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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Plane crash

Nicolas Cage is a Hollywood star whose mediocrity as an actor is flattered by his filmography. Con Air is one of those films you can watch repeatedly and still enjoy and 8mm has to be one of the grittiest mainstream movies ever made. In the former, Cage is propped up by an ensemble cast that includes John Malkovich and Steve Buscemi while in the latter all eyes are on Joaquin Phoenix and the late James Gandolfini to the extent that you’d be forgiven for forgetting that Cage was even there.

I mention this by way of leading up to another Cage vehicle that came to mind yesterday as news emerged of the internal manoeuvrings within the SNP against Joanna Cherry. The 2009 movie Knowing is an unremarkable if mildly enjoyable thriller made famous by an astoundingly graphic and horrifyingly detailed plane crash sequence. I was reminded of that scene as I watched a gang of hijackers fly the SNP into the ground.

I refer specifically to the decision by the party’s National Executive Committee to change the candidate selection rules in a way that was bound to be perceived as a deliberate – and as it turns out effective – attempt to prevent Joanna Cherry MP from pursuing nomination as the SNP candidate for Edinburgh Central constituency, thus favouring Angus Robertson. A decision that makes sense only to those who are convinced the party exists solely to further their narrow political agenda. A political agenda which has more to do with ham-fisted, heavy-handed and horribly misguided social engineering than progressive social reform. The film that comes to mind when I consider the antics of the ‘woke’ clique is 1977’s The Island of Dr. Moreau based on HG Wells’ prescient tale of genetic manipulation and its catastrophic consequences.

Factionalism will bring down a political party as surely as metal fatigue will bring down an aircraft. Like metal fatigue, it can start with cracks so slight as to be invisible. It will initially be celebrated as ‘diversity’ – with no thought as to whether diversity is any less toxic to a political party than full-blown factionalism.

Factions breed factions. They breed in two ways. For every faction there is at least one counter-faction. And, of course, each faction is likely itself to succumb to factionalism as internal differences become disputes become divisions become disintegration.

Factions become more toxic as they breed. Each new faction contains a more potent distillation of whatever dogma is driving the process. Further factions arise as ‘moderates’ strive to counter the more extreme factions and become themselves more extreme in the process.

Labels proliferate. A whole new lexicon develops as every faction attempts to define itself with ever greater precision and others with ever more prejudice. The more rigidly the faction is defined the less likely it is that individuals will find an accommodation for their own worldview. So they create their own faction. The more pejorative the labels thrown at opponents the wider the gulf between them becomes. Differences that are definitively trivial become major points of contention. Major points of contention become the basis of further division. Factions breed factions.

No political party can survive this. Long before factions become so numerous and differentiated that the party appears to stand for everything and therefore nothing, the public will grow weary of it and look elsewhere for something less incomprehensibly complicated. Something more cohesive. Something with a core. Something like the SNP used to be.

There’a a chicken and egg dilemma here. Is it the pursuit by some inexplicably influential clique of its own agenda which has led to the constitutional issue being sidelined? Or is it that in kicking the constitutional issue so far down the road as to be out of sight Nicola Sturgeon has removed the core around which the party used to cohere? More likely, it is a combination of and interaction between these two processes which is splitting the party asunder?

Can the situation be remedied? Can the fission be halted? What is needed to prevent the SNP becoming fragmented and weak at the very time when we need it to be most effective as a political force?

Actually, it’s quite simple. All the party leader has to do is put the restoration of Scotland’s independence back at the centre of everything the SNP is and everything it does. Restore that common purpose and renewed unity at least becomes a possibility. But this refocusing on the constitutional issue will have to be convincing. It has to involve a solid commitment to a Manifesto for Independence in next year’s Holyrood elections made by a leader the membership trusts.

Whatever way you look at this, Nicola Sturgeon has some very hard questions to answer. In my head, I’m still seeing that plane crash scene from Knowing.

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Cherry on top

If people are seeking a ray of hope in the understandable gloom of the constitutional issue, it to be found in Joanna Cherry’s weekly column for The National. Not that I have no quibbles with what she says. It would be a remarkable feat indeed for Ms Cherry – or anyone else for that matter – to write something with which I was in total agreement. But the basics are sound. And growing more sound over the weeks.

I anticipate that this column will become one of the most referenced articles in the constitutional debate. It’s fair encrusted wi’ gems o’ truth an’ pearls o’ wisdom!

Acts of the UK Parliament cannot be challenged in court. Westminster could abolish the Scottish Parliament if it wanted to and no legal action could change that.

Joanna Cherry: Politics is not on hold – we must keep independence in sight

A truth long known but all too seldom told and recognised.

Well, first off, we must not fall into the trap of conceding that the fight against the coronavirus and dealing with its economic fallout precludes pursuing the goal of independence. Politics is plainly not on hold. Brexit is proceeding at full speed. Devolution is under attack. The Tories are continuing to pursue their constitutional agenda. We must do likewise.

Joanna Cherry: Politics is not on hold – we must keep independence in sight

Denying this is not a good look for any politician. It’s the wrong shoes for Nicola Sturgeon.

A strategy which rests solely on the assumption that Boris Johnson will grant a Section 30 Order if the SNP win just one more mandate is a risky one.

Joanna Cherry: Politics is not on hold – we must keep independence in sight

An understatement, for sure. But an understandable one. Joanna Cherry is working towards a position that would be difficult for her to approach other than with a modicum of caution. As someone who has the utmost regard for gravity and an abiding awareness of the almost proverbial inelasticity of rock and who has, therefore never looked at a mountain and thought it’s height a gauntlet thrown before my ego, I hesitate to deploy a mountaineering metaphor. But we might think of what Joanna Cherry is doing as hammering in pitons to aid her ascent to the summit of a position on the constitutional issue which (even more) directly challenges that taken by the First Minister.

I for one look forward eagerly to the moment when Ms Cherry plants Scotland’s flag atop that peak.

Meanwhile, I cannot possibly agree that “the route followed in 2014 is the gold standard”. But I can appreciate why Ms Cherry might say such a thing. It is politic for her to do so at this stage. Nor can I go along with the focus on developing post-independence policies in the hope of winning over wavering No voters. Quite apart from the fact that restoring Scotland’s independence is a question that will be decided in a referendum and not an election, any policy position is liable to be disliked as much as it’s liked. As Elliot Bulmer so succinctly put it in a comment an a recent Facebook post of mine “The choice is between states, not governments.”

Policy development is essential, and much good work is being done in that area. But none of it should be thought of as part of a referendum campaign. That was one of the mistakes made in the 2014 referendum. The constitutional issue got lost in a fog of policy debate. When (if?) a new referendum is held, we will not be electing a party to govern after independence. We will be choosing between the British state and the Scottish nation. We will be choosing between the constitutional anomaly of the Union and the constitutional normality of independence. That is all we will be choosing! These will be the only two options! Focus!

But we can surely forgive this lapse. It relates to matters of campaign tactics rather than overall strategy and is something that can be fairly easily rectified. Besides, Joanna Cherry has other things to say which are more deserving of our attention and consideration both for what they say and what they imply. My pick of the quotes would be the following,

But the reality is that because “power devolved is power retained” we cannot win this fight in the context of a devolved settlement which is designed to ensure Westminster’s supremacy. Nor, in the face of Westminster legislation, can we win this fight in the courts.

Joanna Cherry: Politics is not on hold – we must keep independence in sight

What is not explicitly stated but is necessarily implied is the matter of what’s left when you discount the courts and the “context of a devolved settlement” – which must be understood as implying the constitutional and legal framework constructed by the British state for the purpose of preserving the Union and “the dominance of England[-as-Britain] in our unequal Union”.

What is left is the Scottish Parliament and a new constitutional and legal framework constructed for the defence of democracy in Scotland. A constitutional and legal framework informed by the distinctive political culture which British Nationalists are seeking to eradicate along with such other distinctiveness as is deemed inimical to the ‘Little Britain/Greater England’ fantasised about by those British Nationalists. A constitutional and legal framework built on the solid foundation of the sovereignty of Scotland’s people and the democratic legitimacy of the Scottish Parliament.

Joanna Cherry may well be hinting at, and perhaps working towards, the very conclusion arrived by myself and others in the thoughtful portion of the Yes movement. The conclusion that Scotland’s independence can only be restored by the Scottish Parliament. And only if we break free of the “context of a devolved settlement”. Precious few listen to me when I say this. Very many listen to Joanna Cherry. As they should.

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On with the show

Why would Boris Johnson or Michael Gove or anyone else be in a panic over the Union? What would be the cause of this panic? What is the threat to the Union which might have prompted such panic? Apparently, Yes polling 54% has prompted pant-wetting among those charge with preserving the Union. The same people who with contemptuous insouciance totally disregarded an actual 62% Remain vote and barely stopped to spit on numerous mandates from Scotland’s voters have been moved to panic by a very tentative opinion poll uptick in support for independence.


For a start, it’s just polls. Nobody has actually voted for anything yet. More to the point, there is no way they can vote. There is no process by which that 54% could be translated into a solid expression of democratic will even if the 54% were real and sustainable in the face of the kind of propaganda storm that the British state can launch with ease. There is no discernible reason why Boris Johnson should be concerned far less panicking. The Union is not in jeopardy. If Johnson had ever doubted this, Nicola Sturgeon has put his mind at rest on that count.

The Sweaties are troublesome, for sure. The whole devolution thing has gone frightfully skew-whiff and those SNP upstarts can be a dreadful nuisance and the Sturgeon woman, well, the less said about her the better. But it’s all under control. Plans for shutting down the devolution experiment are proceeding nicely. The SNP at Westminster is lumpen and lethargic and locked into a perpetual grievance mode with Ian Blackford popping up at intervals like an automaton to provide The National with yet another headline about how he’s ‘slamming’ the Tories for this or that and Pete Wishart looking more like part of the House of Commons furniture with every passing day.

In Edinburgh, meanwhile, it’s very much the ‘Nicola and Covid Show’ – a freakishly popular daytime soap opera that has pushed ‘Scotland’s Cause’ off the schedules completely and seems set to run for years. The Sturgeon woman has signed an exclusive contract and while her team keep promising fans new episodes of ‘Scotland’s Cause’ the production schedule for the ‘Nicola & Covid Show’ makes this highly unlikely.

Spotting a potentially lucrative gap in the market, numerous independent production companies have started churning out cheap knock-offs of ‘Scotland’s Cause’ some of which have gained a small cult following. It’s not yet clear what effect these amateurish efforts will have on the prospects for a ‘Scotland’s Cause’ comeback. But they could potentially cause some upsets in next year’s glitzy Holyrood awards as some of the judges appear to be mistaking then for the real thing.

All in all, then, there’s nothing for Boris Johnson to bother his tousled, muddled head about. Scotland’s Cause isn’t going back into production any time soon unless the fans get together to demand it. And that’s not going to happen because they are all too busy arguing about what actually happened in earlier episodes and what this or that bit of dialogue actually meant and where the various plot lines might go and who should play the lead and what they love about it and what they hate about it and which of the rip-offs might succeed and so on and so on.

So why is the ‘Great British Travelling Circus’ coming to Scotland? If it’s not because the people back at head office are fretful about the future of the Union, then why are they dispatching Boris the Clown to put on a few tightly stage-managed shows in the annexed territory? Well, what are circuses and clowns usually for? Entertainment! Distraction! Diversion! The Jocks hate it, of course. They are not amused any more by the antics of Boris and his clown-troupe, But while they’re busy booing and hissing at him – and hopefully worse? – the poor dupes aren’t paying attention to what’s going on behind them. The tour will generate hour upon hour of rolling news coverage. Boris will be shown either performing to admiring photoshopped crowds at invitation-only ‘public’ meetings behind the razor-wire of some military site or fleeing hordes of vicious, woad-painted separatist hooligans waving Saltires and sporting inexplicably large but undoubtedly telegenic SNP badges. Win! And win!

Boris Johnson isn’t coming to Scotland in a fog of panic. He’s coming in the customary bubble of British arrogance. He’s coming to put on a show. And it isn’t even for the benefit of the natives. This is for his audience back home. Viewers in Scotland get their own programme. Repeats of the ‘Nicola & Covid Show’. Yay!

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What hope?

Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.

Saint Augustine

No mention from St Augustine of Hope’s bastard sons, Despair and Despondency. It would have given his aphorism a somewhat different resonance, to be sure. But it would also have made it more honest. But then, honesty and denial aren’t related at all. And what is hope but denial dressed for church.

Dreams are fine. Dreams are good. Every gruelling step of progress made by humankind began with a dream. As, it must be admitted, did every backward stumble. Perhaps we should better say that big things flow from dreams. What these things are depends on the nature of the dream. What is done is a function of what is dreamt.

If anything is done at all. Dreams don’t necessarily lead to anything at all. Dreams never have any effect if they are connected to realisation only by hope. The dreams which have effect are the dreams which are connected to their realisation by a process. We should not dismiss dreamers lightly. But if they substitute hope for process then we can dismiss them without harm.

A man, whilst he is dreaming, believes in his dream; he is undeceived only when he is awakened from his slumber.

Mahatma Gandhi

I am undeceived. I dream of restoring Scotland to her rightful status as an independent nation. But I am awake. And, being wakeful and aware, I see the process that connects that dream to its realisation fading and crumbling. Soon, all that will be left is hollow hope.

Hope’s daughters, are grown old. Anger that once was a fiery furnace now barely makes a flickering flame. Courage fails; weighed and weakened by the wounds of failures and betrayals.

It seems that with every word she utters Nicola Sturgeon widens the gulf between the dream that will never die and the realisation that will never happen. When Andrew Marr (Sunday 12 July) suggested there might be “no more talk about the next referendum, maybe for the rest of this year at least” Sturgeon replied,

Look, as long as I need to be focusing on the Coronavirus crisis and the economic legacy of that crisis, that is going to have my 100% focus.

Nicola Sturgeon

Perhaps realising in the moment how this sounded she went on to insist that she hasn’t changed her view on independence and that she thinks Scotland would be better off as an independent country and that she wants Scotland to be an independent country – sounding every bit the lady who doth protest too much. An impression reinforced when she dropped the big, clunking “but” that everybody was surely anticipating by this point. She wants Scotland to be an independent country, but…! She thinks Scotland would be better off as an independent country, but…! She hasn’t changed her view on independence, but…!

The particular qualification she cited was, of course, the Coronavirus crisis. Which may seem reasonable. However, she then tags onto this “the economic legacy of that crisis”. Thereby creating a totally open-ended get-out clause from a commitment to independence that was already looking woefully weak. Stood next to her impassioned commitment to the British state’s anti-democratic Section 30 process, Nicola Sturgeon’s dedication to Scotland’s cause looks a pale and fragile thing and highly susceptible to the buffetings of political expediency and self-interest.

This affects me. It affects me because my dream of restoring Scotland’s independence is connected to its realisation by a process which crucially requires a First Minister and a Scottish Government that is absolutely committed to the restoration of Scotland’s independence. Not just as something on the to-do list that they might get around to when they have a moment but as a desperately urgent necessity. Something that has long been a desperately urgent necessity. Something that remained a desperately urgent necessity even in the face of an unprecedented public health crisis. Something that has been made even more of a desperate necessity by the things that the British government has been doing while Nicola Sturgeon has been 100% focused on something else and the ensuing something else.

Why 100%? Every other political leader in the world, it seems, has managed to afford a percentage of their focus to other matters. Boris Johnson, for example, has managed to keep the Brexit bus hurtling towards the cliff-edge while making the same arse of handling the Coronavirus crisis as he would surely have done had he devoted the entirety of his meagre and flitting attention to it. But many leaders have coped with Covid-19 rather well while still fulfilling their other duties and responsibilities. There will doubtless be others who use the pandemic as an excuse for this or that. But I challenge anyone to name any political leader who, in the face of a real and impending and explicit threat to their nation’s democracy has said sorry but I’m too busy doing this other thing.

I believe Nicola Sturgeon. I believe her when she says she has a list of things that she regards as more important than getting Scotland out of the Union. I believe her when she intimates that she is prepared to expand that list. I believe her when she says she has on that list things that are not subject to any constraints of time – such as the “economic legacy” of the pandemic.

I have to believe she is sincere when she disowns political and constitutional interests. I have to at least accept that she is following some private logic when she assumes complete responsibility for dealing with the public health emergency and its economic aftermath while having no interest in the political authority and constitutional powers which are essential to this and every other matter that our First Minister and her government were elected to deal with.

I therefore have to accept that there is no process and that in its place I am being offered only scant and paltry hope. I have to accept that, while Nicola Sturgeon is First Minister – and by her own account – there is no process by which my dream of a Scotland free of the Union may be realised.

Nicola Sturgeon has, apparently knowingly and willingly, opened up the yawing space between herself and Scotland’s cause. We may amuse ourselves with speculation about her motives. But the distance between her and the cause of independence doesn’t get any less. The space between the dream and its realisation expands in direct proportion to the distance between the First Minister and the cause of ending the Union. It grows until it cannot be bridged by the process. Hope does not fill the gap. Hope has no substance. Hope merely denies the gap. Or denies that the gap is such as cannot be filled by some novel device. There are always opportunists ready to take advantage of the hopeful by selling them useless novel devices painted to look like genuine process.

According to Napoleon Bonaparte a leader is a dealer in hope. Nicola Sturgeon has nothing I want to buy.

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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”.

Talk to the hand?

On Chris McEleny’s point regarding a manifesto commitment – a Manifesto for Independence – to which all pro-democracy parties might subscribe, I am in total agreement. I started a Facebook group called White Rose Rising as an experiment to look into the feasibility of uniting the Yes movement in a project to formulate just such a Manifesto for Independence. The results have not been promising. But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea. It speaks more to the factors at play within the Yes movement which militate against unity. The Yes movement has been infected by factionalism. Factionalism kills movements.

Worse! It kills movements whilst leaving untouched the cause which inspired it. The cause remains in the hearts and minds of people. But it is tinged with bitter hopelessness because the movement which gives the cause effect is absent.

If we could create this ‘independent’ Manifesto for Independence it would be outside the realm of party politics while being available to any party as a constitutional addendum to their own policy manifesto. This would have numerous advantages. The public tend to be more accepting of ideas that are not associated with political parties. Let’s not go into the rights and wrongs of this here. Let’s just accept that, as a general rule, people are more amenable to proposals that are seen as not serving partisan interests.

Another important advantage would be that the pro-independence parties would not be competing on the constitutional issue – other than in terms of their commitment to the Manifesto for Independence and the credibility of their undertaking to deliver what it promises. They would have a common manifesto pledge. There could be no arguments about process because that process would be set out in the Manifesto for Independence.

The idea is undoubtedly sound. Whether it’s feasible or not is another matter. Personally, I have little hope that the Yes movement is capable of turning itself into the kind of political force that would be required to ‘persuade’ the parties to accept the Manifesto for Independence. Particularly the SNP. And let’s face it, if the SNP go into the next Holyrood election still dragging the millstone of their commitment to the Section 30 process, Scotland’s cause is monumentally screwed. We would still be obliged to try and ensure that the party won and was in a position to form an administration. But only because the alternative is unthinkable. Nobody wants to wake up on the day after the vote to find that the British parties in control of the Scottish Parliament and Jackson Carlaw FM leaving a thick slime trail of smirking smugness everywhere he goes. Or should that be an even thicker slime trail of even smirkier smugness?

We would be obliged to work for an SNP victory knowing that because Nicola Sturgeon was cling still to the British state’s ‘gold standard’ trap, the cause of independence would be doomed to remain stalled for the foreseeable future. I don’t want to think about what kind of future that would be.

Chris says “there is a need to have a grown-up conversation with all pro-independence parties” apparently referring not only to the Scottish Greens but also to the proliferation of pop-up parties seeking to exploit frustration with the SNP. I wonder if he’s ever tried to have a “grown-up conversation” with the evangelicals preaching the truly miraculous properties and powers of their cunning plans. I have. It was never a happy experience for someone who takes a rational, pragmatic approach to politics.

Like it or loathe it, and as unquestionably helpful as a common Manifesto for Independence would be, it is the SNP that matters. It is the SNP that must be pressed into renouncing the Section 30 process. It is the SNP that we will rely on to lend effective political power to Scotland’s cause. It’s entirely in Nicola Sturgeon’s hands. We can have all the “grown-up conversations” we can cram into whatever time Scotland has left. It will all be for nothing if the lady ain’t listening.

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I am not a pigeon

I am not sure which of my personalities is writing this. I don’t know if it’s the virulently anti-SNP blogger who undermines the cause of restoring Scotland’s independence with incessant vicious attacks on Nicola Sturgeon – as described by Pete Wishart and similarly shallow-minded individuals – or the mindless party loyalist who considers independence to be ‘all about the SNP’ and is a devoted member of the Nicola Sturgeon personality cult as portrayed by various online commentators giving vent to absolute conclusions about who I am on the basis of one uncomprehended Tweet or the title of one unread article or some uninformed third-party account of my opinions and attitudes.

I am, if you believe those total strangers who purport to know my mind better than I do, both unquestioningly loyal to the SNP and implacably opposed to the SNP. I am, by various accounts, simultaneously obsessive in my veneration of Nicola Sturgeon and in my hatred of her. I am at one and the same time someone who is totally committed to the restoration of Scotland’s independence and someone who is determined to obstruct and impede progress towards this worthy goal.

And all of these things are true… partly… sort of. Like most people, I don’t fit easily (or willingly) into any hole designed for a pigeon. I am not a pigeon.

Who I am depends on what you ask me. Ask me how I feel about the SNP and I will reach for words such as disappointed, frustrated, angry, impatient, perplexed, exasperated and more in the same vein. For some, this can mean nothing other than that I am fervently opposed to the SNP. Ask me what I think of the SNP and I will state with the confidence of protracted and thorough consideration that the party is the only source of the effective political power without which no strategy fro restoring Scotland’s independence can possibly succeed and therefore absolutely essential to that process. For some, this can mean only that I am a mindless party loyalist who discounts all other parts of the Yes movement.

Not being a pigeon I can’t comment on a pigeon’s capacity for pragmatism. All I can say is that my own is considerable. I can recognise that a coat is threadbare, torn and dirty while being pragmatic enough to accept that wearing it is better than succumbing to hypothermia. I am certainly pragmatic enough to use that coat in preference to freezing to death if it is merely a little ill-fitting or unfashionable.

Ask me how I feel about Nicola Sturgeon and I will freely admit to being slightly in awe of her. I truly admire her abilities as a politician and insofar as I can discern these from a distance, her qualities as a person. I respect and trust her. Just not totally and implicitly. Ask me what I think of Nicola Sturgeon and I will say that for all her undeniable abilities and qualities she is as prone to misjudgement and folly as any other human being. Or maybe just a wee bit less prone. Perhaps that is part of what makes her a bit special.

Not being a pigeon confined to a hole, I can quite comfortably feel great admiration for Nicola Sturgeon and recognise when she has made a mistake. I don’t hate her for her mistakes. If human error was cause for hatred then there would be more hatred in the world than any one planet might contain. I regret her misjudgements and decline to draw a veil over them other than in circumstances where those misjudgements are trivial enough that they fail to tip the scales when weighed against Scotland’s cause and Scotland’s interests. Where I judge the misjudgements to be serious, I will question and criticise and challenge. Because I am not a pigeon.

I am not extraordinary in any way other than that I may think more deeply and analytically than most people. This is not a boast. It is perfectly possible for these traits to be faults. It is possible to think so deeply about things that one never reaches any kind of conclusion. It is possible to be analytical to the point that it becomes nit-picking. But it is essential to think beyond the shallows of superficial presentation and analyse beyond the facile explanations. It may, for reasons of practicality, be necessary settle upon a conclusion and call a halt to the analysing. But this should always be done reluctantly. It should never be done lightly. It should never leave important questions unasked. It should never be a compromise that you are uncomfortable with.

You should not go easily into a pigeon-hole of your own making. You are not a pigeon.

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The fartmills of your mind

People don’t so much fear change as resent it. One of the myriad curiosities of human nature is that we come equipped with this truly remarkable pattern detecting and modelling machine – surely the most complex and powerful device in the known universe – the primary purpose of which is to build models of our environment which allow us to foresee possible changes in that environment, and yet we have this distinct tendency to proceed as if nothing will change. We tend to suppose – or act as if – the way things are is the way they will always be. At some level or in some part of the tangled psychology which informs and instructs our behaviour, we choose to ignore the dynamic four-dimensional model generated by the most powerful predictive algorithms churned by the most powerful computer in the universe and focus instead on that old familiar photograph.

Why do we have this tendency? Perhaps it’s because we suffer from prediction fatigue. Sometimes the dynamic model is just too dynamic for us and we take refuge in a place where things are more static and manageable. Maybe it’s one of those homeostatic feedback systems and the notion of an unchanging environment operates like a governor which prevents the dynamic model running wild. Not a perfect solution. But evolution isn’t working to a plan. Natural selection naturally selects the first thing that works and only tweaks the solution it has settled on if that solution has a statistical tendency to impair our capacity to reproduce relative to some other mutational novelty.

Explaining why we resent rather than fear change may be easier. We resent change because the ‘now’ that we’ve subconsciously chosen to cling to is the baseline for the dynamic models – the maps by which we chart a course through our physical, social and temporal environment. When the baseline changes, the model must be revised. (More precisely the ‘screen grabs’ we’ve taken from the model have to be updated. The model itself is constantly being revised. It is dynamic.) This is effortful. So we resent it. We resent change which requires us to alter our perceptions our preconceptions and/or our plans. Rather a lot of human behaviour can be explained by laziness.

Such indolence has a cost. If we too resolutely adhere to those outdated ‘screen grabs’ from the dynamic model we may be ill-equipped for, and adversely impacted by, such change as may occur. When this happens, we tend to blame the change rather than our own intellectual inertia. Another quirk of human nature. Rarely is it entirely true when an individual insists that they are no part of the problem, the problem is the entire problem. We are all actors in our own lives – even if betimes it seems we are merely bit players, extras and support acts.

It would be deceivingly simplistic to think of this tendency to refer to an unchanging snapshot of our world as absolute. It is just a tendency. That tendency can be strong or weak varying among individuals and over time. We would not survive long if we weren’t keeping an eye on the dynamic display as well as the snapshot. It may reasonably be argued that much and perhaps all human error and folly can be understood in terms of a failure to properly balance the two perceptions.

Scotland’s cause has been serious afflicted by just such a failure to give appropriate weight to the static model which is good enough for immediate and superficial purposes and the dynamic model which is essential to a more long term and profound understanding of the environment. If we are subconsciously selecting a way things are to be our ‘the way things will always be’ it stands to reason that the one selected will tend to be the one which pushes itself forward most forcefully. You might suppose it would most likely be the pleasing snapshot of a sunny reality. In fact, it can just as readily be a disturbing image of a very dark reality. Basically, when things are good, we tend to behave as if they will always be good and when things are bad we tend to be convinced they’ll never get better. Either of these states, if allowed to persist, can result in the kind of behaviour we call a lapse of judgement.

The campaign to restore Scotland’s independence has been beset by lapses of judgement. Which does not make it unusual in any way. It was ever thus.

I pressed for a referendum in September 2018 or no later than September 2018. That date wasn’t picked out of a hat. It was the product of long consideration and analysis as unfettered by assumptions and preconceptions as any individual’s might be absent specialised training. My thinking on the matter was not, for example, shackled to any notion of a ‘right time’. I considered the matter on the basis, not only of what conditions and circumstances would most closely approach some ideal, but on what circumstances were more or less likely to arise and how conditions were more or less likely to develop.

I focused on the dynamic model generated by my brain – or mind.

I do not claim to have foreseen the SNP’s present travails in any precise detail. Nor do I claim to have predicted any aspect of the British government’s frighteningly erratic and irrational behaviour. But I did take account of the ways in which circumstances and conditions could worsen as well as improve over time.

I do not claim to have foreseen the Alex Salmond affair. But I knew with something approaching certainty that something like that would happen. If the British state is determined to dig some dirt on a leading figure in a cause then eventually dirt will be dug. If a party stays in power long enough then it will eventually suffer the effects of internal tensions and external pressures. If a movement survives long enough the energy which drove it will dissipate and it will eventually succumb to factionalism as some try to renew that energy while others seek to scavenge what remains for personal or partisan advantage.

In short, I foresaw that things would start to go all to fuck at some point and knew that it was essential to move forward the fight to restore Scotland’s independence before that happened – regardless of what other circumstances prevailed. Either we got it done by September 2018, or the chances of it getting done started to diminish.

I was not wrong. Nicola Sturgeon got it wrong. I could take a stab at explaining why she got it wrong when she decided to wait in the hope the the British government would by its actions cause people to look more favourably on independence. I could probably find some explanation as to why she failed to appreciate that things could get worse as well as better and that it might be better to act before things got worse.

But I’m depressed enough about it all without delving into the motives and motivations of the players. There is no satisfaction in watching events unfold as you feared they would. There is only despair in fearing things will now unfold in the way you anticipate. There is little comfort in saying, “Ah telt ye!”. That said, I must take what comfort I may. If people had listened to me (and a few others who I don’t presume to speak for) we would not be where we are. We would by now have restored Scotland’s independence and would be congratulating ourselves on having the foresight to move when we did.

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