What’s to stop them?

Simple question. What’s to stop them? What’s to stop the British government denying Scotland’s right of self-determination indefinitely?

Ian Blackford asks,

How many times do the people of Scotland have to vote for the SNP to give the Scottish Parliament a mandate to have an independence referendum?

Rather than ask what the number is he’d have done better to ask if there is a number. If one mandate can be dismissed then so can two. And four. And eight. And any number you care to think of. It is no more problematic for the British government to dismiss mandate number 1,765 than mandate number three. Or four. Or whatever it is that we’re at now. If anything, it gets easier for them. They’ll quickly get into a routine.

There is no cost to them. It costs the British government nothing to ignore a mandate for a new referendum. The cost is zero. It doesn’t matter what zero is multiplied by, it is still zero.

Ian Blackford asks,

Is he [Borish Johnson] really prepared to ignore a party that has got 80% of the seats from Scotland in this place and has won 45% of the vote?

Yes, he is. We know he is. Because he’s said he is very often and with as much clarity as he is capable of. And why not? Why shouldn’t he ignore 100% of the seats on 100% of the vote? The set of rules and procedures which Nicola Sturgeon has called the “gold standard” allows any British Prime Minister to ignore any vote in Scotland. Look at our 62% remain vote. 62% is more than 45% and two successive British Prime Ministers have ignored it with effortless ease and at absolutely no cost.

Any British Prime Minister can ignore any vote in Scotland with effortless ease and at absolutely no cost because that set of rules and procedures which Nicola Sturgeon calls the “gold standard” is built on the foundation of a political union contrived and imposed for the purpose of ensuring that the British Prime Minister and the parliament of England-as-Britain will be able to ignore all votes in Scotland in perpetuity.

A question for Ian Blackford. How is that situation going to change if the SNP isn’t prepared, and the Yes movement isn’t allowed, to even mention the possibility of ending the Union?



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Dear Mr Blackford

SNP mandate for second independence referendum is ‘indisputable’ says Blackford

So, what has changed, Mr Blackford? The mandate to which you refer was indisputable prior to the most recent election. It has been indisputable for a few years now. Has that mandate taken on some new form or grade of indisputability as a result of the SNP landslide?

If the mandate is indisputable, how are British Nationalists able to dispute it? Might I suggest that it is because, while you say the mandate is indisputable, you don’t act as if it is indisputable? If it is an indisputable mandate, why have you not acted on it?

And, while you dispute Boris Johnson’s ‘right’ to dispute this indisputable mandate in one breath, in the next you acknowledge his ‘right’ to dispute it by committing to the Section 30 process. If the mandate is indisputable, why does it need Boris Johnson’s graceless approval to put it beyond dispute?

You insist that the mandate is indisputable. But, at the same time, you say it won’t be indisputable until Boris Johnson stops disputing it. Am I repeating myself? Perhaps that is because I’m trying to find a form of words which might elicit a response.

It’s a simple enough and sensible enough question, Mr Blackford. How can the mandate be indisputable AND in need of the British Prime Minister’s acknowledgement in order that it can be beyond dispute? Hmm, Mr Blackford?



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Read the words!

If I am cynical about British Labour it’s for good reason. This is a party of back-stabbers who have no qualms about turning their blades on voters should self-interest demand it. They betrayed Scotland for their precious Union before. They will do so again. They colluded with the Tories in the 2014 Scottish independence referendum campaign because of their mutual interest in maintaining the structures of power, privilege and patronage which constitute the British state. Those structures have not changed. Nor has the shared imperative of the British establishment parties to keep a political system which serves them well, even as it fails the people in all manner of tragic ways.

In an otherwise rather silly column which imagines British Labour supporting independence, Kevin McKenna notes that their operation in Scotland hasn’t changed since the British parties lost control of Holyrood. Discussing what he persists in calling ‘Scottish Labour’, McKenna observes that British Labour in Scotland (BLiS) “has been in retreat for 12 years”. It is a commonplace of Scottish political commentary that this retreat has been into a bubble of bitter resentment towards both the SNP and the voters who had the effrontery to rob BLiS of what they regard as their entitled status in Scotland. A resentment so corrosive that neither rational nor creative thinking can survive.

It’s difficult to know whether the resentment which has paralysed BLiS for all that time also infected the rest of the party, or whether the resentment is simply more concentrated in BLiS, them being more directly affected. What we can know for certain is that, in terms of policy, there is but one British Labour. If BLiS didn’t adapt to Scotland’s new political and electoral reality in 12 years, neither did British Labour as a whole.

The question that arises is why would British Labour change now. If, indeed, it has genuinely changed in the ways that many seem to suppose are implied by John McDonnell’s ‘promise’ that British Labour would not block a new Scottish independence referendum.

I look at this ‘promise’ with the jaundiced eye of my cynicism and I smell deviousness and duplicity. This is, of course, the hallmark stench of British politics. But the stink seems particularly strong around John McDonnell’s comments. My first thought is that this is a ploy to split the pro-independence vote in Scotland. A ploy which, were it effective, would serve both to undermine the independence movement and weaken the SNP. There is obvious advantage here for both British Labour and the British Nationalist ideology it shares with other British establishment parties.

So what! I hear some in the Yes movement say. If BLiS drops its dogmatic opposition to anew independence referendum this only strengthens the mandate to hold such a referendum. But that mandate requires no strengthening. It is already as strong as it needs to be – and then some. And British Labour are not in power at Westminster. They are not in a position to decide whether the British parliament should grant gracious consent allowing Scots to exercise the fundamental right of self-determination. So John McDonnell is giving us precisely nothing with his ‘promise’ not to block a new referendum even if we are naive enough to suppose that promise would be kept should it be put to the test.

McDonnell is aware that a large proportion of traditional British Labour voters in Scotland support the restoration of Scotland’s independence and that many of them have been ‘lending’ their votes to the SNP knowing that this is the only way to achieve that objective. He will know, also, that many of those people are itching to get back to voting as their fathers did and their fathers before them. They feel a certain loyalty to British Labour – or to the values which British Labour once represented – and they will seize on any excuse to return to the fold. John McDonnell’s ‘promise’ provides that excuse.

This still leaves the question of why McDonnell has decided to make this ‘promise’ at this time. But we’ve already seen that the ‘promise’ isn’t worth much even if taken at face value. And its value gets increasing dubious the more closely we scrutinise it. Let’s remind ourselves of his precise words.

The Scottish Parliament will come to a considered view on that and they will submit that to the Government and the English parliament itself.

If the Scottish people decide they want a referendum that’s for them.

We would not block something like that. We would let the Scottish people decide. That’s democracy.

There are other views within the party but that’s our view.

Note the final sentence. That’s a get-out clause if ever there was one. Who is he referring to when he says “our view”. How are we to be sure that view prevails against those “other views within the party “. Note what he doesn’t say. He doesn’t say that this is now official arty policy. His words can easily be interpreted, or portrayed, as implying that the matter is being debated within the party. There is nothing conclusive there. Nothing anybody should be clinging to.

Perhaps even more significantly, note the use of the future and future unreal conditional tense. The Scottish Parliament “WILL COME to a considered view”; “they WILL SUBMIT that to the Government”; “we WOULD NOT block something like that”; “we WOULD LET the Scottish people decide”.

At no time does John McDonnell acknowledge the existing mandate. At not time does he recognise that the Scottish Parliament has already “come to a considered view”. Nowhere does he mention that this “considered view” has already been submitted to “the Government and the English parliament [sic]”. To do so would be to respect the authority of the Scottish Parliament. Which no British Nationalist politician can or will ever do.

Nor will they respect Scotland’s people. John McDonnell also says,

“If the Scottish people decide they want a referendum that’s for them.”

He refuses to allow that the Scottish people have already made known their choice in this matter by voting for parties with a clear manifesto commitment to holding a new referendum.

It may be thought that John McDonnell is taking a bit of a risk with this ‘promise’ to break with British Nationalist dogma and respect democratic principles. What if British Labour does end up in power and all the conditions he stipulates are met? Wouldn’t that make it awkward for British Labour to renege? Which brings us, finally, to an answer to the question of why this ‘promise’ is being made now.

John McDonnell is a professional politician and so is not inclined to take risks where the cost would fall on himself or his party. Therefore, he must have reason to be sure that British Labour will never be put in the position of being expected to honour his ‘promise’. He would only make such a promise if he was confident that the Tories were about to apply a ‘final solution’ to the Scottish problem.

John McDonnell is undertaking to respect the Scottish Parliament. not now but at some unspecified time in the future, because he is as certain as he needs to be that there will be no Scottish Parliament by that time.

He is undertaking to respect the democratic will of the people of Scotland, not now but at some unspecified time in the future, because he is confident the Tories have a plan to ensure that the people of Scotland are prevented from ever deciding the constitutional status of our nation or choosing the form of government that best suits our needs.

John McDonnell is attempting to deceive the people of Scotland in the name of preserving the Union. Don’t be fooled!



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The mood

Boris Johnston may well be the last Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. But it is distressingly difficult to see how this will be brought about by the SNP. Angus Robertson has lots to say about what the British government will be doing. It would be a very generous interpretation of his article, however, which finds any suggestion that the Scottish Government has plans of its own. Apart, that is, from conducting research of the kind that should have been done long since.

What I take from this article is that the SNP is content to let things play out under the auspices of a malignant child-clown on the assumption that this will somehow lead to the restoration of Scotland’s independence. With all due respect to Angus Robertson, this is dangerous nonsense. Restoring Scotland’s independence will require bold, decisive action by the Scottish Government. If Mr Robertson’s report is any guide, bold, decisive action isn’t even under consideration.

We must assume that Angus Robertson is close to the SNP leadership and familiar with the prevailing mood. Clues to that mood are, perhaps inadvertently, scattered throughout his article. There is, of course, the ongoing obsession with Brexit and the SNP’s stance on that issue – which seems to have shifted from outright opposition to Brexit because Scotland voted Remain, to futile opposition to a particular form of Brexit despite Scotland having voted against any kind of Brexit.

I’d like to ask Angus Robertson what Brexit ‘deal’ might negate that 62% Remain vote? When I voted Remain, did I unwittingly vote to keep Scotland in EU unless there was an acceptable Brexit ‘deal’? Acceptable to whom?

When it comes to Boris Johnson’s interest in Scotland, Angus Robertson discusses this solely in terms of electoral impact. He refers to Boris Johnson and his transition team having “put some thought into how to deal with their unpopularity in Scotland”. When he imagines us asking “where stands Scotland in all of this”, he answers with a firm prediction of SNP electoral success in any head-to-head contest with the Tories. Incredibly, there is no mention at all of the constitutional implications for Scotland of a new hard-line ‘One Nation’ British Nationalist administration in London.

With what looks like quite breath-taking political naivety, Angus Robertson assures us that Scotland is not top of Johnson’s list. How is it possible for him to be unaware that locking Scotland into a unilaterally rewritten ‘British Constitution’ is an imperative for the British state? If Scotland is of as little concern to Boris Johnson as Angus Robertson implies, does it not occur to him to wonder why the self-anointed ‘Minister for the Union’ might be so relaxed about what is surely the greatest threat to his precious Union?

But it was the following passage which really provoked me to anger. Assuming the SNP would trounce the Tories in a Westminster election, Robertson opines,

All of this will strengthen the SNP mandate for the Scottish Parliament to decide on holding the next Scottish independence referendum. Having already won elections to the Scottish Parliament, Westminster Parliament and European Parliament, and secured a majority in favour in the Scottish Parliament, the undemocratic excuses to block a democratic vote will no longer be sustainable.

I read that and found myself wondering how “undemocratic excuses to block a democratic vote” could be “sustainable” in light of three electoral and one parliamentary confirmations of the mandate to hold that vote. I found myself wondering how “undemocratic excuses to block a democratic vote” could ever be “sustainable”. I found myself unable to understand why we would need yet another confirmation of a mandate which was already vastly more valid than the mandate of those making the “undemocratic excuses to block a democratic vote”.

I found myself wondering just how many confirmations of the mandate to hold a new independence referendum would be required before the SNP decides that the “undemocratic excuses to block a democratic vote” are no longer sustainable.

If Angus Robertson is affording us anything like an accurate sense of the SNP leadership’s mood, then Scotland is in serious trouble.



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A bad place

I’ve just read yet another blog peddling the idea that the mandate for a new independence referendum is entirely conditional on Brexit. This is based solely on a single phrase abstracted from a section of the SNP’s 2016 election manifesto – “taken out of the EU”. But it doesn’t just say “taken out of the EU”. It says “…or if there is a significant and material change in the circumstances that prevailed in 2014, such as Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will” (my emphasis). You can’t pretend those words aren’t there just because it suits your argument.

And you can’t escape the import of that extract. Unless you wilfully distort it by excluding a big chunk of the text and even more of the context, that paragraph sets down two separate and non-mutually exclusive situations in which the Scottish Parliament “should have the right to hold another [independence] referendum”. Those two situations are –

(a) “if there is clear and sustained evidence that independence has become the preferred option of a majority of the Scottish people”

AND/OR

(b) “if there is a significant and material change in the circumstances that prevailed in 2014”

Being “taken out of the EU” is merely given as an example of “significant and material change”. The clue is in the words “such as”. Unfortunately, those who come to this section of the SNP manifesto having already made up their minds what it says tend to be oblivious to the bits that contradict their preconceptions.

It could easily be argued that it was a mistake to include that example. It may be maintained that by doing so the SNP was inviting precisely the kind of distorted interpretation presented in Barrhead Boy’s article, and so many other places besides. That British Nationalists would twist the words to suit their malign purpose was to be expected. The fact that so many in the Yes movement are happily parroting this British Nationalist propaganda is one of the reasons I have lately come to despair for the cause of independence.

Another reason is glib utterances such as “we do not have any instant easy fixes that can magically be deployed”. I am not aware that anybody has ever suggested any “instant easy fixes”. So this is, essentially, nothing more than a rather silly straw man deployed in preference to actually addressing the alternative process implied by the hashtag #DissolveTheUnion. The attitude seems to be that, if you don’t understand an idea and can’t be bothered making the effort, then simply dismiss it with some trite phrase.

But, a couple of days ago in the course of a near day long series of exchanges on Twitter, a realisation gradually dawned on me. It wouldn’t matter if there was an “instant easy fix”. Or, at least a relatively straightforward process by which we could advance the independence cause. It wouldn’t matter because what certainly seems to be the entire Yes movement has convinced itself that the process must be complex and convoluted in order to be ‘real’.

This notion is, I think, closely associated with the notion that the process must be ‘legal’. By which is generally meant, in accordance with whatever laws, regulations and rules devised by the British state are deemed to be relevant. The British political elite make hoops and we must jump through them. Once we have jumped through all the hoops, we’ll have completed a process that is ‘legally watertight’.

There is an obvious problem with this which, for all that it is so obvious, seems to elude those who insist on accepting ‘British’ as the definitive standard in all things. There is no limit to the number of hoops the British state can set up for us to jump through. So long as we meekly accept that we must jump through their hoops, they will always produce another one.

There is no route to independence which does not pass through a point at which there is direct and possibly unpleasant confrontation with the British political elite. If you are trying to contrive some ‘legal’ device by which to bypass that point, you are wasting time and resources. If you are not prepared to face that confrontation, then you are not committed to the cause of independence.

There is also a less obvious issue with this notion of ‘legality’. The relevant standard by which to assess the process whereby Scotland’s independence is restored is democratic not legal. So long as that process by which Scotland’s people exercise their right of self-determination is wholly and transparently democratic, then it cannot be ‘illegal’.

I am now resigned, however, to the fact that this fundamental truth is not going to gain anything like the required traction in the Yes movement. I don’t know how many times I’ve explained what that passage from the SNP manifesto actually says. Even though it’s written in English plain enough that you’d have to be motivated to misunderstand it. Nobody is listening! Likewise, the point about democratic legitimacy being more relevant than legislative compliance. Nobody is listening! Also the exploration of bold and decisive action – necessarily outwith what is permitted by the British state – to resolve the issue of Scotland’s constitutional status. Nobody is listening!

Another thing occurred to me in the course of that Twitter exchange. I’ve found myself in a place where Yes supporters frustrate and annoy me more than British Nationalists. That’s not a place I want to be.


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