I don’t get it!

I don’t get it. Nicola Sturgeon says, “No Westminster government, of any party, has the right to stand in the way of the sovereign right of the people of Scotland to determine their own future.” If that is the case, then why is she intent on asking their permission? Why would you beg consent if consent isn’t required? If the British state has no right to stand in our way, why is Nicola Sturgeon behaving as if they do?

The people of Scotland are sovereign! There is no ‘but’ at the end of that statement. There cannot be. In one breath she says that the people of Scotland have a sovereign right to determine their own future. In the next she says that this supposedly sovereign right is subject to the approval of the British political elite. Both things cannot be true. Sovereignty cannot be conditional.

I don’t get it. Nicola Sturgeon says that another election win will “reinforce” this sovereign right that is, apparently, only sovereign in a certain ‘political’ sense. It’s only a ‘sort of’ sovereignty. Why would that sovereignty need to be reinforced unless it was in doubt? Nicola Sturgeon may entertain such misgivings, but I sure as hell don’t!

I don’t get it. Why would anybody imagine an election victory for the SNP would demolish the British establishment’s opposition to a new referendum? It never did before. The SNP has enjoyed almost unprecedented electoral success over the past few years and British antipathy to the idea of Scotland exercising its sovereign right of self-determination has only become more fervent. Opposition to a new referendum hasn’t been weakened by SNP election wins, it has grown more desperately resolute.

To summarise; Nicola Sturgeon wants us to do something she insists we have to do despite the fact that the sovereignty she claims means that we absolutely do not have to do it, in the hope that doing this thing will have an effect that it never did before.

I just don’t get it!



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#AUOBPerth March & Rally

The following is the text of a speech delivered at the
#AUOBPerth March & Rally on 7 September 2019.

Five years ago, at about daft o’clock in the morning of Friday 19 September, I walked out of that building over there feeling pretty bloody dejected. I’d been at the count for the 2014 independence referendum and, of course, by that time we all knew the outcome.

We’d lost.

The day before – Thursday 18 September – something truly extraordinary happened. What we had in Scotland on that day was democracy in its purest form. For 15 hours the people of Scotland held in their hands total political power. TOTAL political power.

By the early hours of the Friday morning we knew that, as a nation, we’d chosen to hand that power back to the British political elite. No wonder I was bloody dejected.

I don’t have to tell you. Most of you here will be well aware of how that No vote struck us down.

But we weren’t down for long! Within hours, the Yes movement was revitalised and reinvigorated. Within hours, our networks were buzzing again. Within hours, we were off our knees and on our feet!

Looking around me today I see that, five years on, we are still standing! We are standing tall! We are standing strong! We are standing and we are marching and we are working to rectify the mistake we made five years ago!

We are still Yes! We are all Yes! We are always Yes!

I was surprised at how quickly the Yes movement recovered. But not half as surprised as our opponents. They thought the independence campaign would just evaporate! They thought Scotland had been put back in its place; back in its box! They thought we’d give up!

I have a message for all those who would deny Scotland its rightful status in the world. We are NEVER giving up! NEVER!

You can disrespect us. You can decry us. You can denigrate us. But you cannot deter us and you can NEVER defeat us!

A cause whose time has come will not be denied! Democracy will not be denied! Scotland will not be denied!

Independence is inevitable. It is inevitable because any constitutional settlement which succeeds in terms of the aims, ambitions and objectives of the British state necessarily fails in terms of the needs, priorities and aspirations of Scotland’s people.

Which is just a fancy way of saying that independence is inevitable because we will not settle for anything less!

I say that independence is inevitable. But that doesn’t mean we should not or need not be concerned about how we get there. When I say “how we get there” I mean both the process by which we come to a referendum and the manner in which we conduct the campaign to win that referendum.

In relation to both the process being followed and the campaigning strategy, I have been somewhat critical of our First Minister and the SNP leadership. There are, I’m sure, those among you who will consider that an understatement.

I have been critical of what I regard as wasted time and squandered opportunities. I cannot help but note that, despite an insistence on the efficacy of an approach which mirrors that taken in the 2014 campaign, the polls have barely twitched in all the five years since then.

I ask the question – if this relentlessly ‘positive’ approach is effective, where is the effect?

I ask the question – if the strategy of selling independence on the doorsteps like an over-50s insurance plan is the way to succeed, why have the sales figures flat-lined?

I ask the question – why is this strategy not being scrutinised and radically different alternatives considered?

I have been critical of the lack of urgency in Nicola Sturgeon’s approach. Her calmness amidst the chaos of British politics is admirable. But Scotland’s predicament is parlous. The threat to our democratic institutions and our essential public services and our very identity as a nation is real and imminent.

When you see the sole of a boot about to come crashing down on your face, that is not the time to be passively pondering the pattern of the tread. That is the time to be taking evasive or defensive action!

I have been critical of Nicola Sturgeon’s obstinate commitment to the Section 30 process. I don’t have time to go into detail on why I consider this to be folly. I will make only one point.

Nicola Sturgeon insists she will adhere to the Section 30 process because she wants to avoid any legal challenge to the outcome of the referendum. I say we should have no fear of such challenges.

If Scotland is not prepared to face challenges – in court or anywhere else – to its constitutional claim, and the always democratic means by which that claim is pursued, then Scotland is not ready to be restored to the status of an independent nation.

Independent nations which are worthy of that designation do not seek to avoid such challenges. They stand ready to confront and defeat them.

If Scotland’s cause is worthy; as I believe it to be…

If Scotland’s cause is just; as I believe it to be…

If Scotland’s cause is righteous; as I believe it to be…

…then it is a cause that we should be prepared to fight for. And it is a cause that we should be prepared to defend against any and all challenges!

The choice now confronting everybody who calls Scotland their country is between the Scotland we know, the Scotland we aspire to, the Scotland we hope to bequeath to future generations; and a Scotland conscripted into the service of those forces which put Boris Johnson in power!

We must recognise and convey to others that it is the Union which gives Boris Johnson power over Scotland.

It is the Union which allows the British political elite to impose austerity on Scotland.

It is the Union which allows them to treat the democratic will of Scotland’s people with cold, callous contempt.

Brexit isn’t the problem – the Union is the problem!

Tory austerity isn’t the problem – the Union is the problem!

Boris Johnson isn’t the problem – the Union is the problem!

We have a way out. It is a way which may not be simple, but is certainly uncomplicated. We must dissolve the Union.

We must persuade the people of Scotland of the urgent need to dissolve the Union by informing them in an honest and forthright manner about what the Union means for our nation and our democracy and our dignity.

We must then hold a referendum in which we ask them the question, do you want to dissolve the Union?

And we must fervently hope that, having learned the harsh lessons of the mistake we made in 2014 and for the sake of all Scotland’s future generations, the people answer YES! YES! YES!



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I am not the enemy

One of the ways we recognise the “siren voices of populism” is their penchant for grossly misrepresenting any who challenge or criticise them. Andrew Wilson evidently wasn’t mindful of this when he implied that those expressing concerns about the SNP’s strategy were trying to “sell a pup to a population that deserves the best of honesty”. Or, indeed, with that line about “siren voices of populism and extremism”. Or even the repeated mentions of “populism”. I’m sure he reckons he’s done a rather fine job of tarring the SNP’s critics with the brush of “Trump, Johnson, Farage et al” but, for me, the attempt to contrive negative associations was all a bit obvious. One might even say clumsy.

As one of those who is deeply troubled by Nicola Sturgeon’s approach to the constitutional issue I am left a little perplexed by Andrew’s attempt to discredit and diminish people such as myself. He says that the SNP is at its best when it is “front foot, ambitious, outward-facing, welcoming, positive” – and I couldn’t agree more. In fact, this is precisely what I am urging. Andrew Wilson might have done better to consider the reasons I and others find it necessary to so urge the party leadership.

Had he not been so intent on disparaging those who decline to toe the party line on the new independence referendum and the subsequent campaign, andrew might have been able to discern the fact that what I and others are seeking is no more than that the SNP should be what it is when it is at its best. We want Nicola Sturgeon to get on the front foot rather than merely reacting to to the pond-life twitchings and squirmings of the British political elite. We want her to be more ambitious than settle for whatever the British state is prepared to offer. We want her to be outward-facing towards the wider Yes movement and to welcome it as a rich resource rather than shunning it as if it might sully her political purity. We want her to be positive about Scotland and its people and its capacities rather than about her own ideas of how to proceed.

We want the SNP to remember what it is for and to at least acknowledge what it is against.

We need no lectures about the absolute necessity of backing Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP. We know, at least as well as Andrew Wilson, that the SNP is the lever by which Scotland will be prised out of an injurious and demeaning political union. We know that Nicola Sturgeon and her administration represent the fulcrum on which that lever move. But we recognise that it doesn’t end there. We are aware that this lever requires a solid base on which to rest – the Scottish Parliament. and we have long been cognisant of the threat to Holyrood which Nicola Sturgeon has only lately acknowledged.

We further recognise that this lever is all but useless without the force that can only be provided by the Yes movement. So we can hardly be criticised for our anxieties about that force being diverted or dissipated as a consequence of the way Nicola Sturgeon is seen to be handling things.

I can only speak for myself when I say that I with Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP all the way to independence. But my commitment is, not to any party or personality, but to Scotland’s cause. I therefore reserve the right to do whatever I might to steer the party and its leadership on what I consider to be the course which will most surely take us to the restoration of Scotland’s independence. And to sound a warning when I think they have strayed from that course.

I am firmly persuaded that this can be done without harm to either the party or the cause. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be doing it. I am not the enemy. Neither are any of those in the SNP or the wider Yes movement who voice concerns about Nicola Sturgeon’s option-squandering and highly contentious commitment to the Section 30 process. Or about what many see as a failure to learn the lessons of the 2014 campaign.

It is disappointing, to say the least, that the SNP should feel it necessary to propagandise against those who do no more than offer alternative ideas as to how we might best proceed on Scotland’s journey to independence.



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What about dignity?

I wonder if Nicola Sturgeon realises how offensive it is to hear her repeatedly beg the British political elite for something which is ours by absolute right.

If Scotland is not prepared to face challenges – in court or anywhere else – to its constitutional claim, then Scotland is not ready to be restored to the status of an independent nation. Independent nations which are worthy of that designation do not seek to avoid such challenges. They stand ready to confront and defeat them.

I will maintain unto my dying breath and with every portion of my spirit and with every fraction of my intellect that Scotland is a nation fit to assume its rightful constitutional status and assert its nationhood against any who would deny it.

Nicola Sturgeon is a lawyer. Lawyers tend to go for what they see as the easy win. They opt for the path of least resistance. They make trade-offs to smooth the way. In doing so, they may well forget that they are dealing, not just with statutes and treaties and such, but with actual people. They lose sight of the effect their compromises have on those people. They forget that the things they give away in order to achieve the end that they pursue are things that may be hugely important to people, even if they have little or no legal or political significance.

What about our dignity, Nicola? If that is sacrificed now in the name of shallow political expediency, what will we have left when it comes to dealing with the challenges which must confront a nation newly freed from an injurious and demeaning political union? I have always felt that ending the Union is, in no small measure, about restoring Scotland’s dignity. Have I really been so wrong all these years?



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Bring it on?

As talk of a General Election mounts, I say ‘bring it on’…but it must be before Oct 31. MPs must not allow Johnson to game the date as a ploy to push through a no deal Brexit.— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) September 2, 2019

A nice soundbite from Nicola Sturgeon. Although the “bring it on” thing is getting a bit tired and threadbare, she carries it off. Perhaps well enough that people will cheer at the words without considering the content. They may applaud here steely determination and her grit and all that, but never think about the implications of a UK general election being brought on.

Our First Minister – and therefore, presumably the SNP group of MPs – seem bent on trying to force a snap election. She, and they, overstate their power to do this, of course; but that’s just politics. SNP MPs have no real power at Westminster. If they did, it’s unlikely they’d be tolerated at all in the parliament of England-as-Britain. The SNP is just part of an effort to block Brexit and/or prevent a no-deal Brexit and/or force a UK general election that is being mounted by a disparate, disjointed and disordered mob of MPs lacking any leadership or coherent plan or even agreed objective.

Nonetheless, this being British politics, such a random rabble may be effective. It may do something. Although whether what comes out of their effort in any way resembles what they intended or hoped for, is almost entirely a matter of luck.

But suppose what transpires is what Nicola Sturgeon appears to want when she urges the Johnson regime to “bring it on”. Suppose there is a UK general election called for mid-October. So what? What does Nicola Sturgeon stand to gain from this? What does the SNP stand to gain? What does the anti-Brexit campaign stand to gain? Most importantly, what does the cause of restoring Scotland’s rightful constitutional status stand to gain?

Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP almost certainly stand to gain more seats in the British House of Commons. So what? The Union is, and always has been, designed to prevent Scottish MPs being effective. The Union’s purpose, from its inception, has been to ensure that Scotland’s voice could never be meaningfully represented in British politics. Having 52 or 56 or even 59 MPs who actually speak for Scotland will make no difference.

The campaign to spoke the wheels of the Brexit juggernaut stands to gain… nothing! All the indications are that a UK general election will result in a British parliament even more committed to Brexit at any cost than the current one, If that is even imaginable. It will result is a British executive further empowered to wrench the UK out of the EU, trampling over democracy as it does so and dragging unwilling Scotland with it. This will be the outcome of a UK general election because this is what voters in England want. And they are the only voters who matter. A general election alters the make-up of the British parliament. But it doesn’t dilute the British Nationalism in that place. It only further concentrates it. The already vile mix would be made even more pungent and more potent by the addition of extremist followers of Nigel Farage.

The calling of a UK general election could warrant a further extension to the Article 50 process. Which might be regarded as a small victory for the ‘rebel rabble’ that the SNP is siding with. But only if all 27 real EU member states agreed to it and, even more crucially, only if the UK Government requested such an extension. Which simply isn’t going to happen.

It will be claimed that increasing the number of SNP MPs will strengthen Scotland’s cause. But will it? As already noted, the Union makes those MPs powerless regardless of their number. And they are now faced with a British executive which sees great virtue in emphasising and exploiting that powerlessness. A British regime which is eager to pander to British Nationalism’s anti-Scottish prejudices. A British political elite which will, therefore, relish every opportunity to demonstrate its contempt for Scotland’s elected representatives and democratic institutions.

Apart from which, a UK general election cannot possibly be both a proxy Brexit referendum and a proxy independence referendum. I trust that is obvious enough not to require further explanation.

Just as a UK general election will surely result in a British parliament and government which is even more determined to pursue Brexit at any cost, and which is empowered so to do, so it will result in a British administration even more committed to the ideology of ‘One Nation’ British Nationalism.

It will be claimed that having a massive majority of Scotland’s MPs will give the SNP some sort of enhanced mandate to pursue a new referendum and independence. But what difference might it actually make? If the British state is prepared to discount the existing “triple-locked” mandate, what reason is there to suppose it will not also discount any mandate no matter how ‘enhanced’. Especially when there is a British government that sees considerable political advantage in slapping Scotland down.

Bear in mind that Nicola Sturgeon has committed herself, and thereby Scotland, to the Section 30 process. A process which affords the British government ample scope for ensuring that no referendum ever takes place. There is no numbers of SNP MPs which will be able to force or persuade the British ruling elite to ‘allow’ a new independence referendum. Or to agree to a referendum on terms that would make a Yes victory anything more than the remotest possibility.

So! Bring it on! Bring on a UK general election. Just realise that after it is over we will be exactly where we are now. Brexit will still happen. At 23:00 on 31 October 2019 Scotland will be wrenched out of the EU despite our democratic will and ignoring all our protests. The people of Scotland will be stripped of their European citizenship with all the disbenefits and hardships that this implies. We will have imposed on us all the economic horrors that have been talked about and all the constitutional abominations that have been largely left unremarked.

The cause of restoring Scotland’s independence will also be no further forward. Doubtless those in the Yes movement are correct who say more people will be encouraged to support independence because of what they see happening in England and to Scotland. But without the means to express their democratic will, it means nothing. It changes nothing. And Nicola Sturgeon has effectively ruled out providing the means by which the people of Scotland might exercise their inalienable right of self-determination by inexplicably granting to the British government the authority to deny our right of self-determination.

That means of exercising our right of self-determination can only be provided by the Scottish Government acting through the Scottish Parliament with the support of the Scottish people. And it must inevitably and inescapably involve breaking the rules imposed by the British state. This is where we are now. And it is where we will still be after a UK general election.



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Time to push back

I think it’s really nice that Nicola Sturgeon understands “the frustrations that many of those who support independence feel in terms of the stance taken by the UK Government on the referendum issue“. I think it would be nicer still if our First Minister were to show some understanding of the frustrations that many independence campaigners feel in terms of the stance taken by the Scottish Government on the referendum issue. It would be quite delightful were she to give the smallest indication of even being aware of an increasing clamour for action from herself and her Ministers. But she continues to appear oblivious to this clamour.

When you see the sole of a boot about to come crashing down on your face, that is not the time to be passively pondering the pattern of the tread. That is the time to be taking evasive or defensive action.

Nicola Sturgeon says that this is the approach she is committed to. And that is precisely the problem. She committed to a very specific approach some considerable time ago and has remained immovably invested in that approach ever since. This has rendered her unable to respond flexibly to events and developments which even she says she never thought she would see.

Which only prompts the further question of why she did not consider the possibility of a far-right government in England prepared to trample all over democracy in pursuit of an extreme British Nationalist agenda. Why was she not mindful of a threat to Scotland that some people were warning about long before the EU referendum, and even before the 2014 independence referendum?

Is it any wonder some of us feel let down by the politicians we entrusted with our democracy and our nation’s future? When we see that boot about to crush everything that our government is charged with defending and protecting, are we not entitled to expect something more from our First Minister than stateswoman-like posturing and empty platitudes?

Nicola Sturgeon has been acting in a “calm, considered and consensual” way for the past five years. Five years of wasted time and squandered opportunities. Now that Scotland is teetering on the brink of an unthinkable abyss with the British political elite eager to push us over the edge, maybe it’s time for a rethink. Maybe it’s time for a different approach. Maybe it’s time to push back.

Maybe it’s time to remove the velvet glove and unleash the iron fist.



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Rallying the troops

I should be upbeat today in anticipation of the Forward as One March & Rally in Dunfermline tomorrow (see below). I should be looking forward to being with old friends and enjoying the great atmosphere that always attends Yes events. I should be preparing for the meetings and discussions that always take place around the fringes of big Yes gatherings. I should be thinking about what I will say when I get up on that stage in front of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of eager and enthusiastic independence supporters desperate to get on with the job of restoring Scotland’s independence.

It’s difficult not to feel down, however, when I see all that’s happening. And what’s not happening. The news from Shetland is depressing enough, as the islanders once again inexplicably put their trust in a party of proven liars and despicable smear-mongers; rejecting a fine young SNP candidate and the opportunity to forge new and better connections with the rest of Scotland. I really don’t understand the mentality of those who cling to the familiar simply because it’s familiar and no matter how badly it has let them down. If ever there was a need for boldness in Scotland, it is now. How can we expect our political leaders to show the daring Scotland’s predicament demands if voters show only timidity?

The news from Edinburgh doesn’t help my mood. The Court of Session has rejected a petition for an interim interdict to stop the Johnson regime suspending the UK Parliament so that the British executive can exercise the powers of an absolute monarch. The rejection is temporary. But it can’t help but look like more timorousness in the face of a brazenly anti-democratic adventure by a privileged clique who, for all their outward appearance of stupidity and incompetence, nonetheless know how to bend the UK’s arcane, archaic and infinitely flexible constitution to their own dubious purposes.

The news from London just keeps on getting worse. A paper published today by the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) sets out the range of Brexit scenarios in a manner which is all the more dismaying for being clear and concise. Would that it left room for doubt about the Gordian nature of the bind that the British political elite has got us all into. Would that it left space for hope that there might be an outcome that isn’t cause for dejection.

The news from Scotland’s political leaders is… no news at all. Lot’s of righteous condemnation of the way the Johnson regime is trampling all over democracy in the UK. Lots of outrage and indignation at the imperious manner in which Brexit is being imposed on Scotland. Lots of dire – but woefully belated – warnings of the real and imminent threat that rabid British Nationalism poses to Scotland’s democratic institutions. But, aside from an assurance that the Scottish Parliament will get back to work on the – also woefully belated – Referendums Bill sometime next week, nothing! Not a word from our First Minister about whether and how she intends to take action to prevent Scotland being wrenched, unwilling, from its place in Europe. Not a word about whether or how she and her government propose to circumvent the ‘suspension’ of the Scottish Parliament which now seems all but inevitable. Not a word that might lift my mood.

Somehow, I have to put this mood behind me. The folk who go to events like the one in Dunfermline tomorrow don’t want tales of doom, gloom and disaster. They get enough of that from the Unionist media day by grinding day. Yes activists are generally well-informed and politically aware. They know the reality of Scotland’s predicament. They don’t need to be constantly reminded. They certainly don’t want platitudinous complacency or empty assurances. What they want from Yes marches and rallies is encouragement and inspiration. Something to keep them going while they wait. And wait. And wait.

There is something in that SPICe briefing which offers a glimmer of hope.

The UK Government may request a further extension to Article 50 beyond 31 October. However, the EU would likely only agree to this under certain conditions: (1) on technical grounds, to get final approvals for any agreed Deal; or (2) a substantive change in UK politics, such as a general election or referendum.

The emphasis is mine. As the Johnson regimes continues to contrive ways of circumventing due democratic process, there seems vanishingly little possibility of effective action in the crippled and corrupt British parliament to prevent a no-deal Brexit and the ensuing dismantling of Scotland’s democratic institutions. But it was ever thus. Ultimately, it was always going to come down to the Scottish Government acting in and through the Scottish Parliament to secure Scotland’s democracy and defend Scotland’s interests on behalf of Scotland’s people.

The Union is Scotland’s great problem. And the solution to that problem must be entirely made in Scotland.

I’ll stand in front of that crowd in Pittencrieff Park tomorrow well aware that it is not me they want to hear from. It’s Nicola Sturgeon.

Forward as One March & Rally Dunfermline Saturday 31 Augus
Assemble Viewfield Terrace from 10:30. Depart 12:00.
Rally Pittencrieff Park (The Glen) 13:00.



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