Beyond madness?

Given that Boris Johnson’s rejection of her Section 30 order ‘demand’ was anticipated Nicola Sturgeon’s response looks decidedly weak. The observation that the British political elite cares nothing for democracy and holds Scotland in total contempt is just stating the obvious. The claim that the British state’s position is “unsustainable” in the face of it quite evidently being sustained just looks silly. And the stuff about how the awfulness of the Brits will bring about a surge of support for independence might be credible but for the fact that the awfulness of the Brits is the stuff of ancient lore, and the tale of an imminent pro-independence surge seems almost as old.

In terms of action, we get nothing. Apparently, despite having been able to see the rejection letter coming, Nicola wasn’t prepared for it. She needs maybe another week. The nearest we get to anything of substance is the announcement that she will be seeking another parliamentary referendum. Presumably, because there’s a free M&S voucher if you collect enough of the things.

The concern for those of us not inclined to greet the First Minister’s every word with a standing ovation is that the approval she seeks from MSPs will be a straight copy of what was asked for in March 2017. Namely, permission to as permission. Because that’s what all strong leaders do. Isn’t it?

If Nicola Sturgeon goes back to the Scottish Parliament with a motion that mentions “discussions with the UK Government on the details of an order under section 30 of the Scotland Act 1998” then SNP MSPs should tell her to think again. Perhaps reminding her of the definition of insanity often attributed to Albert Einstein. If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different outcome then endlessly repeating a course of action which never had a real possibility of the outcome you’re seeking surely goes well beyond mere madness.



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Leave it to the experts

Amidst the eight hundred or so articles I’ve written since I started blogging in February 2012 you will find several which take as their subject warnings about what the future may hold if events play out in particular ways. Warnings, for example, published in the period before the 2014 referendum warning about the consequences of voting No. Or, subsequent to the first referendum, warnings about the implications of too long delaying a new referendum. Here are a few examples, with passages emphasised.

This is from 5 April 2018.

I had hoped to find in his [Pete Wishart] latest writing on the subject answers to such questions as what criteria are to be used in assessing the “optimum time” and how, having delayed the vote, he proposed to deal with the British government’s moves to make a new referendum impossible and/or unwinnable. I’m none the wiser on any of these points.

Referendum 2018

From 7 April 2018.

We can be sure, also, that while emasculating the Scottish Parliament the British government will also introduce measures for the purpose of making an independence referendum ‘unlawful’ and/or unwinnable. If the democratic route to independence is likely to be used, it must be closed off. If the people of Scotland might presume to exercise their democratic right of self-determination, that right must be denied.

Threat and response

From 23 April 208.

The difference – and pretty much the only difference – between the anti-democratic British Nationalists and Pete Wishart is that, while he still supposes there might be a new referendum at some undefined time in the future, Ruth Davidson, Richard Leonard and Willie Rennie) are determined that the referendum be postponed until such time as the British government, to which they give total allegiance, has implemented measures to ensure that a new referendum is impossible and/or unwinnable.

Sage advices

From 19 July 2018.

Scour that timeline as you may, you will find no mention of the steps the British government will be taking in order to make a new independence referendum impossible or unwinnable or both. Which is odd given that Gordon [MacIntyre-Kemp] otherwise seems to suppose the British government to be the only effective actor in all of politics. His timeline is almost entirely a tale of what the British elite does, and how the Scottish Government might react.

It’s what we make it

Finally, from 21 July 2018.

In all this talk of postponing the new referendum, whether it be until 2019 or 2021 or 2022, I see no explanation of how those commending delay propose to deal with the measures that the UK Government will surely implement in order to make a referendum impossible or unwinnable or both. It’s as if they think the British state is a benign entity which is just going to sit back and wait until we get our act together. It’s as if they are dumbly unaware that locking Scotland into a unilaterally redefined political union is one of the principal imperatives driving British policy.

I despair!

Now look at the image below showing the relevant detail of a Bill (Referendums Criteria Bill 2020) currently being considered in the British parliament.

As I express concerns about Nicola Sturgeon’s commitment to the Section 30 process and the SNP’s whole approach to the constitutional issue one of the most common responses I get is to tell me to shut up because ‘the powers that be’ know better than I do.

Do they?

I have been told that, for various procedural reasons, this Bill might make no further progress in the British parliament. To focus on this, however, is to miss the point. The point being that the Bill existed in the first place. It serves to illustrate the ways in which the British establishment will seek to close down all democratic routes to the restoration of Scotland’s independence. Something which could easily be foreseen.

It has been further stated proposal of the Referendums Criteria Bill 2020 was prompted by the 2016 EU referendum and the ensuing chaos. So what? Does this mean it wouldn’t have applied to Scotland? No! Does it mean it wouldn’t have serious implications for the independence campaign? No!

Does it mean there is no possibility of further efforts to make a new referendum impossible and/or unwinnable? No!

Is the Scottish Government ready to deal with those efforts? You’d like to think so. But….



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Power and effect

Neil Mackay

It’s not often one gets to say this, but Gerry Hassan’s column in the Sunday National (Scottish independence: the rise of people power in Scotland) is an enjoyable as well as an interesting read. Enjoyable – perhaps even inspiring – because it is about something which is inevitably close to the heart of everyone associated with the Yes movement – people power. What is the Yes movement but a wonderful example of people coming together to use their collective democratic power for a worthy purpose?

Like all the best popular movements, the origins of Yes are a bit vague. Inevitably so since such movements are not created but, rather, emerge from the populace – the demos. Popular movements are not launched, they arise. There may be a single spark, but it ignites many fires. In the case of the Yes movement, the spark was the 2014 referendum and the separate fires were the various Yes groups which sprang up all over Scotland. Initially, these groups were initiated by Yes Scotland, the official pro-independence campaign organisation. With a speed which I think it’s safe to say startled everyone, these groups began forming spontaneously, facilitated and fanned by social media. At some indefinable point, due largely to the networking capacity offered by the web, that scattering of individual groups became a movement. An amorphous, organic and rather chaotic phenomenon gradually realising the potential of its power.

Power itself is useless. In order to do anything it must be fed into some kind of machine. It is the machinery which does the actual work. As Gerry Hassan makes clear, All Under One Banner (AUOB) is an illuminating example of a mechanism by which raw people power is transformed into operational effect. It is organisations such as AUOB which draw together the different strands of disparate and diffuse people power, amplifying it and applying it to specific tasks or functions.

Which brings us to what I have previously referred to as the ‘organisation problem‘.

Yes is a diverse, open, inclusive, unstructured popular movement. It is NOT an organisation. That is as it should be. That is its strength. It is not hierarchical. It is an amorphous, informal, organic network. That is the essence of its power.
There are no leaders of the Yes movement. But there are leaders IN the Yes movement. Leadership arises as leadership is required. When that leadership ceases to be necessary, it merges back into the movement ready to be called upon if needed. The Yes movement has no need of leaders so long as it has this potential for emergent leadership.

Some of the Yes movement’s activities demand organisation. People put effort into creating the appropriate organisation within the movement. This is NOT a simple task. Creating an organisation within an organisation is relatively easy. Creating an organisation within a movement which eschews and is averse to formal structures is a hugely demanding task.

In that article I went on to observe that,

It takes a special kind of character to even attempt such a task. It takes extraordinary commitment, dedication and sheer hard work to see it through.

Neil Mackay is representative of that kind of character. Although anything but a ‘one-man band’, Neil’s name serves as a metonym for AUOB and, to some extent, for all the organisations which have been formed within the Yes movement.

The lesson here is that, however much the idea of people power may appeal to us, it doesn’t actually do anything absent the individuals and organisations which give it operational effect. The idea of Scotland’s independence being won by people power is at best misleading fallacy and at worst counter-productive delusion. There is a purist notion of people power which rejects, or only reluctantly accepts, the need for any machinery. This is simplistic nonsense. Ultimately, power of any kind has to use, or be used, by some form of organisation in order to have any effect. And organisations rely on individuals with particular abilities and attributes. Organisations like AUOB. Individuals like Neil Mackay.

Political parties are also part of the machinery which gives effect to popular power. All too many people won’t accept this. How often do you hear people say that they ‘hate political parties’, or ‘detest party politics’? I could discuss at length how this is a prejudice which established power is happy to encourage. And why wouldn’t they? What could suit prevailing power better than that countervailing power should spurn the means to challenge the status quo?

People power requires the machinery of organisations in order to build a campaign. That campaign requires a political party in order to be translated into effective action through the institutions and processes of democracy. There is, and can be, no direct connection between people power and social or political reform. It is critically important to recognise that movement, campaign and party are separate and distinct. They interact. But each has its function and all are crucial to success in effecting change.

The analogy which best represents this relationship portrays the SNP as the lever by which Scotland will be prised out of the Union; the Scottish Government is the fulcrum on which the lever turns; the Scottish Parliament is the base on which the fulcrum rests, and the Yes movement is the force which must be applied to the lever. No component works without the others. Each component must perform as required and work well with the rest of the system.

Which brings me (at last!) to my main point. From all of the foregoing it can be seen that it matters a great deal that people power is correctly directed. No useful purpose is served if that power is organised into a campaign only for that campaign to be spent on a political agent which cannot translate that power into the desired political effect. Which is why I was delighted to see the following quote from Neil Mackay.

AUOB’s aim is to push the Scottish Government and to emphasise the power underneath them. We are here to hold them to account and to hold their feet to the fire as much as we do to Westminster.

Look back at that lever analogy. Do you see any mention of Westminster? It is not there because it has no place. It contributes nothing to the process of restoring Scotland’s independence. If Westminster was to be shoe-horned into our analogy it could only be as the resistance to the lever’s movement. Scotland’s independence will not be restored by, or by way of, Westminster. People power applied to the British establishment is, in terms of the objective, all but entirely squandered. The British state has a capacity for disintegrating and/or deflecting and/or absorbing popular pressure that has been acquired and perfected over several centuries. There is no possibility of help for the Yes movement from that direction.

Neil Mackay is right. The power of the Yes movement must now be turned on the Scottish Government and Nicola Sturgeon, both in her role as our First Minister and in her role as leader of the SNP. Their purpose is to provide the Yes movement with effective political power. The Yes movement must put pressure on them to use that power effectively.



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No reply

We are told that Boris Johnson will respond to Nicola Sturgeon’s Section 30 order demand/request “in due course”. What does that mean?

Nicola Sturgeon last made a Section 30 order request at the end of March 2017, when she sent a letter to then British Prime Minister Theresa May. On 7 June 2019 May resigned without ever having made a formal response to Sturgeon’s letter. As far as Theresa May was concerned “due course meant never.

It is now approaching three years since the First Minister sent that letter. It still has not been answered. It was sent to Theresa May in her capacity as British Prime Minister. Boris Johnson took over that role, and responsibility for answering the letter, in late July 2019. He simply continued to disregard it as his predecessor had done.

If a formal request to the British Prime Minister for a Section 30 order from the First Minister of Scotland can be ignored for three years, it can be ignored for four. Or eight. Or indefinitely.

What did Nicola Sturgeon do about her letter being contemptuously ignored? Nothing! Because there was nothing she could do. She must have been aware that she had neither the power nor the political leverage to force a response. That is the nature of the Section 30 process to which she has committed. That is the nature of the relationship between Scotland and England-as-Britain. That is the nature of the Union.

On 19 December 2019, having been given yet another mandate by the people of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon finally gave up hope of receiving a response to her first letter and sent a new one to Boris Johnson. She did so knowing that nothing had changed in the 30 months since the first letter was sent. She knew that this new letter could be ignored just as its predecessor was. But she sent it anyway.

Along with this second letter the First Minister sent a 38-page document outlining her arguments for the granting of powers which rightfully belong with the Scottish Parliament. Boris Johnson was not unaware of these arguments. Or, at least, the people who advise him were fully acquainted and able to inform him. Theresa May was also aware of these arguments. The arguments carried no weight with her. They carry no weight with Johnson. Nicola Sturgeon is aware of this also.

The curious thing about the case for a Section 30 order being granted is that, if the arguments are sound, there should be no need for the Section 30 order. If Scotland is incontestably entitled to a Section 30 order, as Nicola Sturgeon asserts, then Scotland is unarguably entitled to hold a constitutional referendum.

Once it is accepted that consent is required, it follows that it is accepted that consent may be refused. The argument that something which absolutely cannot be refused absolutely must be requested sounds like something out of Alice in Wonderland.

By committing to the Section 30 process the First Minister has accepted that she can simply be ignored. Something she didn’t mention even when acknowledging that she expected her demand/request to be refused. She stressed that refusal would not be the end of the matter. But she gave no clue as to what that meant.

We only have clues to what “in due course” means and how Nicola Sturgeon deals with being ignored. Those clues suggest “in due course” means whatever the British Prime Minister wants it to mean up to and including never. We also know what action Nicola Sturgeon takes in response to being ignored – none! Because there is no action she can take.

The ‘gold standard’ Section 30 process gives all the power to the British political elite. Boris Johnson can ignore a Section 30 request for as long as he wishes because there is nothing in law that says he must respond at all, never mind within a specified period. Neither does the ‘gold standard’ Section 30 process offer the First Minister any redress. Having embraced this process as necessary and ideal, she has no alternative but to accept the fact that this means giving all the power to the British Prime Minister.

The Section 30 process only works to the extent that the British Prime Minister is prepared to play along. The Section 30 process can only lead to a free and fair referendum if the British state cooperates. There are countless ways in which the Section 30 process can fail to or be prevented from bringing about a properly democratic referendum. There is only one way that it can succeed in doing so. And that way is entirely conditional on the goodwill, good grace and good faith of the British political elite.

And the British Nationalists are loving it! Expect to see more gleeful headlines like this from The Daily Express Monday 6 January.

Boris Johnson ignores Nicola Sturgeon’s second independence referendum demands

As you read such headlines bear in mind that they are not just gloating over Nicola Sturgeon’s powerlessness and Scotland’s humiliation, they are applauding Boris Johnson. Those who imagine that he might somehow be forced by public option to grant a Section 30 order are as deluded as any who thought he might feel obliged to do so due democratic principles weighing on his mind.

Johnson needn’t even feel obliged to offer the courtesy of a response. And the more he treats Scotland with high-handed contempt the more the voters he cares about will cheer him on.



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Dodging the issue

Ruth Wishart is certainly not alone in castigating Kenny MacAskill for casting doubt on Nicola Sturgeon’s “stated timetable for a second independence referendum”. And MacAskill’s critics may have a fair point about the appropriateness of his statements now that he is an MP. But Ms Wishart is typical of those critics in that she is so busy explaining why he shouldn’t have said what he said that she clean forgot to address what he said. While the question of whether MacAskill had a right to say what he did may be interesting, the question of whether what he said was right must surely be at least as important.

For a start, what about this “stated timetable” that Kenny MacAskill has supposedly cast himself in the role of heretic by contradicting? Can anybody print off a copy for me? It seems to be one of those things whose existence is entirely dependent on being referred to with a certain frequency and degree of confidence. The term ‘timetable’ is a nice solid word which conjures an image of something concrete. A timetable is one of those things you had at school which set out very precisely where you had to be at specified times for specific purposes. It’s what tells you when the next bus or train will arrive. It is a source of detailed information about the scheduling of events.

Perhaps it has eluded me, but I have seen nothing relating to #indyref2 which qualifies as a timetable. In fact, the hashtag is pretty much as concrete as it gets. Whatever Kenny MacAskill may have called into question it is not a timetable for a new referendum in 2020. Can anybody even point to a categorical, unqualified, unequivocal promise of a new referendum this year? I certainly get the impression that the First Minister’s language on the matter has been, shall we say, carefully measured. There’s a lot of deniability in there.

Nicola Sturgeon has said she would like there to be a referendum in 2020. Kenny MacAskill has said she’s unlikely to get her wish. Maybe he shouldn’t have said it out loud, given that she’s his boss. But that has no bearing on whether the doubts he expresses are justified. That is quite a separate matter. And it is a matter his critics seem curiously reluctant to address.



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Craving substance

When even a significant minority of SNP members and/or supporters are even partly in agreement with Jim Sillars then there is a problem which must be addressed by Nicola Sturgeon, not some anonymous party spokesperson. When one of the party’s own MPs is echoing the concerns felt by increasing numbers of independence activists, Nicola Sturgeon herself must address those concerns.

The issue is simple. If there is to be a referendum in the “second half of 2020” or “before the end of 2020” then there must be a process by which that can happen. This process cannot be secret. It cannot be known only to Nicola Sturgeon and a few trusted colleagues. Options are not unlimited. If Nicola Sturgeon can work out what this process is, so can Boris Johnson’s advisers.

So, in theory, can everyone else. Jim Sillars was never going to do so because he long since ceased to be interested in thinking beyond the first excuse for attacking the SNP leadership. Kenny MacAskill might be expected to figure out what the process is. But, by his own admission, he is more than content with not doing so because he has his own agenda. But there are thousands of politically aware and astute people who are both perfectly capable of discerning a process by which there might be a referendum in 2020 – while adhering to the Section 30 process – and none have been able to do so. Or, at least, so we must assume, as no such discovery has been made public.

For many in the independence movement, not least myself, the days are past when we would accept Nicola Sturgeon’s assurances on the matter of a new independence referendum. The change from “second half of 2020” to “before the end of 2020” may be subtle enough for some to dismiss. But to regard it as inconsequential requires that we dismiss the previous slippage that now adds up to at least a year. And that is on top of what some consider an unconscionably long period of all but total inertia in the wake of the 2014 referendum.

The hard truth behind all the talk of independence being closer than ever is that it is if anything and by any meaningful measure, more remote now than at any time in the last decade. Just like talk of a referendum in 2020, the rhetoric about independence being imminent is empty. Ask anybody who makes either claim to add some substance to their fine words and you will get nothing but evasion. Or denunciation as an unbeliever.

I don’t do faith. If there is any substance to the claim that independence is closer than ever then I want to hear it. And I want to hear it from Nicola Sturgeon. If there is a way that Nicola Sturgeon can both remain committed to the Section 30 process and deliver a new independence referendum in 2020, then I want to hear from her at least an outline of the process involved. Less of the glittering generalities and more on the mundane practicalities.

Neither do I want from others any more of those clumsily contrived and woefully convoluted metaphors involving chess or poker. And give the Sun Tzu quotes a rest as well. Give me something tangible. Or give me relief from the vacuous waffle.

I’m anticipating being told that we have to wait and see what the situation is at the end of the Brexit transition period. That will surely be more than even the most trusting of Nicola Sturgeon’s admirers can thole. At that point, the murmurs of discontent and calmly voiced concerns may rapidly grow to an angry roar. Nicola Sturgeon must act now to turn around a situation which can only deteriorate.



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The year of decision

Relax! I’m not going to do one of those ‘look back at the year’ things. Mainly because, if the BBC is to be believed, the best 2019 had to offer was a wean spewing on the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon changing the date on her referendum promise again and something about butterflies. There was a UK general election in December which confirmed – as if further confirmation were needed – that Scotland would be a very different place from Tory England-as-Britain if our votes actually counted for anything. But look at all the pretty butterflies!

Reviewing the year just gone has become a particularly disquieting exercise for an unabashed Scottish nationalist like myself because I cannot help but observe the carnage and think how different things might be had Scotland not bottled it so badly in 2014. We should have been celebrating three years of constitutional normality. We should have had some successes that we could look back on with satisfaction and perhaps a little pride. We should have been enthused by the prospect of further achievements in the new year. A past we can live with and a future we can contemplate with something less than dread. Is that so much to ask for?

The only reason for mentally rerunning 2019 is the hope that it might end differently. There’s little comfort in knowing that it could have been worse. That probably means only that the worse that might have been is now the worse in prospect.

Not that everybody is so downbeat. If you read The National or listen to SNP politicians or follow the Yes movement on social media you might well suppose that 2019 has brought Scotland to the verge of independence. Not the same verge that we were on at various points in most of the last ten years. A new verge that is somehow more vergey than any of those other verges. This, we are assured, is The Verge. The ultimate verge. Parent to all other verges.

Taking a slightly less rose-tinted perspective, 2019 was more like a gap year. In terms of the two big constitutional issues – the UK’s relationship with the EU and Scotland’s relationship with the rest of the UK (rUK) – nothing changed. Or if it did change it went backwards. Brexit is still happening. And nobody knows what will ensue. Which could have been said at any time since the EU referendum in 2016.

The project to restore Scotland’s independence is still becalmed, sails flapping uselessly in air stirred only be the random gusting of political rhetoric. I am frequently castigated for being ‘negative’. But if two plus two must equal four then two minus three must, by the unforgiving rules of arithmetic, equal negative one. Strip away the happy-clappy positivity and the wishful thinking before totting up the numbers in the progress and regress columns and you just as unavoidably get a negative result.

Compare and contrast!

In 2011 we knew for a fact that there would be an independence referendum. We don’t have that certainty now.

With all that we’ve learned since about how the Union works and how the British state responds when its structures of power, privilege and patronage are threatened we now know that the confidence we felt back then was rather misplaced. We now know that we only got that vote because the British political elite was convinced that the referendum posed no threat to the Union. Having been disabused of that notion, they are now determined that the sphincter-slackening experience of 2014 should never be repeated. And we are learning that, absent thinking outside the box of the British political system, the Scottish Government has vastly fewer ways of making a referendum happen than the British government has of preventing it. Do the math! In terms of the probability of a referendum in 2020 as promised we are well into negative territory.

In 2012 we had an agreement with the British government and the assurance from the Scottish Government that the referendum would be held in the autumn of 2014. We have neither of these things now.

We not only don’t have the equivalent of the Edinburgh Agreement, we have a yawning gulf of ideological difference and mutual animosity that looks to be unbridgeable. And while we have the political promise of a new referendum in the second half of 2020 we also have awareness of the mechanisms and procedures involved and, unless we’ve succeeded in deluding ourselves, the ease with which the British can throw a variety of spanners in the precariously delicate works.

In 2013 we had a precise date for the referendum. We don’t have that now.

Nor is there the remotest possibility of us being given a precise date. Too many things have to be in place before that can happen. And every one of those things is an unknown variable. There is a vast sea of uncertainty between now and the announcement of a date.

In 2014 we had a clear route to independence. We don’t have that now.

Back then, we had a timetable for the restoration of independence. The dates may have been adrift by a few months either way. But we saw no reason to doubt that independence was coming. And sufficient reason to suppose that it would be delivered sometime in 2016. There is no such timetable now. It is undeniable that we have moved backwards from the position we were in then. The Scottish Government has no timetable. No programme. No plan. If we can’t be sure te referendum will happen, how can we foresee independence happening? In 2014 we knew precisely what we had to do in order to achieve our goal. Now, the route-map to independence is mostly blanks that can only be filled by resort to magic.

In 2015 we had an SNP majority in the Scottish Parliament. Now, we don’t even know that there will be a Scottish Parliament by the time of the next elections.

Such is the measure of the uncertainty we face. Since 2011 we have learned a huge amount about the strategies, tactics and methods by which the British state defends established power. The lessons of often very harsh experience. And yet the Scottish Government’s approach to the constitutional issue has not changed in the slightest. The last decade might as well not have happened for all the impact it has had on the thinking of the SNP leadership. They are totally committed to using the same process as for the 2014 referendum. And, should the referendum ever get to the campaigning stage, they are absolutely determined that the second Yes campaign should emulate the first one in every significant way.

Alex Salmond was a dancer. He respected his political opponents but had no illusions about them. He knew when to lead and when to swerve and when to go with his partner/opponent. He that it wasn’t enough to know the steps, you had to be able to improvise. He was conscious of the fact that the dance could very easily turn into a wrestling match. And he was aware that, in a wrestling match with the British state, Scotland almost certainly couldn’t win unless we could match them gouge for gouge and low-blow for low-blow.

Nicola Sturgeon is a marcher. A different kind of leader altogether. Not necessarily a lesser leader. Just different. She sees the goal, knows the cause is just and supposes that resolve will succeed. Nicola Sturgeon knows the “case for independence” inside-out and back-to-front. She is well prepared – and better able than any others I know of – to play the game according to the rules. But she seems to expect that the game will be played by the rules. She will steadfastly march the route defined by those rules regardless of her opponents’ ability to change those rules or their willingness to wantonly breach them.

Just as I decline to perform a post-mortem on the year about to pass, I offer no prognosis for the year to come. As noted, there are far to many unknowns – known and unknown – to make prediction anything other than an idle exercise. We can only speculate. We can only say if this then probably that – or perhaps the other. For such speculation to be at all interesting or useful, however, our ifs must be grounded in a realistic appreciation of what really is and what actually might be. No resort to magic. Thus constrained, any speculation I attempt must be far too gloomy for what is supposed to be a time of hope.

One thing I will say with, if not absolute certainty, then certainly a high degree of confidence. 2020 will be a decisive year for Scotland’s cause. By this time in 2020 Scotland will either be set fair on a course to becoming an independent nation again, or it will lie smashed and stranded on the reefs of unscrupulous, unprincipled, unconscionable British power.

The choice, and the responsibility, lies with us – the people of Scotland. In 2014, for fifteen unprecedented hours on Thursday 18 September, we held total political power in our hands. As a nation, we made the choice to hand that power back to a British political elite which, inexplicably, we trusted better than ourselves even in the knowledge that they had used a campaign of lies, threats and false promises to keep their grip on Scotland. In 2015 we had ourselves a wee rethink and, again as a nation, we decided to lend a big chunk of our democratic power to the SNP in the hope and expectation that they would help us rectify the mistake made the previous year. We’ve renewed that loan at every opportunity since.

In 2020 the SNP must justify the trust that we have invested in them. They must use the power that we have loaned them for the purpose intended. They must know that we are capable of calling in that loan. And willing to do so. Because that is how we exercise our power over those to whom we entrust it.

2020 will be an unprepossessing bairn that will grow into an exceedingly ugly creature unless we take hold of it and shape it, Let our New Year message to Nicola Sturgeon be this:

Get independence done! Get it done in any way you can! Resort to whatever methods you must! No more waiting! Just get it done!

A Happy New Year is not in prospect. Not as things stand. What I will wish whatever friends I have left in Scotland’s independence movement is the wits to know who can be trusted, the awareness to recognise what must be done and the strength to do it. And roll on 2021.



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