#AUOBPerth March & Rally

The following is the text of a speech delivered at the
#AUOBPerth March & Rally on 7 September 2019.

Five years ago, at about daft o’clock in the morning of Friday 19 September, I walked out of that building over there feeling pretty bloody dejected. I’d been at the count for the 2014 independence referendum and, of course, by that time we all knew the outcome.

We’d lost.

The day before – Thursday 18 September – something truly extraordinary happened. What we had in Scotland on that day was democracy in its purest form. For 15 hours the people of Scotland held in their hands total political power. TOTAL political power.

By the early hours of the Friday morning we knew that, as a nation, we’d chosen to hand that power back to the British political elite. No wonder I was bloody dejected.

I don’t have to tell you. Most of you here will be well aware of how that No vote struck us down.

But we weren’t down for long! Within hours, the Yes movement was revitalised and reinvigorated. Within hours, our networks were buzzing again. Within hours, we were off our knees and on our feet!

Looking around me today I see that, five years on, we are still standing! We are standing tall! We are standing strong! We are standing and we are marching and we are working to rectify the mistake we made five years ago!

We are still Yes! We are all Yes! We are always Yes!

I was surprised at how quickly the Yes movement recovered. But not half as surprised as our opponents. They thought the independence campaign would just evaporate! They thought Scotland had been put back in its place; back in its box! They thought we’d give up!

I have a message for all those who would deny Scotland its rightful status in the world. We are NEVER giving up! NEVER!

You can disrespect us. You can decry us. You can denigrate us. But you cannot deter us and you can NEVER defeat us!

A cause whose time has come will not be denied! Democracy will not be denied! Scotland will not be denied!

Independence is inevitable. It is inevitable because any constitutional settlement which succeeds in terms of the aims, ambitions and objectives of the British state necessarily fails in terms of the needs, priorities and aspirations of Scotland’s people.

Which is just a fancy way of saying that independence is inevitable because we will not settle for anything less!

I say that independence is inevitable. But that doesn’t mean we should not or need not be concerned about how we get there. When I say “how we get there” I mean both the process by which we come to a referendum and the manner in which we conduct the campaign to win that referendum.

In relation to both the process being followed and the campaigning strategy, I have been somewhat critical of our First Minister and the SNP leadership. There are, I’m sure, those among you who will consider that an understatement.

I have been critical of what I regard as wasted time and squandered opportunities. I cannot help but note that, despite an insistence on the efficacy of an approach which mirrors that taken in the 2014 campaign, the polls have barely twitched in all the five years since then.

I ask the question – if this relentlessly ‘positive’ approach is effective, where is the effect?

I ask the question – if the strategy of selling independence on the doorsteps like an over-50s insurance plan is the way to succeed, why have the sales figures flat-lined?

I ask the question – why is this strategy not being scrutinised and radically different alternatives considered?

I have been critical of the lack of urgency in Nicola Sturgeon’s approach. Her calmness amidst the chaos of British politics is admirable. But Scotland’s predicament is parlous. The threat to our democratic institutions and our essential public services and our very identity as a nation is real and imminent.

When you see the sole of a boot about to come crashing down on your face, that is not the time to be passively pondering the pattern of the tread. That is the time to be taking evasive or defensive action!

I have been critical of Nicola Sturgeon’s obstinate commitment to the Section 30 process. I don’t have time to go into detail on why I consider this to be folly. I will make only one point.

Nicola Sturgeon insists she will adhere to the Section 30 process because she wants to avoid any legal challenge to the outcome of the referendum. I say we should have no fear of such challenges.

If Scotland is not prepared to face challenges – in court or anywhere else – to its constitutional claim, and the always democratic means by which that claim is pursued, then Scotland is not ready to be restored to the status of an independent nation.

Independent nations which are worthy of that designation do not seek to avoid such challenges. They stand ready to confront and defeat them.

If Scotland’s cause is worthy; as I believe it to be…

If Scotland’s cause is just; as I believe it to be…

If Scotland’s cause is righteous; as I believe it to be…

…then it is a cause that we should be prepared to fight for. And it is a cause that we should be prepared to defend against any and all challenges!

The choice now confronting everybody who calls Scotland their country is between the Scotland we know, the Scotland we aspire to, the Scotland we hope to bequeath to future generations; and a Scotland conscripted into the service of those forces which put Boris Johnson in power!

We must recognise and convey to others that it is the Union which gives Boris Johnson power over Scotland.

It is the Union which allows the British political elite to impose austerity on Scotland.

It is the Union which allows them to treat the democratic will of Scotland’s people with cold, callous contempt.

Brexit isn’t the problem – the Union is the problem!

Tory austerity isn’t the problem – the Union is the problem!

Boris Johnson isn’t the problem – the Union is the problem!

We have a way out. It is a way which may not be simple, but is certainly uncomplicated. We must dissolve the Union.

We must persuade the people of Scotland of the urgent need to dissolve the Union by informing them in an honest and forthright manner about what the Union means for our nation and our democracy and our dignity.

We must then hold a referendum in which we ask them the question, do you want to dissolve the Union?

And we must fervently hope that, having learned the harsh lessons of the mistake we made in 2014 and for the sake of all Scotland’s future generations, the people answer YES! YES! YES!



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Shaping the campaign

Andrew Tickell comes to the inevitable and unavoidable conclusion concerning the motives behind the British Electoral Commission’s insistence on ‘influencing’ the question asked in the new referendum. It’s because it’s the British Electoral Commission. And the important word there is ‘British’. It is an agency of the very entity which seeks to preserve the Union at any cost. It is only to be expected that it will reflect the “Sir Humphrey grade cynicism” of the British political elite.

Any intervention by any agency of the British state must constitute undue – and very likely unlawful – outside interference in the process by which Scotland exercises its right of self-determination.

Andrew’s exploration of the importance – or otherwise – of the language used in a referendum question is as perspicacious as we would expect. But one comment stands out.

… the basic language of a referendum can powerfully shape how the respective sides are able to campaign

This is a crucial insight. The British Electoral Commission – and by extension the British sate – is pretty much exclusively concerned with the the way the framing of the referendum question affects voters. For obvious reasons. The structures of power, privilege and patronage which constitute the British state largely rely on a highly developed apparatus devoted to the manipulation of public perceptions.

But, as Andrew observes, the referendum question is only part of a complex web of influences affecting voters. It is the campaign as a whole that is the context within which these influences operate. So it stands to reason that the most important thing about the question is the way it shapes the campaign. In relation to a new constitutional referendum, that importance is immeasurable.

Consider the question asked in 2014.

Should Scotland be an independent country?

Ask this question of any other nation and you would be regarded as an idiot. The people of those nations might regard the question as offensive, if they thought about it at all rather than dismissing it out of hand. That’s because independence is the normal, default status of a nation. The people of all nations take their independence for granted. It’s the way things are and the way they should be. So a more appropriate question might ask why Scotland must be the exception.

The 2014 referendum campaign was entirely shaped by this questioning of independence. It was the condition of independence that was being challenged, despite this being the ‘natural’ condition of nations. The question was inappropriate and it shaped the campaign in a way that favoured the anti-independence side by forcing the Yes campaign onto the defensive.

Surely simple logic dictates that it is the Union which should be questioned. It is the Union which is anomalous. It is the Union which is ‘unnatural’. It is the Union that sets Scotland apart from other nations. It is the Union that prevents Scotland from being normal.

Consider how different the campaign would have been had the question been,

Should Scotland dissolve the Union with England?

Such a question accepts the default assumption of independence and challenges the claim that an alternative constitutional settlement is preferrable. It forces Unionists to justify the Union. It puts the Union under scrutiny rather than the concept of independence which, despite – or perhaps because of – it being so ‘natural’, can be difficult to define.

Independence was placed at the centre of the constitutional issue. But independence is a disputed concept. Think back to the 2014 referendum. Not only were there massive differences between the way independence was portrayed by the opposing sides, there were significant differences even within the Yes campaign. A multitude of them! There was no single universally agreed idea of independence on which the Yes campaign could focus. Campaigning for a disputed concept is seriously problematic. The anti-independence campaign had no such problem.

The Union is not a disputed concept. It is a fact. It is a concrete thing. What is disputed is the justice and efficacy of that thing. Does this not, even at an intuitive level, seem like a more rational basis for a referendum? Does it not makes sense that, if there is to be a debate, then all the parties should be talking about the same thing? A referendum is, by definition, binary. So surely it is a basic prerequisite of a referendum that everybody should be campaign for or against the same thing.

The 2014 referendum campaign wasn’t so much shaped by the question as badly distorted by it. I accept that it almost certainly had to be that way given the circumstances that pertained 7 or 8 years ago. But the lesson is there to be learned. And circumstances have changed dramatically. We must not allow the new campaign to be distorted in the same way. And allowing agencies of the British state to determine the question is a sure way of ensuring that it is.



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Against the Union

Left Unionists are fond of saying that working people in Scotland have more in common with working people in England than they do with Scotland’s landowners and millionaires. Indeed they do. And the biggest thing they have in common is that the Union keeps both of them in their place.

Tommy Sheppard clearly gets it. How gratifying it is to at last see an SNP politician explicitly acknowledging that the Union is the problem and at least hinting that Scotland’s cause is not gaining independence but escaping a political union which serves none of the people of these islands well, but serves Scotland particularly ill. A political union formed in a different age entirely for the purposes of a ruling elite whose successors continue to be the sole beneficiaries.

The effect is rather spoiled when he says things like,

Will this next election be about independence? You betcha!

Maybe he hasn’t quite completely got it. Or maybe it’s just that old habits of thinking die hard. Let’s be glad of whatever we get. Even if Tommy is no more than half way to the realisation that we need to be campaigning against the Union rather than for independence, he’ll still be some distance ahead of the SNP leadership.

We must campaign against the Union because the Union denies the people of Scotland the full and effective exercise of the sovereignty which is ours by absolute right. It really is as simple as that. It is from this denial of a fundamental democratic right that all of Scotland’s constitutional issues derive; along with most of our political, social and economic issues. Independence doesn’t resolve those issues. But even if you don’t accept that the Union is a major cause of Scotland’s problems, it is impossible to sensibly deny that it prevents us from addressing them as deemed appropriate by the people who actually live in Scotland.

It’s not even as if the Union is required. As I wrote during the 2014 referendum campaign,

Alex Salmond addressed this issue back in July 2013 when he spoke of the six unions that “govern our lives today in Scotland”. The political union of the UK; union with Europe through the EU; the currency union, the Union of the Crowns; a defence union based on Nato and a social union among the people of the UK.

The First Minister talked of these six unions in terms of their importance to Scotland, making the point that only the first of these – political union with the UK – works against Scotland’s interests. The others serve us reasonably well and are generally valued by the people of Scotland.

The political union between Scotland and England is not necessary to the maintenance of all those other unions. All that is needed is the consent of the people. So long as we consent to a currency union, we can have a currency union. It is the political union which forces on us a currency union which is not freely negotiated.

We can have a defence union. But, if democracy prevails, it must be a choice made on the basis of what the people of both Scotland and England consider best serves our mutual interests; not what serves the narrow interests of those who have inherited the status and power of the cliques the Union was designed to benefit.

Nowhere is the deleterious, anti-democratic impact of the Union more evident than in the matter of the “union with Europe through the EU”. Do I really have to elaborate? We are all painfully familiar with the fact that Scotland is being wrenched out of that union against the will of the Scottish people. The point I want to make here is that it would be perfectly possible for Scotland and England to share that union with Europe in the absence of a political union between our two nations. It is the grotesque asymmetry of the Union that destroys the possibility of a symmetrical arrangement whereby each nation makes its own choices.

The Union is the massive bluebottle in the ointment of harmonious coexistence and cooperation. It is the Union that prevents us developing a form of association between Scotland and England – and among all parts of these islands – which is fit for 21st century democracy rather than the conditions that existed over three centuries ago.

Kindly bear with me as I quote again, and at length, from that article published in November 2013 under the counter-intuitive title ‘Vote Yes to save the Union‘.

…if we get past the self-serving politicians of the British parties whose sole priority is the preservation of the structures of power, privilege and patronage which benefit them and their clients; if we address those who have been lured by the simplistic slogans of the anti-independence campaign and induce them to really think about what it is that they value about the Union, it is highly probable that they will come up with much the same answers that Alex Salmond did. They would surely place the highest value on the social union. And, while they might vary in the way they prioritise the others, there would still be general agreement with pro-independence campaigners on the list as a whole.

We all, nationalist and unionist alike, tend to value the same things about the Union, differing only in the emphasis that we put on each. Where we part company is principally, if not solely, on the matter of the political union of the UK. I would urge unionists to think long and hard about whether we do not have a common interest in that regard also.

I fervently hope Tommy Sheppard’s article signals a shift in emphasis away from campaigning for independence and towards campaigning against the Union. Because that is where we find common ground across the independence movement, and very possibly beyond.



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I object!

The First Minister may “have no objections to people who are against independence” but I most certainly do. She seems to imagine that denying the right of Scotland’s people to decided the Scotland’s future is but a small, and easily tolerated, part of the Unionist argument against independence. She is wrong. It is the whole of the Unionist argument and it cannot be tolerated.

It is impossible to argue for the preservation of a political union which denies the sovereignty of Scotland’s people without arguing for the denial of the sovereignty of Scotland’s people. And I am no more prepared to tolerate that than I would an argument that people could be sold into slavery. Because that is how fundamental the right of self-determination is to democracy.

Just as it is not possible to legitimately lay claim to democratic credentials while arguing in favour of slavery, so it is not possible to credibly assert adherence to democratic principles while defending and commending a constitutional settlement which rides roughshod over one of democracy’s most basic precepts.

(I realise that simply by writing the word ‘slavery’ I’m inviting British Nationalists to accuse me of saying Scotland’s people are slaves. But I learned long ago that idiots will be idiots. If you try to make allowances for all the idiocies of British Nationalism, you’ll never say very much at all.)

Of course I object to being told that I am unworthy to exercise the sovereignty that is mine by right lest my choices impinge on the preferences of England’s voters.

Of course I object to being told that politicians such as those responsible for the Brexit shambles have more right to decide the future of my country than I do.

Of course I object to being told that political authority derives ultimately from a divinely-ordained monarch rather than the people.

Of course I object to the fact that a parliament in which the people of Scotland have no effective influence is superior to the parliament which we actually elect.

Of course I object to being told that Scotland is ‘Too wee! Too poor! Too stupid!” to be a normal nation and must, instead, be subject to the ministrations and impositions of a British political political elite I know to be incompetent and corrupt and lacking any democratic mandate.

Of course I object to “people who are against independence”. How could I not object when these people are opposed to values and principles that are part of who I am? How could I not object when, wittingly or otherwise, these people argue for the eradication of so much that I consider indispensable in the name of a Union they consider more precious than democracy?

How could I not object to the preservation of a Union which is an affront to democracy and an insult to the people of Scotland?



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Seduced?

The National concludes an article on the latest frantic manoeuvrings in the grotesque Brexit farce with the words, “There was scepticism over how it would work.” In this instance, it was referring to a draft bill that “could see Brexit reversed”.

The bill would give the Prime Minister and Parliament six weeks to reach a consensus on a way ahead.

If they can’t agree, then May would be forced to either extend or revoke Article 50 unilaterally.

You can see why there are doubts about the viability of this scheme. But those eight words at the end of a piece in The National could apply to Brexit itself as well as pretty much everything Brexit-related. And particularly to all the measures being suggested as ways to resolve the situation created – or, at least, given force – by the 2016 EU referendum. There is cause for serious scepticism about how any such effort would work. They are products of denial about just how totally irreparable the situation is. Quite simply, Brexit can’t be fixed.

When David Cameron opened the can clearly labelled with a warning that the contents were potentially lethal he released a host of highly venomous worms. Those nasties are not going back in the can. To egregiously mix my metaphors, the genie of narrow, insular, xenophobic, supremacist British Nationalism isn’t for returning to its bottle. The Leave vote carried by England’s voters (with a little help from Wales) gave licence to the basest, meanest, shallowest and most mindless political dogmatism. No matter how it plays out, Brexit will poison British politics for decades to come.

Not even stopping Brexit will prevent this. In fact, revoking Article 50 would only serve to concentrate and strengthen the poison. Not that this should be seen as an argument against revoking Article 50. It is merely to point out that if this is done in the hope of resetting everything to some pre-Brexit state of relative political stability, then that is a woefully forlorn hope. Polls suggest that anti-EU sentiments are as prevalent now in England as they were in 2016. It’s as if the further the Brexit process descends into chaos the more support for it hardens. The more clear it becomes how much Brexit is going to hurt, the more a perversely macho and ominously militaristic ‘Empire / Dunkirk / Blitz / 19666 World Cup’ spirit is invoked. Desolation? Devastation? Ruination? Is that all you’ve got? Bring it on! We can take it! ‘Cos we’re British, innit!

The Mad Brexiteers are going to be just as angry at being denied the masochistic rapture of a catastrophic Brexit as others are at being subjected to its cruelty. That anger may dissipate over time. But it will do a lot of damage while it is a significant factor in British politics.

Brexit can’t be fixed. Not even by stopping it. Anybody working on the assumption that there is a way of resolving the Brexit situation is operating on a false premise. There is no resolution. No prevention. Only damage limitation.

But it is not only the ‘usual suspect’ who are hooked on the notion that Brexit can be fixed – either by changing it or by stopping it. The otherwise very sensible SNP also seems to have been entranced by the notion. Go the increasing annoyance of many in the party and the wider independence movement, Nicola Sturgeon et al seem to be prioritising relieving the UK of Brexit over relieving Scotland of the Union.

So intent is the SNP on saving England from its own folly that one of the most influential and, dare I say, revered figures in the party has recently set out a quite astounding proposal. speaking at an event in support of a ‘people’s vote’, Joanna Cherry MP said,

I believe that, ultimately, what may be required is a temporary cross-party UK Government to seek an extension of article 50, to hold a second EU referendum and then revoke art 50, before holding a General Election.

This is being talked about by many commentators, including influential commentators in Scotland such as Dr Kirsty Hughes of the Scottish Centre for European Relations and Lesley Riddoch the pro-independence journalist…

I confess, I had not heard this suggestion before. Or it might be more accurate to say that it hadn’t previously caught my attention. I may have seen some mention of the idea, but dismissed it for the nonsense it so evidently is. Not that this has prevented others enthusing about it. Lindsay Bruce, for example. penned an article for Wings Over Scotland in which he even suggests that this coalition might attract some “disgruntled Tories”. Think about that for a moment. The SNP subsumed into a UK coalition government dominated by British Nationalists and including Tories. Try selling that one on the doorsteps in Glasgow and Dundee!

Claims are made for the efficacy of this ‘unity government’ which rival in hyperbole even 1960s TV washing powder commercials. The amazing things it can do include, not only fixing Brexit, but getting Scotland a new independence referendum and a host of new powers for the Scottish Parliament in the meantime. It will, proponents assert, give Scotland a stronger voice in the British parliament and make everybody think the SNP is wonderful and persuade thousands of ‘undecideds’ that they should opt for independence. Truly, the Cillit Bang of coalitions.

But the claims made for this coalition idea are all empty assertions not supported by any facts, evidence or reasoned argument. Simply saying “the SNP will be better placed to ensure Scotland’s voice is heard” doesn’t make it true.

In reality, there is absolutely no reason to suppose that being subsumed in a coalition UK government dominated by British Nationalists would strengthen the SNP Westminster group’s position in any way. Even at an intuitive level, this seems exceedingly unlikely. Just putting the reality of the situation into words reveals how counter-intuitive is the notion that it makes the group better able to represent Scotland’s interests.

Fantasy politics and wishful thinking aside, being subsumed in a coalition UK government certainly doesn’t strengthen the SNP group and would almost certainly constrain it in ways that don’t apply to opposition parties. For all the unthinking enthusiasm greeting this notion in some quarters, I have yet to see any mention of a single thing that the SNP could do in such a coalition that it cannot do now. Nothing! Not a solitary thing.

We are assured that the SNP would be able to demand all sorts of concession in return for allowing itself to be subsumed in a British Nationalist coalition. But scrutinise this assurance for even a few seconds and it evaporates. Ask the important and relevant questions. Why would the SNP be offered any meaningful concessions? Why would they be offered any concessions at all? If such a coalition came about it would be politically impossible for the SNP to refuse to join it. Especially after having shown enthusiasm for the idea. British Labour, who would dominate the coalition, need only decline to offer any concessions and dare the SNP to put the coalition in jeopardy.

And even supposing concessions were offered, could the British Nationalists be trusted to honour their commitments? History suggests otherwise. History suggests you’d have to be a complete idiot to put your faith in any promises made to Scotland by any British party or politician. How easily some people forget.

Oh! But the coalition could stop Brexit! Or it could reopen the negotiations that the EU has stated emphatically will not be reopened! Really? This British Nationalist coalition will be dominated by British Labour. Do they look like they might be ready to revoke Article 50? How many of their MPs would rebel against such a move? And even if the EU could somehow be persuaded to reopen negotiations despite having stated repeatedly and with increasing insistence that they will not do so, does British Labour look any more capable of negotiating a ‘deal’ than their fellow British Nationalists in the Tory party? I don’t think so!

You can be absolutely certain that no SNP MP would be allowed anywhere near those negotiations. It is a flagrant denial of political reality to suppose that British Labour would want to strengthen the SNP in any way. They want to destroy the SNP. Anybody who hasn’t realised that by now must have their head up their arse. British Labour’s only reason for inviting the SNP into a coalition would be to control or constrain them. To limit their options. To weaken them. And they would only associate the SNP with the Brexit negotiations in order to blame them when things went wrong.

That’s real-world politics!

But let’s suppose there were concessions offered, despite British Labour having neither a need nor an incentive to do so. would they be meaningful at all? We’ve already seen how massively dubious is the notion that this coalition could or would stop Brexit. What about the ‘powers’ that might be promised to the Scottish Parliament?

Firstly, we have to acknowledge – if we’re being realistic – that all indications are that the British state is intent on reducing the powers of the Scottish Parliament – if not on abolishing it completely. This subject has thoroughly enough dealt with elsewhere, so there’s no need to rehash it now. We may simply note that the EU power-grab is a very real thing. As is the shadow administration being set up by David Mundell. Anybody who thinks that’s an end to the stripping of powers from Holyrood is deluded.

But this may not prevent the promising of further powers. So, if we have any sense, we must ask why the British establishment would promise new powers when its purpose is to undermine the Scottish Parliament. There are two reasons.

Devolution has always been more about withholding powers from the Scottish Parliament than granting them. Crucially, what is granted can be withdrawn. Real power is never given. Real power is taken. Power that is given is not real power. But in light of the licence given to it by the No vote in 2014, the British establishment went further. Rather than being a tool by which the power of the Scottish Parliament could be controlled, devolution was forged into a weapon to be wielded against the hated SNP. The manner in which limited powers over such as tax and welfare were framed was intended to set numerous political and fiscal traps for the SNP administration. This too is a topic which has been dealt with at length elsewhere. The only reason there is not more evidence of these political and fiscal traps is that the SNP administration showed itself to be remarkably adept at avoiding them.

What does this have to do with powers which might be offered to the Scottish Parliament for the purpose of luring the SNP into a coalition? Quite simply, with the EU power-grab the British state now controls procurement and standards. It has always controlled the budget. Budget! Procurement! Standards! Control these, and you control everything. Whatever powers may be devolved to the Scottish Parliament, policy can always be ‘guided’ in whatever direction the British state desires through its control of the key powers.

Powers promised as part of any coalition deal would be completely meaningless. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be offered.

It is, when you stop to think about it, blindingly obvious that the SNP has nothing to gain from allowing itself to be subsumed in a British coalition. And that’s before we consider the damage that would be done in terms of support for the party. The independence cause has nothing to gain from this daft coalition idea. The new referendum that might be promised and then might be allowed to actually happen is already ours. It is not in the gift of Westminster.

A Section 30 concession could be an even worse trap than those devolved tax and welfare powers. Going down the Section 30 route means accepting that the referendum could only go ahead on the basis of an agreement between the two governments. Edinburgh Agreement 2! The British government need only seek to impose unacceptable conditions – such as a qualified majority – and there’s no agreement and therefore no ‘legal’ referendum. The independence cause is advanced not one millimetre.

More importantly, Scotland gains nothing from the SNP being subsumed in this putative British Nationalist-dominated coalition. The party that is supposed to be Scotland’s voice in Westminster would be all but entirely silenced. If you think the British media ignores the SNP now wait until they are in a coalition with Jeremy Corbyn as its official spokesperson.

Of course, this multi-party coalition is too unlikely to be taken seriously. But it must be of some concern that senior figures in the SNP and the Yes movement are even talking about such a thing. It suggests to me that they have lost sight of the goal. They have been fatally distracted by Brexit. And, perhaps, fatally attracted to the convoluted games of British political. Too intent on proving how good they are at playing those games.

This is deeply regrettable. The idea that there is a path to independence through the arcane workings of Westminster is sheer folly. No matter how adept SNP MPs may be at navigating the maze. Scotland’s rightful constitutional status will not be restored by becoming part of apparatus of the British state. The very thing we seek to break with.

If Joanna Cherry is offering an insight to the way SNP MPs are thinking; if they truly have been seduced by British politics to the extent that she implies, then it is clearly well past time we brought them home.


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Time to take!

800px-Treaty_of_UnionThere’s a problem in all of this talk of ‘amending’ Brexit-related legislation. To be more accurate, there are a great many problems in all this. But I want to focus on just one. Or maybe two, if something else occurs to me while I’m writing, as often happens.

The problem I’m referring to is hinted at in the phrase “powers [the devolved parliaments] were given under the devolution settlements”. Language matters. Words have consequence. It would be gratifying if The National could eschew language quite so characteristic of the British state’s approved narrative. A more thoughtful formulation would refer to “powers acquired by the devolved parliaments”. See the difference?

Power is not given. Power is taken. It is only from the perspective of a mindset which regards the British state as a beneficent, paternalistic, divinely-ordained entity that power is granted as a boon to humble petitioners. Examined through the lens of ‘realpolitik’, it becomes clear that little packets of power are grudgingly conceded only where this is considered to ultimately benefit the ruling elites.

Devolution is not about giving power. It is about withholding power. It is entirely concerned with retaining the power to grant power. Or to withhold it. Or to unilaterally amend the terms on which it is granted. Or to withdraw it completely. Devolution within the British state is not intended to enhance democracy. It is intended to buttress and secure the structures of power, privilege and patronage which define the British state.

The devolution process itself is an affirmation of conventional power’s claim to ultimate authority. To talk of power being “given” is to accept that claim. If we are to effect meaningful change, we would do well to first change the way we think about the way things are. We are unlikely to make much progress towards changing the way we think about things unless and until we learn to be more mindful of the words we use to describe those things. And a good place to start would be with the way we talk and write and think about the very essentials of our politics.

The change to which Scotland’s Yes movement aspires will only come about if and when we challenge and dismantle entrenched assumptions about the fundamental constitutional foundations on which the entire edifice of our politics is constructed. Anything else is mere constitutional tinkering. And we’ve had more than enough of that.

We see just how entrenched those assumptions are, not only in the notion of devolution being a process by which power is “given”, but also in the idea that there is a ‘fix’ for the defects and deficiencies of the Union. Devolution itself is, of course, sold on that basis. But we see the same mindset in, for example, the demand by Liz Murray of Global Justice Now that the Trade Bill be “amended to fix” legislation which, among other equally horrendous prospects, would let the British state flog off Scotland’s public health service to predatory corporations.

Such a ‘fix’ may be possible. But it would not be a real solution. Because the ‘fix’ would be entirely owned by established power. The British state would retain the power to alter or abolish the ‘fix’. Or to implement it in ways which were neither envisaged nor intended by those demanding the amendment to the legislation. So long as ultimate power lies with the British state, no ‘fix’ can be secure. Therefore, there can be no ‘fix’.

Just as there is no Brexit ‘deal’ which makes it OK to totally disregard Scotland’s 62% Remain vote in the EU referendum (the only real test of opinion we can have this side of Independence Day), so there is no ‘fix’ for any Brexit-related legislation proposed by the British government which can possibly be satisfactory.

If we really want to ‘fix’ things for Scotland, we must go much deeper than the political fudging, legislative fiddling and constitutional tinkering which is all that is on offer from those determined to preserve their power, privilege and patronage at any cost to the people of these islands. The ‘fix’ we need will not be given. It must be taken.

Devolution has become simply another weapon in the British state’s armoury. The existing constitutional arrangement is broken beyond repair. The Union must be dissolved.

Dissolving the Union is the starting point for genuine, meaningful, progressive change. Only when we rid ourselves of this grotesque constitutional anomaly will the people of Scotland be able to fully exercise the sovereignty that is ours by right.

Only by asserting and affirming our sovereignty through the agency of the Scottish Government and the authority of the Scottish Parliament will we be able to restore Scotland’s rightful constitutional status.

It’s time to stop thinking in terms of what the British state might be prepared to give us. It’s time to start working on taking what is ours.


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