Because attempting to answer that question would cause the British political elite considerable and obvious difficulty. So they use the facile ‘What currency?’ question to divert attention.

The same or similar applies to every other question. Politics for Dummies! When your opponent asks a question the purpose is rarely if ever to elicit useful information. Always assume malign intent. Always ask yourself what question is not being asked. Then ask it!

How do I know all this? Because it is exactly what happened in the first referendum campaign!

I have grown accustomed to SNP politicians and Yes activists behaving as if Scotland needed to pass an exam to even be allowed to exercise the right of self-determination that is ours by absolute right. I had hoped that Joanna Cherry would be different. I had hoped that she would understand the need to reframe the constitutional issue and rethink the campaign strategy. If not quite dashed, that hope is now seriously undermined. Which leaves me with a genuinely legitimate question. If not Joanna Cherry, then who?



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Never mind the journey! Look at the destination!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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Our nation! Our rules!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 4th dimension

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

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

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

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

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

No hurry!

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

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

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

What to do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the vicious cycle?

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

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

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

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

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

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

A question of loyalty

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

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

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

Job specification

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

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

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

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

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

Upbeat

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

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

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

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

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

Another word from Joanna Cherry.

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

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



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Ghost teacher

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The missing goal

It cannot be credibly be claimed that “the pro-Indy movement share the same common goal” as asserted by someone commenting on David Pratt’s insightful column in The National. It never did. It never could. Because that common goal was never identified far less placed front and centre of the campaign.

An effective single-issue political campaign cannot be built around a contested idea. Independence is a contested idea. There is no single definitive idea of independence. Even if such a thing were possible – which I seriously doubt – no attempt was ever made to create that single definitive idea of independence. We were all too busy congratulating ourselves on the diversity of the Yes movement.

So carried away were we with unquestioning belief in the wonderfulness of our diversity that nobody wanted to hear the voices warning how easily diversity can turn to division. Or the voices pointing out that presenting myriad vague options in a binary referendum might not be the smartest strategy. Especially when our opponents were allowed to adopt the immeasurably more efficacious tactic of not defining any option at all but, rather, so arranging things that their option could be whatever they wanted it to be and whatever was most politically expedient at any given time.

Nobody wanted to hear that the diversity which could exist, however precariously, in a movement and might even be said to enrich it had no place in a campaign. Nobody wanted to hear that inserting diversity into a single-issue campaign was akin to giving it a lethal injection.

Everybody convinced themselves that the public likes diversity. They don’t! The public like clarity! They like things they can understand without expending any mental effort. They like simple choices. They prefer that the hard choices are made by someone else or not made at all. Mostly, they like what they’re told to like – and what they should hate – by whoever has managed to capture their attention long enough to convey a very simple message.

None of which is to say that people as individuals are generally stupid. Many are. Most are some of the time. Some are most of the time. And I do not exclude myself from this observation.

The public is not the same as the people. The term “the people” refers to the meta-set of individual actors within a polity. Actors who have an absolute right to their political choices even if the choices they make cannot be either accepted or respected. The term “the public” refers to a homogeneous mass of self-interest and base urges ripe for manipulation. The public is the dumb beast held on a leash by established power. The public is the clunking puppet made to perform a grotesque dance by the mass media.

And after the vote; when we had lost, the analysis never got much beyond “we didn’t do enough”. Nobody wanted to hear that what we did was ill-thought in its fundamentals. There was much talk of “needing a better message”. Nobody wanted to hear that what was needed was a totally different message. There was much talk of “making a bigger effort”. Nobody wanted to hear that a misguided effort remained a misguided effort no matter how energy was poured into it.

After the vote; when we had lost, everybody was talking about how we needed a frank and open discussion about what we did wrong and how we could do better. But no such discussion ever took place. Or, to the very limited extent that it did, it was anything but frank and open. Everybody said they wanted to look at where we went wrong. But nobody was prepared to undertake the necessary scrutiny lest they find something they’d be uncomfortable recognising. There was great reluctance to even suggest a possible mistake or misstep lest it sound like apportioning blame. Or worse still taking responsibility.

There was general agreement on the glaringly obvious point that we needed to do better if we were to win. And general horror at the suggestion we look for pointers on how to win in the glaringly obvious place – the campaign that actually did win.

In short, no lessons were learned. Diversity impregnated the campaign and after the required gestation period has given birth to division. It’s too late now to think of prophylactic measures. This division cannot now be prevented. Nor can it be repaired. There is no external entity which can heal the divisions. There is no shepherd so skilled as to be able to gather the strays into a single flock moving as one.

That which is divided in this sense cannot be pressed together. It can only be drawn together. The independence movement can only be drawn together by the magnetic attraction of a common goal. The common goal it never had. The common goal it never could have. Because that common goal was never identified far less being charged with the power needed to prevent diversity becoming division.



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The train now standing…

The guy who only a few months ago said “We’ve never been closer to independence!” has a hard neck talking about “showboating chaff” from others. And why does Alyn Smith devote so much space to publishing his CV? Is that supposed to impress us? There are, in the Yes movement, many people who could produce an even more impressive account of the effort they have devoted to Scotland’s cause over far more decades than Alyn Smith can claim. And, unlike Mr Smith, doing so unpaid.

He dismisses talk of process. He insists we concentrate on policy. After 20 years in politics you’d think he’d have learned that without process policy goes nowhere. Without process there is no movement. To be so disdainful of process is like saying you don’t care if a vehicle actually runs so long as it is fitted with all the latest technology.

The reality, I suspect, is that Mr Smith doesn’t want to discuss process because he has absolutely nothing to say on the subject. He sure as hell doesn’t want to answer question about the Section 30 process. He won’t explain how it can possibly deliver to a free and fair referendum. He doesn’t want to explain how it can ever be a route to independence.

He is right about one thing. We do need to persuade people. I totally accept that the “gentle persuasion” favoured by him and his pal Pete “The Postponer” Wishart is one way to go about it. Just not the only way! And I would gently point out to both of them that no amount of “gentle persuasion” is going to persuade people to board a train that isn’t going anywhere because the tracks of process haven’t been laid.

Alyn Smith and Pete Wishart want to lure people onto the independence train with talk of how the rail system might be financed and how much more comfortable the seats could be. They are content for the train to remain in the station for as long as it takes to fill it with passengers. But the people running the station are idiots and the place is ablaze. Mr Smith and Mr Wishart look at the encroaching flames and the imminent inferno and tell us we should tolerate being scorched because the fire is driving more people to board the train regardless of the fact that it’s going nowhere.

I want people on that train too. But I reckon we’ll get more travellers if we can assure them that the tracks are laid and a route planned that doesn’t involve trying to get the train to go where the tracks don’t go – as in Pete Wishart’s drivel about a detour to visit the EU. And, more to the point, a route that doesn’t involve running into buffers before the train even leaves the burning station – as in the British state’s ‘gold standard’ Section 30 route.

This is the last train. It may be the last train ever. But it’s certainly the last train for a long while. It has to go. When people see that it is actually getting out of the blazing station and going somewhere, they will rush to get on board. They won’t be deterred by the knowledge that the train is going to a place they’ve never been before, and will have to learn about as we travel and after we arrive. They will be exited by the prospect and confident that they can deal with any problems along the way and cope with whatever challenges being in a new place might bring.

People will board the independence train when the crew inspires confidence. If their questions about departure time and journey time are met with quotes from the company’s sales brochures then they are going to be sceptical about the ability of the crew to get them safely to their destination. They will wonder why the train manager is giving them his spiel about company policy on smoking when they’ve asked what time the train is leaving. They will be irked when the train manager launches into a glowing, travel-brochure account of the destination when they inquired about any track and signal work that might cause delays in getting to that destination. They’ll be seriously worried when they ask about the driver’s qualifications and experience only to have their attention drawn to how good she looks in the uniform.

Those on board and those still milling on the platform will all be baffled and horrified if the train manager shrugs off persistent questions by telling everybody that the train can’t go until the crew gets permission from the station-master. Who happens to be the one setting all the fires in the station. The one who wants to keep the train in the station because he’s destroying all the food outlets on the concourse and he knows the train’s catering service is sufficiently well-stocked to provide for him and select members of his staff – so long as everybody else is put on meagre rations.

The analogy may have been overworked, but it serves well to convey an idea of Scotland’s present predicament. Maybe, too, it serves to help us see what needs to be done to get us out of this predicament. We know there is only this train and this crew. We know what our destination is. Even if we don’t have a detailed street map and recent photographs of important landmarks and architect’s plans of every building, we know it’s where we must go – because staying is not a viable option. We know all of this, and knowing all of this we know that our best hope of getting out of the burning station and at least setting off on our journey is to urge a better performance from the team running the train.

We have to demand that the train leave now! If that means leaving without the station-master’s permission, so be it. Because the tracks are clear, at least to the first bend. Those tracks are not going to vanish or become impassible just because we didn’t get a form signed by an official who doesn’t even work for this rail company – our rail company. Because, you see, it’s our train. They’re our tracks. We are all shareholders. We own the train and we are entitled to use the rail network to go wherever we choose.

All aboard!!!



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Metamorphosis

It rather goes without saying that I agree with every word Jim Fairlie has written. The expression ‘of one mind’ has rarely been more apt. There are, however, one or two matters that are worthy of comment.

I think it important to be totally honest about the extent to which the independence movement has allowed itself to be manipulated by the British state’s propaganda machine and the ruthless political wiles which have been honed over centuries and are now deployed with the casual ease of second nature become first instinct.

When I talk about the independence movement, I mean the WHOLE independence movement. The fact that we’ve fallen into the habit of referring to ‘the SNP and the wider independence movement’ as if they were two quite distinct entities nicely illustrates the very point that Jim Fairlie makes about divide and conquer which the British state tends to deploy as a matter of course having learned nothing from the lessons of history. I freely, if somewhat shamefacedly, confess to having myself too often and too readily made this overly strong distinction between what are actually just aspects of the same phenomenon. This despite the fact that I am aware of the manipulation that’s in play. Which perhaps attests to the insidious power of that manipulation. I need to be more aware! We all do!

Saying that reference to the independence movement should at all times include the SNP is not, however, the same as saying that the movement behaves as one. The only point on which I diverge slightly from Jim Fairlie’s analysis is when he asserts that “our support has the elasticity and determination to take the strain of process debates to agree a strategy that will deliver independence”. I’m not so sure of either the elasticity or the determination. Not because the capacity or potential is lost to to the movement but because the will to tap that capacity and realise that potential has been overtaken by a combination of weariness and frustration.

In the period immediately following the tragedy of 2014 I frequently opined that the Yes movement had matured since its inception in the early years of the first independence referendum campaign. There was ample evidence of this maturity in the way the movement acted. But even as I delighted in it I could not help but be aware that just as purposeful maturity followed the often clumsy enthusiasm of youth, so it was the precursor to old age and decrepitude. The observation that youth is wasted on the young applies. The Yes movement has aged rapidly under the stresses and tensions of the last few years. And it’s starting to show.

I remain to be persuaded that the creaking joints and aching muscles of the Yes movement are capably of responding to the urging its now wise old brain. Nothing would please me better than to be proved wrong. It would gladden my heart greatly were the independence movement able to “agree a strategy that will deliver independence” and unite behind that strategy. But I see little evidence of that. And considerably more evidence that, as will happen with movements which are vulnerable to the malign influence of the British state’s tactics, diversity has become division has become factionalism – the cancer that kills any movement.

These personal doubts aside, I am in full agreement with Jim Fairlie. Not only in respect of his analysis but also with regard to his conclusions and recommendations. The strategy he outlines is the strategy behind which the entire independence movement SHOULD unite. It is not only obviously that right strategy it is the only strategy. It might be amenable to the odd tweak here and there – greater emphasis on renouncing the Section 30 process, perhaps – but we genuinely have run out of options. And we’re running out of time. Whatever motivates those who insist we must give the failed strategy one more try – and I accept that this is well intended – they are wrong. We can argue later about the wisdom of treating the Section 30 process as our ‘gold standard’ when it was always one of the British state’s ploys. Right now, we need to move on. And we need to do so while there is still hope that the ageing Yes movement can be roused to one final effort.

Which brings me to my final point. The strategy outlined by Jim Fairlie – a strategy which differs in no significant way from that which I have long advocated – has obvious implications for the coming Scottish Parliament elections and how they are fought by and on behalf of the SNP. But it is important to recognise that the implications are more far-reaching. This change of approach must be informed and underpinned by a fresh mindset. This is not merely tinkering with tactics. Adopting the strategy urged by Jim Fairlie, along with the appropriate shift of mindset, changes the fundamental nature of the independence movement. And it changes our nation.

The Scotland which approaches the constitutional issue as a nation determinedly asserting the sovereignty of its people and the exclusive competence of its Parliament is a very different entity from the country which behaved as a subordinate meekly petitioned a superior for the boon of permission to exercise an inalienable democratic right. It is a Scotland acting as a nation. It is a Scotland people can more easily envisage being a nation. It is a Scotland at last ready to cast off the Union and restore its rightful constitutional status.



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Precious to whom?

Yet the most devastating finding in today’s new poll is that people in England identifying as Conservative supporters are evenly split on the subject with 49% saying they support independence against 51% who were opposed.

Nearly half of Tory voters in England back English independence, poll finds

Think about it! If almost half of voters in England want to see an end to the Union then this is likely to be true also of English people living and voting in Scotland – at least to some extent. An approach to the constitutional issue which framed it as a campaign to end the Union – effectively restoring the independence of both countries – is likely to appeal to more of those people than a campaign which is presented as being all about getting something for Scotland. Especially when that something is portrayed as negatively as Scottish independence is by the British media.

Scotland’s cause may have been to some degree anti-English historically. But for a handful of holdouts who imagine history to have a rewind and pause function, it has not been about ‘the English’ for many decades.The modern independence movement is not concerned with the ancient animosities which poisoned the relationship between our two nations. Scotland’s cause experienced a reformation in the 20th century and our modern civic nationalism is concerned only with building a new relationship between Scotland and England. A relationship informed by 21st century democracy rather than one derived from archaic political, social and economic thinking.

More and more people are recognising that the Union is an obstacle to achieving that new relationship. More and more people in both our nations are realising that the Union is ‘precious’ only to a pustule of privilege within a relatively small constituency which pines for a world to which they cannot return any more than that handful of holdouts who refuse to accept that “Those days are past now; and in the past they must remain,”. Or that when Scotland does “rise again” it will not be a Scotland of warlike and warring clansmen, but as a Scotland capable of preserving the best of its traditions while casting off the worst of its old arrangements. A Scotland still holding to core principles, but happy to abandon outmoded practices.

Scotland will be transformed by the restoration of our independence. But the same is true for England. The England of today is as much a product and function of the archaic, asymmetric and anti-democratic Union as is Scotland. Both nations have been shaped by the increasing toxic relationship fostered by a political union forged, not in friendship and trust but in enmity and suspicion. A political union devised exclusively for the purposes of the privileged few and at whatever cost to the many who have been stripped of their power by just such devices as the Union. The Union which is ‘precious’ only to those intent on maintaining the structures of power, privilege and patronage which underpin and sustain an elite which today wears the face of Boris Johnson and which promises tomorrow to wear something even uglier.

As much as it is time to end Scotland’s status as the annexed territory of our southern neighbour it is time to relieve England of its status as the political and economic plaything of a decadent and decaying elite.

To this highly appealing end, we must rethink our whole approach to the constitutional issue in Scotland. We must reshape the mindset which bids us petition for that which we need only assert. We must reframe the constitutional question as frank, honest and penetrating scrutiny of the Union rather than a test of Scotland’s fitness for something that is ours as a nation as much as sovereignty is the inalienable possession of the individual. Framed thus, constitutional normalisation can be shown to serve not only the citizens of both Scotland and England-as-Britain but democracy itself.



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