Lies and scapegoats

What Mike Russell might have said was he under the influence of some magical truth potion is that the Scottish Government is delighted to have an excuse for ‘calling off’ a referendum that was never going to happen. His letter to Gove is a device to reinforce the message that it’s not the SNP administration’s fault that the independence project is totally staled, it’s the virus. Mr Russell and his colleagues are hoping we’ll forget that the independence project was idling in a blind alley long before the COVID-19 outbreak hit the headlines. The campaign hasn’t moved since 2014. The public health emergency is not a reason or an explanation. It’s an excuse and a post hoc rationalisation.

It is important that people know this for the same reason it’s always important that people know when their government is trying to deceive them. Awareness aids prevention. Just as being aware of how contagion spreads and what can be done to protect against it improves your chances of avoiding infection, so awareness of official dissimulation improves your ability to resist manipulation.

Untruth is a disease that infects politics and weakens democracy. Like a virus, lies spread through society by various means. Like a virus, lies mutate in order to survive. Like a virus, lies disrupt the organism. Awareness is our best defence. It would be good if we could eradicate all the ‘bugs’ which cause disease, but those bugs are part of the matrix of life. Even if it were possible to wipe them out the consequences would be unknowable and potentially very harmful to the rest of the matrix. Similarly, deceitfulness is part of human nature. Eliminating it would require that we change all of human nature. Given that our success as a species is largely accounted for by the way we think and behave, tampering with the model might not be a good idea.

We have to live with lies just as we have to live with other disease-causing agents such as viruses. We have to both resist and accommodate them. Awareness is essential to both resistance and accommodation. If you can’t recognise lies or don’t understand how they work, you can’t develop resistance or discover what compromises can safely be made.

It’s all about power, of course. Everything is. All human interactions are transactions in power; a constant and largely unconscious bargaining process in which we seek to optimise our power so as to minimise our fear. The name for this process is ‘politics’. We may only call it politics when it moves sufficiently far from the realm of interpersonal relationships and into the realm of society, but it’s all politics. It’s all the same process. The social and societal life of every human being is one long political negotiation of relationships of power.

It is beyond ridiculous to imagine that this process can be stopped. It is beyond ludicrous to suppose that it might be possible to opt out of the process. And yet this is precisely what Nicola Sturgeon is insisting we do. Precisely what she is asking us to believe is feasible. And far too many people are falling for this deception.

Politics doesn’t stop for anything other than death and extinction. All that can be stopped is active participation in politics. Politics proceeds regardless of whether one participates or not. So the idea that the active participation of the independence campaign can be halted for a period of months and perhaps years without deleterious effect is borderline insane. When British Labour MP Ian Murray says “This is no time for constitutional politics.” he is talking delusional nonsense. Either that or he knows perfectly well that constitutional politics cannot be stopped and what he is actually doing is trying to get ‘wethepeople’ to self-isolate from it. To disengage. To cease and desist from participation.

The same is true of Mike Russell and Nicola Sturgeon. Although the underlying motives and motivations may be different, they are now just as eager as Murray and other British Nationalists to shut us out of ‘their’ politics. Quite simply, our engagement and participation threaten their power. So they orchestrate a deceit in order to put our engagement and participation on hold.

We know very well by now what drives British Nationalists. What we need to be aware of – and far too many aren’t – is that the cease and desist order from Nicola Sturgeon to the Yes movement is no different in its fundamental purpose from the British Nationalist ‘Say no to indyref2’ campaign with its portrayal of the democratic process as ‘divisive’ and of participation in that process as an onerous imposition. Both are intended to have use decouple ourselves from the political process and ‘leave it to the professionals’. Give them the power. It’s a ruse as ancient as politics itself. Power is relative. What better way to increase one’s own power than to dupe others into voluntarily relinquishing their power?

The SNP’s version of this well-worn old ploy differs only in the details of the motive. There was a growing realisation among activists and supporters that the independence campaign had been driven into a blind alley by Nicola Sturgeon. The rumblings of disquiet and dissent were growing even within the party. A tipping point was approaching at which the SNP’s power would be seriously threatened. That power is critically dependent on the financial and electoral support of the pro-independence constituency. Once it became evident to all that the SNP had not only dropped the independence ball but stabbed it, crushed it and set fire to it, then the supply of both votes and cash would dry up.

The COVID-19 outbreak is the perfect scapegoat for the SNP’s failure. If it hadn’t been the public health crisis it would have been something else. Although it is as difficult to see just what they might have pushed the blame onto as it is to discern how the independence campaign moves forward from here. Before COVID-19, the party was in a very serious quandary. No way forward. No way out. No options. No room for manoeuvre. Promises had been made which couldn’t be kept. Commitments had been made which couldn’t be met. Objectives had been set which couldn’t be reached. For professional politicians, this is both a nightmare and a disgrace.

So they lie to us. They tell us “all campaigning” must be “suspended”. That is a lie. There is never a good reason to disengage from constitutional politics because constitutional politics is absolutely fundamental to democracy. Obviously, the precise nature of the campaigning would have to change due to the restrictions necessitated by the public health crisis. But instead of encouraging us to adapt to the situation the SNP has sought to have us disengage. Why?

They tell us the independence campaign can be halted for the duration of the emergency and then picked up again afterwards. That is a lie! Politics doesn’t stop just because you disengage from it. Politics simply proceeds without you. For example, the Brexit fiasco and its attendant constitutional implications for Scotland. That isn’t being “suspended”. So, whenever Nicola Sturgeon decides it’s acceptable to resume normal levels of campaigning, the ground will have shifted. If the emergency is ‘managed’ in such a way as to drag it out for up to two years, as some are suggesting, the ground will have shifted on a tectonic scale. Resumption of business, as usual, will no more be possible for the Yes movement than for any other organisation that fails to move with events.

They tell us that COVID-19 is to blame. That it’s the virus which makes this disengagement by the Yes movement necessary. That is a lie! It is inevitable that the campaign to restore Scotland’s independence will be affected by the crisis. But the manner in which it is being affected and the extent to which it is being impacted are entirely matters of political expediency. And everybody in Scotland needs to be aware of this.

If you find these articles interesting please consider a small donation to help support this site and my other activities on behalf of Scotland’s independence movement.

Donate with PayPalDonate with Pingit

Tragedy and godsend

For years we have been pleading with Nicola Sturgeon to show the Yes movement some leadership. The first time she actually steps up, it’s to order a halt to the independence campaign. Apparently, there is only one thing happening in the world at the moment and if we don’t all focus our entire attention on that thing every waking moment and in fitful dreams when sleep overtakes us then we are really terrible people. All is coronavirus! Coronavirus is all! You shall have neither consideration nor concern for anything other than coronavirus and matter directly relating thereto, on pain of being denounced as a callous, uncaring sub-human aberration.

It’s not only the entire independence campaign that has been on hold. All disbelief has also been suspended. You can tell the mindless mob absolutely anything and if you attach the word “coronavirus” to it and speak in sufficiently portentous tones you will be believed and your instructions will be meticulously followed. The crisis must be served. Whatever the crisis demands it must be given. The crisis is the deity and politicians are the priesthood interceding selflessly on behalf of their flock and passing on those demands. Demands which by strange coincidence happen to be precisely what serves the interests of the priesthood.

That there is a genuine public health crisis is not in doubt. But potentially far more damaging in the longer term than coronavirus is the pandemic of hysterical credulousness that has transformed people into Play-Doh for politicians. There’s a contagious viral disease spreading through populations. But there’s never a day when that isn’t true. The preventative precautions amount to no more than what sensible people do as a matter of habit. And the actual seriousness of the disease is massively exaggerated by the standard methods employed by mass media to sensationalise, scandalise and titillate.

Truth is said to be the first victim of war. The first victim of any crisis appears to be context. Every news source is trumpeting constantly updated count of victims and fatalities. Milestone numbers are ‘breaking news’ pushing everything else off pages and screens. 1,000 DEAD!!! It’s a scary number. Scary in the same way as the random but jaw-dropping figure attached to Scotland’s mythical deficit is scary. It’s the scariest figure they can get away with. They use scary numbers for a reason. To scare you! Why? Because frightened people are more easily manipulated.

Experts are, of course, boring. They are boring because they insist on providing boring context when all the interviewer or reporter wants to hear – and wants the audience to hear – are scary stories and scary numbers. That’s why non-passive consumers of mass media messages always question everything. Just as simple hand-washing and the kind of social distancing urban-dwellers profess to crave are effective defences against disease, so scepticism and awareness of how propaganda works offer good protection against the all too often malign manipulative purposes of the media.

If you are reading this article, and have read this far, I’m assuming you are not one of those passive consumers of media messages. They, in any case, are all out scouring the land for the hand sanitising gel that they’ve never used in their lives before but now might well kill to possess. So long as they don’t have to get within sneezing distance of their victim. Being actively critical consumers of media messages, you will be interested in a bit of that ‘common-sense’ context that succumbed to virulent news values in the early days of the current emergency. Nae bother!

I decided to do a little experiment just to see how easy it is for the general public to find the kind of information which serves as an antidote to the scaremongering of media and politicians. I settled on a very obvious search term – “coronavirus survival rate” – and made it the rule that I had to take the first article returned as my source. This happened to be and an article by Leah Groth dated 16 March 2020 and titled What to Know About the Survival Rate of Coronavirus—And How Many People Have Died From the Illness. After quoting ‘boring expert’ Jeremy Brown, MD, director of the Office of Emergency Care Research at the National Institutes of Health (US) pointing out that “there’s not enough information that’s readily available yet to determine the true survival rate of COVID-19”, the article provides the following.

As for the data we do have, that information also shows a low fatality rate and high survival rate for COVID-19. In a viewpoint article published February 24 in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association), the authors looked at the case records of 72,314 patients, 44,672 of which were confirmed as having COVID-19. Of those confirmed cases, 36,160 cases, or 81%, showed only mild symptoms, while 14% were severe and 5% critical. The overall case-fatality rate, or coronavirus cases that ended in death, was only 2.3%, or 1,023 deaths, out of the total number of confirmed cases.

Also worth noting, according Dr. Juthani: “[Coronavirus] appears to be more deadly for adults, especially those with other medical conditions”—no deaths have been reported in children, nor were any reported in those who had a mild or severe case of the illness. Dr. Brown also points out that those with chronic heart or lung problems and those who are immunocompromised are also at a higher risk of death.

What a difference context makes. For a bit more context here are some scary numbers about influenza deaths through the ages.

  • 1889 Russian flu pandemic: About 1 million flu deaths
  • 1918 Spanish flu pandemic: Over 40 to 50 million flu deaths, including about 675,000 in the United States. The flu infected over half of the world’s population by the end of this pandemic.
  • 1957 Asian flu pandemic: Over 1 million flu deaths, including about 69,800 in the United States
  • 1968 Hong Kong flu pandemic: About 1 to 3 million flu deaths
  • 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic: Between 8,870 and 18,300 deaths in the United States and up to 203,000 deaths worldwide specifically from H1N1

The current COVID-19 pandemic is serious. But other stuff is still happening despite it. Life, as they say, goes on. It went on during and after the epidemics listed above. It is going on here and now. We’re just being discouraged from looking too closely at the other stuff that’s going on. A lot of effort is being put into making the coronavirus crisis into a monumental diversion. Mostly, to divert us from what is still going on in the realm of politics. Do not imagine for one moment that politicians all around the world – along with the Mini-me Machiavellis who advise them – were not thinking of ways to exploit the pandemic long before they started considering ways of dealing with it.

This is not to say that politicians contrived the crisis. Merely that they take opportunistic advantage of it. Which will not prevent the conspiracy theories proliferating like bugs. It’s always the same. The terrorist attacks on New York’s Twin Towers provide a telling – and appalling – example of the way in which politicians exploit such tragedies. There is absolutely no doubt that the murderous hawks in the Bush regime used the ‘9/11’ attacks as a vehicle for their own warmongering purposes. The fact that it suited them doesn’t mean that they had anything to do with the planning and execution of the attacks. Only with hindsight does the human mind find the connections that create the patterns it craves.

The good news is that, as yet, nobody is using the coronavirus outbreak as a pretext for launching a war. Although I have to qualify that by stating that I haven’t been following Donald Trump’s Twitter feed today. Or ever, for that matter. We can be certain, however, that politicians are exploiting the crisis in more low-level ways. Many in ways that they consider harmless. The crisis is happening anyway. So why not use it. So long as using it doesn’t make it worse or interfere with relief efforts, where’s the harm? If anybody mentions morality we can always point at ‘9/11’ and urge them to consider the context that makes what they’re doing relatively moral by comparison.

We don’t have to look far for an example of this low-level political exploitation of a crisis for political ends. Only as far as Edinburgh. Only as far as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon MSP.

It is a fact that, while initially denied by most and only lately acknowledged by increasing numbers of people, Ms Sturgeon was guilty of a serious error of judgement in committing to the British state’s Section 30 process as the means of securing a new constitutional referendum. It was an approach which was critically dependent on obtaining the willing, honest and comprehensive cooperation of the British government. It was never going to work. It failed immediately, disastrously and very evidently – despite there being surviving pockets of ‘True Believers’ who put faith before reason and genuinely suppose that the cooperation described will yet be forthcoming. We just have to wait. We should be good at that by now. Many of us will never be good at waiting when delay means missed opportunities and increased risk to Scotland’s democracy.

Ever since Boris Johnson contemptuously dismissed Nicola Sturgeon’s ‘demand’ for a Section 30 order she has been at a total loss as to what to do next. Not that the curt and discourteous refusal came as a surprise to many folk. But the Scottish Government simply hadn’t planned for it. I know that defies belief. But that’s not because it’s untrue. It’s only because it defies reason. The failure to plan for refusal of the Section 30 request is just one of those things we have to accept as defying explanation. Although explanation of a sort is possible. Nicola Sturgeon did not plan for rejection of her request, despite this being anticipated, because there was nothing she could plan. The only options left were ones which she is not politically able to pursue. Having committed completely, inextricably and irreversibly to the Section 30 process she had to just plough ahead and hope for the best. As so often happens when people resort to hoping for the best, she got the worst. Or, at least, something rather unpleasant. Coronavirus came to her rescue – all the ‘Knights in Shining Armour’ apparently being otherwise occupied delivering pizza on their ‘White Steeds’.

Whatever else it is, the COVID-19 outbreak is undoubtedly the the perfect cover for Nicola Sturgeon. And that is the point that so many are missing as they screech at spit at me for pointing out the simple truth that the world is more complicated than a newspaper headline and it is almost never the case that a thing is just the one thing. Most things can be two or more different things depending on perspective and our late lamented friend, context. It is perfectly possible for something to be simultaneously a human tragedy and a political godsend. Not all the high-minded posturing and frantic virtue-signalling to be found on Facebook will make the world any less complicated than it is.

Just as things can be two things at once, so people can do more than one thing at a time. They can engage with more than a single all-encompassing preoccupation. So normal is it for people to deal with a number of activities in their lives that we regard the opposite as an illness. We call such people ‘obsessive’. We send them for counselling. We practice our social distancing on them.

So it was that when I received an email from Nicola Sturgeon ‘instructing’ me – a campaigner for independence of almost 60 years standing – to cease and desist, I was displeased. I was very displeased. I know a wee bit about communication, particularly in relation to political campaigns. And this was the wrong message.

I will gloss over the unseemly presumption of Nicola Sturgeon suddenly deciding she does want to lead the Yes movement after all. And my personal bemusement at being ordered from the field by someone who has, by her own choice, no authority over the movement of which I am proud to be part. Let’s just deal with the offending line highlighted. That it is the wrong message from the viewpoint of a political campaign hardly needs to be stated. At a time when the Yes campaign is going to be seriously hampered by restrictions occasioned by the public health crisis, what was required – what was appropriate – was a message of encouragement. Not a declaration of surrender. What would have struck the right note was a message acknowledging the difficulties but appealing for an effort to overcome those difficulties. Something about keeping the campaign going because what we are campaigning for will still be crucially important to our nation and future generations long after coronavirus has done its worst.

So, how do we explain this totally defeatist line? My suspicion is that it is the work, not of Nicola Sturgeon – although she signed it and is therefore responsible – but of one of those Mini-me Machiavellis I mentioned earlier. Told that the pandemic was to be used to avoid The Boss having to admit she’d driven the independence project into a brick wall, the overenthusiastic underling went a bit too far and order a complete halt to “all campaigning”.

It rather goes without saying that, whatever the explanation for this message being sent out, it is unacceptable. And yet the impression I get is that most people in the Yes movement have meekly accepted it. The naivety is dumbfounding. These people seem to suppose that British Nationalists won’t exploit the situation for their own ends. They appear to imagine we can just park the Yes campaign while we go off to do something else, however worthy, and come back to find it still there and ready to pick up where we left off. Which, you may recall, is not a good place. It’s not going to get better with time.

The independence campaign was in a parlous state on account of the horrible blunder of Nicola Sturgeon’s commitment to the Section 30 process. Recovering from that dreadful misjudgement was going to require urgent action by a united Yes movement. Nicola Sturgeon has now driven in another wedge to widen the fissure caused by the Section 30 debacle. The Yes movement is weakened and partially paralysed by her cease and desist interdict. I saw only a slim hope of recovery from the situation we were in before COVID-19 struck. That hope is now invisibly slender. And coronavirus is only partly to blame.

If you find these articles interesting please consider a small donation to help support this site and my other activities on behalf of Scotland’s independence movement.

Donate with PayPalDonate with Pingit

Just the ticket

It goes without saying that the current public health crisis must be the Scottish Government’s first priority at the moment. But Chris McEleny is correct to point out that “there are still other major issues facing the SNP and Scotland”. Perhaps more importantly, he reminds us – all of us – that however much some might wish it, these issues are not going to simply evaporate while the government and the media are distracted by more immediately newsworthy matters. The coronavirus outbreak is undoubtedly a genuine problem. But don’t imagine for one minute that politicians around the world weren’t thinking of ways to exploit it before they started thinking of ways to deal with it. Scotland NOT excluded.

As obvious as the fact that the coronavirus outbreak must preoccupy the Scottish Government for the next several months is the fact that the British parties squatting in our Parliament together with their political masters in London will be eagerly looking for ways of turning the situation into a cudgel with which to pummel the SNP administration and the independence movement. The British state’s propaganda machine doesn’t stop just because people are falling ill and dying. It has no heart. It has no conscience. Expect no let-up in the relentless campaign of smear and calumny targeting NHS Scotland. To the slobbering hyenas of the British media, the additional burden on our health services means only new openings for attack. An overburdened system is a vulnerable system. The pack has scented prey.

Boris Johnson’s regime will be glad of attention being diverted from the Brexit shambles and the trade deal negotiations which have been rapidly descending to the same level of grim farce as has characterised the rest of the Mad Brexiteers’ asinine adventure. It is entirely possible, too, that the coronavirus will provide Johnson with a fine excuse for going back on his word not to seek another extension. Who could condemn him if he pleads inability to cope with concurrent cock-ups? He’s barely human, after all.

It is not only in Downing Street where the worry of dealing with a major public health threat will be laced with a vein of relief. I don’t for a moment suppose that Nicola Sturgeon will dwell on the fact, but fact it remains that the coronavirus outbreak is politically very convenient. It is perfectly possible for something to be both a tragedy and blessing, of sorts. It’s an ill wind that can’t be turned to some political advantage. Were unfolding events not all too regrettably real but following the script of some Netflix drama, one would be forgiven for thinking the pandemic too timely to be true. Fate can be cruel and/or kind. But very rarely both in such accommodating conjunction.

The health crisis comes at a time when the SNP, both as a party and as the administration, was facing increasing disquiet about its approach to the constitutional issue. None will admit it, but many in the party’s upper echelons will be discreetly heaving a sigh of relief that they will not now be required to face delegates any time in the near future. A chicken-wire screen in front of the stage is one movie cliche that conference managers will gladly eschew.

There will be some relief also that public health precautions now preclude other large gatherings at which criticism of Nicola Sturgeon’s ‘strategy’ may have been voiced along with ever more insistent calls for a rethink. Or a ‘Plan B’, as Chris McEleny might say. But the disquiet and discontent don’t go away just because there’s a public health crisis. The constitutional is all-pervasive and all-encompassing. It is overarching and underlying. It is more than three centuries old and only becomes more urgent as time passes. Injustice does not diminish with time. The longer it persists, the more corrosive it becomes. Nor is it diminished by intervening events – no matter how serious these may be. The coronavirus tragedy will not be the first to be outlasted by the imperative of restoring constitutional normality to Scotland.

There is absolutely no reason why the campaign to restore Scotland’s independence might not or should continue by whatever means are left to us and by whoever is not otherwise occupied dealing with the coronavirus outbreak. We can expect a screeching chorus of “Now is not the time!” from the BritNat harpies. We should be thoroughly inured to their self-serving faux outrage by now. There is never a time when it is not appropriate to act in defence of democracy and for the ends of justice.

The Yes movement may not be able to march. Yes groups may be obliged to cancel planned events. SNP branch and constituency meetings will fall victim to essential restrictions on gathering of any size. But this means only that we are freed to apply our energies elsewhere. There is much that can still be done online, for example. It may be a good time to start your own blog. Or to devote more time to reading and sharing existing material in support of Scotland’s cause. The web provides us with unparalleled facilities for communicating and collaborating on all manner of projects. Writing letters to newspapers may be something you’ve always intended to do but never found time.

Email still works fine. Why not let SNP MSPs and MPs know how you feel about the fact that the independence project has stalled – and not because of the pandemic! Tell them of your concerns. Ask them questions. And when answers aren’t forthcoming, ask again!

It would be all too easy for this latest setback to become a cause for despondency and despair, coming as it does on top of the disappointments and frustrations of the past five years. We must avoid this. We must use this time. If politicians can exploit such situations, so can we. We just need to use our imaginations, our skills and the networks built by the Yes movement.

As some of you may have suspected, all of this has been leading up to my own suggestion as to what the Yes movement and SNP members could be doing over the coming weeks. Regular readers will be aware that I had previously envisaged Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP providing the leadership that the Yes movement requires in order to become an effective machine for fighting our political campaign. This has not happened. Let’s say no more at this juncture than that the necessary leadership has not been forthcoming. My own ‘Plan B’ is that the leadership should come from within the Yes movement. The question which remained to be answered concerned the practicalities. How would it be done? I believe I may have the answer to that question.

I had been thinking that building a campaign with the necessary unity, focus and discipline would require a new organisation born out of or hived off from the Yes movement. The aims of the organisation would be threefold –

  • to compel the Scottish Government to take a more assertive approach to the constitutional issue
  • to facilitate by any means necessary the exercise of Scotland’s right of self-determination
  • to devise a strategy to force constitutional reform built on the twin aspirations to build a better nation and end the injustice of the Union.

It has been brought to my attention, however, that a suitable organisation may already exist in the form of the SNP Common Weal Group. The stated aims of this group are, I am persuaded, sufficiently in accord with the aims set out above as to make it a suitable candidate for transformation into the kind of pressure group and campaigning organisation that is required if Scotland’s cause is to progress. I would urge everyone in the SNP and the Yes movement to at least consider how they might contribute to this transformation.

In the short-term, my hope is that this article might spark a more focused debate about taking the independence campaign out of the doldrums. In the longer-term… well… there is no longer-term. I am convinced that if the grassroots does not seize the initiative – seize it hard and seize it quickly – then the project to restore Scotland’s independence may suffer setbacks from which it will not easily or soon recover.

If you find these articles interesting please consider a small donation to help support this site and my other activities on behalf of Scotland’s independence movement.

Donate with PayPalDonate with Pingit

A confection

There’s a piece in yesterday’s National which you may have passed by on account of it looking like countless other reports of Ian Blackford or one of his colleagues feeding us vacuous platitudes and lecturing us about how we have to do things a particular way without telling us what that way is or how it might work. This claptrap became tedious long ago. It has grown irksome. People have two ways to go. They can either ignore these feeble efforts to fob off or slap down the growing number of people expressing concerns and asking questions about the SNP’s approach to the constitutional issue. Or they can make the mistake that I made last night and read the article then go to bed angry. Which is not conducive to personal well-being.

There’s no substance to the rhetoric. No filling. Like Smarties with just the bright, colourful outer coating, but when that’s gone there’s nothing. No crunchy sugar shell. No chocolate kernel. No substance.

There are, I think, four flavours colours of SNP Smarties currently being tossed to the party member kiddies and their pals from the Yes movement. The red ones are Ian Blackford’s favourites. The red of well-rehearsed outrage at Boris Johnson and his regime for being British Nationalists and acting accordingly. The pointy-fingered denunciations and eye-widened outrage and fist-raised warnings. All very am-dram. All totally without substance. I watch Mr Blackford at the dispatch box as he does his indignation shtick to an audience of disappearing British backs and I am put in mind of Kruschev at the United Nations banging his shoe on the lectern to emphasise his point. I can’t remember what the point was. But I remember the empty shoe. I remember wondering if it was one he’d brought specially for that purpose – like a theatrical prop. I remember wondering if the shoe was smelly. But I don’t remember what he said. Just the shoe. Just the prop. Just the stuff that was there for show.

The yellow smarties are those peppy popsters Pete & The Postponers singing their big hit 500 Months. You know how it goes,

I would wait 500 months
And I would wait 500 more
Just to be the man who waits a thousand months
To wait 500 more

It’s a bit banal. But the kids love it. The tune doesn’t actually go anywhere. Just as Stephen King can’t write endings for his stories, Pete & The Postponers have no idea how to finish their song. But that’s OK. Because it’s easy to sing and play and people join in and doing an ending is scary because then they might be asked to do another number and they’ve got fu nothing! Under the yellow coating there is just emptiness.

You could try suggesting that they do a verse or two about what happens while they’re waiting 500 more months. But that’ll get you chucked out of their fan club. They won’t speak to you at gigs any more. And they’ll tell all their other fans to shun you. They’ll work very hard at pretending to be real Smarties. But eventually the colouring rubs off. And when that happens Pete & The Postponers will be remembered only on those TV list shows when they do the most deserving one-hit wonders of all time.

Then there’s the blue smarties. These are the solemn warnings about what will happen if we chew our Fruit Pastilles instead of sucking them. Our teeth will rot and fall out and we’ll get tummy-ache and, worst of all, the grown-ups will take away our sweeties and tell us we’re not entitled to them because we weren’t eating them the right way.

Once again, beneath that glossy blue exterior there is only space. The grown-ups aren’t even paying any attention to us. And they don’t care if we chew or suck so long as we share the sweets fairly and brush our teeth afterwards.

Finally, the green Smarties. These are the inspirational speeches from the likes of Nicola Sturgeon. The shiny green ones draw us in. They stand out from the other colours. They really look like there must be something good inside. You always think the next one will have a centre. You consume them by the handful, but all you get is a green tongue and a feeling inside of emptiness as empty as the faux Smarties.

The green colouring is very high quality. It doesn’t rub off easily. The green Smarties never lose their gleam. They never fade. But they cannot satisfy. Because they’re empty. They have no substance.

I’ve really got a notion for some real Smarties. Anybody know where I can get some?

If you find these articles interesting please consider a small donation to help support this site and my other activities on behalf of Scotland’s independence movement.

Donate with PayPalDonate with Pingit

Of questions and reframing

Michael Gove: A creature of unknown origins struggling to maintain human form.
Michael Gove: A creature struggling to maintain human form.

Michael Gove is correct. You won’t see or hear those words very often. And never without some qualification. My own qualifying supplement is that Gove is correct, but only partly, coincidentally and in a sense.

That the British Electoral Commission is wasting its time is true in the sense that, as an agency of the British state, it should have no role in the process that will restore Scotland’s independence. It is also true that the British Electoral Commission is wasting its time in the sense that it is testing the wrong question. But we’ll come back to that.

Given that the British Electoral Commission should not play any part in Scotland’s exercise of its right of self-determination it follows that whatever process the British Electoral Commission is involved in cannot be intended to lead to the restoration of Scotland’s independence. This necessarily implies that Scotland’s First Minister had some other purpose in mind when she formally requested that the British Electoral Commission re-test the question that was asked in the 2014 referendum. One more way in which Nicola Sturgeon is going over old ground and repeating the mistakes of the past and failing to learn lessons and acting as if nothing has changed since the first independence referendum and so it’s perfectly appropriate to do everything the same way as it was done then.

Michael Gove is almost certainly correct about this other purpose being to maintain the pretence of a 2020 referendum as not-quite-promised by the First Minister. It is difficult to fathom what other reason she might have for embarking on such an exercise. No legislation has been proposed or passed in the Scottish Parliament to enable a referendum this year. Until that legislation is passed, nobody can know what the question on the ballot paper will be. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that a different question might be suggested and that this could be the question chosen by MSPs. The First Minister may think it a good idea to act as if nothing had changed since the first referendum. But MSPs might disagree. It’s a gratifying thought, even if no more than that.

Which brings us back to Michael Gove’s assertion that the British Electoral Commission is wasting its time because the First Minister’s request that they re-test a question which has already been tested in the most effective way possible is merely “an exercise designed to persuade Scottish National Party members that a referendum is imminent”. He is only partly correct. The exercise is designed to fool the entire Yes movement into believing that a referendum is imminent. But, of course, there is no way a British Nationalist such as Michael Gove will admit to support for independence beyond the ranks of SNP members. He has to stay on-message. Scotland’s cause must be portrayed as a minority obsession.

As already noted, the re-testing of the 2014 referendum question is a waste of time not only because it has already been subjected to the ultimate test of use in an actual referendum in addition to passing all pre-testing but because, supposing the First Minister comes to her senses, it will not be the question asked in a future referendum and because, supposing the First Minister comes to her senses, no agency of any external government will be permitted a role in the process the next time Scotland’s people exercise their right of self-determination.

What that testing of the old question tells us is that, while it may have been adequate and acceptable when it was agreed, that was more than seven years ago. The political landscape has undergone tectonic changes since January 2013. It is, at the very least, questionable whether the same question could be adequate and acceptable in dramatically altered circumstances. I would maintain that it is unquestionably inadequate, unacceptable and just plain wrong.

I was never happy with the question asked in the 2014 referendum.

“Should Scotland be an independent country?”

Put that question to the people of any other nation and they’ll assume you’re ignorantly offensive or simply daft. Independence is normal. Independence is the default status of all nations. The people of other nations take it for granted that their nation should be independent. Other than those who have experienced occupation by an aggressive imperialist and/or totalitarian power, they would probably have difficulty imagining anything different. Independence is normal. Only in cringe-ridden Scotland would such a question be asked. Only in meekly, obsequiously subordinate Scotland could such a question be asked without provoking widespread outrage and anger. Only the colonised mind might find this question acceptable. Only the colonised mind would fail to challenge and reject the premise that Scotland “should” be anything other than a normal independent country.

The question originally proposed by Alex Salmond’s administration was only slightly better. Only marginally less offensive. And only is one were making generous allowance for the context of devolution and the constraints this imposes on the Scottish Government.

“Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?”

This at least hints at independence being the default assumption. Which is almost certainly why the British government objected to it. The British establishment cannot allow that anything other that the iniquitously asymmetric Union is ‘normal’. As one would expect, the British Electoral Commission sided with the British Establishment of which it is part. The question was disallowed, effectively for acknowledging normality.

To be fair, it is likely that Salmond anticipated this. He is, after all, one of the most astute and wily political operators of our time. The sort of player it would suit the British establishment to have removed from the field. He was bound to be aware that the British political elite would protest every proposal he proffered for no other reason than that it was he who was proffering it. They had to be seen to be keeping the uppity Jocks in line. Especially the uppiest of all uppity Jocks. Knowing the first proposal was going to be rejected, Salmond ensured that the second was something he could live with.

He did much the same with the so-called “second question”. Which was actually a third option on the ballot for some form of enhanced devolution – or ‘devo-max’. This was the last thing Salmond wanted as it would split the constitutional reform vote at significant cost to the Yes option. His crafty solution was to drop a hint in a speech that it was his preference. The response from the British government was precisely as he expected. And exactly what he wanted. The “second question” was excluded.

The ballot question that was settled on struck me not only as offensive to the un-colonised or decolonised Scottish mind, but as massively misleading in that it made independence the contentious concept. Independence is normal. It is not and never can be a contentious concept. It is the concept of a nation’s status that is assumed by pretty much everybody in every other nation. Although there are some in some nations who are eager to threaten the independence of other countries, few if any question the appropriateness of independence for their own nation. Only in Scotland will you find people who consider the independence of their own nation a contentious concept – and a horrifying prospect.

Making the concept of independence the focus of debate gave the anti-independence campaign a huge advantage. It got Unionists and British Nationalist off the hook very nicely. The last thing they wanted was a debate about the Union and what it means for Scotland. But, by rights, that is what the referendum campaign should have been. It should have been a rigorous examination of the Union and forceful interrogation of those who seek its preservation at any cost to Scotland. It wasn’t. The question defines the campaign. And the question in the 2014 referendum forced the Yes side to defend the constitutional normality of independence rather than attacking the constitutional aberration that is the Union. And it allowed the forces intent on continuing to deny the sovereignty of Scotland’s people to dodge questions about their ‘precious’ Union and to focus on generating a thick fog of doubt around the concept of independence. The question in the 2014 referendum was an absolute gift to the anti-independence campaign.

It was doubt wot won it! A more apt nickname for Better Together than ‘Project Fear’ would have been ‘Project Doubt’. The entire No campaign was an exercise in reframing. The issue was reframed from being about the Union to being about independence. The question on the ballot did much of the work for them. Questions generate doubt. It’s human nature. If as you leave home to go on holiday somebody asks if you remembered to lock the back door, it doesn’t matter how certain you were that you had, as soon as the question is asked you start to have doubts. Doubts that may haunt you and ruin your holiday. Doubts that may even put you off going away altogether.

So it was with ‘Project Doubt’. The No campaign was essentially just an incessant stream of questions blasted into the minds of Scotland’s voters by the British media. Questions create doubt. The British establishment and its lackeys in Scotland knew that this was all they had to do. People tend to be averse to change of any kind. They also tend to be risk averse. All that was required was that the independence which is generally regarded as normal should be made to appear a very dubious prospect for Scotland. A step into the unknown. A leap in the dark. The question provided the foundation for a No campaign that was entirely an edifice of lies and intimidation.

All of this was aided by the fact that independence itself is not in undisputed concept. There is no single definition. There could be no unified Yes message because the Yes movement is so proudly diverse. The campaign for independence itself generated doubt because it was never clear which of the variations on the theme of independence was the independence being campaigned for. A situation that was only aggravated by the tendency of all too many in the Yes movement to run with propaganda cues being fed to the anti-independence campaign by the British media.

It all stems from the question asked on the ballot paper. National independence may have some legal definition. But in the context of Scotland’s civic nationalism the term refers at least as much to intangibles such as promise and potential as to a status specified in law. It is not possible to build an effective political campaign around a disputed concept. An effective campaign message cannot be vague or diffuse or ambiguous or ambivalent. The question asked in the 2014 referendum campaign ensured that the Yes side would be obliged to attempt the impossible. That the Yes campaign did so well was entirely down the the huge numbers of Yes campaigners and the massive effort they put in. They did Scotland proud. And they did it despite a question that stacked the deck against them from the outset.

Nicola Sturgeon proposes to use the same question. Think about that.

The 2014 referendum should have been, in the words of Dr Elliot Bulmer, a “constitutional conversation” about “rights, identity, values and principles”. Instead, it ended up being an unseemly and unedifying squabble about money. This was the second wave of the No campaign’s reframing exercise. The constitutional question was reframed as an economic issue. How better to generate doubt than to let loose the economic doom-mongers who can be hired to make an economic case against breathing if the intention is to suffocate the credulous en masse. Which, perhaps counter-intuitively, would be very, very wrong.

There were lessons to be learned from this. None appear to have been learned. Nicola Sturgeon is still talking about “making the economic case for independence”.

Independence is normal. It is the Union which is anomalous. It is the Union which should be under scrutiny in a constitutional referendum. It is the constitution which should be the topic of debate.

Self-evidently, this describes a referendum and a campaign both entirely different from the previous one. And yet Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP seem determined to replicate that first referendum and campaign in every way possible. The same Section 30 process. The same referendum question and, given that the question defines the campaign, the same unseemly and unedifying squabble about money. No lessons learned and no meaningful account taken of the drastically altered political landscape. It makes no sense!

If it did make some sense, somebody would be able to explain it. I have been questioning this ‘strategy’ for some years now. Certainly since 2015. As I write, I have yet to receive a sensible response. I am inundated with requests and demands to stop asking the questions. But I have been given no answers to questions I have asked inter alia about the Section 30 process. Nobody is willing or able to address the serious concerns that are now being voiced by more and more people in the party and the Yes movement. Attempts by others to open up discussion about strategy have been shut down quickly and with an efficiency that is slightly disturbing. And still none of it makes any kind of sense.

The lessons of the past are clear and easy enough to take on board even if not quite so simply translated into action. Those lessons can be distilled down to two statements about a new referendum.

The referendum process, from beginning to end, must be entirely made and managed in Scotland. It must, in compliance with international laws and conventions; in keeping with best practice; of necessity; and insofar as it may be practicable, prohibit and exclude any and all external interference and influence in the exercise by the people of Scotland of their inalienable democratic right of self-determination.
The referendum must seek the verdict of the people of Scotland on the Union. The referendum campaign must be focused on the constitutional issue being decided. The question on the ballot must relate to the Union. However the question is worded, it must ask that the people of Scotland decide whether they want Scotland to remain bound in the Union.*

Achieving this will require that the entire idea of the referendum be rethought and the campaign reformulated. It will involve an exercise in reframing at least as comprehensive and effective as that by which the British state thwarted Scotland’s aspirations in the first referendum.

It will require a Scottish Government and a First Minister prepared to act boldly and decisively and determinedly. It will require that our elected representatives act like the political leaders of a nation for which independence is a natural condition and rightful status. It will require that we all act as the citizens of an independent nation would if called upon to defend their independence and their distinctive political culture.

And it all needs to start five years ago.

* I should have said something about the form of the ballot paper and the manner in which the question is put. This was a clumsy omission for which I apologise and which I shall now seek to rectify.

The question should take the form of a proposal to dissolve Union with voters being invited to agree (YES) or disagree (NO). This YES/NO arrangement must be maintained. The Yes ‘brand’ is far too well-established and much too intimately bound to the independence campaign for it to be altered without causing confusion. To a lesser degree perhaps, the same could be said of NO. These words now define the two sides in the constitutional debate. Messing with that is a recipe for disaster.

The proposal on the ballot paper will reiterate the proposal passed by the Scottish Parliament. It may be feasible, and thought wise, to have a concise statement of the proposal on the front of the ballot paper and a longer, fuller explanation on the reverse. Copies of the proposal, in all relevant languages, will already have been widely distributed in the course of the campaign.

I shall offer two distinct and valuable advantages to putting the question in this way.

Firstly, everybody will know exactly what they are voting for (or against). There can be no subsequent argument about what a particular vote ‘means’. It’s there in clear print on every ballot paper.

Secondly, neither official campaign organisations nor the media will be able to misrepresent the issue. It may be considered efficacious to require that campaign organisations be required to carry the proposal text on all publications. It may even be a good idea to make misrepresentation of the proposal a criminal offence.

If you find these articles interesting please consider a small donation to help support this site and my other activities on behalf of Scotland’s independence movement.

Donate with PayPalDonate with Pingit

The final option

As an ‘early adopter’ of opposition to the Section 30 process, I have been pointing out the folly of hoping that process might serve Scotland’s cause at least since it became clear that the First Minister intended committing Scotland to this folly. Reviewing the 2014 independence referendum in the days and weeks subsequent to the tragedy of the vote, the first conclusion I came to was that there would have to be another referendum. The second conclusion was that pretty much everything about this new referendum would inevitably and necessarily be very different from the first one. It now seems to me that we should not think of this as a new referendum at all, but as the completion of a process begun in 2011.

One of the responses I often get when criticising Nicola Sturgeon’s commitment to the Section 30 process is the insistence that she must be seen to be trying to use this process so that she can say she tried everything. Of course, this response is nonsensical on the face of it because doing the same thing again isn’t trying everything. It is not trying anything different. It is avoiding trying anything that hasn’t been tried before. Therefore, the best that she can say to whoever it is that she feels the need to say it to is that she had tried everything except anything that hadn’t previously been tried. Which, logically, would be likely to mean most things.

If Nicola Sturgeon was determined to try everything before moving on to whatever it was she was minded to do having tried everything else, why did she not toss some eye of newt and toe of frog in a cauldron and simmer gently until Scotland’s independence was restored? The reason she didn’t resort to magic is, obviously, that the chances of potions and incantations being effective were as close to zero as made no difference. Why then did she feel obliged to try something which had barely a better chance of being effective? It’s at least as easy to imagine Scotland’s independence being restored by a process involving a lizard’s leg and howlet’s wing hell-broth as it is to suppose it might come about through a process that is critically dependent on obtaining the full agreement and willing cooperation of the British establishment.

What about the thing she was minded to do after she’d expended lots of time and energy trying things that had been tried before and things that were vanishingly unlikely to work? Surely this thing must be something she considered likely to succeed. Otherwise, why hold it in reserve? But if she had in mind something that she thought would work, why was she bothering with things that wouldn’t? Why not just go straight to whatever it was that she was minded to go to when she’d tried everything else – except witchery?

What is this thing that she was minded to do when she’d…. blah blah blah? Why has she not gone to this thing now that it is clear that the thing that was tried before and was never going to work has been tried again and, as anticipated, hasn’t worked? Why has she not at least hinted at the nature of this ultimate option? Why has nobody been able to figure out what it may be?

By far the most common response to my criticism of Nicola Sturgeon’s whole approach to the constitutional issue isn’t really a response at at. Not a meaningful response. More of an evasion. With monotonous regularity I am asked what my alternative is. Why is Nicola Sturgeon not asked what her alternative is? After all, she is the one with the power. She is the one making the decisions. Why are her apologists more interested in what I would do in a hypothetical universe than in what is going on here in the real world? Strange!

It shouldn’t be that difficult to figure out what the final option is. To paraphrase Sherlock Holmes, once you’ve eliminated magic and the honest cooperation of the British political elite whatever is left is your only option. As Nicola Sturgeon has squandered whatever other options she might have had while trying things that were tried before and things that self-evidently could not work, whatever is left must be the thing that she was going to do when she’d finished farting around with futile efforts.

So why doesn’t she just get on with it? As we try to work out what this final option is, it appears that we must consider only things which are better done later rather than sooner. Apparently, it is something that had to wait until after Scotland had been wrenched unwillingly from its place in Europe. But being thus forcefully deprived of our EU membership was, according to Nicola Sturgeon, the worst thing ever. So, whatever the final option is, it must be something so good as to be worth having even at the cost of Scotland suffering the worst thing ever. What could it be?

Could somebody check and see if Nicola Sturgeon has recently submitted an expenses claim for a cauldron? Maybe have a look at Peter Murrell’s Amazon wishlist while you’re at it.

I’m not being flippant. No more flippant than the situation warrants. The situation really is as confused and ridiculous as the foregoing implies. When the most glaringly obvious lesson of the first referendum was that the next one had to be totally different, Nicola Sturgeon decided to try and approach it as if the circumstances were unchanged. It cannot sensibly be claimed that the situation now, in 2020, is in any way similar to the situation in 2011. And yet Nicola Sturgeon acts as if the old solutions are relevant to the new reality. It is truly inexplicable.

Two underlying constants remain. The two imperatives to which the situation may be reduced as an aid to understanding. The British state’s existential imperative to preserve the Union. And Scotland’s existential imperative to end the Union. But even these constants are not unchanged since 2011. Both are very much more intense now than they were then. Scotland’s imperative is the irresistible force. England-as-Britain’s imperative is the immovable object.

But this simplification doesn’t tell the whole story. The irresistible force versus immovable object analogy doesn’t hold because it assumes parity of power. And we know that no such parity exists. We know that the Union, by its essential nature, tips the balance of power massively in favour of the immovable object. There is balance only in the sense that the situation is irresoluble. Scotland’s imperative isn’t going away. The asymmetry of the Union means that it can, in principle, be resisted forever. But the force that turns out not to be irresistible is nonetheless ineradicable.

It is assumed, by the terminally naive, that the British state’s role as immovable object is untenable or insupportable or otherwise fated to fail. It is assumed, by the incredibly credulous, that the British state’s intransigent immovability will serve to intensify the irresistibility of Scotland’s force unto the point where the immovable moves. But that only works if the immovable object gives a shit about the strength of Scotland’s aspirations. It doesn’t. It is assumed that there is a magic number which, when touched by the polls, will cause the immovable object to split and sunder. There is no such magic number. There is no level of support for independence which can require acknowledgement from England-as-Britain. Again, that is the nature of the Union. As in all things, the Union stipulates that Scotland’s imperative must always be subordinate to that of the British state.

It was ever thus. Even in 2011, this was the reality of the situation. The difference was that the reality remained concealed beneath the polite pretence of democracy. The British political elite, represented by David Cameron, was maintaining the charade of democracy when they agreed to the first referendum. Alex Salmond went along with this charade because it was expedient. He had to deliver a referendum even if it was all no more than political theatre. Whether he was aware that it was a sham is not known. Astute political operator that he is, it’s easy to believe that he knew full well the British had no intention of honouring the Edinburgh Agreement. No mere concord or contract could overcome the imperative to preserve the Union. Whether Scotland’s political leaders knew it or not, the Brits were always going to renege on the deal.

The mask began to slip almost immediately as the campaign got underway. By the time Yes was hitting 50% in the polls, the ugly face of jealous Britannia was plainly visible to those who were prepared to look. Even victory could not fully restore the pretence of respect for democratic principles that David Cameron had worn as he signed the Edinburgh Agreement with perfidious fingers crossed behind his back.

This is what makes Nicola Sturgeon’s approach to the constitutional issue so hard to comprehend. There is no longer any attempt to hide the fact that the British state simply will not countenance democratic principles which put the Union in jeopardy. And yet Nicola Sturgeon remains stuck in the role Alex Salmond had to play when he was on stage with David Cameron. It’s a different play. The actors have all changed and they are all working from a new script. They’re all doing it wrong except oor Nicola!

We are now in the third act of this four-act drama. And Nicola Sturgeon still shows no signs of being aware that she’s not in the play she thinks she’s in. She is intent on reprising a familiar part. The gossip columns hint that she has her eye on a leading role in Broadway production.

It may be testing the limits of this theatrical analogy but I would suggest that Scotland’s voters are the audience while Yes activists are the producers. Currently, most of the audience is still applauding Sturgeon’s performance because, even reading from the wrong script, she sells it like a pro. And the punters appreciate the work she’s doing in Holyrood so are reluctant to stop clapping. The producers, however, see what’s happening and are appalled. They know they need to intervene before the drama turns into a farce.

I promise I’m now done with theatrical allusions. The metaphor has served its purpose. It nicely describes the situation in terms that are easily understood. But it still leaves us wondering what happens next. And not in the good way associated with a well-written mystery.

There’s a reason for abandoning the theatre analogy other than that it has grown tedious. I mentioned earlier that we were in the third act of a four-act play. We really don’t want to stay for the fourth act. The fourth act is interminable and very, very ugly.

What is clear is that something truly dramatic has to happen. The impasse must be broken and broken as a matter of urgency. That means going off-script. It means going improv. (Sorry!) It means we must accept that the new situation demands a fresh approach. The old ways don’t work in the new reality. The idea that we can somehow revert to the pretence of British democracy (demockracy?) that existed prior to the 2014 referendum is sheer fantasy. And we somehow have to get this through to Nicola Sturgeon – as a matter of extreme urgency!

A different approach was always going to be required. That has been apparent for at least five years. And that approach was always going to be basically the one thing. The only thing that is left when all the other things are ruled out. Early in that five years, there may have been a number of options or variations available. It was always going to be necessary to confront the British state. But there were opportunities to ‘finesse’ the political manoeuvring. It is doubtful if that can be done now. It is doubtful if it is even worth trying.

The final option is UDI.

Not UDI (unilateral declaration of independence) as this tends to be understood. The term is only used because of the pejorative connotations that were hung on it during the Rhodesia crisis of the mid-1960s. The term is nonsensical in that any independence must be declared otherwise nobody would know it had happened. And all declarations of independence are necessarily unilateral as only the people of the state assuming or resuming independence have the right and authority to make that choice. Use of the term is intended to imply an equivalence between Scotland today and Rhodesia more than half a century ago which is totally specious. Rhodesia’s declaration of independence was deemed illegal by the UN not because it was unilateral but because it lacked democratic legitimacy. There was no majority rule in Rhodesia. The African nation was governed by the tiny (5%) white minority. That minority could not possibly qualify for the right of self-determination. That white minority was guilty of withholding from the black majority its right of self-determination in a manner comparable with the way in which the British ruling elite is denying Scotland’s right to choose the form of government which suits our needs.

There is absolutely no question of Scotland’s declaration of independence being anything other than unilateral because nobody else has the authority to to declare Scotland independent. There is absolutely no question of Scotland’s unilateral declaration of independence being undemocratic as that declaration is entirely conditional on affirmation by a majority of Scotland’s people as determined in an impeccably democratic plebiscite. The government of England-as-Britain may denounce it as illegal. In fact, it almost certainly will. But neither the UN nor the EU nor any of the international community will echo the rUK’s denunciation because they would have no grounds for doing so. The indignant outrage of British Nationalists has no standing in international law.

UDI it is! But our UDI, defined by us.

All we have to do is ensure that the process by which the unilateral declaration of independence is endorsed is indisputably democratic. This requires, among other things, that the UK government be totally excluded. Under international law, it can have no role as its status is that of an external agency. To be unarguably democratic, the referendum must be entirely made and managed in Scotland.

Other democratic criteria that apply are such as the widest possible franchise (Black people get to vote so not at all like Rhodesia!) and independent oversight of every stage in the process. (Just not by the British!) None of this is rocket surgery. It’s all stuff that has been done before many times and stuff which Scotland is perfectly capable of and qualified to do.

Nor need the referendum precede the declaration. The declaration of independence must take the form of a proposal by a grand assembly of Scotland’s democratically elected representatives that the Union be dissolved and Scotland’s rightful status as an independent nation restored. This proposal having been approved by the Scottish Parliament it can be put to a popular vote. This is a declaration of intent that is, of democratic necessity, subject to confirmation by the electorate. Indeed, the declaration must come first, and as a matter of the utmost urgency, in order to secure a democratic route to a referendum (and the restoration of independence) that the British will otherwise do absolutely anything to obstruct.

This is what must happen. There is no point in debating it because it is the only option still open to us. It is a Scottish UDI or it is a return to London rule via the British state’s agents in Scotland and rapid absorption into a right wing British state with eradication of any distinctiveness.

“But what if it all goes wrong?”, I hear you wail. What if it does? We will certainly be no worse off than we would be if we didn’t make the effort. Consider that the change of approach being suggested (demanded?) does not merely apply to the process by which we get to a referendum but to the form of that referendum and the nature of the campaign prior to the vote. Even if you suppose it possible that the people of Scotland might be offered a case for maintaining the Union that they find sufficiently persuasive to vote accordingly, the British Nationalists simply resume where they left off before being so rudely interrupted by democracy.

We literally have nothing to lose by acting as if we are a nation worthy of a place among the independent nations of the world. We have everything to lose by imagining we can trust Scotland’s fate to British ‘demockracy’.

If you find these articles interesting please consider a small donation to help support this site and my other activities on behalf of Scotland’s independence movement.

Donate with PayPalDonate with Pingit

Talking to toasters

An actual smart toaster. Click for article. Opens in new window/tab.

We are, in my opinion, closer to achieving the goal of Independence than we have ever been…

BtL comment on The National

Really? Closer than we were when the polls opened on Thursday 18 September 2014? Really?

My advice would be to leave the inane, vacuous platitudes to the politicians. They are well paid for making themselves appear almost as clever as street furniture.

After that, I have to wonder if there is any point in explaining the folly of the rest of your comment. Ach! I’ll give it a go!

You say support for independence is growing by the day. I have seen evidence of no such steady growth. Being a realist, what I see is polls which show an occasional upward blip, but rarely if ever beyond margin of error territory. I see polls which are at least ten points below where we might reasonably expect them to be given the very circumstances which you go on to describe.

The way you talk about it you’d think “biggest recruiting sergeant we have ever had” was a new phenomenon. But the fact is we’ve had such a Tory government for the whole of the period since the first independence referendum. When do you anticipate this recruiting effect becoming evident?

You say, “Our job in the Movement is to encourage those who are on the cusp of joining us to make that last step onto our boat.”

Do you think it helps that this boat is very plainly set on a disastrously wrong course? Do you think it helps if the larger part of the crew are so preoccupied with shouting down and shutting up those who point out the catastrophic navigation error they give the impression of being content that the boat should run onto the rocks? Do you think it helps that you’re asking people to hop aboard a doomed ship and, furthermore, to undertake NEVER to question the captain’s orders even as they hear the hull splinter beneath them on the reef?

You say we should “let the Tories and others make the mistakes”. What mistakes would those be? With my realist specs on what I see is that Boris Johnson has got, or looks set to get, everything he wanted. What have we got that wasn’t imposed on us by Boris and his gang while our government did… what? Sat back and assured us it was all good because it would drive up support for independence. Except that it hasn’t. I know why. You never will. Because you would never even consider the possibility that Nicola Sturgeon might have got it wrong despite overwhelming evidence that she has done precisely that.

What evidence? The fact that neither a new referendum nor independence is in prospect. There is probably no more deluded claim in politics right now than the imbecilic assertion that we are closer to independence than ever. And I’m including UK AND American politics in that statement!

Finally, you state that “the demand for Independence will be unstoppable”. How? When? Where is the substance to this assertion? What prevents it from being anything more than a totally empty assertion?

It seems that you have failed to notice a couple (at least!) of highly pertinent facts. Firstly, the Section 30 process cannot work without the willing and honest cooperation of the British political elite. And that cooperation is NOT going to be forthcoming on any timescale other than the geological. The assertion that Boris Johnson can’t keep on saying No is rendered ludicrous by the fact that it costs him not even an insignificant effort to say No every twenty minutes for the remainder of his time in office. At which point, the next British Prime minister takes over the effortless task of denying Scotland’s right of self-determination. So! Another empty assertion!

Secondly, Nicola Sturgeon has committed Scotland to the Section 30 process just referred to. Committed! No possibility of any change of approach. No response to concerns expressed about this approach – other than the big SHUT UP to which you seem to want to add your voice. Not even any discussion of an alternative course of action. Not Allowed!

Here’s the thing! I never publish anything that I’m not prepared to defend. If I make a statement or take a position or whatever, I will stand by it. I will argue my case. I will happily – nay eagerly! – listen to counter-arguments. For what better way to prove the worth of my position than to have it vigorously challenged. I welcome such challenges.

But I am confronted at every turn by people who make grandiose claims about Nicola Sturgeon’s ‘strategy’ while flatly refusing to defend those claims against even the mildest of scrutiny. I am constantly condemned and castigated for daring to question this strategy. But, to date, nobody – not one single person – has even attempted to explain how this ‘strategy’ can possibly take us to a new referendum and independence BEFORE the mountains melt in the sun. Or before the British state closes down all potential democratic routes to the restoration of Scotland’s rightful constitutional status.

Instead, I am offered intellect-insulting claptrap about independence never having been closer and told to stop rocking the boat – the one that’s drifting onto the rocks anyway, making a bit of rocking a rather trivial matter.

In my more despairing moments – which are many – I idly wonder whether it is more than happenstance that the depressing decline in the standard of discourse within the Yes movement has coincided with a period of rapid expansion of the Internet of Things (IoT). I find myself unable to discount the possibility that in some of my social media exchanges I might actually be interacting, all unawares, with a ‘smart’ kitchen appliance.

If you find these articles interesting please consider a small donation to help support this site and my other activities on behalf of Scotland’s independence movement.

Donate with PayPalDonate with Pingit