Our nation! Our rules!

However, we are fast learning that the problem with devolution is that the powers and competences of the Scottish Parliament exist only at Westminster’s pleasure.

SNP need independence ‘contingency’ plans as Tories rip up the rule book

I am not sure who the “we” is in this sentence, but the “we” that includes me have known this ever since devolution was first conceived of. If anyone is only just figuring this out now then “fast” is not the appropriate word to describe their learning process. If someone is just learning for the first time that “power devolved is power retained” – as Canon Kenyon Wright put it – then let me be among the first to welcome them to our planet. We might well add that it is not only “powers and competencies” but the Scottish Parliament itself which lives in the constant shadow of the British state’s boot heel.

Few things, excepting the British government’s behaviour towards Scotland, better exemplify the precariousness of Scotland’s democracy under the Union than Section 30 of the Scotland Act (1998).

Basically, Section 30 means that any British Prime Minister, wielding monarchical powers, can do as they please with the devolution settlement and the Scottish Parliament. It will be argued that this authority is not absolute; that there are formal (legal/constitutional) and informal (political) constraints that stay the hand of the British Premier. But Scotland’s status in the Union means that those formal constraints are no more guaranteed to us than are the competences of the Scottish Parliament. Because they are guaranteed to us only by the British state. Which, as Section 30 of the Scotland Act (1998) makes clear, is no guarantee at all.

As to the informal constraints, they are no more secure than the formal ones. Politics is the dynamic management of relationships of power. The important word here being “dynamic”. Circumstances are never fixed. Situations are always fluid. The purpose of the Union is to give England-as-Britain a permanent and very considerable advantage in managing power relationships with Scotland – which to all intents and purposes is regarded as annexed territory. It is never a question of whether the ruling elites of nascent Little Britain have the advantage but only ever a question of whether and how they use that advantage.

For much of the latter half of the period of the Union to date the British ruling elite have opted to take a ‘soft’ approach to matters. In this, they were enabled by having placemen in Scotland giving them control of much of the apparatus of the Scottish state while giving the appearance of control being local. But that changed with devolution. Or, to be more precise, it changed with the rise of the Scottish National Party. The Scottish Parliament was intended to be permanently under the control of the British parties. It mattered not at all to the British which of the British parties it was as they also had control of the British parties – the British political parties being part of the British establishment.

Devolution was only permitted by the British ruling elite because and on condition that the Union was fully protected. Only when the right interests had been persuaded that the Union would never be placed in jeopardy was the devolution experiment allowed to proceed. Section 30 is the belt to go with the braces. It is there to persuade doubters that devolution poses no threat to the parliamentary sovereignty which legitimises the structures of power, privilege and patronage which define the British state.

The important dates on the devolution time-line are 2007, when the British parties lost control of the ‘pretendy wee parliament’, and 2011, when the Scottish electorate via the SNP gave jealous Britannia a bit of a kick on the arse. That got her attention.

Ever since 2011, and in some regards since 2007, the British political elite has been intent on undermining, sidelining, denigrating and delegitimising the Scottish Parliament. The distinct political culture that had always existed in the depths of Scotland’s culture began to rise to the surface. Under the SNP, this distinctiveness was being formalised in Scotland’s institutions and infrastructure. This could not be permitted. The soft approach to keeping Scotland reined and hobbled had to harden. Britannia had to rule, whatever the cost.

We are not just learning all of this. It was known as long ago as 2007 that the British were coming to burn down our Parliament and enfold all of Scotland once and for all into the chill embrace of Greater England. Is is absolutely no surprise to find that the British state has found in Boris Johnson a British Prime Minister who will facilitate the re-annexation of Scotland. It comes as no shock at all to witness the British government taking an ever harder line in its dealings with Scotland. It was only to be expected that the advantage afforded British Nationalists by the Union would be exploited with increasingly explicit rigour. That’s just politics!

The 4th dimension

One of the more perplexing things about political discourse around the constitutional issue is the strange tendency on the part of many people to exclude the fourth dimension from their thinking. It’s not just that they analyse and speculate as if time didn’t matter. Very often they proceed as if time didn’t exist. They will articulate proposals or solutions as if time was not a consideration. If they detail process to any extent at all, that process is time-compressed in a manner reminiscent of the way time is compressed in movies and TV shows. Characters are in one place and then they are in another and the time taken to get from one place to another doesn’t exist unless that time is useful to the telling of the story.

Call me what you will. I once did a rough calculation which made my point. I no longer have the details to hand and can’t even remember what the TV programme was, other than that it was a UK crime drama or an episode of a police procedural series. Noting all the locations in which the lead character appeared within the time period represented in the story, I calculated the journey times involved. The result showed that in a period of less than 24 hours the character had spent more than 20 hours travelling. Virtually all of that time had been ‘disappeared’ by the programme makers.

And so it is with much of the ‘thinking’ about Scotland’s constitutional situation. People will insist that we need a new party to be the political arm of the independence movement. Having decided this, they then go straight to the new location omitting completely the time it takes to get there. Mention the fact that it’s taken the SNP 90 years to get where it is and you will be accused of being a party loyalist. I could give many more examples. But I think you get the idea. The thing that tends to be omitted from proposals and plans is a time-frame. Or at least a realistic time frame.

Time matters. In the context of Scotland’s predicament time is of the essence. The time-frame is not something we can manipulate to squeeze in however much action we want. The time-frame within which we must act it restricted, restrictive and growing tighter by the hour. It is most definitely not open-ended, as implied by Nicola Sturgeon in recent remarks made in an interview with Andrew Marr. The journey time to the location at which the coronavirus crisis and its “economic legacy” is dealt with is undefined and undefinable, but without doubt far longer than the duration of the episode we are in.

Things are happening. Things are about to happen. Things that will be to the severe detriment of Scotland and its people and its democracy. We know this! We have a copy of the script. We can see the other players cards. The other player is now so emboldened as to be making no attempt to conceal those cards. There are mere months at most until Scotland arrives at what will effectively be a point of no return. A point at which we are locked into a new Union on terms unilaterally decided by the British political elite – absent any meaningful consultation with Scotland’s political leaders and without the consent of Scotland’s people. A point at which all democratic routes to the restoration of Scotland’s independence are closed and sealed. A point at which England-as-Britain finalises the annexation of Scotland. A point at which Scotland effectively ceases to exist as a nation other than for certain marketing purposes. (Ironically, ‘Scotland The Brand’ will survive. But it will be wholly owned by the British ruling elite.)

No hurry!

It is not only in the general political blethering that there is a strong tendency to disregard the time factor. The same tendency has afflicted ‘thinking’ within the SNP. For the last five or six years the upper echelons of the party have behaved as if populated entirely by Pete Wishart clones. But let’s not get into that. The failures and failings of the SNP over the period since 2014 are a matter of record. This issue has been endlessly discussed and minutely analysed by countless people – myself concluded. And that is as it should be. It is entirely fitting and absolutely essential that these failures and failings be known and understood.

But we know! We understand! There comes a point where you have to pack up that knowledge and understanding and take it with you as you move on – always aware that you have that knowledge and understanding still and for whatever use it might be.

We have to move on. Because, like it or not and regardless of whatever else may be going on in the world, we are caught in a time-frame from which we cannot escape. Everything that has happened since 2007 has been building up – at an accelerating pace – to developments that will unfold over the coming six months or so. Brexit at the end of this year is destined to be a defining moment in Scotland’s history every bit as much as the SNP landslide of 2011. At that point, the true nature and purpose of the Union will be made abundantly clear to all. The advantage afforded England-as-Britain will manifest as naked domination rather than the disrespect, disregard and clumsily subtle delegitimisation we’ve seen up to now. Unless we do something about it. And do it now!

What to do?

What should we do? What can we do? Taking due account of all factors including the constraints of time, how should we proceed? Avoiding the error of supposing that the end is the process, what should that process be? What is the end anyway?

If you suppose the end to be flooding the Scottish Parliament with pro-independence MSPs, you will think primarily in terms of a process which leads to that end. Or, as is presently the case with certain actors on the fringes of Scottish politics, you will disdain to consider the process at all.

If you suppose the end to be implementation of a particular policy agenda, you will think primarily in terms of a process which leads to that end. Or, as is presently the case with certain actors on the fringes of Scottish politics, you will disdain to consider the process at all.

If you suppose the end to be the dissolution of the Union and the restoration of Scotland’s independence, you will think primarily in terms of a process which leads to that end. Or, as is presently the case with the SNP leadership, you will exhibit no outward indications of considering the process at all.

But the SNP is hardly at the fringes of Scotland’s politics. It is right there at the centre. It is one of the critical components of the apparatus and process by which Scotland will be saved from the trundling juggernaut of British Nationalism. There are four such critical components – the people of Scotland; the Scottish Parliament; the Scottish Government; and the Scottish National Party. Remove or disable any one of these components and you also remove any possibility of Scotland having and retaining the power to determine its own future.

Only one of those components is disputed within the independence movement. The SNP! It is just a political party! It is not the whole independence movement! It’s not all about the SNP! How often have you heard such things said? Are you not sick of it?

The SNP is ‘just a political party’. But political parties are important. They are the means by which people exercise collective power in the realm of public policy in the same way as trade unions are the way people exercise power in the realm of employment. The only ones who disparage the utility of political parties are those who have reason to fear the collective power of people. Or those who are ignorant of what political parties actually are and what they are for.

If a political party ceases to be a vehicle for collective power then that can only be because the people who own that party aren’t using their collective power to control it. Power that is not exercised does not evaporate. It goes by default to those who are prepared to exercise it. Thus, through apathy and indolence, the collective power of political parties falls to an elite within the party. Then the apathetic and the indolent disparage political parties for not allowing them the power they disdained to exercise. The more political parties are disparaged, the more those with a tendency to apathy and indolence disdain to use them as vehicles for their democratic power. So, the more that democratic power falls to the elite that is prepared to seize it and use it for its own purposes.

See the vicious cycle?

If you do, you’ll recognise what has happened to political parties through the ages and what is happening to the SNP now. Members forsake their power within the party and that power is taken by a relatively small clique and members disengage because they cease to see the party as a means to exercise collective power so they forsake that power and… so it goes on.

Now place this in the context of the immediate constitutional predicament and the urgent need to end the Union before the Union ends Scotland. The SNP is a crucial part of this because it is the only political party in a position to turn popular power into effective political power. It is the only party which is available to us right now through which the people can exercise collective power in order to achieve the end of restoring independence.

There may be other parties which lay claim to this role. It may be claimed that this role may be fulfilled by a number of parties. Think about that one for a moment. Collective power exercised through numerous agencies!? It is a glaring contradiction in terms! And the parties which proclaim themselves alternatives to the SNP are guilty of the fallacy of the missing fourth dimension. There is no time! What must be done must be done now! Not in however many election cycles it takes for an alternative to emerge! A party which will, in any case, be susceptible to the same problems as are now besetting the SNP!

Hands up everybody who thinks the British political elite respects the collective and the consensual and ‘rainbow coalitions’. All the naive fools may now lower their hands. The British state respects only brute political power. Even if there were another party or parties in a position to give effect to the collective power of the people that party or parties would not be effective because to split collective power is to weaken it. That is why trade unionists have a certain antipathy for ‘scabs’.

The logic goes thus. The SNP plays a crucial role in the fight to restore Scotland’s independence. No viable alternative is available and there is zero possibility of such an alternative becoming available in time to be a viable alternative. The SNP is not fulfilling its role as a component of the apparatus by which independence will be restored. Conclusion! Make the SNP fulfil its role!

Why is this not obvious? Why are people abandoning the SNP and running around grabbing at any magical solution or cunning plan whose glitter catches their eye? Why are they abandoning the simplest logical path to go wandering in the desert of ineffectual whining? Why are they not choosing to be effective? Why are they not using the democratic power they possess in the most effective way possible by deploying the tools already at their disposal? Is it only because they have lost the capacity to appreciate time? Is it because they are unaware of Scotland’s true predicament and the imminence of the threat to our nation?

A question of loyalty

It should be clear from the foregoing that I regard the SNP as a tool. Just as I regard all political parties as tools. One can have a certain fondness for tools. One can have favourites. One can appreciate the particular attributes of a tool and the efficiency with which it performs its function. One will certainly favour a particular tool over another when it comes to a specific function. One may even be said to ‘love’ a tool because it has a prominent place in your life. But can one be loyal to a tool? I certainly couldn’t. I wouldn’t know how.

There is a job to be done. We, the people, are the only ones who can do that job. We cannot do that job without the proper tool(s). If we have a tool and it isn’t doing the job then whose fault can that be but our own? If the tool is not well maintained then who should we blame but ourselves? If we need that tool put in good working order who but ourselves should we expect to do that?

Choosing the right tool for the job is not a matter of loyalty. It is a matter of practicality.

Job specification

What is the job that we have to do? Knowing what it is that we want to achieve, how do we go about it? What is the process that leads to the stipulated objective?

The end point is independence. But what does that mean in plain language. It means the end of the Union. It means the restoration to the Scottish Parliament of all the competencies of a democratically elected Parliament. It means the restoration to the Scottish nation all the assets and attributes which are its due. It means the restoration to the people of Scotland the full capacities of the sovereignty that is theirs by absolute right.

None of this will be given. All of this must be taken. The Union will not be ended unless we end it. The parliamentary competencies presently arrogated by England-as-Britain will not be restored unless we restore them. That which is Scotland’s will not be returned to Scotland’s ownership unless we assume possession. The people of Scotland will not exercise the full capacities of their sovereignty unless they choose so to do.

In practical terms this means that people, party, government and parliament must combine to effect the dissolution of the Union by declaring the Union dissolved. All must combine to effect the restoration of our Parliament’s rightful powers and competencies by asserting those competencies in that Parliament. All must combine to affirm ownership by Scotland of all that is rightfully Scotland’s. All must combine simply to be the sovereign people of Scotland and its genuine voice.

The Scottish National Party will be fit for purpose when it commits to this process and this agenda. It is for us – all of us – to ensure that it does.


I did not set out to write all that I have. But that’s how it turned out. Because, for me, writing is thinking. And I want to end on the kind of positive note I’ve been finding it very difficult to strike of late. To this end, I return to the article in The National by Joanna Cherry and something she writes at the very end of the piece.

This Tory Government has a significant majority. Most of its MPs are 100 per cent signed up to project Little Britain. In order to realise their dreams, they are quite prepared to undermine the devolved settlement that has been the settled will of the Scottish people for more than two decades. The question for the Independence movement and for the SNP is whether, with this level of disrespect for Scottish democracy, we can be sure that a second independence referendum will be guaranteed simply by the SNP winning yet another election.

The answer, of course, is no. In terms of the constitutional issue, the SNP winning the next Scottish Parliament election will achieve nothing other than continue to keep the Parliament out of the hands of the British parties. A worthy enough achievement in its own right and something which is, for obvious reasons, the first and only priority of any election strategy. But as things stand this takes us no nearer either a referendum or independence. So we have to change how things stand.

What makes the difference is the SNP winning the next election having adopted a Manifesto for Independence which commits the Scottish Government to the actions outlined above. Principally, renouncing the Section 30 process; affirming the sovereignty of Scotland’s people; and asserting the competence of the Scottish Parliament in all matters relating to the constitution.

Make it happen! For in this instance it most assuredly is correct and fitting to say ‘there’s no other way’.

Another word from Joanna Cherry.

This Westminster Tory Government is ripping up the rule book. It is time for some serious contingency planning.

With respect, I’d like to rephrase that. This Westminster Tory Government is ripping up the rule book. It is time for us to write our own rules.

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What hope?

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

Saint Augustine

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

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

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

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

Mahatma Gandhi

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

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

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

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

Nicola Sturgeon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ghost teacher

People who, for some inexplicable reason, think now is the right time to claim that independence can’t or won’t be achieved under the current SNP leadership.

Caitlin Logan: Infighting must not get in the way as independence nears

There is nothing “inexplicable” about the reason people are coming to the conclusion that “independence can’t or won’t be achieved under the current SNP leadership”. The reason is simple and obvious and has been set out countless times by numerous commentators – myself included. Either Caitlin Logan is too blinkered to have seen these explanations or she is being downright dishonest.

Nor can she sensibly claim that she is ignoring the explanation on account of it being unworthy of a response. Because the reason I and others doubt independence can’t or won’t be achieved under the current SNP leadership is that the current SNP leadership has declared that it will not or cannot play its role in achieving independence. (Independence is not an ‘achievement’, by the way. But that’s a whole other scolding.)

The current SNP leadership has declared an unwavering and uncompromising commitment to the Section 30 process. That process cannot lead to the restoration of Scotland’s independence. (See! Not ‘achievement’!) Therefore, it is perfectly reasonable for anyone to assume that the present SNP leadership is not genuinely intent on the restoration of Scotland’s independence. In fact, you’d have to be pretty stupid not to harbour doubts in the face of the current SNP leadership effective declaring that it can’t or won’t do the job we put it there to do.

Caitlin Logan is correct about many things. She is correct to maintain, as is implied, that independence will only be restored by an SNP administration. But there is no rational reason to believe it will be an SNP administration wedded to the Section 30 process. That means there must be either a change in the personnel or a change off the personnel. And if that is too blunt for some delicate SNP sensibilities then I have to tell them that I do not give a proverbial for their silly sensibilities. My priorities are evidently not theirs.

Caitlin is also correct about the list party nonsense being nonsense. But I don’t think she understand’s why people are resorting to such nonsense. People resort to magical solutions when they no longer have confidence in the people and agencies that are supposed to implement real-world solutions. That does not justify them putting their faith in mumbo-jumbo. But it is an explanation. The explanations are there if you choose to look for them, Caitin!

People have lost confidence precisely because the current SNP leadership doesn’t have a plan other than planning to wait and see how things turn out and if they turn out well pretend that’s what they planned and if it turns out badly use that as an excuse to wait a bit longer in the hope that things go right and they can claim that their ‘plan’ is back on track.

Nicola Sturgeon’s greatest asset is not her leadership skills or her abilities as a communicator but her luck!

Caitlin Logan would have us believe there has been a plan of action for the past five – nearly six – years. Don’t tell me! Show me! Show me the plan! and don’t give me that slippery drivel involving metaphors about chess or poker or medieval Japanese warfare or the dubious ‘wisdom’ of dead European emperors. Those metaphors evaporate under the slightest scrutiny. There may be a potentially infinite number of unique chess games but there is not an infinite number of moves available at any given point in any game. Good chess players know what moves are available. And so do their opponents. So unless Nicola has invented a new chess piece and is keeping it hidden under the table, STFU about politics being like a game of chess!

Want me to destroy the other specious rationalisations for their being no evident plan? Maybe another time. I’ve a final point to make.

Caitlin Logan does what many apologists for the SNP leadership are doing at the moment. She presents Nicola Sturgeon’s unquestionably superb handling of the public health crisis and the resultant blip in the polls as ‘proof’ that there is a plan and that it is working. I’m not fooled by this. Nor should you be. The coronavirus crisis is only tangentially related to the constitutional issue at the very most. But however large it may loom in our lives right now, the present crisis is a passing issue. The Union and its severely and increasingly deleterious impact on Scotland is an abiding issue.

In a month or two and certainly before a new referendum the public health crisis will have slipped off the rolling news and out of public consciousness. Nicola Sturgeon’s handling of it won’t be forgotten. But it will have rapidly diminishing value as a campaigning gambit. Banging on about it may even become counter-productive as it begins to prompt the question, “Aye! But whit huv ye done fur us lately, hen?”

I thank and congratulate Caitlin on avoiding the ‘never closer to independence’ ordure favoured by certain of our elected representatives. (I’m not going to say who he is. But am I the only one who has a tendency to put the “y” in ‘Smyth’ rather than in ‘Alan’?) She skirts close, however, in her final paragraph.

As it stands, things are looking up for Scottish independence. If there’s anything that can shatter that momentum, it will be a refusal to learn from the ghosts of politics past

Things are not “looking up for Scottish independence”, Caitlin. There is no momentum to shatter. It was smothered long since by the inaction and inertia of the current SNP leadership. To deny this is to refuse to “learn from the ghosts of politics past”.

Talk to the hand?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The train now standing…

The guy who only a few months ago said “We’ve never been closer to independence!” has a hard neck talking about “showboating chaff” from others. And why does Alyn Smith devote so much space to publishing his CV? Is that supposed to impress us? There are, in the Yes movement, many people who could produce an even more impressive account of the effort they have devoted to Scotland’s cause over far more decades than Alyn Smith can claim. And, unlike Mr Smith, doing so unpaid.

He dismisses talk of process. He insists we concentrate on policy. After 20 years in politics you’d think he’d have learned that without process policy goes nowhere. Without process there is no movement. To be so disdainful of process is like saying you don’t care if a vehicle actually runs so long as it is fitted with all the latest technology.

The reality, I suspect, is that Mr Smith doesn’t want to discuss process because he has absolutely nothing to say on the subject. He sure as hell doesn’t want to answer question about the Section 30 process. He won’t explain how it can possibly deliver to a free and fair referendum. He doesn’t want to explain how it can ever be a route to independence.

He is right about one thing. We do need to persuade people. I totally accept that the “gentle persuasion” favoured by him and his pal Pete “The Postponer” Wishart is one way to go about it. Just not the only way! And I would gently point out to both of them that no amount of “gentle persuasion” is going to persuade people to board a train that isn’t going anywhere because the tracks of process haven’t been laid.

Alyn Smith and Pete Wishart want to lure people onto the independence train with talk of how the rail system might be financed and how much more comfortable the seats could be. They are content for the train to remain in the station for as long as it takes to fill it with passengers. But the people running the station are idiots and the place is ablaze. Mr Smith and Mr Wishart look at the encroaching flames and the imminent inferno and tell us we should tolerate being scorched because the fire is driving more people to board the train regardless of the fact that it’s going nowhere.

I want people on that train too. But I reckon we’ll get more travellers if we can assure them that the tracks are laid and a route planned that doesn’t involve trying to get the train to go where the tracks don’t go – as in Pete Wishart’s drivel about a detour to visit the EU. And, more to the point, a route that doesn’t involve running into buffers before the train even leaves the burning station – as in the British state’s ‘gold standard’ Section 30 route.

This is the last train. It may be the last train ever. But it’s certainly the last train for a long while. It has to go. When people see that it is actually getting out of the blazing station and going somewhere, they will rush to get on board. They won’t be deterred by the knowledge that the train is going to a place they’ve never been before, and will have to learn about as we travel and after we arrive. They will be exited by the prospect and confident that they can deal with any problems along the way and cope with whatever challenges being in a new place might bring.

People will board the independence train when the crew inspires confidence. If their questions about departure time and journey time are met with quotes from the company’s sales brochures then they are going to be sceptical about the ability of the crew to get them safely to their destination. They will wonder why the train manager is giving them his spiel about company policy on smoking when they’ve asked what time the train is leaving. They will be irked when the train manager launches into a glowing, travel-brochure account of the destination when they inquired about any track and signal work that might cause delays in getting to that destination. They’ll be seriously worried when they ask about the driver’s qualifications and experience only to have their attention drawn to how good she looks in the uniform.

Those on board and those still milling on the platform will all be baffled and horrified if the train manager shrugs off persistent questions by telling everybody that the train can’t go until the crew gets permission from the station-master. Who happens to be the one setting all the fires in the station. The one who wants to keep the train in the station because he’s destroying all the food outlets on the concourse and he knows the train’s catering service is sufficiently well-stocked to provide for him and select members of his staff – so long as everybody else is put on meagre rations.

The analogy may have been overworked, but it serves well to convey an idea of Scotland’s present predicament. Maybe, too, it serves to help us see what needs to be done to get us out of this predicament. We know there is only this train and this crew. We know what our destination is. Even if we don’t have a detailed street map and recent photographs of important landmarks and architect’s plans of every building, we know it’s where we must go – because staying is not a viable option. We know all of this, and knowing all of this we know that our best hope of getting out of the burning station and at least setting off on our journey is to urge a better performance from the team running the train.

We have to demand that the train leave now! If that means leaving without the station-master’s permission, so be it. Because the tracks are clear, at least to the first bend. Those tracks are not going to vanish or become impassible just because we didn’t get a form signed by an official who doesn’t even work for this rail company – our rail company. Because, you see, it’s our train. They’re our tracks. We are all shareholders. We own the train and we are entitled to use the rail network to go wherever we choose.

All aboard!!!

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Give cancer a chance?

Less than a year ago if you’d uttered the term “UDI” in conversation with a group of SNP members there would have been at least one pant-wetting incident and quite possible a hospitalisation. Or at least the attendance of paramedics. Talking about Scotland following any route to independence other than the ‘gold standard’ cul-de-sac chosen by our First Minister was generally regarded as heresy. Those guilty of pointing out the all too evident flaws in what was proclaimed to be the only true path to independence might well anticipate being introduced to exceptionally well heated accommodations in the belly of a giant male effigy wrought in wicker. How times have changed!

It seems like only yesterday that Nicola Sturgeon thought it appropriate to entertain a Women for Independence gathering with a wee routine roundly mocking the idea of dissolving the Union. Would she give that same performance now? Certainly not if she is as aware as she should of the mood in the party and the rest of the Yes movement. The WfI ladies may have thought it hilarious back then. Today, Nicola would be lucky to get a polite and plainly forced guffaw. The mood has shifted dramatically.

Certainly, there is no outward sign from the SNP political leadership and/or senior management that they realise the extent to which discourse within the independence movement has transformed over recent months. But we wouldn’t, or shouldn’t, expect that there would be an immediate and evident reaction. It takes time for such change to filter through and be assessed. And this is as it should be. Humza Yousaf and Pete Wishart (Aye! Him again!) have lately provided ample evidence of the dangers inherent in thoughtless, mindless, reckless knee-jerk reaction. Particularly on social media. Just as a car needs both an accelerator and a brake, political parties need both radical and conservative elements. The latter serve as a governor which prevents the radicalism running wild and becoming extremism or just plain idiocy. So it’s good that the party leadership should take a slightly cautious approach.

By the same token, the leadership must take care lest the mood of the membership runs ahead of them. As is likely to happen through being over-cautious. Given that the SNP high heidyins have gained a reputation for near-pathological hyper-caution, we would be justified in taking the lack of movement on their part as a continuation of the inertia that has beset the independence cause since 2014. If that proves to be the case, it’s as much our fault as theirs. Their resistance to change can only be effective if our insistence on change is inadequate. If there is no movement, push harder!

While it is now possible to discuss #ScottishUDI without fear of being stoned to death, there are hold-outs. There are still people who, while recognising that there are certainly problems with the Section 30 process, can’t quite bring themselves to cast off the old gods of meek compliance in order to fully embrace the new doctrine of constructive defiance. There are, rather amazingly, still people who opine that the Section 30 process should be given one more chance. It shouldn’t! It mustn’t!

The most common argument deployed in advocating another go at the utterly discredited Section 30 process is that we must be seen to have tried everything before doing something else. What this argument tends to avoid saying is that we must try everything repeatedly before moving on. Also left out is the bit about who exactly it is that we must convince that we’ve tried everything else before considering something else. Often, it’s a a creature called a ‘softno’ which we have to please. At times we are advised that we mustn’t disturb the delicate sensibilities of recent converts to Yes. By this account, Scotland’s cause hangs on the shoogliest of pegs and Scotland is largely inhabited by egos fragile as the finest porcelain.

The ‘softno’ may not be entirely a creature of myth. But has it ever been sighted outwith its natural habitat in focus groups? Even if these beasties are real, does it make sense to fashion an entire campaign that is limited by their sensitivities? If we are targeting only these ‘softnos’, or if we’re eschewing certain campaign strategies and tactics out of consideration for them, is it not likely that we will fail to reach those of a more robust constitution? There may be pockets of ‘softons’ surviving in the wild. But they are not the only prey out there. If we hunt armed only with feather dusters we won’t bring down any Unionists who are made of sterner stuff. and we need their votes too.

If the ‘softno’ is so rare as to only ever have been seen by pollsters, the wavering Yes voter is a seriously endangered species. It may be too early to tell – who knows what might appear from the mist-shrouded forests of lockdown – but I doubt if there is a viable breeding population. Be honest! Have you ever heard a credible account of a Yes supporter, fresh to the cause or otherwise, who went back over to the dark side? Is it not more common to find these new converts more evangelical on the matter of independence than is seemly? Whisper it! Their fervour can be a bit embarrassing betimes. It’s hard to imagine anything a fellow Yes supporter might do or say to drive them away. When people make the journey from No to Yes, they come not as visitors but as new residents – here to stay and welcome.

The trouble with caution is that it so readily descends into fearful inertia. We’ve borne witness to this over the last five years as the Scottish Government and the SNP totally stalled the independence campaign and by some accounts allowed it to roll backwards.

The reality is that when the argument is made for having another roll of the loaded Section 30 dice, the ‘softnos’ and wavering Yessers serve merely as proxies for the British establishment and its propaganda machine. It is an argument from a still colonised mind. It is an argument which fails to escape the Little Box of Britishness that the BBC and the rest devote so much effort to squeezing us into almost from the moment we are born anywhere in England-as-Britain’s periphery. The problem lies not with the attitudes and sensibilities of the people our campaign seeks to address, but in the mindset of those who continue to insist that we only address them in language constrained by a British etiquette that acts as a form of censorship and/or induces insidious self-censorship. And what is true of language is just as true of action. The colonised mind works like shackles that inhibit an deter movement.

The most significant growth in the Yes movement in its early days was fuelled by people inspired to cast off the shackles of their colonised minds by a combination of circumstances which either no longer pertain or which have weakened in terms of their ability to influence over the years. There are still many people in the Yes movement – including the SNP – who have not entirely freed their minds from colonisation. and a few whose minds may have been in a sense and to some extent recolonised as a result of their immersion in the British political mire. I think a name may immediately spring to mind. As much as we have to address those who may now be having doubts about their commitment to the Union, we need to help those in our midst who are yet to lose the vestiges of a mindset instilled by the British propaganda machine in diverse ways and over generations.

People are not inspired by inaction. Why would they be? We are venturing into new territory with the fight to restore Scotland’s independence. Hesitation and timidity will be fatal to our cause. Be need to be bold and assertive and ambitious and determined. The Section 30 process has no place in the mindset required for this fight. In truth, it never had a place in Scotland’s politics any more than a malignant tumour can be said to have a place in a body. It’s long past time that malignancy was excised completely. Nobody wants to give cancer a chance.

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It rather goes without saying that I agree with every word Jim Fairlie has written. The expression ‘of one mind’ has rarely been more apt. There are, however, one or two matters that are worthy of comment.

I think it important to be totally honest about the extent to which the independence movement has allowed itself to be manipulated by the British state’s propaganda machine and the ruthless political wiles which have been honed over centuries and are now deployed with the casual ease of second nature become first instinct.

When I talk about the independence movement, I mean the WHOLE independence movement. The fact that we’ve fallen into the habit of referring to ‘the SNP and the wider independence movement’ as if they were two quite distinct entities nicely illustrates the very point that Jim Fairlie makes about divide and conquer which the British state tends to deploy as a matter of course having learned nothing from the lessons of history. I freely, if somewhat shamefacedly, confess to having myself too often and too readily made this overly strong distinction between what are actually just aspects of the same phenomenon. This despite the fact that I am aware of the manipulation that’s in play. Which perhaps attests to the insidious power of that manipulation. I need to be more aware! We all do!

Saying that reference to the independence movement should at all times include the SNP is not, however, the same as saying that the movement behaves as one. The only point on which I diverge slightly from Jim Fairlie’s analysis is when he asserts that “our support has the elasticity and determination to take the strain of process debates to agree a strategy that will deliver independence”. I’m not so sure of either the elasticity or the determination. Not because the capacity or potential is lost to to the movement but because the will to tap that capacity and realise that potential has been overtaken by a combination of weariness and frustration.

In the period immediately following the tragedy of 2014 I frequently opined that the Yes movement had matured since its inception in the early years of the first independence referendum campaign. There was ample evidence of this maturity in the way the movement acted. But even as I delighted in it I could not help but be aware that just as purposeful maturity followed the often clumsy enthusiasm of youth, so it was the precursor to old age and decrepitude. The observation that youth is wasted on the young applies. The Yes movement has aged rapidly under the stresses and tensions of the last few years. And it’s starting to show.

I remain to be persuaded that the creaking joints and aching muscles of the Yes movement are capably of responding to the urging its now wise old brain. Nothing would please me better than to be proved wrong. It would gladden my heart greatly were the independence movement able to “agree a strategy that will deliver independence” and unite behind that strategy. But I see little evidence of that. And considerably more evidence that, as will happen with movements which are vulnerable to the malign influence of the British state’s tactics, diversity has become division has become factionalism – the cancer that kills any movement.

These personal doubts aside, I am in full agreement with Jim Fairlie. Not only in respect of his analysis but also with regard to his conclusions and recommendations. The strategy he outlines is the strategy behind which the entire independence movement SHOULD unite. It is not only obviously that right strategy it is the only strategy. It might be amenable to the odd tweak here and there – greater emphasis on renouncing the Section 30 process, perhaps – but we genuinely have run out of options. And we’re running out of time. Whatever motivates those who insist we must give the failed strategy one more try – and I accept that this is well intended – they are wrong. We can argue later about the wisdom of treating the Section 30 process as our ‘gold standard’ when it was always one of the British state’s ploys. Right now, we need to move on. And we need to do so while there is still hope that the ageing Yes movement can be roused to one final effort.

Which brings me to my final point. The strategy outlined by Jim Fairlie – a strategy which differs in no significant way from that which I have long advocated – has obvious implications for the coming Scottish Parliament elections and how they are fought by and on behalf of the SNP. But it is important to recognise that the implications are more far-reaching. This change of approach must be informed and underpinned by a fresh mindset. This is not merely tinkering with tactics. Adopting the strategy urged by Jim Fairlie, along with the appropriate shift of mindset, changes the fundamental nature of the independence movement. And it changes our nation.

The Scotland which approaches the constitutional issue as a nation determinedly asserting the sovereignty of its people and the exclusive competence of its Parliament is a very different entity from the country which behaved as a subordinate meekly petitioned a superior for the boon of permission to exercise an inalienable democratic right. It is a Scotland acting as a nation. It is a Scotland people can more easily envisage being a nation. It is a Scotland at last ready to cast off the Union and restore its rightful constitutional status.

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The viability test

If Plan A can work, then why are its proponents completely unable to explain how it will work? If the Section 30 process is a viable route to independence then it should be possible to describe each step in that process. Those steps should individually be credible and in aggregate lead to a free and fair referendum. Why is it that none of those who insist that the Section 30 process must adhered to are able or willing to lay out the process that they have in mind when they refer to that process? Why is it that nobody who claims that Plan A will work is prepared to even respond meaningful to any enquiry about the details?

All we know about Plan A – the Section 30 process – from direct observation is that it has a near perfect record of failure. The only time it even came close to working was 2014. But even though the 2014 referendum happened, the circumstances were totally different. Those circumstances will never arise again. We have to consider whether Plan A is viable now. And since 2014 Plan A has only failed. Requests for a Section 30 order have either been refused or they have not been made because refusal was a certainty. Plan A falls at the second hurdle. The first being persuading the Scottish Government to request the Section 30 order in the first place.

We either know or, mindful of the precautionary principle, we must assume from the available evidence that Plan A is bound to fail. The usual thing would be for the proponents of the plan to seek to persuade others of its viability. The absence of any meaningful effort to make a case for Plan A stands as further evidence that it is not viable. Simply asserting that it is the only ‘legal and constitutional’ process does not constitute a case. It is perfectly possible for a process to be both ‘legal’ and ‘constitutional’ and still be totally unworkable. Besides which, the onus is on the advocates of the British state’s “gold standard” to clearly demonstrate that the Section 30 process is ‘legal and constitutional’. And that it is the only process that is ‘legal and constitutional’. Otherwise, their claim is mere empty assertion.

Plan A’s proponents repeat like some kind of religious mantra the claim that refusal of a Section 30 order is “untenable”. But what does that even mean? I know that the word ‘untenable’ means unjustifiable and/or indefensible. But what does it mean in this context? Suppose we accept that continued refusal of a Section 30 order is, indeed, ‘untenable’. Suppose that it had shot straight to the top ten of the most ‘untenable’ things ever. Suppose it is now holding the number one spot despite numerous challenges from accomplished exponents of the unjustifiable and indefensible such as Donald Trump, Boris Johnson and the Israeli government. In what way does this make Plan A viable?

The insistence that continued refusal of a Section 30 order is ‘untenable’ is intended to suggest that the British Prime Minister is bound to back down. But why would they? Why should the British Prime Minister be in the slightest bit troubled by the fact that their position is unjustifiable and indefensible when there is nothing in law that requires them to justify or defend that position? The language is intended to imply that the position of denying a Section 30 order cannot be maintained indefinitely. But the reality is that it can be maintained indefinitely – and beyond. We know, or must assume this from the evidence. That evidence being the effortless ease with which the position has been and is being maintained.

The British Prime Minister’s refusal of a Section 30 order only becomes unsustainable – rather than merely ‘untenable’ – when there is a cost pursuant to that refusal which is greater than the benefit derived. There is no cost. The benefit is massive. Unless that changes, Plan A cannot sensibly even pretend to be workable.

If it is so certain that Plan A is not viable, why propose it? Why insist on it? That is for the advocates of Plan A to explain. But we might wonder why those who propose an alternative approach might demand that Mike Russell start the run up to the permission hurdle immediately. Why else but to demonstrate to the voting public that Plan A falters even at the first hurdle of getting the Scottish Government to submit a request, and so strengthen the case for their Plan B. Whether the Scottish Government refuses to submit a request or submits a request that is refused, the need for an alternative is more obvious and persuasive.

At this point we may postulate a position which is both untenable and unsustainable. If Mike Russell refuses to act on the demand to submit a Section 30 order he will be in a position that cannot be justified or defended and which could be electorally very costly for the SNP. And if the request is submitted only to be treated as contemptuously as its predecessors, Plan a is once again shown to be unworkable. Which is good news for Plan B.

But is Plan B good for Scotland’s cause? That’s a separate topic. It will be up to Angus MacNeil and Chris McEleny to persuade us that Plan B is viable. They’ll have to do a lot better than the proponents of Plan A.

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The Plan!

By all means read all of Joanna Cherry’s column. But focus on those last three paragraphs. They contain three very significant messages.

The Brexit process has very clearly illustrated the limits of devolution. So, while SNP MPs must do the job we were elected by our constituents to do at Westminster, the reality is that only action taken in Scotland to gain independence can secure a future where this sort of unwanted chaos cannot happen again.

Action taken in Scotland! Presumably, action taken in the Scottish Parliament. Is this not what some of us have been saying for a while now? The Scottish Parliament is the locus of Scottish political authority. Westminster has precisely no democratic legitimacy. Only the Scottish Parliament can speak and act for the people of Scotland whom all legitimate political authority derives.

It’s great to see an increase in support for independence in the opinion polls, but this, together with the SNP riding high in the polls, takes us no further forward unless we have a plan for how to secure our independence and what to do with it.

Unless we have a plan! Suggesting that we presently lack a plan. Something an increasing number of people are beginning to recognise. Joanna Cherry appears to be acknowledging that commitment to the Section 30 process does not constitute “a plan for how to secure our independence”. Unless I am reading too much into her comments, Ms Cherry may be the first senior SNP figure to break ranks on this. And what a welcome breakthrough this would be.

Those who want to discuss and debate such plans are to be applauded. The time for avoiding discussion of Plan B is over. That discussion and proposals like those of the Common Weal for a resilient Scotland should be centre stage if, as mooted, the SNP conference and national assemblies go online this autumn.

No ambivalence or ambiguity here. This amounts to a demand that the SNP leadership cease and desist from blocking discussion of alternative strategies for taking forward the fight to restore Scotland’s independence.

I still have concerns. My fear is that rather than opening up discussion of alternative strategies the party will restrict discussion to the Plan B being promoted by Angus MacNeil and Chris McEleny. The major issue I have with that is that this Plan B does not replace the current failed and failing Section 30 approach. It merely anticipates the next humiliating cycle of our First Minister going to Boris Johnson as a supplicant petitioning her superior for the boon of permission to exercise an inalienable democratic right – and being unceremoniously told to f*** off!

Angus and Chris are basically saying of the Section 30 process “One more chance!”. I maintain that we all should be saying “Never again!”. No more of this indignity! No more validating the British state’s claim to a veto over our right of self-determination! No more bargaining with the sovereignty of Scotland’s people!

The Section 30 process must be renounced. It must be explicitly and emphatically rejected. Discussion of alternative strategies must not be restricted to the MacNeil-McEleny Plan B but must be opened up to approaches which eschew the British state’s “gold standard” in measures to protect and preserve the Union.

As Joanna Cherry says, we need a plan designed to secure our independence. No ‘plan’ which is crucially dependent on the full, willing and honest cooperation of the British political elite can possibly qualify as a plan designed to restore Scotland’s independence. To the extent that the MacNeil-McEleny Plan B still involves the Section 30 process it is as much a plan to fail as the approach to which Nicola Sturgeon has wedded herself.

We have one more chance. We must learn the lessons of past failures. It is not merely a case of renouncing the Section 30 process. We urgently need to go back to first principles. We need to redefine our goal; reframe the entire constitutional issue, and devise a strategy appropriate to this reframing.

But first we must adopt a new mindset. Scotland is not an equal partner in a democratic political union. Scotland is effectively the annexed territory of England-as-Britain. British Nationalists want to formalise this annexation to create a single state moulded in the image of Boris Johnson’s Brexiteer Britain. They intend that Scotland, together with the rest of what British Nationalists regard as England-as-Britain’s periphery – be subsumed into what will effectively be Greater England – an indivisible and indissoluble state. Scotland will cease to exist other than as a marketing brand.

We don’t just need a plan. We need it urgently. We need it to work. We need it to work first time and with all possible haste. We do not need a Plan B for the next time Plan A fails. We need a new Plan A that succeeds.

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Plan B(ollocks)

I think I’ve done this before. But I’m growing accustomed to repeating the same arguments over and over again in the hope that they will be understood and perhaps even addressed. I still detest this repetition. But it has to be done. Because these arguments are important. Before you dive at that keyboard to vent some righteous indignation at my presumption, I’m not saying that I am important. Or that these arguments are important because they are mine. I am just a blogger. I’m merely a conduit for these arguments. They don’t belong to me. They are part of Scotland’s political discourse. Even if a sadly neglected part.

I like admire and respect Angus MacNeil and Chris McEleny. I like the way they think. The title of this article is an attention-grabber. It is actually unfair to the proponents of a so-called Plan B. They are certainly on the right track. Unfortunately, they take a wrong turning where the path forks, with one track leading to Section 30 and the other leading to independence.

Their Plan B, as I understand it, depends on or at least involves the Section 30 process. Whatever! It does not explicitly reject that process. And that is what is required.

I have certainly done the thing about the Section 30 process. Dear reader, you will be relieved to hear that I am not intending to rehash that whole subject. You can choose for yourself whether or not to read the article linked to and learn why Section 30 is not Scotland’s salvation. For present purposes I wish only to point out three flaws in the proposed Plan B.

As proposed, Plan B does not reject the Section 30 process. As I’ve said many times, it must be rejected. It affords the British state a role in the exercise of Scotland’s right of self-determination to which it is not entitled; permits – invites! – external interference such as is prohibited by international laws and conventions; and gives the British ruling elite a direct influence which they will inevitably use in an effort to sabotage the process.

To even allow the legitimacy of the Section 30 process is to compromise the sovereignty of Scotland’s people. As one of those people I do not accept this. I do not consent to it. I will not tolerate it.

Plan B also proposes to use the next Scottish Parliament election as a proxy for a referendum by making the constitutional question central to the vote. It won’t work. Elections and referendums are totally different. Neither can be the other or be a substitute for the other. We’ve had referendums that were fought as if they were partisan contests, and the outcome was a result without a decision. I know of no instance of an election being fought on a single issue. Some may have attempted it. But they have never succeeded.

The constitutional question is the very definition of a single issue requiring a single-issue campaign leading to a single-issue referendum. Scotland’s independence movement has to date found it impossible to campaign on this single-issue either in campaigns or between them. What chance might there be of getting all the parties involved to fight an election on a single issue. And if all are not agreed, how can it be a single-issue campaign?

Besides, if as is being suggested the Scottish Government can be mandated to insist upon the granting a a Section 30 order why can’t it be mandated to initiate its own process leading to a referendum. The authority to do the latter is the same as the authority to do the former.

It is not a Plan B that we need, it is a better Plan A. A plan that will actually work. Nobody can explain how the Section 30 process would work to anyone’s benefit other than those so fervently opposed to Scotland being a normal nation. If that process won’t work, then we need another process. A process that will work. A process that will never be provided by the British ruling elite determined to preserve the Union at any cost.

I call that process #ScottishUDI. By which I mean a process which excludes any illegitimate involvement by the British government and its agencies. A totally democratic process. That, that and not some spurious notion of ‘legality’, being the criterion by which the process will be judged. A process founded on the undeniable sovereignty of Scotland people. A process formulated and conducted according to the fundamental principles of democracy. A process which facilitates the exercise of Scotland’s inalienable right of self-determination. A process which may produce a decisions and not merely a result.

That decision will be a choice between two options – Scotland or the British state. The campaign need only fairly describe each of those options for the voters to be able to make an informed decision. That is what Plan A should aim for. To devise a Plan B is to plan for failure. Scotland cannot afford failure.

I will support Angus MacNeil and Chris McEleny because they are part of that rare breed which dares to challenge the narrative of the SNP leadership from within. Never was a narrative more urgently in need of being challenged. Only the Yes movement has the strength to challenge that narrative effectively. To do so, it must speak with one voice. And it must speak of independence! Nothing less! Nothing else!

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