Strength. Power. Authority. Action.

The stubborn, unjustifiable and unconcerned response of the Prime Minister shows how untouchable he believes he and his cronies are. Ultimately, it is up to the public whether they are untouchable, or whether they will be held to account.

Mhairi Black: PM’s mask has slipped … he doesn’t care about the public

Why would he not believe he’s untouchable. He is! That is the reality. The next UK general election is by default scheduled to be held on Thursday 2 May 2024 – slightly less than four years from now. Or roughly 200 of Mhairi’s columns in The National. She can devote every single one of them to redundantly informing us how terrible Boris Johnson and his cronies are and how terrible it is that they get to dictate so much public policy in Scotland despite having no democratic legitimacy, and it won’t make a blind bit of difference.

After that election, Mhairi can go back to pointlessly stating the obvious about how terrible Boris blah! blah! blah! Because, as things stand, Boris will still be British Prime Minister and he will still be surrounded by the same cronies. Or maybe there will be another British Prime Minister and another set of cronies. In which case Mhairi can simply recycle those 200 articles with a few name-changes. Because whether it’s Boris The First or Boris The Next and however much the crony-pack is shuffled they will still dictate public policy in Scotland despite lacking any democratic legitimacy.

Nothing changes until somebody changes it. The British political system will continue its descent into chaotic ineptitude coupled with increasing authoritarianism and the British political elite will continue to exert their baleful, illegitimate influence over Scotland unless and until the Scottish Government takes the necessary action through the Scottish Parliament to put an end to it. No amount of complaining will alter the situation by the merest fraction of an iota. Not all the anti-Tory rhetoric Mhairi might muster will make the merest particle of a scintilla of difference.

We’ve had enough fine words to fill an Olympic swimming pool the size of Belgium and still those parsnips remain distinctly unbuttered.

And we can easily see why. The clue is in the words of Mhairi Black MP,

Ultimately, it is up to the public whether they are untouchable, or whether they will be held to account.

Which is fine – if you are a politician trying to wriggle off a hook. If you’re a politician looking to excuse failure or rationalise inaction then it is very convenient to be able to say that it’s not up to you because “ultimately, it is up to the public”. It even has the advantage of being true – in a sense and as far as it goes. It is true in the sense that ultimate political authority is vested in and derives from the sovereign people. It is true to the extent that the people are able to translate that authority into action.

And that is where Mhairi’s statement encounters a problem. That translation from authority requires an intermediary. Which is where Mhairi comes in. Or should. It is where politicians come in. Or should. It is where political parties come in. Or should.

Further explanation demands that I get over two issues. My aversion to repeating myself. And my reluctance to sound condescending. But if I’d explained the point adequately on all those previous occasions I wouldn’t be obliged to repeat the explanation now. And if I come across as condescending in the process it’s only because it is such a fundamental point that it really shouldn’t require any explanation at all. I too can contrive excuses and rationalisations.

I have previously pointed out that political parties are analogous to trade unions. Just as the latter facilitate combination in order to exert influence in the sphere of employment, so the former allow us to act collectively to exert influence in the sphere of public policy. If either are doing what they are intended to do, that can only be our fault. Trade unions and political parties are ours to use. If we allow others to use them in our stead then we have little right to complain that they are not being used for our preferred purpose.

What I perhaps failed to do was properly explain the difference between strength and power. It may even be that I have failed to make this crucial distinction. My bad! For it is, indeed, a crucial distinction. We are many. The many have strength. The many have no power. That is to say, the masses lack the means to translate their strength into power directed to a particular purpose. What I call effective political power. Strength is necessary to get stuff done. But it is not power until it is harnessed and purposefully applied. Political parties are the intermediary by which the strength of the people is directed to specific ends. They are the necessary tool to translate diffuse strength into power focused on achieving a particular outcome.

Or not!

As an SNP politician Mhairi cannot get off the hook by shrugging her shoulders and saying it’s a matter for the people to sort out. As an SNP politician she is part of the tool chosen by the people as the means of translating their strength into the effective political power which they intend should relieve Scotland of the baleful and illegitimate influence exerted by Boris Johnson, his cronies and their successors. And it’s not happening!

It’s not happening because the intermediary is not working. The strength of the people is undeniable. The need to end the Union which gives spurious legitimacy to the British state’s influence in Scotland is as great as it ever was and more urgent than it has ever been. It’s the bit in between that’s letting us down.

Bemoaning the awfulness of Boris and the Brits is a pointless and futile distraction. Boris and the Brits are not the problem. Because they are not the intermediary. They are not the tool that we need. They will not translate the strength of Scotland’s people into effective political power directed to ending their ability to claim Scotland’s strength as their own.

Scotland’s constitutional status has absolutely nothing to do with Boris and the Brits. So why the hell are SNP politicians squandering OUR strength on telling us what we already know about their awfulness? Why are they not translating that strength into the effective political power which will extricate Scotland from this accursed Union? Why are they not using our authority to act?

And why are we not loudly demanding that they do so?

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Get the monster!

Mhairi Black seems to be under the impression that Boris Johnson is the problem. What chance does the campaign to restore Scotland’s independence have when the people we have elected to progress that campaign are so woefully misguided? Boris Johnson is a symptom. The Union is the disease.

Boris Johnson isn’t even a symptom of the pestilent Union. Boris Johnson is a symptom of the malady which has afflicted England’s politics. Being infected with the Union merely means that Scotland must suffer the symptoms of whatever ailment befalls England-as-Britain.

Mhairi Black is not a fool. So we are entitled to wonder why someone so astute might make the basic error of misidentifying the problem. And if we assume that she is not so foolish as to suppose Boris Johnson so be the problem, we are entitled to wonder what was her motive and purpose in penning an article that is entirely about him. Why the prolonged anti-Boris rant?

It could be because he’s an easy target. In fact, I’m certain that is part of the answer. He’s an easy individual to despise. As Mhairi Black demonstrates, it is no great task to assemble a catalogue of the ways in which Boris Johnson makes himself a fitting object of detestation among Scots not infatuated with the facile, vacuous, jingoistic clown-face he puts on the sulphurous British Nationalism that grips England-as-Britain. A catalogue which, while far from comprehensive, is sufficient to make the wordage required by The National.

Not that I’m suggesting Mhairi Black’s sole or primary reason for focusing so intently on the wrong target was as an effortless way to pad out a column doubtless written in haste as the deadline loomed and almost certainly while she was preoccupied with whatever matters so engage our SNP MPs as to distract them from the task for which we elected them.

As I mention distraction, it occurs to me that this might be the answer to those wondering what Mhairi Black was aiming for with this article. An explanation supported if not confirmed by the last few paragraphs. She doesn’t quite use that irksomely inane phrase which insists that “we’ve never been closer to independence”. But she barely avoids this idiocy. And only by coining another which is only less imbecilic than the imbecility of the “never closer” pish because the imbecility of the “never closer” pish is unbeatable. Mhairi Black’s variation on the “never closer” theme being “the Union is doomed”. There probably should be an exclamation mark appended to this portentous declamation. But not even Mhairi can get that excited about it.

It’s another empty assertion. Unless “the Union is doomed” because Boris Johnson is an arse – which seems unlikely – then Mhairi Black offers no explanation as to what exactly is going to bring about the doom which she so confidently predicts for the Union. If the Union was going to be brought down by having arses in the high offices of the British state then it wouldn’t have survived three weeks, never mind three centuries.

It seems Boris Johnson is a useful idiot extraordinaire indeed. He manages to be both a tool for forces the nature of which may be better hinted at by Dominic Cummings and a handy device by which the SNP can distract attention from the abject failure of Nicola Sturgeon’s ‘strategy’ for progressing Scotland’s cause.

When the Angry Villagers are heading your way, it’s good to have a monster to which you can direct the pitchforks of their anger. Even if only temporarily.

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The message and the language

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mhairi’s voice

If, as Mhairi Black states, the purpose of this Saturday’s rally is to “send a message to the Westminster establishment” then it will be a wasted effort. The Westminster establishment isn’t listening. The Westminster establishment doesn’t care.

Why should they care what Scotland says? The Union ensures that the Westminster establishment will always have the power to slap Scotland down. The No vote in 2014 gave the Westminster establishment a licence to do as it pleased with Scotland. The Nicola Sturgeon’s commitment to the Section 30 process allays any fears the Westminster establishment might have had that the Scottish Government intended to challenge its authority. The Westminster establishment has every reason to be confident that England-as-Britain’s grip on Scotland is secure.

Sending a message to the Westminster establishment will have no effect at all. If Mhairi Black and others want to shake things up, they should be addressing their speeches to Nicola Sturgeon. They should be urging her to take a more assertive approach to the constitutional issue. They should be telling her the time has come to challenge the power of the Westminster establishment. They should be insisting that she defend the principle of popular sovereignty. That she assert the authority of the Scottish Parliament. They should be demanding that she reject the alien concept of parliamentary sovereignty

They should press her to defy the authority of the British establishment. . Authority which may be ‘legal and constitutional’ in terms of British law and the British constitution, but which can never be just or rightful in terms of fundamental democratic principles.

Speakers at The National’s rally on Saturday should not waste their time talking to a British political elite which regards them with open contempt. They would do better to use the opportunity to remind our First Minister that where Scotland goes from here is up to her. It is the decisions she makes at this time which will determine Scotland’s future. It is her actions, and the actions of her government which matter; not the Westminster establishment.

They should be pointing out to the First Minister that, if she truly believes Scotland’s future should be in Scotland’s hands then she must accept that it will only get there if she wrests control from the Westminster establishment, rather than hoping that they might graciously give it up if she abides by their rules.

They should be emphasising that the overriding reason for seeking the restoration of Scotland’s independence is that it is right. The Union must be ended because it is wrong.

Mhairi Black’s is a powerful voice. A persuasive voice. She should not be wasting that voice talking to the Westminster establishment. She should be using it to inspire Nicola Sturgeon to be the bold, assertive leader Scotland needs.

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The nub of the matter

Fundamentally, I am sick and tired of Scotland’s future being dictated by governments we never voted for.

Characteristically, Mhairi Black gets to the nub of the matter. Having dealt with and dismissed the entire Brexit fiasco, she identifies the core issue. This is why we need to restore Scotland’s rightful constitutional status. Not for the sake of a desperate, last-ditch attempt to avoid the catastrophe of being dragged out of the EU against our will. Not for the potential prosperity of an independent Scotland. Not for the promise of a gentler, greener, fairer society free of the inequities and iniquities of the Tory British state. We need to normalise Scotland’s constitutional status because the present arrangement is wrong. In every sense of that term, the Union is wrong.

The political union which binds Scotland to the British state is fundamentally unjust. It is an affront to democracy and an insult to the people of this nation.

We need to break the Union, not because of Brexit, but because the Union is what facilitates Brexit. It is what give the British political elite the power to impose Brexit on an unwilling nation. It is what makes it inevitable that Scotland’s future is dictated by governments we never voted for. The gross injustice of Brexit merely exemplifies a condition of abusive subjection which is, not an unintended and incidental side-effect, but an inevitable product and purposeful function of the Union.

Brexit, like austerity and much else, is being inflicted on Scotland because of the Union. Because that is what the Union is for.

This Union that was contrived in a different age for purposes that were never relevant to us.

This Union that we, the people, had no part in creating or sanctioning.

This anachronistic, dysfunctional, corrupt Union which serves none of the people off these islands well.

This Union which was always intended to serve the purposes of the ruling elites of the British state.

This Union which, in that regard if no other, has not changed one iota in the last three centuries.

This Union that sucks the human and material resources out of our nation and in return gives us government by a British political elite that we have emphatically and repeatedly rejected at the polls.

This Union that imposes policies which are anathema to our people. Policies which, to whatever limited extent they have been permitted any say,  have been resolutely opposed by our democratically elected representatives.

This Union that is a plague on Scotland’s politics. A blight on Scotland’s society. A parasite on Scotland’s economy. This Union which is now a real and imminent threat to Scotland’s democracy.

Mhairi Black goes on to say,

I am tired of my country being treated like an irritation for demanding our vote is respected. I want to see a Scotland with enough confidence and self-respect to become truly accountable and independent.

I’m tired too. I want to see a Scotland which at last has enough confidence and self-respect to rid itself of the Union.

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A minimum of respect

then_whatMhairi Black observes that, when the ‘lead not leave’ platitude was being peddled, some people “maybe even believed that the UK Government would make a considered effort to take the Scottish view into account”. It should also be noted that some didn’t believe it, but didn’t care. They have important things to think about; like TV soaps, football matches and royal weddings. They can’t be expected to concern themselves with trivial matters such as the destruction of Scotland’s democracy.

Others were fully aware of the deception, but fully approved of it. Applauded it. Celebrated it. Scotland’s great tragedy is that it is home to a significant minority who rejoice in Scotland being demeaned and denigrated and diminished. It is a fundamental tenet of British Nationalist ideology that Scotland must be less if that is what is required in order that the British state may be more.

British Nationalists were never taken in by the ‘lead not leave’ plea because they regard the very idea of Scotland having any kind of lead role as unthinkable and faintly ridiculous. Belief in the primacy of the British ruling elites precludes Scotland being anything other than subordinate. Their can be no parity of status where one party is presumed to be ‘naturally’ preeminent.

For British Nationalists, who make up between 10 and 20 percent of the electorate, Scotland’s prosperity and dignity are things to be thoughtlessly sacrificed for the greater glory of the British state. They see nothing wrong in a requirement for consent that presumes consent to have been granted because they cannot conceive of circumstances in which it would be right to withhold consent from the British political elite.

They see nothing wrong in misleading, deceiving and lying to the people of Scotland in order to preserve their precious Union. On the contrary, they take great pride in doing so effectively. Liars and frauds are elevated to the status of heroes if their chicanery has been practised in the name of the British state.

No doubt people did believe that the British government would “make a considered effort to take the Scottish view into account”. But why would that be acceptable to anyone other than the British Nationalist fanatics just described? Why should the people of Scotland have to rely on a government they decisively rejected making an effort to consider their views?

Why would anyone with a modicum of respect for democracy and themselves accept anything less than that they be governed by people who take their views into account as a matter of course? Isn’t that a minimum requirement of any government? Isn’t it the very least that we’re entitled to expect?

Isn’t it about time we demanded that minimum?

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