The message and the language

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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With friends like this…

John Bercow talks a great deal more sense than Pete Wishart. But this will come as little surprise to regular readers of the latter’s ghastly blog, with its ill-thought statements and industriously censored comments. In the latest edition of his mindless musings and extemporaneous mutterings from Perthshire Pete Wishart didn’t only argue for conceding the British Prime Minister’s authority to veto Scotland’s right of self-determination. He also referred to the UK as the “parent state”. Effectively arguing that Scotland is somehow derived from and necessarily subsidiary to the UK. Such revisionist history might be expected from the likes of Neil Oliver. It is not a million miles away from the drivel peddled by Rory Stewart as his contribution to Better Together’s denigration of Scotland. But coming from the SNP’s longest-serving MP it is nothing less than shocking.

While disingenuously claiming that an ‘advisory referendum’ is “being presented as a cost-free strategy to break the deadlock” Wishart himself presents his own strategy of indefinite delay and total compliance with the British state’s rules as a consequence-free strategy. At least, he doesn’t address any of the potential or inevitable consequences. If anybody presumes to question his strategy of fearful inaction and meek compliance they will find themselves blocked on Twitter and their comments deleted from his blog.

Apparently, Pete Wishart wants us all to forget about a referendum this year – thus contradicting Nicola Sturgeon in a way that might well constitute a breach of the Westminster group’s code of conduct – and focus instead on winning yet another mandate for the SNP in the 2021 Holyrood elections. He fails entirely to explain why this mandate should be any different from all those that went before and were ignored by both the British and the Scottish Governments. He says that if the SNP this shiny new mandate “there will be no available grounds on which the UK Government can legitimately continue to oppose”. Is he acknowledging that the UK Government had legitimate grounds for refusing to recognise those previous mandates? What are these ‘legitimate grounds? He doesn’t tell us. How could there possibly be ‘legitimate grounds’ for denying Scotland’s right of self-determination? He neither explains nor entertains enquiries on any of these points.

To be fair, Pete Wishart does touch on the possibility that the British state will continue to deny any mandate that Scotland’s voters give the SNP. He allows that if they do then he might be prepared to admit that “the ‘section 30’ road may indeed be running out”. Let’s gloss over the fact that anticipating the willing and honest cooperation of the British establishment in a project to dissolve the Union was always a self-evidently forlorn and foolish hope. Let’s see what Mr Wishart’s proposed course of action would be in the event of there being no change for the better in the British establishment’s contempt for Scotland and democracy. He says, “It is at this stage we consider all options to progress our cause.” Wow! That’s impressive!

What these options might be remains a total mystery given that Pete Wishart’s principal purpose in penning this dire diatribe was to reject all other options as ‘illegal and unconstitutional’. What is left after he’s ruled out everything other than the Section 30 process and that has failed as anticipated by more thoughtful persons? He doesn’t say. And he won’t accept any questions on the matter.

I have news for Pete Wishart. Some of us have been considering all options for years. Some of us didn’t close our minds to those options. Some of us have known for years that neither the Section 30 process nor mere ‘gentle persuasion’ was going to “progress our cause”. Some of us have tried very hard, against fervent opposition from such as yourself, to persuade the SNP to at least open up discussion about our options. All to no avail.

Determined that the culinary catastrophe of his cake shouldn’t lack a cherry on top, Pete Wishart regurgitates the idiocy that “independence has never been closer”. Had he been less determined to shut out all dissenting, questioning or critical voices he might have been aware of how plainly, unavoidably idiotic it is to claim that we are closer to independence now than we were when the polls opened on Thursday 18 September 2014. He didn’t listen. He didn’t think. It’s a fine-sounding phrase and possibly an effective platitude, so long as nobody gives the assertion any more thought than he did. He remains blissfully unaware of the impression he gives when he spouts such patent drivel. We might be forgiven for wondering how many potential converts to Yes he deters by bringing his party and the independence movement into disrepute.

Nicola Sturgeon needs to disown this distasteful and daft dribble and drool. I’m not suggesting she should censor Pete Wishart in the way he does any who criticise or question him. But she really should dissociate the party from such objectionable views and senseless blabber.

Addendum

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After Aileen McHarg basically told us all to wheesht and stop making a fuss about Pete Wishart referring to the UK as the “parent state” I thought I should try and hunt down the definition of what she claims is a technical term. I was unable to find one. Maybe it’s very, very specialised technical language.

What I did find was an article in which Dr Rebecca Richards (http://t.ly/0EXEO) a Lecturer in International Relations at Keele University, is quoted at some length. If her take on the meaning of ‘parent state’ is authoritative then maybe people shouldn’t be quite as complacent as Aileen McHarg would have us be.

From my reading of Dr Richards’s views on the matter it would seem that if Scotland’s status within the UK is as Pete Wishart asserts then it is all but impossible that Scotland’s independence can ever be restored. Even if that can possibly be the case it is exceedingly strange to find the case being argued by an SNP MP. Which begs a number of very awkward questions which,were they to be put to him, Mr Wishart would doubtless deal with in his customary contemptuous manner.



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Unblocking the road

Joanna Cherry is probably mostly right. Peter Wishart is dependably Pete Wishart.

My support for Joanna Cherry’s position is qualified for two principal reasons. The first is that it needs to be made clear that, while the Scottish Government should certainly prepare for a court battle, it must not be the Scottish Government which initiates court action. To support the claim that it is proceeding as it is entitled to, the Scottish Government must proceed as if it was so entitled. Why should the Scottish Government initiate court action to establish the Scottish Parliament’s authority to facilitate the exercise of Scotland’s right of self-determination if it is claimed that the Scottish Parliament already possesses this authority?

The purpose is not to establish either the right of self-determination or the Scottish Parliament’s competence but to assert these.

Consider the ‘optics’. Rather than seem to be trying to extract from the British government something they have the power to withhold how much better, and more honest, is it if the situation is presented as the British government trying to deny our democratic rights.

Also, I see no point whatever in asserting the right to have a pretend referendum. Suppose the court confirms that the Scottish Parliament has competence to facilitate a “consultative” referendum. That still leaves open the question of competence to facilitate the full and effective exercise of our sovereignty in deciding the constitutional status of our nation and choosing the form of government which best suits our needs. And isn’t that what we’re fighting for?

The Scottish Parliament has exclusive democratic legitimacy in Scotland. We cannot and must not settle for it having less than the powers which this entails.

Pete Wishart’s refrain is, as is customary, “Not yet!”. And his insistence on procrastination is as devoid of explanation or supporting argument as ever it was. He boldly asserts that losing a legal challenge would ” set the case for Indy back significantly”. But he doesn’t elaborate. Presumably, we are supposed to just take his word for it. We are not supposed to question his wisdom. Sorry, Pete! I question everything!

I ask the obvious and necessary questions. Where are we now? Where would we be should a court case be lost?

Where we are now is at a road-block in limbo. We are wholly committed to a process which crucially relies on the goodwill and good faith of the British political elite. So, a process which can never lead to a referendum and/or the restoration of Scotland’s independence. We are going nowhere. We have no possibility of going anywhere whilst committed to the Section 30 process. And there seems no way that this commitment can or will be abandoned.

Where will we be if the court doesn’t find in our favour? That very much depends on the precise nature of the action and of the court’s finding. But the worst-case scenario must be that the court upholds the British governments claim that the Scottish Parliament does not have competence to hold a constitutional referendum. (Note that it makes no difference whether this is in relation to a “consultative” or a full referendum. If one is ruled out, they both are. So why aim low?)

It might be argued that this makes us worse off because the British government now has court backing for its anti-democratic position. But all it really means is that the case goes to a higher court. Which is, at least, some kind of movement. And it is movement towards the highest court of all – the one presided over by the people of Scotland.

It is difficult to see how asserting the thing we are fighting for puts us in a worse position than not asserting it. The idea that independence will come if we just continue to accept the Union for long enough makes no sense whatever. There can be no momentum without movement. Right now, because of some bad choices, we are in a place where we have precious little room for movement. Either we remain stationary at the road-block in limbo, or we go drive on and defy the British government to try and stop us.



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A critical time

It is possible to be a totally despicable individual and still make an entirely factual statement. There is an unfortunate tendency for people to let their feelings about an individual colour their appreciation of the content of what that individual says. Similarly, personal preferences and enthusiasms can all too often hinder objective assessment of a factual statement. The iron law of analytical thinking is that one must question everything having first questioned one’s own assumptions, preconceptions and prejudices. In order to objectively analyse a statement we must separate it from both the sender and the receiver. We must, as completely as we are able, abstract the content from the human aspects of the context in order that it may be assessed, to the greatest extent possible, solely in relation to known facts and rational arguments; remembering always that we are dealing with an abstraction which must ultimately be restored to a context where human emotions are a significant factor. If our analysis and the human context are not compatible then one or the other must change. It should not, in these circumstances, be assumed that it is the analysis which must adapt. It is entirely possible that it is the emotional response to that analysis which is at fault.

There’s an article in today’s Sunday National which includes statements by both Pete Wishart, SNP MP for Perth & North Perthshire and Anthony Salamone, managing director of Edinburgh-based political consultancy European Merchants. Wishart is, as we would expect, very much on-message.

We are at the point of securing independence – the First Minister set a timetable for a referendum this year, this is now eminently winnable and the only thing that we have got to do is get out there, secure that support and ensure it is won well.

Mr Suleman sees things rather differently.

You have 12 months, but I imagine you wouldn’t want to hold a referendum in December, maybe not November, so can you really do all that in nine months? I don’t necessarily think so.

So I do find that quite unrealistic, even if the UK Government says yes and they won’t, they won’t say yes initially. I think on that order the timescale is very challenging.

As a passionate advocate of the restoration of Scotland’s independence I would very much like to agree with Pete Wishart’s perspective. Taking my emotions out of the equation, however, I have to accept the truth of what Anthony Salamone says. Others who are at least as passionate about independence as myself may reflexively reject the downbeat analysis. But it would be wrong to do so.

The restoration of Scotland’s independence is often portrayed as a journey. Going along with that analogy it necessarily follows that to make this journey we need to know, not only where we are going to, but where we are starting from. Only then can we plot a course between accurately known departure point and precisely defined destination. To paraphrase the old joke, where we are is not where we should be if we want to get to independence. Plotting a course to independence from where we are is very far from the simple matter imagined by Pete Wishart.

Wishart claims that the First Minister has “set a timetable for a referendum this year”. Has she? I have yet to see such a timetable. Which does not, of course, mean that it does not or cannot exist. But given how eagerly I’ve been looking for such a timetable it seems at least unlikely that I would have missed it. I suppose it depends on what one means by ‘timetable’. What I mean by that term is a step-by-step account of the events which lead to a referendum some time in late – but not too late – 2020. I have not seen any such account. I know it starts with the granting of a Section 30 order. But that is not something that can be fixed in time, as a timetable would require. The clue is in the name. The granting of a Section 30 order is, we are told, critical. But, the request (or ‘demand’) having been submitted, an accommodating response could happen any time between start of business tomorrow and the day Katie Hopkins is appointed a UN Goodwill Ambassador.

If there is no fixed starting point there can be no timetable. At best, there may be a timescale. That is to say, a more or less detailed account of how long the journey will take once it is started. At the moment, the only fixed point we have is the endpoint – midnight on 31 December 2020.

Pete Wishart’s claim that there is a timetable for a referendum this year is false. Objectively false. False no matter how much he or anyone else wishes it were true. As false as the plainly idiotic claim the we are closer to independence now than on Thursday 18 September 2014. His further claim that a referendum is winnable is banal, because the same could be said of any referendum at any time. Referendums are winnable by definition. It is also worthless if the referendum to which he refers doesn’t happen. And the balance of probability suggests that it won’t.

Anthony Salamone explains why a 2020 referendum is unlikely. He uses a timescale of nine months because this is the lead time suggested/recommended by the Electoral Commission. What he does not mention is that this lead time starts with the passing by the Scottish Parliament of legislation specific to the referendum under discussion. (This is quite separate from the Referendums Bill just passed by Holyrood and awaiting Royal Assent.) That legislation cannot even begin its progress through Parliament until a Section 30 order is granted and agreement reached between the Scottish and UK Governments equivalent to the Edinburgh Agreement that Alex Salmond wrung from David Cameron all those years ago.

So, we are talking about nine months from a point in time which is totally subject to the whims of a malignant child-clown who is fervently opposed to there ever being another Scottish independence referendum. A malignant child-clown, moreover, who would relish nothing more than the opportunity to embarrass Nicola Sturgeon by ensuring that she cannot deliver on her ‘promise’ of a referendum in 2020. Pete Wishart doesn’t seem to see a problem in all this. Readers may draw their own conclusions.

I do not dislike Pete Wishart. I have no axe to grind here. I am not interested in attacking him or denigrating him. All I’m doing is pointing out that what he says is, at the absolute minimum, very misleading. If he doesn’t even know where we are, how can he possibly qualify as a guide on the journey to independence?

I don’t even know Anthony Salamone. To the best of my admittedly unreliable recall, I’ve never heard of him. I have no opinion of him and no feelings about him. I am distinctly unhappy with what he says. As a lifelong campaigner for independence, how could I take pleasure in his assessment of the situation. But I cannot fault his reasoning. What he says is right. It is correct. It is as factual as it can be when there are critical unknowns.

Some will insist that, for the sake of ‘unity’, I should stand with Pete Wishart. They demand that I disregard the reality and cheer him on as he tells people stuff that just isn’t true. Or I should just remain silent – for the sake of ‘unity’ – and let people believe whatever they want to believe regardless of the reality. Even leaving aside the matter of my own integrity – which I cannot do – how does this help the cause of restoring Scotland’s independence? How does it do anything but hinder that cause to have a false idea of its status? How can we begin to address the problems if we fail (or refuse) to properly identify them?

Ian Smart is someone I do know. Or, at least, someone I know of. I am well acquainted with his views and attitudes having subjected myself to his public expressions of them over a number of years. I don’t like Ian Smart. What I know of him bids me loathe and despise him. He represents everything I detest about British Nationalist ideology and the cancer I would so dearly like to excise from Scotland’s politics. I don’t habitually use the word ‘hate’. I hold it in reserve for the worst of the worst. It is only with the greatest restraint that I resist applying the term to Ian Smart. I abhor what he stands for.

And yet I have to agree with him. Not entirely. But substantially. There is little in the gruesome little toad’s latest blog which can be disputed. In what must be a first for this deeply unpleasant creature, it is almost entirely factual and accurate.

Where I most assuredly part company with the odious Ian Smart is in our respective attitudes to the reality that he sets out with unaccustomed honesty. He relishes the account of a British state that looms over Scotland like an Orwellian boot poised to stamp on our faces forever. He revels in the idea of Scotland’s subjection and humiliation. He gloats over the dire predicament into which Scotland has been driven. He regards with unabashed glee the prospect of dancing on the grave of Scotland’s aspirations. He drools as he contemplates the British ruling elite trampling every democratic principle into dust. He resembles nothing more than the cowardly wee gobshites that orbit bullies.

Smart’s attitude is the mark of a deeply flawed human being. I care less than nothing for that. Hell mend the obnoxious little turd. But he proves the point that it is possible to be a strong contender for the most despicable individual in Scotland and still make a statement that is, in all its essentials, correct. Trust me when I say that it turns my guts to write this.

The question is how do we retrieve the situation. Ian Smart supposes we can’t. But that’s him allowing his rabid British Nationalist prejudices take precedence over what passes for his intellect. He wants it to be true that the beautiful dream is over every bit as much as those who don’t share his contempt for Scotland want to believe Pete Wishart’s reassuring bedtime story.

I reject both Pete Wishart’s fairy-tale take on the situation and Smart’s crowing celebration of a Tory election victory that he supposes has killed independence stone dead. He’s not the first to imagine that. Nor, I wager, is it the first time he’s imagined it. I reject both Pete Wishart’s deluded claim that everything is awesome and Smart’s arrogant assertion that it’s all over; that it is time to move on; that it is time to abandon Scotland’s cause.

I am firmly persuaded that the situation can be recovered. I reckon that there is a route to independence from where we find ourselves now. But we can’t even begin to discuss that until the SNP and the Yes movement recognises the reality of Scotland’s situation. If I despair at all, it is not of seeing Scotland’s independence restored but of enough people casting off comforting illusion so as to make it happen.



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Not happening

Read it and weep! The counsel of despair wrapped in the shiny paper of academic analysis! What’s long and thin and contains no meat? If your first thought was a hot-dog sausage that’s probably because you haven’t read Gerry Hassan’s article in the Sunday National. You can save yourself the effort by skipping to the closing words – “longer game”. I wish I’d thought to do so. Being aware that the author isn’t responsible for the headline – or, to put it another way, that the headline may not accurately presage the content – I opted to read on in order to ascertain whether Mr Hassan really does write of ‘The long game for indyref2 and Scottish sovereignty”. As you now know, he does. He really should know better.

Not that it is necessary to read to the end in order to realise that Gerry Hassan is merely stirring the thin gruel of conventional wisdom concerning Scotland’s constitutional question. Granted, he throws in a handful of worthy names in an effort to thicken and flavour the watery broth. But there is nothing substantial here. Nothing satisfying. Nothing sustaining. The concoction is based on a stock of unexamined and unquestioned off-the-shelf assumptions. Here’s an example.

The case for a second indyref is based on Scotland voting to remain in the UK, and being told that this was the only way for Scotland to remain in the European Union.

Everybody knows this. At least, everybody Gerry Hassan listens to. It is established as truth solely and entirely because few trouble to subject it to any scrutiny. Few trouble to subject it to any scrutiny because it is established truth. Why question it? There are more important things to do. Those weel-kent names won’t drop themselves. Thus, the opportunity to think and say something novel and interesting is foregone in favour of sticking with the blandly uncontroversial cosy consensus. Ideas are not challenged. Intellects are not exercised. Mindsets remain unchanged.

There must be something wrong with me. I cannot have somebody tell me what is what without wanting needing to whether it is. I cannot encounter a statement such as the one above without feeling the urge to query every aspect of it. The questions flow naturally and inevitably from the assertion. The questions are inescapable.

Mention “the case for a second indyref” and I am compelled to ask why there has to be a “case” for the exercise of a fundamental democratic right. Why must we argue for something that is inalienably ours? Why are we being required to justify something which does not and cannot require any justification? Who are we trying to satisfy? What rightful authority do they have to insist that we persuade them of an entitlement which no authority has the right to withhold?

To find the best answer, first find the best question. In this instance, we must ask what is the necessary and sufficient condition for the exercise of the right of self-determination? It is unarguable that a substantial or significant demand should exist among the electorate or the populace. That is the necessary condition. To determine whether it is sufficient we must ask what might take precedence over popular demand? In a democracy, vanishingly few things have the potential to take precedence over the will of the people. That will must prevail in all circumstances unless a powerful case can be made for denying it.

Immediately, we see that Gerry Hassan has it arse-for-elbow. No “case” need be made for having the people decide an issue fundamental to the governance of their nation. What is necessary is a sufficient case for denying the people that opportunity.

That is a very long-winded explanation of a mental process which should be almost instantaneous and unconscious. I make no apology for this. Because, had that process occurred in Gerry Hassan’s mind he would have written a very different article. His entire approach to the subject would have been altered. He would have approached the constitutional issue with an entirely different mindset. Not doing so was a choice. Unless an individual is utterly devoid of the attribute – or afflicted with pathological intellectual indolence – intellectual curiosity must run its course, save that it be purposefully reined-in.

The consequences of this failure to interrogate the cosy consensus are far-reaching. It initiates stream of fallacious thinking leading inevitably erroneous conclusions. Gerry Hassan makes the point for me when he explains Section 30 as –

… the part of the Scotland Act 1998 which allows the Scottish Parliament to pass laws in reserved matters such as constitutional matters and which needs Westminster’s agreement.

This is just wrong. As it must be given that it is the product of the kind of inadequate thinking described above. Only someone who imagines a case must be made for the exercise of a democratic right would be capable of such a distorted view of Section 30. There is something irksomely ridiculous, and faintly offensive, about the suggestion that Section 30 exists for the purpose of empowering the Scottish Parliament. In order to believe such a thing one would need, not only a highly ‘idiosyncratic’ reading of the actual legislation, but a decidedly ‘quaint’ notion of what the British state is and how it operates. Not to mention a massively wrong-headed view of devolution.

Like devolution and the Union and everything else the British state is and does, Section 30 is exclusively and entirely concerned with preserving and entrenching established power. Its purpose is absolutely unmistakeable from the wording.

Her Majesty may by Order in Council make any modifications of Schedule 4 or 5 which She considers necessary or expedient.

Scotland Act 1998

Expressed in a less legalistic, and more forthright, fashion what this says is that the British Prime Minister – currently a malignant child-clown named Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson – can alter the powers of the Scottish Parliament whenever they want and in any way they deem “necessary or expedient” for their purposes – that purpose being ever and always the preservation of the Union. I think it’s fair to say that Section 30 isn’t sounding like quite the boon to Scotland some seem to suppose it to be. It is simply another device by which the British state may rein in the Scottish Parliament. Or, at least, that was the intention. Belt and braces legislation. Just in case there were any loopholes which might allow Holyrood more power than was intended, Section 30 allows the British political elite to quickly patch up any chink in the armour protecting the Union. (Section 30 Is Not Scotland’s Salvation)

All of which gives rise to yet another question. Why would somebody misrepresent Section 30 in the way that Gerry Hassan does? The answer, I think, can be discerned in the overall tone of his article. In common with the SNP leadership and probably the larger part of the Yes movement, Gerry Hassan proceeds on two associated, and somewhat contradictory, assumptions. Firstly, that the British state will continue to heap increasingly intolerable impositions on Scotland and that this will have the effect of increasing support for independence. Secondly, that despite this predisposition for treating Scotland with the contempt that flows from the very nature of the Union, the British state is, nonetheless, bound by the very democratic principles that the first assumption discounts.

The underlying idea is that the British state will drive the people of Scotland increasingly towards independence as an escape from the ever more onerous repression of autocratic, anti-democratic British Nationalism empowered by the Union, to the point where the British state – which regards resistance to such democratic demands as an existential imperative – must buckle before the demand for an end to the ever more onerous repression of autocratic, anti-democratic British Nationalism empowered by the Union.

The self-defeating circularity of this idea is too obvious to be worth explaining. But what is truly depressing about it is something which may be a little less obvious. Note how it is entirely about what the British state does and what is done to Scotland and how Scotland responds to what is done to it by the British state. Nowhere in there will you find any suggestion of Scotland doing anything. Scotland is the powerless victim. Being proactive isn’t even a possibility.

What makes this depressing is that it all too accurately reflects what is happening in the real world away from academic pontification. Independence isn’t happening for the simple and plainly obvious reason that nobody is making it happen.

Worse! If Gerry Hassan is correct, nobody is going to do anything to make it happen. Not ever! The mindset of those who have the potential to make it happen is such that they cannot conceive of making anything happen. Waves must not be made! Boats must not be rocked! Horses must not be frightened! Say only what is necessary to keep alive the hope that relief will be given. Never so much as hint at the idea that power might be taken. Scotland’s cause is stuck fast in the mire of a conviction that belief is sufficient. That action is not necessary. Action equals aggression and aggression discourages belief.

This attitude may be familiar to those who wade through Pete Wishart’s insufficiently occasional musings and mutterings from Perthshire. Arguably, there is no more stubbornly unthinking proponent of the notion that independence is eventually inevitable so long as we don’t actually do anything to force the pace. Or, for that matter, cause there to be any pace at all. Like his patently inane concept of an ‘Optimum Time’, independence is ‘out there’ somewhere waiting for us to happen upon it. We need only drift along, imperceptibly propelled by gentle persuasion, sustained by nothing more than saintly patience.

We should be untroubled by the British political elite dismantling our democratic institutions and destroying the apparatus of our state and disposing of our essential public services. Don’t think of this as harming us! Think of it as helping us in some way that remains curiously unexplained. Besides, that’s their way. We are better than that. They may have hands to slap, but we have cheeks to turn. Which means we must win. Although, again, the how of it remains a mystery.

For all this palpable nonsense, Pete Wishart does stumble on something meaningful. Although I suspect he neither intended this nor understands the significance of it. Among the seemingly endless list of things he instructs us not to say or do we find a prohibition against “trying to game or trick our way to independence”. There’s an element of this tricking and gaming in Gerry Hassan’s speculation on how things might pan out over the coming indeterminate period. It’s a waiting game, and the trick is to wait. But the eventualities which transpire are convoluted enough to appear convincing. Or, at least, worthy of one of Scotland’s leading political commentators. Gerry is always good value for his publisher’s money.

Lots of stuff might happen. And what happens may have lots of consequences. There will always be a job for those who purport to be able to unravel the impenetrable complexity they describe. The rule is that things can never be simple. If politics was straightforward, anybody could do it – or fathom it. Even ‘ordinary’ people!

Moreover, politics must be devilishly hard and fiendishly complicated so politicians have an excuse for getting it wrong. And so they can convince the rest of us that, when they do get it wrong, they are the only ones who can fix it.

The reality is that politics is surprisingly simple. We’d only be surprised because so much effort has been put into persuading us that it’s beyond our comprehension. At the core of even the most intractable political issue there is always a very simple idea. A quite clear division of opinion. A choice which, however difficult it may be to make, is always easy to express when stripped of the clutter heaped upon it by those with a vested interest in discouraging engagement with the issue and/or manipulating the perceptions of those who do engage.

Scotland’s constitutional issue is simple. I have watched in increasing frustration and despair as it has been buried in a morass of ‘ah buts’ and ‘what ifs’. It is a simply choice between reverting to being a normal nation or persevering with a political union which only the deluded and the dishonest can defend. You make your choice. Then you make it happen. That’s all there is to politics.

Gerry Hassan’s article is profoundly depressing because it so vividly illuminates the fact that, while our political leaders may have made the choice to restore Scotland’s independence, they are neither doing nor proposing anything which might actually make it happen. In all of Gerry’s analysis and speculation, there is not so much as a hint of any bold, decisive action on the part of the SNP – as either party of administration – designed or intended to make the change happen.

If that is not depressing enough, consider that we don’t even expect this any more. Few are shocked or angered when nothing happens. The tantalising carrot of a new referendum has been dangled in front of us for so long we’ve grown accustomed to the fact that it is always just out of reach. We’ve been trained to be content with it still being just in sight. We get excited when it is talked about so much that it seems closer than it ever is.

I’m not fooled. And I can no longer fool myself. It’s hard to say what tipped the balance for me. I question everything. And I some time ago ceased to be able to come up with any satisfying or encouraging answers. One thing I do recall that had a more profound effect on me than even I realised at the time was when, at a Women for Independence event, Nicola Sturgeon mocked the #DissolveTheUnion hashtag. It was clear that she hadn’t a clue about the thinking behind the hashtag. But her jokey dismissal of the very idea of dissolving the Union struck a chill in my heart that has never receded.

There is no independence without dissolving the Union which negates our independence. It is the most fundamental and crucial action which required in order to restore our independence – in order to reinstate constitutional normality. And here we have the individual who is supposedly responsible for taking that action laughing at the very mention of it. Before anyone dismisses this as a momentary and trivial lapse, we lately have another senior SNP politician angrilly berating those who so much as mention dissolving the Union and insisting that nobody who is a genuine independence supporter must ever speak of it.

There’s more, of course. Much more. But there is nothing which doesn’t cause me to end 2019 in total despair for Scotland’s cause. The aspiration to restore Scotland’s independence is as strong in me now as it ever was. Time has not diminished it at all. Gerry Hassan’s counsel of despair, while appropriate to my mood, is quite redundant. I am already resigned to the fact that independence isn’t happening. Because nobody is making it happen.



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Tribute act

It takes a remarkable level of shallow-thinking to suppose that there might be a single universally appropriate method of communicating any idea, never mind a contentious political message. Pete Wishart is up for the challenge. He would have independence activists paralysed by fear of upsetting someone. One gets the distinct impression that his preference would be that we all submit our comments to his office to be approved before publication. And the strong sense that most of them wouldn’t make it through.

Let us not forget that the man who would be king of the censors is the same clown who proclaimed his desire to be dragged to the Speaker’s chair in the British House of Commons. The kind of unconsidered outburst that might have even the most committed advocate of free speech reaching for the blue pencil.

Read Wishart’s latest mindless mumblings from Perthshire and you’ll be treated to the self-styled master of political communication interrupting his celebration of the SNP’s success in the recent election to spin an embarrassingly feeble and self-serving excuse for the SNP’s failure to motivate its own support in the 2017 snap UK general election. I can easily imagine knowledgeable professional communicators physically cringing as they read this. I can hear the tone of breathless incredulity as they wonder aloud why an experienced political operator would mar his party’s moment of triumph by reminding everyone of a past episode which positively pleads for the veil of discretion.

I can feel their foreheads crumple like discarded Christmas wrapping paper as they discover Wishart compounding this crass indiscretion by attributing the SNP’s electoral success, not to the party’s electoral offering or the efforts of the party’s army of activists, but to a tactical blunder by the party’s opponents!

Astonishingly, this individual who is evidently all but totally lacking in any awareness of how his own words are perceived purports to know exactly what the entire electorate is feeling and thinking. A feat which is facilitated by regarding said electorate as a homogenous entity whose responses are so mechanical as to be totally predictable.

Perhaps it’s not so surprising that someone capable of such inanely simplistic generalisation could be sufficiently shallow-minded as to suppose it possible that a script might be devised which campaigners could recite on the doorsteps and win instant converts to the cause of restoring Scotland’s independence. Wishart’s idea of political campaigning is disturbingly reminiscent of the programmed performances of telephone customer service operatives in businesses where their sole function is to act as a protective barrier shielding incompetent managers from disgruntled clients.

The death-blow to his credibility comes as Wishart mocks the foolishness of the Tories thinking that “Scotland 2019 was exactly the same as Scotland 2017”. An observation which, while undoubtedly accurate, fair reeks of dumb hypocrisy when placed alongside his insistence that the independence campaign now – or whenever Nicola Sturgeon decides to start it – must employ exactly the same strategy as for the 2014 campaign. Apparently, Scotland changed dramatically between 2017 and 2019, but not at all between 2012 and 2020.

Imagining that the obsessive ‘positivity’ of the first independence referendum campaign might still be appropriate in present circumstances is every bit as plainly idiotic as the notion of a single form of words which might have a magical effect on voters. It’s in the same league as Pete and The Postponers’ previous chart-topping inanity, ‘Optimum Time‘.

Pete Wishart has become a tribute act to himself!



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Litany of complacency

If you didn’t already have concerns about the SNP leadership’s approach to the constitutional issue then you surely will after reading Pete Wishart’s latest blog article. It’s really no more than a restatement of the stuff we’ve been getting from various SNP worthies over the past week or two. This, it seems, is the party’s official response to the growing grumbles of dissatisfaction and increasing demands for a rethink from across the independence movement. Basically, that response boils down to a patronising insistence that dissenting voices should just shut up and leave things to the ‘professionals’. Few do patronising better than Pete Wishart.

There are a number of elements to the message being peddled by and on behalf of the SNP leadership.

Time is not a factor

Relax! No need to fret! There is no urgency! If we just keep on plodding along as we’ve been doing for the last five years then we’ll get there. There’s no need to consider what the British government might do in the meantime. We have to trust that the British establishment will behave with restraint and with respect for democratic principles.

Let’s not think about the fact that, according to the polls, five years of plodding has got us nowhere. Let’s draw a discreet veil over the conduct of the British political elite in recent, and not so recent times. Nothing bad is going to happen! It’ll take as long as it takes.

Opposition is unsustainable

The British political elite can’t go on denying us a referendum. The British public won’t stand for it! Any day now, the people who persist in electing increasing rabid right-wing governments are going to see the error of their ways and tell their political leaders to be nice to Scotland.

We don’t have to do anything. It’ll just happen. Don’t be deceived by the fact that the British parties’ opposition to a new referendum is hardening and the language growing more strident. It’s all going to crumble sometime. Honest!

A Scottish referendum can’t be ‘legal’

The only way a referendum can be ‘legal; is if it is sanctioned by the British government and conducted according to rules and procedures that meet with their approval. Never mind all the international laws and conventions guaranteeing the right of self-determination; these are all subordinate to ‘Great British Law’.

It’s not just us who are expected to accept this. Apparently, it matters not at all how unimpeachably democratic our referendum is, the entire international community will be waiting on the not from the British Prime Minister before they recognise independent Scotland.

Leave campaign strategy to us

The campaign for independence must not deviate in any way from the strategy adopted by the SNP for the 2014 campaign. It doesn’t matter how badly the Union affects Scotland, don’t mention it. Stick with the ‘positive case for independence’ and be keep on trying to find better answers to whatever questions British Nationalists throw at us.

Don’t focus on the fact that this strategy stopped having any effect after 2014. Believe us when we tell you in will work eventually. And don’t worry! We ave all the time we need!

And don’t fret! If the Section 30 process doesn’t work out despite us have all our fingers crossed then “we will have to consider a range of options”. We’re not saying what those options are; or how they can be legal when we’ve said the Section 30 process is the only legal way. It would be better if everybody just stopped talking about other options because we are committed to the Section 30 process despite the fact that we recognise it is likely to fail and we will then need those other options that we don’t want anyone talking about.

Anyway! We’ve plenty of time! Because the British political elite are basically a decent bunch and they’d never do the dirty on us.

People who question any of this are zoomers

Beware of anybody who so much as raises an eyebrow at the SNP’s ‘plans’. Denounce anyone who questions the orthodox analysis and standard conclusions. Ignore all that crazy talk about how it’s Scotland’s referendum because the people of Scotland are sovereign. Disregard the nutters who say the legal validity of our referendum rests on a solid body of international laws and conventions. Anybody who says we should go against the British state is just daft.

Pay no attention to folk who claim the democratic legitimacy of our referendum derives from the sovereignty of Scotland’s people. Obviously, we agree that the people are sovereign. Just not quite as sovereign as the British crown in the British parliament. We must remember our place.

Have you got the message? Are you all just going to settle down and stop your #DissolveTheUnion nonsense?



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