The wrong question

It’s the wrong question. Whether the British Electoral Commission should have any involvement is a moot point. The Scottish Parliament has decided. But it’s the wrong question.

One of those strange contradictions that seem to be a feature of politics is to be found in the observation that the new referendum will not be like the 2014 referendum coupled with an insistence that the new referendum campaign must be exactly the same as that for the 2014 referendum. Various politicians and other leading figures in the independence movement seem perfectly comfortable with pointing out all the ways in which the circumstances have changed, and advising that this fact inform our thinking on campaign strategy for the new referendum, and then describing a strategy that is indistinguishable from the one used in the old referendum campaign.

The language is identical. All the talk of “listening” and “conversation” and “being positive” is precisely what was inculcated into campaigners all through the first referendum campaign. The Section 30 process must be followed exactly as it was then. The questions must be the same as it was then. The entire referendum must be framed just as was the 2014 referendum campaign. No lessons have been learned from that campaign. None!

The main lesson to be learned from the first independence referendum campaign is that we should not conduct such a campaign again. This is not to say that the strategy adopted then was wrong. In many respects, there was no choice. Compromises had to be made. Much of what was done was perfectly appropriate in the circumstances that prevailed at the time. Context matters.

The context is very different now. It has been changed, not least by the first referendum itself and the British state’s response to it, both during and after. It was changed by EVEL. It was changed by the Smith Commission and the subsequent tinkering with devolution. It was changed, perhaps most obviously, by Brexit. What is appropriate to this new context is, in many ways, the opposite of what was suited to or dictated by the context of the 2014 campaign.

Things that weren’t mistakes back then now look like mistakes with hindsight and would be mistakes now. That is why they look like mistakes with hindsight. We are looking at them through the prism of the present context. Or, at least, some of us are.

Perhaps the most fundamental example of something that wasn’t a mistake then but would be now is making independence the contentious issue. Independence is normal. It is the Union which is anomalous. It is the Union which is the ‘naturally’ contentious issue.

And there’s another problem with putting independence front and centre rather than the Union. The following is from an article I wrote in September 2019.

Not only did the question on the 2014 ballot paper make independence the contentious issue, it ensured that the Yes campaign was built around a contested concept. There was then, and still is, no single agreed definition of independence. The term, as it applied to Scotland, meant many different things to different people. Myriad individuals and groups within the Yes movement all presented voters with their own conception of and vision for independence. The Yes campaign became a confusing fog of competing messages and was thereby rendered very much less effective than it might have been.

Because independence is a contested concept, it is inherently susceptible to being misrepresented and burdened with all manner of prejudicial associations. It was, in other words, highly vulnerable to precisely the kind of negative propaganda effort to which the anti-independence campaign predictably resorted.

That was NOT the question!

The lesson is not exactly subtle. Don’t do that again! For various reasons, it was the best – or only – way to go about things the first time, which we may best regard as preparing the ground for the referendum that actually matters. We’re not at that stage any more. We should have moved on. We should now be putting the Union on trial.

The question on the ballot paper must make the Union the contentious issue. Rather than asking if Scotland should be an independent country we should be asking if Scotland should dissolve the Union. The question should be formulated in such a way as to ensure Yes and No responses have the same implication as in the first referendum.

This would transform the debate and avoid it being no more than a rerun of the previous debate – which would tend to deter engagement. It would be an entirely new debate for an entirely different referendum.

Why is it not obvious that this is what is required?

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The dilemma of conflicting imperatives

The trouble with saying that this isn’t what it looks like is that it induces people to think about what it looks like rather than what it’s being presented as. A bit like telling someone not to think about a pink elephant. Deferring the spring conference looks very like a pink elephant.

The problem wouldn’t arise, of course, if there weren’t reasons for supposing the SNP might wish to postpone the conference that have nothing to do with whatever it is that isn’t a pink elephant. If there weren’t widespread concern within the party and beyond about Nicola Sturgeon’s approach to the constitutional question then people would not be able to ascribe ulterior motives to those responsible for putting conference off for three months.

People tend to think the worst of politicians and party managers. I wonder why.

Let’s deny them the benefit of the doubt for the moment. Let’s suppose the worst. Let’s assume the conference has been delayed to save the platform-sitters from having to face awkward questions from delegates who are less than enamoured with elements of their leadership’s performance. Will a two or three month delay solve the problem? Let’s think!

If the party hierarchy thinks a conference in March or April would be marked (marred?) by scenes of discontent and even dissent then they must reckon there to be cause for that discontent/dissent. And if they think it’s safe to have the conference in June, they must be calculating that the aforementioned cause of discontent and/or dissent will be eliminated before then. Which in turn suggests that something significant is going to happen in the interim.

What might that be?

Speculation is rife. Well, it is in my head. Thing is, there’s not that much to speculate about. It’s that old thing about imperatives and options again. The key to some kind of understanding of the ebb, flow and swirl of the political tides. Or at least, the key to turning idle speculation into informed analysis.

In terms of the constitutional issue, the British state’s overarching imperative – what drives its behaviour – is the need to preserve the Union at quite literally any cost. Their options all derive from the Union and the power relationship that it creates and perpetuates whereby the British state – or England-as-Britain or Borissia – is in all respects and at all times around eight times more powerful than Scotland. As if every voter in England-as-Britain had eight votes to every one vote for individuals in Scotland. (This, incidentally, is a major factor in the increasing number of English people in Scotland supporting independence. They are better placed to see the imbalance than ‘native’ Scots who have only ever lived in Scotland.)

What this means is that the British state has, if not unlimited options, certainly uncountable options. Effectively, the British political elite can do as it pleases with and to Scotland. The Union was intended to solve the ‘Scottish problem’. It was meant to remove Scotland as a threat to England. To achieve this, a grotesquely asymmetric political union was devised and imposed on Scotland. Even three hundred years ago the people detested the Union. But Scotland’s ruling elites were assured that they would be protected from the effects of this imbalance of power.

That constitutional arrangement; that grotesque imbalance of power, remains fundamentally unchanged to this day. Society has changed beyond recognition since 1707. But the Union has not changed accordingly. Such changes as there have been – notably devolution – were intended to reinforce and preserve the imbalance rather than to reform and rectify it.

In the UK, people in Scotland are second-class citizens at best. The Union makes it so. We have a second-class parliament. The Union so stipulates. We have a second-class government. The Union allows no more. Not second-class in the sense of qualitatively inferior. Certainly second-class in terms of political power. Our Scottish Parliament may have immeasurably greater democratic legitimacy than Westminster. But it must always be subordinate. Our Scottish Government may be considerably more effective in addressing the needs, priorities and aspirations of the nation’s people. But it must always be subordinate to even the worst of administrations in London. Our people may be little different from the resident of Borissia. But we do not have the same right to choose the government that best suits our needs. The Union underpins this inequity.

This is the reality of the Union. A reality that is abhorred by many who appreciate the true nature of Scotland’s predicament; tolerated by those whose fear or apathy outweighs their self-respect and sense of justice; embraced by those whose conceit of themselves is that they are, or can hope to become, part of the cossetted elite.

But to our speculation. The foregoing has, I hope, served to explain why the British state has so many options. Or, to put it another way, so few constraints on how it acts towards Scotland. This is why restoring Scotland’s independence will require an exceptional effort on the part of boldly imaginative and utterly determined people.

Which brings me to the Scottish Government. No! really! Settle down!

What is the Scottish Government’s imperative? What drives the SNP administration? There can be no doubt that in relation to the day-to-day governance of the nation, the SNP administration seeks to serve the interests of Scotland’s people. And does so with quiet competence. Perhaps too quiet. Everybody will have their pet gripes, of course. But overall, the SNP administration has done a truly remarkable job considering the daunting constraints of devolution and an increasingly hostile British state.

All of which may well be part of the problem. The SNP is not only supposed to provide good government. It is also the de facto political arm of the independence movement. A role which bestows upon the party duties and responsibilities quite distinct from the duties and responsibilities of government. In relation to its role as a party of government the SNP’s imperative must be to stay in office. To win elections. To conduct itself in such a way as will enable it to win elections.

In relation to its role as the political arm of the independence movement, however, the driving imperative must be the restoration of Scotland’s independence. But to the considerable extent that options for action are related to power, the SNP is relatively powerless against the British state and its uncountable options. This we know. This we understand. What may be less well recognised or appreciated is the conflict between the two imperatives driving the SNP. On the one hand, its role as the governing party means it must conform to and comply with the unjust conditions imposed by the Union. On the other, its imperative in relation to its role as the party of independence obliges it to behave contrary to those conditions.

Basically, the SNP can’t do its job as a government if it fulfils its role as the party of independence.

Which imperative wins? Ultimately, the party must choose. It may well be that this choice was on the cards for the SNP’s spring conference. Whispers are growing daily about grassroots pressure on the party leadership for a change of approach to the constitutional question. It would, from a pragmatic point of view, be understandable if the leadership preferred to postpone this confrontation. Much as they’ve avoided the confrontation with the British state which will come at some point if the shackles of the Union are to be broken.

If the postponement is to allow the party bosses time to prepare for the coming contest of priorities – or imperatives – I’m fine with that. It’s a crucial issue. It deserves and requires preparation. If the postponement is for the purpose of preempting the confrontation by taking some kind of extraordinary action, I’ll be even better pleased. But if the postponement turns out to be nothing more than kicking the can down the road from reluctance to face up to the issue, I will not be well pleased.

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Get out of the shit!

Do we really need any further demonstration of “how broken the Westminster system is“? And if we do, does that not suggest the independence campaign has signally failed to fulfil its purpose? After all, circumstances could hardly be more propitious for an effort to persuade the general public that the British political system is a ruinous mess. But, apparently, that message still hasn’t been successfully conveyed to the general public. This surely raises serious questions about the methods being used to convey the message.

Is anyone asking those questions? Are searching questions being asked of those who are responsible for determining strategy? Have any answers been forthcoming?

Elsewhere in today’s National, we find news of the launch of a “new Independence campaign based on ‘internationally successful’ model”. Turns out it’s the Scottish Independence Convention (SIC) again with the first of what I’m sure will be many “new” initiatives it will launch this year. In fact, there is nothing new at all. It’s Voices for Scotland which was first launched – or should that be last launched – in 2019. Apparently, this organisation “encourages members to speak to undecided voters to persuade them to back the independence cause”. Hooray for blue-sky thinking! You really left the box behind on that one, team! Who knew that the way to conduct a campaign to persuade people to support a cause might be by trying to persuade people to support that cause? Using “gentle persuasion”, no doubt.

What’s actually happening is that the SIC has heard about the recent calls to set up a new Yes campaign organisation and figured they might be getting sidelined so they issued a statement about the launch of a”new” initiative just to remind people that they’re still around. The trouble is, the independence movement has even more such ‘initiatives’ than the Scottish Government has mandates for a new referendum. Is nobody asking why?

The obvious reason for needing a proliferation of such initiatives is that the previous initiatives haven’t done what they were initiated to do. They have left the independence campaign still needing further demonstrations of “how broken the Westminster system is”.

In real life, if you were being shat upon you would tend to be aware of the fact. There would be unmistakable indications. You’d be likely to detect the signs and register the fact of having been shat upon. In politics, it can be different. In politics, established power has at its disposal a vast apparatus dedicated to diverting your attention from the fact that you are being shat upon by the ruling elites. Should you be one of those tiresome individuals who are not easily distracted, that same media machinery can be deployed to convince you that what is raining on you from above is not faeces but pixie dust. Only a fool would mistake the boons and favours bestowed by a beneficent government on its people for sewerage! You’re not a fool, are you?

To date, the independence campaign has been almost entirely focused on describing a place where you don’t get shat upon. Or, at least, not so much. And if you do get shat upon, it doesn’t smell as bad. Whatever! It’s better than your present situation. Now, here’s a funny thing about people! People are perfectly capable of simultaneously not believing in the existence of such a place and being comforted by its existence. Tell them tales of a land where they won’t be shat upon and part of them will reject the notion and part of them will find such solace in the idea of a better place to come that they are better able to tolerate the place they’re in.

It doesn’t matter which of these mindsets dominates. Both make the individual less likely to succumb to the blandishments of the independence campaign and more susceptible to the dire warnings and glittering promises being churned out by the establishment’s propaganda machine. Or, to put it another way, shown on BBC1.

What the independence campaign has NOT been doing – or doing enough – is screaming “Yeeeuchhh! Look at the ordure that’s pouring down upon you! Look at the filth! Smell the stench! For goodness sake, get out of there!”

What the independence campaign has NOT been doing is pointing to the source of that effluent. Lest you have become too immersed in my metaphor (see what I did there?), I’m talking about the Union.

There are in Scotland, unfortunately and inexplicably, a significant number of people who take the view that the best the people of Scotland deserve or can hope for is more excretory product evacuated from Britannia’s bowels. But there are many others who might be persuaded that the shit-shower has become intolerable and that they should cease to endure it.

The British state is not just broken, it is diseased. Scotland has managed to stay relatively free of the malady that has afflicted England-as-Britain. But we are not immune. The longer we hang around, the more chance there is that we will be infected. To get out of the shit, we have to break the Union.

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British Army camps in Scotland following the Battle of Culloden. –

If you know where you want to go but need to figure out how to get there then you also need to know where you are. Only when you know the starting point and the end point can you begin to plot a course from one to the other. I say “begin” because identifying the start and end points is only part of the task. Arguably, the easiest part. Because plotting a course between the two requires that you take account of all the points that lie on your proposed course. You need to know where all the obstacles and potential bottlenecks are. You need to know as much as possible about everything that you may encounter on your journey.

Of course, if there is a long, straight road in good condition with no tolls and guaranteed ideal weather, your task is easy. But even then there may be unforeseen impediments such as breakdowns and pile-ups. You have to be prepared to deal with these.

Most of you will have realised by now that I’m not talking about an excursion from Perth to the beach at Aberdour. I’m talking about the journey from Scotland’s present situation to the restoration of our nation’s independence.

We have a pretty good idea of the destination. In fact, we have a plethora of such ideas. Everybody in Scotland’s independence movement may be broadly in agreement about where we want to be when we arrive, but there is considerable difference of opinion about what this place looks like. Not that it is necessary to know what it looks like in order to travel there. But if descriptions differ too much then people will come to think they are headed for a different place altogether. This is what I mean when I say that ‘independence’ is a disputed concept.

It is not possible to build an effective single-issue political campaign around a disputed concept. Such a campaign requires unity, focus and discipline. It can have none of these while there is disagreement about the campaign’s objective. Even a relatively small disagreement will impair focus and fracture unity and lead to indiscipline. Where the disagreement is significant, the campaign will effectively become two or more campaigns competing amongst themselves and failing to adequately engage with the opposition.

That’s what happened in the 2014 referendum campaign. The diversity of the Yes movement became division within the campaign. There was a failure to properly identify and clearly define the common aim. The campaign had nothing around which to coalesce – other than the disputed concept of ‘independence’. As a consequence, the Yes campaign tended to be diffuse, diluted and depleted. It may be argued that the effect was slight. But when an issue is as finely balanced as the constitutional question, small errors can have an impact disproportionate to their size.

The common factor in all visions of independence is the dissolution of the Union. No matter how you envisage independence dissolving the Union is a prerequisite.

Since the first Scottish independence referendum I have been mostly concerned with process – the route by which we reach our destination. I very quickly came to some conclusions. I came to realise that there is no route to independence which abides by the rules set down by the British government. And that there is no route to independence that doesn’t involve confrontation with the British establishment.

Annexation, a formal act whereby a state proclaims its sovereignty over territory hitherto outside its domain. Unlike cession, whereby territory is given or sold through treaty, annexation is a unilateral act made effective by actual possession and legitimized by general recognition.

Annexation is frequently preceded by conquest and military occupation of the conquered territory.

Encyclopaedia Britannica

We were told, and most believed, that Scotland had a democratic route to independence by way of a referendum sanctioned by the UK Government. This is the Section 30 process which was followed for the 2014 Scottish independence referendum. But there is a major problem with this in that the Section 30 process can only work with the full and willing and honest cooperation of the British state. And there is less than no reason to believe that such cooperation might ever be forthcoming.

England-as-Britain not only won’t allow Scotland to restore its independence, it can’t. It is politically impossible for England-as-Britain to permit the dissolution of the Union because, without Scotland, England-as-Britain becomes just England. Without Scotland, the Britain which is the conceit of the ruling elites ceases to exist. Without the Union, the structures of power, privilege and patronage which maintain established power will be weakened to the point of disintegration. The Union is the keystone of those structures. Scotland is a supporting pillar.

So long as there was a democratic route to independence, however questionable, the pretence of a “Union of equals” could be maintained. Many – and one suspects Nicola Sturgeon to be among them – believed, and continue to believe as Michael Fry does. This from his column in The National.

Outrageous as it may be for Boris to deny that the result of the UK General Election makes any difference, there is, legally and constitutionally, no alternative to waiting till he changes his mind. So we will get no new referendum in 2020. We’ll just have to wait and see if outright SNP victory in the Holyrood election of 2021 causes a political rethink in Downing Street. Not only the Scottish government but also various respected independent commentators have been saying it would surely need to.

This is why ‘DIY’ indyref2 won’t be able to deliver independence

Depressing as this description of the situation may be, it accurately reflects Scotland’s true predicament in all respects other than the implied hope that something might make Boris Johnson change his mind and grant a Section 30 order. Or the variation on this hope which supposes that a change of attitude may come with a change of government at Westminster. Both are forlorn hopes. There will be no change of heart; no change of mind; no rethink. No British Prime Minister will ever sanction any process which places the Union in jeopardy. Even if they were minded to do so, they would be prevented.

The Section 30 process is, as I have long maintained, nothing more than a device by which the pretence of democracy could be maintained. A way of keeping alive the hope and belief that Scotland has a democratic route out of the Union. The Section 30 process is a lie.

Why then, you may ask, do we have the likes of Gordon “Intervention Man” Brown striding out of the shadows and onto the stage to warn in doom-lade tones that London rule may ‘soon be over’? There are a number of reasons. Rallying the forces of British Nationalism would be one. Ensuring that the Tories get the blame for putting the Union at risk another. Brown being a pompous, self-regarding, attention-seeking prick who craves the status of a senior statesman that he cannot earn might have something to do with it. But the most important reason, and the one most people may not recognise, is the need to maintain the illusion of the Union being under threat. The illusion that Scotland has a way of dissolving the Union.

Without this pretence, only one conclusion is possible. That there is no democratic route to independence. Or, at least, that there is no democratic route which is both guaranteed and accessible. That is to say, a process which exists and cannot be unilaterally altered. A process which is entirely internal to Scotland. A process which can be initiated and followed by the democratically elected representatives of Scotland’s people without interference or hindrance from any external power.

That is the reality of Scotland’s predicament. It has been the clearly recognisable reality for several years. It is the reality behind the concerns I have expressed about the Section 30 process. It is the reality which I preferred not to explicitly acknowledge whilst it was still possible to pretend that the Section 30 process is what it purports to be.

Without a process such as I have described by which Scotland’s constitutional status can be normalised according to the will of Scotland’s people our present constitutional status cannot be what we have long believed it to be. The starting point on our journey to independence is not what we thought it was. We are not in the place we imagined we were. And this has massive implications for the independence movement and for the Scottish Government.

Without a process by which Scotland can get out of the Union at will it can no longer be maintained that Scotland remains in the Union by consent. Consent that cannot be withdrawn as readily as it is given isn’t consent at all.

Without an accessible process by which consent can be freely withdrawn Scotland’s status cannot be that of a party to a political union freely entered into and continued. Rather, Scotland must be regarded as annexed territory. Scotland must be regarded as having been annexed by England by stealth over the period since the Union was first imposed on us. Either the Treaty of Union was, in reality, a Declaration of Annexation, or the terms of that treaty have been unilaterally altered by or on behalf of England over the last 313 years.

The question facing Scotland, therefore, is not whether we wish to become independent – that choice is not available to us – but whether we are prepared to tolerate the annexation of our country. And if not, what are we to do about it. Particularly as such a large proportion of Scotland’s people appear eager or content to accept Scotland’s status as a shackled nation.

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Scotland's predicament – a dose of reality!

The Scotland Act wouldn’t exist and devolution wouldn’t have happened if it put the Union in jeopardy. There is and can be, no route to independence that remains within the confines of laws, rules and procedures which are designed for the preservation of the Union. Neither is there any path to independence which does not pass through a point at which there is direct and inevitably acrimonious confrontation with the British establishment.

I have been saying this for five years. And I cannot possibly be the only person who has woken up to the harsh reality of Scotland’s predicament. I have no special insights and I find it glaringly obvious that where there is a political imperative every option will be explored to satisfy that imperative. The British state has always considered it imperative to keep Scotland under London control. That’s what the Union is all about. It is about preventing us from being a nation. It’s about stopping us being any more different than is expedient politically and economically. It is about the status of Britain and the British ruling elites’ conceit of themselves.

Given all that, it can hardly come as a surprise that the same ruling elites have contrived over the last 300 years to devise ways of locking Scotland into what we like to insist is still a voluntary political union.

If, as is now beyond question, there is no guaranteed democratic route to the restoration of Scotland’s independence accessible at will and independently of any other authority by the democratically elected representatives of Scotland’s people then this necessarily implies either that the Union was, in fact, annexation of Scotland by England or that Scotland has since been annexed by stealth.

Scotland has been annexed by England-as-Britain. Until the independence movement and the SNP acknowledge this reality, we are going nowhere. We’ve been fighting the wrong battle. We’ve been fighting for independence when we should have been fighting against annexation. We should have been fighting against the Union.

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When the facts change…

I used to say that independence was inevitable because any constitutional settlement which succeeded terms of the aims and objectives of the British state necessarily fails in terms of the priorities and aspirations of Scotland’s people.

I used to say independence was inevitable because a political union which can only be sustained with imperious intimidation, empty promises, brazen dishonesty, vicious smears and utter contempt for democratic principles is a political union which is broken beyond repair. It is a political union which cannot be maintained.

I no longer regard independence as inevitable. I now recognise the possibility that independence might not happen. Not because my earlier arguments have become less valid. But because, for independence to happen, somebody has to make it happen.

Independence isn’t happening, because the people who should be making it happen aren’t.

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#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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