Hope versus experience

Ian Blackford’s insistence that the next British Prime Minister will somehow be compelled to grant a Section 30 order is beginning to sound a bit desperate. Almost as if he’s trying to convince himself that respect for democracy will be the deciding factor. His entire argument hinges on the British political elite deciding that the imperative to preserve the Union is outweighed by the demands of democratic justice.

Does Jackson Carlaw sound like someone who has any understanding of democracy, far less respect for it, when he says “we will never give Nicola Sturgeon #IndyRef2” ? Does Boris Johnson’s bombastic ranting about “once in a generation” give the impression that he’s prepared to make any concessions to democracy?

However hard Ian Blackford tries to persuade himself, and us, that democracy must surely prevail, we cannot long avoid the reality that Carlaw’s ignorant, arrogant bluster represents the true attitude of the British establishment. And that includes Jeremy Corbyn.

Just as Ian Blackford entertains quaint notions about the British state deferring to fundamental democratic principles, so some are naive enough to suppose that Corbyn is different. Gerry Hassan’s rose-tinted, starry-eyed perspective is illustrative. Apparently,

Corbyn and McDonnell are not “against” Scottish independence per se. They believe in the principle that such a decision is fundamentally up to the people of Scotland. In this they recognise “the sovereignty of the Scottish people” which many pro-union politicians pay lip service to and which the Commons unanimously accepted in July 2018. They take it as a given.

If that is so, then why do they so assiduously avoid giving any firm commitment to a new referendum? While Ian Blackford strives, by force of rhetoric alone, to make the case that British intransigence on the constitutional issue is ‘unsustainable’, Corbyn is working just as hard to maintain a position which differentiates British Labour from their Tory cousins while not actually making any concessions at all.

According to Gerry Hassan,

Corbyn and McDonnell do not believe in the UK in the way that previous Labour politicians did. They see the UK as a force for imperialism, reaction and militarism around the world. This brings them to align themselves with a position which is anti-British establishment and notes its attachment to the politics of the union and its geopolitical interests. Scottish independence, they understand, is a body blow to such pretensions and power politics.

The idea of British Labour being “anti-British establishment” is every bit as fantastical as Ian Blackford’s notion that the British political elite might put respect for democracy before its own geopolitical interests. Gerry Hassan fails to see that it is precisely because those interests make preservation of the Union an overriding imperative that Corbyn would never be permitted to put the Union in jeopardy even supposing he was minded to do so. It is because of the British state’s pretensions to being “a force for imperialism, reaction and militarism around the world” that locking Scotland into the Union is an absolute necessity.

The obligations of democracy are as nothing compared to the dictates of the British state’s ambition.

Gerry Hassan ends by asking,

But does Labour have the political will and imagination to break with the last vestiges of the conservative elements of labourism as well as the ancien regime which has for too long defined power and privilege across the UK?

Pinning one’s hopes on that ever happening is, if anything, even less realistic than trusting that the next British Prime Minister might acknowledge Scotland’s right of self-determination and respect the democratic will of the Scottish people.



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Confusion and betrayal

There is no confusion at all about British Labour’s position on independence. Or their position on a new referendum. Their position on both is exactly the same as the position of the other British political parties. They are fervently opposed to independence and absolutely determined that there should be no new referendum. If there is any mystery here it concerns why anybody would be in the slightest doubt about Jeremy Corbyn’s British Nationalist leanings.

If people are confused it can only be because they’re making the two-fold error of listening to what Corbyn and other British Labour mouthpieces say and supposing these utterances should be taken seriously. They hear the inconsistencies and contradictions and strive to figure what is true. The reality is very simple. None of it is true!

All British politicians are bound by the imperative to preserve the Union. That imperative overrides everything. It certainly overrides considerations of democratic principle. It even overrides electoral expediency. Although some British politicians think they can conceal the truth of the matter in a fog of words. Hence the inconsistencies and contradictions. Hence the confusion among those who attend to the words instead of looking to what lies behind them. Instead of looking to the underlying imperative.

Not that Corbyn et al will be at all troubled by any confusion they cause. Where it is necessary to have different messages for different constituencies, inconsistency and contradiction are unavoidable. The idea then is to make a virtue of necessity. To ensure that the confusion is used to advantage. If your position is sufficiently vague and ambivalent, then it can be whatever you need it to be at any given time or whatever circumstances may arise. More importantly, it can be whatever potential voters want it to be.

More commonly than any of us like to admit, our electoral choices are emotional rather than rational. We like to think we’re making decisions on the basis of factual information and rational assessment. We are not comfortable admitting the extent to which facts and figures are used to put a varnish of reason on conclusion that owe more to our hormones than our neurones.

There are a great many ‘traditional Labour’ voters in Scotland who no longer vote according to tradition – mainly because they support the restoration of Scotland’s independence. A significant proportion of these ‘traditional Labour’ voters crave an excuse to get back to what was good enough for their forebears. If Corbyn says something that allows them to rationalise reverting to their old ways, they will seize it with relish. They will go back to voting for British Labour candidates having convinced themselves that the party is committed to ‘allowing’ a new independence referendum. They will even be able to quote something Jeremy Corbyn has said to ‘prove’ that they are not being conned.

These ‘traditional Labour’ backsliders will be aided in this process of rationalising their instinctual choice by the rhetoric of the other British parties as they accuse British Labour of planning to betray the precious Union by conspiring and colluding with the hated SNP.

Anybody in Scotland who votes for a British Labour candidate on the grounds that the party will ‘countenance’ a new independence referendum is a gullible fool. Even if Jeremy Corbyn were to become British Prime Minister – and there’s very little chance of that – he would be no more likely to respect the democratic will of Scotland’s people than Boris Johnson. When it comes to the ‘Scottish problem’, there is not a scintilla of difference between them.

No British politician will respect Scotland’s democracy if doing so puts their precious Union in jeopardy. If you vote for any of the British parties, you are voting to be treated with contempt. There’s no need to be confused about that.



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A glorious U-turn!

When Ruth Wishart says “we can chuck away that cap and fight for our own future“, is she joining the growing chorus urging that the First Minister abandon her commitment to the Section 30 process and instead dedicate herself to a referendum entirely made and managed in Scotland? If so, her voice is a welcome and very powerful addition to that chorus.

Might we hope that others will follow suit? I wonder how many people, at all levels in the SNP and across the Yes movement, share the concerns that have been expressed about the Section 30 process but are wary about putting their head above the parapet. I wonder what it would take to instill the intestinal fortitude necessary for them to speak up. I wonder if encouragement from someone of Ruth Wishart’s standing might tip the balance in that regard.

It’s easy enough for me to criticise Nicola Sturgeon’s approach to the constitutional issue. I have neither position nor status in the SNP. I have nothing to lose by asking the awkward questions about the Scottish Government’s strategy. I am free to think the unthinkable and say the things that many would prefer were left unsaid. My first loyalty is to Scotland’s cause, not to any political party or leader.

For others, it’s not so easy. Because they have a more powerful sense of loyalty to the SNP and Nicola Sturgeon; or because they are bound by collective responsibility; or because it involves their career and ambitions, dissent has a cost for them which it doesn’t have for somebody like myself. I can have some sympathy with their dilemma. I derive no satisfaction from being a dissenting voice. I would much rather I didn’t have to ask those awkward questions and express those concerns. I do it because it needs to be done. And because I can.

I know I’m not alone. I know that many others share my concerns about the Section 30 process. I cannot believe that there are not people in the upper echelons of the party who also see the problems and pitfalls. I expect there are more than a few who are struggling with the dilemma. Do they speak out and face the inevitable accusations of disloyalty as well as the displeasure of the party leadership? Or do they remain silent despite their fears that commitment to the Section 30 process could very well prove to be seriously detrimental to the cause of independence?

If one or two people in positions of significant influence were to express doubts about the Section 30 process it might well open the floodgates. If dissent grows to a level that Nicola Sturgeon can no longer ignore, what then? If she comes under serious pressure to “chuck away that cap and fight for our own future”, how might she respond?

There would seem to be three basic options. She could attempt to face down her critics. She could stick fast to her insistence that the Section 30 process is the only possible route to a new independence referendum and defy anyone to contradict her. At the other extreme, she could threaten to stand down as party leader and/or as First Minister. The former would tend to harden opposition to her approach and make her situation worse. The latter would have repercussions that I prefer not to dwell upon.

The third option is for Nicola Sturgeon to change her approach. If she is unable to address, far less allay, concerns about the Section 30 process – which is, self-evidently, the case – then those concerns must be valid. Being valid, they provide ample justification for declaring that the Section 30 process has been rendered infeasible by the intransigence of the British political elite. Not to mention their duplicity, mendacity, hypocrisy and treachery.

That the Section 30 process will have to be abandoned at some point is beyond doubt. By its very nature, it can only lead to a free and fair referendum with the goodwill, good grace and good faith of the British establishment. It only works if the British government cooperates fully and respectfully to achieve an outcome to which it is implacably opposed.

Moreover, the Section 30 process provides the British political elite with the means to readily prevent the outcome to which it is implacably oppose. Put it all together and it’s plain to see that, not only is the Section 30 process unlikely to work as Nicola Sturgeon hopes, it would be little short of a miracle if it did. There are more and better reasons for rejecting the Section 30 process than for committing to it. It would be to Nicola Sturgeon’s credit if she were to acknowledge those reasons. And the sooner the better.



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Realism and honesty

When I saw the headline Nicola Sturgeon lists demands to Jeremy Corbyn the first word to pop into my head was ‘why’. Why is Nicola Sturgeon making demands of the leader of the British Labour Party? He has no power to deliver on any of those demands. More to the point, he is very unlikely ever to have such power. Recent polling indicates the most likely outcome of the UK general election is a Conservative majority government at Westminster. The British Labour vote looks a lot more like “crumbling” than the British political elite’s determination to prevent a new independence referendum.

The polls can be wrong, of course. But even supposing British Labour did pull of an electoral miracle, the reality is any minority British Labour government that wanted to deliver any of its policies and sustain itself in government would do anything rather than rely on the support of the SNP. The imperative to preserve the Union transcends ideological differences and partisan rivalries that are, in any case, mostly theatrical. We know as a matter of absolute fact that the British parties will collude to thwart Scotland’s independence movement. We know this because they have done so in the recent past.

In theory, the SNP would have “significant influence and significant power” over a minority British Labour government. In practice, even the Tories would contrive to come to their aid if this was what was required to protect their “precious” Union. And the same is true of the Liberal Democrats – who may also have “significant influence and significant power” in the event of a minority government under Jeremy Corbyn.

Nicola Sturgeon observes that,

Jeremy Corbyn is somebody who supports self-determination for literally every other country in the world, it would be quite strange if he didn’t support it for Scotland.

No it wouldn’t! It wouldn’t be strange at all. In the context of British politics, duplicity, hypocrisy and mendacity are perfectly normal. It’s what we expect.

The British Labour Party has been as slippery on the matter of a new independence referendum as on many other issues. Nicola Sturgeon chooses to see this vacillation as opposition to a new referendum “crumbling before our eyes”. But it is at least as likely to be nothing more than reluctance to be as explicit about such opposition as the other British parties. A feeble effort to find a distinct position on the issue. A forlorn attempt to appeal to independence supporting traditional British Labour voters in Scotland whilst avoiding heaping further humiliation on the local chap up there – what’s his name? – Richard something?

But why are we even talking about deals with British Labour when, if the polls are anything like accurate, Nicola Sturgeon will be facing a triumphant Boris Johnson on 13 December? What is her thinking about that scenario?

… this election is a great opportunity for us to show Boris Johnson exactly what we think of such a contemptuous and disrespectful attitude towards Scottish democracy.

Undoubtedly, it is. And undoubtedly we should. We most assuredly must use this election to demonstrate our rejection of imposed British governments and our determination to defend Scotland’s democracy. But let us not be under any illusions! If Boris Johnson – and British politicians in general – are as contemptuous of Scottish democracy as Nicola Sturgeon says, why would they be at all concerned about any message the people of Scotland send via the ballot box?

Nicola Sturgeon says,

… the position Boris Johnson articulated yesterday is not a sensible, serious or sustainable position – that he will block Scottish democracy forever and a day.

As with the comment about Jeremy Corbyn’s support for self-determination above, this fails to recognise the nature of British politics. A position doesn’t have to be “sensible” or “serious” to be totally “sustainable” in the context of British politics. Look at the Mad Brexiteers! If ever there was a position that defied logic and rationality it is the determination to take the UK out of the EU in the absence of any compelling reason; any viable plan; and any credible alternative. For all the self-evident insanity of Brexit, it is happening. An insane position has proven to be perfectly sustainable.

Boris Johnson is not going to back down in the face of Scottish public opinion. There is no reason why he would. The polls suggest a majority approaching 100. With such a majority, he can pretty much do as he pleases. He may well contrive a no-deal Brexit. He will certainly dismiss Nicola Sturgeon’s demand for a Section 30 order.

Nicola Sturgeon notes that,

Nothing Boris Johnson has said in his short time as Prime Minister has turned out to be the case, so perhaps that should give us all hope for the future.

I note that, despite what must be the most disastrous premiership ever, Boris Johnson is still there. The malicious child-clown hasn’t been harmed at all by all those defeats in the House of Commons and the courts. He has come unscathed through numerous scandals. He lies with total impunity. So perhaps that should bid us despair for the future.

This is not intended as an attack on Nicola Sturgeon. Although it will inevitably be portrayed as such by those who have nothing more meaningful to say. All I’m doing is attempting to inject a bit of political reality into the discourse. And, maybe, a bit of honesty into the election campaign.

Asked if she would compromise on the timing of the new independence referendum in order to strike a deal with the British Labour minority government that almost certainly isn’t going to be more than hypothetical, Nicola Sturgeon responded saying that the timescale is “not for Westminster politicians to determine”. The reality is that the Section 30 process to which she has committed means that Westminster politicians can determine the timescale. Committing to the Section 30 process puts that power in the hands of those Westminster politicians. They can drag out negotiations on Edinburgh Agreement 2 for as long as they wish. And even as those negotiations are laboriously conducted, they can implement all manner of measures to hinder or prevent the referendum.

That is the reality. And I see no reason why we should not be honest about it. All it does is prove, as if further proof were needed, that the Union is disastrously detrimental to Scotland. It makes voting for the SNP in this election even more clearly an absolute imperative. Because, bad as the reality may be with a massive vote for the SNP, it will be many times worse without it.

By voting SNP in this UK general election and sending 50+ SNP MPs to Westminster, we at least keep our options open. When reality hits and the fantasy of British goodwill, good grace and good faith evaporates, only such an expression of our determination to defend Scotland’s democracy will sustain Scotland’s cause. It may seem horribly ironic, but is only by voting SNP that we can be prepared for whatever happens when the Section 30 process fails.



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And another thing

It would have been good to set aside the debate about the Section 30 process for the duration of the election campaign. But that is rather difficult to do when independence is, at least nominally, at the heart of the SNP campaign, and while Nicola Sturgeon continues to talk and Tweet on the topic. Every mention of the Section 30 process serves to remind us of the concerns that have never been addressed and the questions which remain unanswered.

Mention of the Section 30 process can also prompt fresh thinking about it – at least in minds that are not already closed to any thinking at all. When I wrote the original material for the iScot Magazine article. Section 30 is not Scotland’s salvation, I said nothing of my worry that too strong a commitment to this process would rule out other options. In part this was because, at the time the material was written, the First Minister had not yet, to my knowledge, described the Section 30 process as the only ‘legal and constitutional’ way to hold a referendum. I only became fully aware of this new language at the SNP Conference in October when it seemed to be the mot du jour for all SNP ministers, elected representatives and spokespeople.

With this change in language, my worst fears were realised. Not only had the SNP leadership committed to a process which is questionable at best, they had effectively declared any and all possible alternatives ‘illegal and unconstitutional’. Such squandering of options I find incomprehensible. Especially so as there was absolutely no need to do it. The Section 30 process could have been presented as the preferred option. Instead, it has been pronounced the only option. Nobody has yet explained why.

Another thought concerning the Section 30 process occurred to me just recently. Which only proves that, no matter how long and hard you’ve thought about a matter, it’s always possible that there will be something you hadn’t considered. No subject should ever be closed. Your mind should always be open to new thinking on a topic. You’re never done thinking things through. There is always another question to be asked.

Just such a question occurred to me when I was reading some things Nicola Sturgeon had said about refusing her ‘demand’ for a Section 30 order being undemocratic. My habit and practice with any statement from a politician is to figure out where they are trying to point you, and look elsewhere. In this instance, it was obvious that the words were intended to direct us to ponder the democratic legitimacy of a British Prime Minister blocking a referendum for which there is evident public demand and an incontestable mandate. Instead, I chose to reflect on Nicola Sturgeon’s ‘demand’ and the nature of the authority behind it. A question quickly formed in my mind.

What is the difference between the power to demand a Section 30 order and the power to demand recognition of a referendum?

If the First Minister can claim that the mandate she has from the Scottish people and the Scottish Parliament is sufficient authority to demand a Section 30 order and to render refusal of that demand a breach of fundamental democratic principles, why can’t that same authority be sufficient to demand recognition of referendum regardless of a Section 30 order?

It’s the same authority in both cases. The democratic principles and political reality which justify and give weight to the demand for a Section 30 order are precisely the same as the democratic principles and political reality which justify and give weight to the demand that a referendum be recognised.

Where there is both an electoral and a Parliamentary mandate together with significant public demand, a Section 30 order is redundant. Under these circumstances, on condition only that the vote is impeccably democratic, recognition of the referendum’s legitimacy is every bit as obligatory as the granting of a Section 30 order.

It seems that the more one examines the Section 30 process the less satisfactory it becomes. Concerns keep growing even as they are pointedly ignored.



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Wishful thinking

I read Nicola Sturgeon’s Tweet yesterday in which she wonders, with evident scepticism, whether the British media might subject Boris Johnson’s position on a new independence referendum to “serious scrutiny”, and into my head popped that Lerner and Loewe song from the musical My Fair Lady in which the heroine of the piece reflects wistfully on the simple things that would make her life perfect. In my head, and totally without the aid of Spotify or any other music streaming service, I could hear Julie Andrews singing “Wouldn’t it be loverly!” in an accent betokening origins well outside artillery range of Bow Bells.

If memory serves, Eliza Doolittle eventually realised her heart’s desire for a comfy chair, a coal fire and a secure supply of confectionery. I fear Nicola Sturgeon may be asking for far too much if she hopes the British media might ask awkward questions of British politicians. Particularly in the matter of the Union and Scotland’s status within the UK, the British media defer totally to the British establishment. There is more chance of a porcine fly-past to mark Donald Trump’s Nobel Peace Prize than of the British media subjecting Boris Johnson’s stand against a new independence referendum to any serious examination. It’s just not what they do.

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Why don’t they do it? Why don’t they interrogate Boris Johnson about the democratic legitimacy of denying Scotland’s right of self determination? After all, it would make great theatre, wouldn’t it? Putting the British Prime Minister on the spot would surely get the kind of unrehearsed reaction that tends to go viral on social media. So, why does this so rarely happen?

The simple explanation – and, therefore, the explanation likely to be the least satisfying – is ‘bias’. That the British media is, generally, pro-Union is doubtless the case. But this is both unsurprising and inadequate to explain why media professionals don’t do what they might be expected to do. It doesn’t explain why journalists so consistently fail to follow journalistic instincts. It doesn’t explain why they so rarely ask the obvious questions. It doesn’t explain why they almost never succumb to the urge to create a spectacle. Is that not the business they’re in?

I’m sure many (most?) journalists would insist that they are not in the business of creating spectacle. I am confident they’d insist that their profession is the noble one of informing the public; discovering and disseminating the facts; speaking truth unto power, or whatever. But that only leaves us wondering why so little of this noble professionalism (or professional nobility?) manifests itself when these champions of the public’s right to know confront British politicians who take highly dubious positions with regard to Scotland’s right of self-determination.

We know what the role of political journalism is supposed to be. Ideally, it contributes to the electorate’s capacity to make informed choices. By providing accurate information and insightful analysis, political journalists help to ensure that political power is, as far as possible, exercised only with the informed consent of the people.

Aye, right! I hear you scoff. And with considerable justification. With exceptions notable for their rarity as much as for their integrity, political journalists are now regarded, less as a resource which interprets political messages for the purpose of improving public understanding, and more as a conduit by which the powerful insinuate their messages into the public consciousness.

There is no one simple explanation as to why interviewers don’t challenge the likes of Boris Johnson when they talk about ‘not allowing’ the people of Scotland to have a referendum. Or when they spout patent nonsense such as the stuff about a ‘once in a generation’ event. High on that list of explanations is the likelihood that it just doesn’t occur to the interviewer, or their bosses, to question any of this. It’s not so much that they are purposefully letting Johnson off the hook, as the fact that they are not even aware that there is a hook.

There is a famous incident in which TV political pundit Andrew Marr says to Noam Chomsky, “Do you think I’m censoring myself now?” and Chomsky retorts, “No, you don’t need to. Otherwise you wouldn’t be sitting in that chair.”

The journalists who get to a position where they have access to senior politicians only get to that position after a career spent immersed in exactly the same culture as those senior politicians. These journalists may not be ideologically aligned with the politicians they interview, but they think alike in ways that run far deeper than political philosophies which are, in any case, only superficially different. Whether they are on the left or on the right they are on a spectrum entirely confined within a shared space of Britishness. A space defined by common perspectives and attitudes which transcend mere political roles. And mere roles within the same British establishment.

The cosy consensus of Westminster-centric British political journalism sits comfortably with the cosy consensus of Westminster-centric British politics. Comfortably enough that it simply doesn’t occur to British political journalists to question an established order in which Westminster is superior in all regards and at all times.

In major news gathering and disseminating organisations such as the BBC, there are people whose role it is to ensure that the awkward questions do get asked. Managers whose task it is to prevent the people at the sharp end falling into bad habits. In any large organisation, the most important thing senior managers have to do is prevent the organisation coming to serve itself rather than the purpose for which it was created. But news and current affairs media in the UK are dominated by organisations where the management has failed in this regard. These organisations’ relationship with news has altered dramatically.

It used to be that news was ‘out there’ waiting to be found. Or, at the very least, waiting to fetched. The role of the news organisation was to go out and get the news. Collect it, if it was just there to be collected. Uncover it, if it was being concealed. Hunt it down, if it was elusive. The job involved bringing news into the organisation so that it could be processed – mediated – for presentation to the public in a comprehensible form.

Now, to a disturbing extent, these organisation have changed from being the mediators of news to being assembly plants for propaganda. News is no longer harvested from the world by highly skilled people. Parcels of pre-processed news are delivered to the news organisation for assembly, packaging and onward transmission to the masses in as unmediated a form as possible. Print and broadcast news and current affairs is no longer created from ingredients like a fine meal, it is bolted together from pre-formed components. The highly skilled people no longer work for the news organisations. They work for the organisations which supply the pre-formed components.

Attributing the grotesquely distorted news and current affairs coverage we get in Scotland to ‘bias’ doesn’t describe the situation at all. In relation to individual journalists, the term ‘bias’ implies a tendency to favour one perspective over another. It can hardly be described as bias if the people involved aren’t even meaningfully aware that there is more than one perspective. Even if they are aware of other perspectives – or the possibility of other perspectives – the journalist can only work with the material they are given. And they are at the public-facing end of a production line which only outputs the news which can be put together using the components supplied.

Asking a journalist to scrutinise Boris Johnson’s position on a new independence referendum may go beyond mere wishful thinking. It may be an impossible dream. Which reminds of of another song.



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Messengers will be shot!

Nicola Sturgeon has a column in The National today.

Today I will join thousands of others in the heart of Glasgow to demand Scotland’s right to choose independence.

The First Minister of Scotland concedes that our right of self-determination is in the gift of the British political elite.

Another election win for the SNP will make the case for this country having the opportunity to decide its own future simply unanswerable.

What makes this mandate different from all those that already exist? What has changed to render “unanswerable” the case that Theresa May demonstrated was answerable by the simple expedient of not answering?

And the National’s rally today is a great chance to show Westminster that Scotland’s voice will not, and cannot, be ignored.

All experience tells us that Scotland’s voice both can and will be ignored. Again, Nicola Sturgeon fails to explain why it should be any different this time.

The question people are now faced with is whether Boris Johnson or the people of Scotland themselves should control this country’s future.

The First Minister of Scotland has declared her intention to acknowledge and validate the authority of the British Prime Minister to “control this country’s future”.

And I am confident that people across the nation will answer that question in a resounding fashion on December 12 by rejecting Johnson and his increasingly extreme right-wing government.

We’ve been rejecting those governments for years. What difference has it made? Why might it be different this time?

This election is Scotland’s chance to escape Brexit and to put our future in our own hands.

Actually, it isn’t. But it’s a great line – so long as you don’t think about it.

I could go on. But what’s the point? Nobody, least of all Nicola Sturgeon, will attempt to address any of these points. Instead, they will condemn and castigate those who not only have the audacity to think rationally about what the First Minister says and does, but the effrontery to give voice to their concerns.

Five years ago, in the aftermath of the 2014 referendum, this is not what I envisaged. I anticipated that lessons would be learned from the first referendum campaign. Following the EU referendum in 2016, my expectation was that there would be a marked change of mindset in the SNP and the Yes movement. Instead, it’s as if nothing that’s happened since 2012 has been taken on board.

Over the past eight years or so, pretty much everything in the political environment has changed – except the mindset of the SNP leadership. Their attitude to the British state has, if anything, grown more deferential. Or, at least, the deference is more explicit. Their approach to the independence campaign hasn’t developed at all. Unless you consider demanding rather than requesting permission to hold a referendum a significant development.

But, as I say, it is futile to speak of such things. Messengers will be shot.



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