BritNat plans?

It is not only Tories who are “fearful of independence”, as John Drummond seems to suppose (Tories are fearful of independence … let’s ask them to share their plans for it). it is all British Nationalists. Remember Better Together / Project Fear? This focus on the Tories rather than the British state is seriously ill-advised. We are not seeking a change OF British government. We are seeking a change FROM British government.

The comparison with South Africa is spurious. Where FW de Klerk and the National Party came to recognise that apartheid represented an economic threat, British Nationalists are either convinced that independence will be economically disastrous or they don’t care. They want to preserve the Union at any cost. They are driven by a ‘blood and soil’ nationalist ideology and only use economic scare stories to rationalise what is entirely an emotional devotion to a myth of Britishness.

Thus, British Nationalists – Tory or otherwise – see no need to plan for independence. They are absolutely determined to prevent it from happening. For many, even imagine independence is heresy.

The question we should be asking these British Nationalists is what they intend to do about the ~50% of the population that wants independence should their anti-democratic ambitions be realised. I suspect there’s vastly more chance of them having plans for that than for Scotland’s independence being restored.



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Wrong target II

Once again, I find myself unable to be shocked by this ‘revelation’. I, and many others, were warning well ahead of polling in the 2014 referendum that one obvious consequence of a No vote would be increased, and more brazenly invasive, efforts to bypass and undermine the Scottish Parliament.

Holyrood’s fate was sealed in 2007 when voters ended the British parties’ domination by electing an SNP government. The British state’s imperative to rein in Scotland’s democracy was made all the more urgent when, in 2011, the Scottish electorate casually broke the system which had been designed to ensure that the Scottish Parliament would always be under the control of one or more of the British establishment parties.

The enthusiasm of British Labour in Scotland for devolution was almost entirely a function of their belief that this would guarantee them a permanent power-base in Scotland. Their Tory partners were prepared to tolerate devolution only because they were confident that, whatever power the Scottish Parliament might afford British Labour, it would always be insufficient to pose a threat to a Tory government in Westminster. And, of course, because they were assured that the Union would never be compromised. For all the rhetoric, when it comes to keeping Scotland in check, British Labour is considered a safe pair of hands by the British establishment.

No voters handed the British political elite a licence to dispose of Scotland as they pleased. Did hose No voters seriously imagine the British political elite wouldn’t use that licence to the full? What was it about the history of the British state and its treatment of Scotland which led them to this staggeringly naive belief?

For those of us not afflicted by this credulousness, it comes as no surprise whatever to find British politicians conspiring to emasculate Scotland’s only democratically legitimate parliament. The Union requires this. The fact that the Scottish Parliament represents a form of democracy which cannot be managed by the apparatus of the British state means that it must be crippled or destroyed. No challenge to established power can be tolerated. Any moves towards restoring to the people of Scotland the sovereignty which is theirs by absolute right must be thwarted. Dissent must be rendered manageable. Distinctiveness must be wholly eradicated. All in the name of ‘One Nation’ British Nationalism.

What is disappointing – if not, in the light of late experience, surprising – is to find SNP politicians presenting this assault on Scotland’s democracy as exclusively, or even particularly, a Tory project. This implies a disturbing failure to recognise the nature of Scotland’s predicament. A predicament which cannot be resolved to the satisfaction of democratic principles simply by a change of government at Westminster, or the installation of a new British Prime Minister in Downing Street.

Correspondence, both private and public, with others in the Yes movement leads me to the certainty that I am not alone in the fervent wish that SNP politicians would desist from treating Scotland’s cause as a mere party political contest with the British Tories and afford that cause its deserved status as a battle for the integrity of Scotland’s democracy.



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Of divides and loyalties

SNP depute leader Keith Brown says the poll showed Labour could not stop the Tories in Scotland. But, in truth, British Labour in Scotland has no real interest in stopping the Tories in Scotland. Their imperatives are –

  • to punish the SNP and anybody who votes for them
  • to regain the status they consider theirs by right
  • to reassert the British parties’ control of the Scottish Parliament

The first imperative is spiteful. The second is self-serving. The third is treacherous. Petty, partisan and perfidious. We could be describing any of the British parties currently squatting in Scotland’s Parliament.

The problem for British pollsters and the British analysts who analyse their polls and the British commentators who comment on both the polls and the analysis, is that the British two-party context is no longer relevant in Scotland. Regarding Scotland’s politics through the prism of the British political system became inappropriate in 1999, when the Scottish Parliament reconvened. Increasingly so ever since. But British pundits don’t seem to have realised this yet. And the British media, for the most part, stubbornly denies that there is a distinctive Scottish politics.

British chatterers’ and British scribblers’ first instinct is to regard Labour/Left versus Tory/Right as the default divide in all ‘domestic’ politics. I’m not sure to what extent this is even true in England these days. It certainly isn’t applicable in Scotland. The defining divide in Scottish politics is constitutional. It is Nationalist versus Unionist.

Not that this excludes or ignores the many other divisions in society which are supposed to be managed by the democratic process. It’s just that the constitutional divide has come to encompass things like class and ideology. In one sense, this makes Scottish politics simpler – because, crudely speaking, everything ultimately boils down the constitutional issue. In another sense, it makes Scottish politics more complicated because the constitutional issue is an additional element which must be considered. Or should be considered.

All too often, it isn’t. Analysts and commentators coming at Scotland’s politics from within the bubble of the metropolitan cosy consensus inevitably find it difficult to take account of the fact that what they regard as ‘the Labour vote’ is at least as likely to be the ‘Tory vote’ on account of the constitutional divide. They find it difficult to take account of this only if they even realise that it is a real phenomenon.

And where these British analysts and commentators do acknowledge that the dividing line between British Labour in Scotland (BLiS) and the British Conservative and Unionist Party in Scotland (BCUPS) is somewhat blurred, they tend to talk in terms of ‘tactical voting’. It is NOT tactical voting.

When BLiS voters put their cross next to a BCUPS candidate or party – or, to a lesser extent, vice versa – they like to call it ‘tactical voting’ because this puts a sheen of rationality on a choice made solely on the basis of emotional and often fervent loyalty. Loyalty to the British state. Fealty to the British ruling elites. Devotion to the emblem of British Nationalism.

All of which can be a cause of confusion and consternation to those British pollsters and British analysts and British commentators who share these loyalties so innately and deeply that it is extremely problematic for them to conceive of their being alternative loyalties and a defining political divide between the two.

We have all heard British pundits react with incomprehension when confronted by Scotland’s independence movement. They simply can’t grasp; or can’t take seriously, the proposition that there may be significant numbers of people in their imagined British nation who owe their loyalty to something other than the British state, the British ruling elites and the Union flag.

They simply don’t get that British Labour in Scotland has no real interest in stopping the Tories because they share a loyalty that overrides mere partisan interest. They don’t fully understand that politics in Scotland is an existential battle. Either Scotland survives, or the British establishment prevails. Those are the options. That is the choice facing Scotland’s people. It is my passionate hope that most voters will choose Scotland.


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Disaffected Tories need a home

Ashley GraczykMichael Fry unabashedly entertains the notion that removing or reducing extraordinary impediments that limit ability to fully participate in the democratic process amounts to having the state “select for its favours one particular category of person”, and that this presages total state selection of candidates for elected office. But that may not be the worst of the silliness on display here.

Mr Fry’s account of Ashley Graczyk’s “conversion” is woefully misguided. Her every comment on the matter indicates that she was not so much won over to the SNP and convinced by the case for independence as driven to abandon the Tories and reject the Union. Her conversion is attributable less to a glorious epiphany about the merits of the SNP and the benefits of independence and more to a grim realisation of how appalling the present-day Tory party is and recognition of the fact that the Union is irreparably broken and increasingly deleterious to Scotland.

This throws a very different light on the vocal condemnation of the Tories which Michael Fry finds distasteful and considers counter-productive. While it may be reasonable to have some qualms about the manner in which execration of the Tories is sometimes expressed, the example of Ashley Graczyk strongly suggests that we should doing much more to encourage Conservatives – and conservatives – in Scotland to question their allegiance to a party which bears little relation to the one which enjoyed such massive support in 1955. And which suffers fatally by comparison.

By the same token, the manner of Ms Graczyk’s conversion implies that, at least as much as we try to win we should Tories over to the idea of independence, we should be urging them to question their assumptions and preconceptions regarding the Union. We should be doing all we can to induce them to take a long hard look at what the Union actually means for Scotland.

Of course, the SNP must always strive to be the natural home for all who put the welfare of Scotland’s people before the dubious interests of the British state. It is, after all, the national party of Scotland. The party of the entire nation. But there can be nothing wrong with pointing out to genuinely Scottish Tories that they are in the wrong place.


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Transparent duplicity

English: Alistair Darling, British politician ...
Side-lined Darling (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Herald reports Cameron to make two-day foray to Scotland to fight for the Union. The only interesting thing here is that the supposed leader of the anti-independence campaign, Alistair Darling, isn’t even mentioned. It seems that Cameron has abandoned hope of making the hapless British Labour back-bencher his scapegoat when the people of Scotland vote Yes. It looks as if the Tories have decided to step out from behind the British Labour stooges who have been fronting the No campaign on their behalf and try to appeal to the people of Scotland directly. This has all the hallmarks of a strategy devised in desperation and frustration.
And what of this “more positive slant” to the anti-independence campaign? We’ve already seen what this amounts to and it’s no more than British politicians now adopting the practice of bracketing the same old grinding negativity with claims that they are not being negative. They will preface every rehashing of the tired old “Too wee! Too poor! Too stupid!” line with the words, “Of course Scotland could be a successful independent nation!”, uttered with all the false sincerity that a professional politician can muster, before proceeding to assert a ludicrously contrived catalogue of supposed consequences so dire as to persuade any who are gullible enough to believe them that there is no way Scotland could ever be a successful independent nation.
The duplicity is transparent enough to be an insult to the intelligence of the people of Scotland. Quite why Cameron and his advisers think that the lies will be any more convincing – or less insulting – when delivered by Tories rather than their British Labour allies is difficult to fathom.
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Johann Lamont does Monty Python

As I watched Johann Lamont’s antics over the past week I was reminded of Monty Python’s  famous “Dead Parrot” sketch. There was the hapless leaderette of British Labour’s northern division desperately trying to assure us that the parrot of devolution is merely resting; or pining for the fjords and not dead. Not dead at all. Honest, guv!

History may well record that it was the incoherent midden of a report from North British Labour’s Devolution Commission which rang the death knell for devolution in Scotland. That devolution was finally killed by this rag-bag collection of constitutional tinkerings that ran the gamut from the merely inadequate through the totally unworkable to the utterly incomprehensible and, if Ms Lamont’s efforts when interviewed on the matter were any evidence, completely inexplicable.

“Scottish” Labour’s offer to the people of Scotland is remarkable not only for the paucity of its ambition, but for the pride taken in its vacuousness.

It is remarkable, not only for the fact that it explicitly prioritises the preservation of the British state and its structures of power and privilege over the needs and desires of Scotland’s people, but for the frankness with which this subordination of Scotland to the ruling elites of Britain is stated.

If this insulting offer didn’t kill devolution it certainly made it disreputable.

Another view is that devolution died the day that a majority SNP government was elected, putting an end to the British parties’ efforts to prevent the people of Scotland having  a  say in the constitutional status of their country and making a referendum inevitable.

I would contend that the origins of devolution’s demise lie much deeper. I would hold that devolution, as a constitutional settlement for Scotland, was always inherently fatally flawed.

Scotland is a nation. Devolution doesn’t work with nations.

Devolution only works where the legitimacy and authority of the devolving power is generally accepted by the polity to which power is being devolved. The legitimacy and authority of the British state is NOT generally accepted in Scotland – other than by those whose prejudices do not permit them to question it.

It seems a long time ago now that there was a certain tension within the independence movement – I’ll put it no more strongly than that – between what we might cal the gradualists and the absolutists. The latter insisted that devolution was a trap. That it would be likely to be accepted by the people of Scotland as an adequate substitute for independence.

Gradualists, on the other hand, regarded devolution as a way-station on the road to independence. They saw devolution as a process – ironically putting them in agreement with what is now claimed by many unionists. They said that, being a process, devolution must lead to independence. This inevitable trend towards independence could only be thwarted if it was accepted that the devolution process also involved powers being taken away from the Scottish Parliament and returned to Westminster. Something which itself would only serve to emphasise the need for full political autonomy and so aid the independence movement.

Needless to say, the gradualists have been proved right.

The only question, then, is at what point does the devolution process end. The British parties try to pretend that it can be an ongoing process forever. That we can keep on endlessly tinkering with the constitutional settlement, switching powers backwards and forwards between Edinburgh and London at the whim of British politicians. But that is simply not feasible. In fact, it is nonsensical.

The purpose of all the talking shops that the British parties indulge in is, not to find the solution which best addresses the needs and aspirations of Scotland’s people, but to find the fix which will preserve the ultimate power of the British state and fend off the threat to that power posed by Scotland choosing to restore its rightful constitutional status.

The ink was barely dry on the original devolution settlement before it was recognised as unsatisfactory. Then we got Calman. Now, even before the Calman fix comes fully into force, even the British parties are acknowledging that it too is inadequate. It’s an accelerating process. The constitutional fixes of devolution are now being recognised as useless before they’re even finalised.

Even as British Labour in Scotland are presenting to the people of Scotland the package that they’ve spent two years cobbling together they are talking about the need for a “continuing conversation” about what powers the Scottish Parliament should have.

They are asking the wrong question.

The issue is not one of what powers the Scottish Parliament should have but of who gets to decide what powers the Scottish Parliament should have.

Only the people of Scotland have the legitimate authority to make that decision. On Thursday 18 September 2014, for the first time in history, the people of Scotland will have the opportunity to exercise that authority through the democratic process. We will hold in our hands all the powers that the parliament of a nation should have. All the powers that we know we want for our parliament.

We can choose to continue to be the ultimate political authority in Scotland by affirming our sovereignty with a Yes vote. Or we can choose to hand that authority back to those whose sole imperative is to ensure that the Scottish Parliament never has the powers that the people of Scotland want.

Devolution is not an option. Devolution is dead.

Of course, we still have to hear from the Tories. Maybe they can nail the dead parrot back on its perch. But I doubt it. I hear some people saying that Ruth “Line in the sand” Davidson may take the opportunity offered by the abysmal failure of her unionist ally, Johann Lamont, and try to portray the Tories in Scotland as the real champions of devolution. But there are problems with this.

While it would not be difficult for the Tories to come up with something better than British Labour’s offering, they still face the same problem that led to that offer being such a shambolic flop.

Whatever proposals the British parties come up with they are always going to be too little for the people of Scotland or too much for the Westminster elite – and probably both.

It is entirely possible that Ruth Davidson might devise something which at least looks sensible when stood next to the gibberish we’re getting from Johann Lamont, but it is not possible for her to devise anything with more substance.

But even if the Tories do make a better fist of concealing this lack of substance than Lamont has, they still face the problem of convincing a now highly sceptical Scottish public.

If “Scottish” Labour can’t persuade the people of Scotland that the devolution parrot is just tired and shagged out after a long squawk, what chance is there that the toxic Tories will be able to do so?

Dead parrots don’t fly. Devolution is dead. There is little likelihood that we will see its obituary in the mainstream media. But it is time for the rest of us to move on. It is time to stop talking about devolution as if it wasn’t an ex-parrot. It is time to focus on what is really on the referendum ballot – independence or nothing.

Originally broadcast by Aye Right Radio
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