What should happen

“Clara [Ponsati] respects the fact her fate now lies in the hands of Scotland’s independent judicial system. That is what should happen in a democracy.” – Aamer Anwar

clara_ponsatiResort to lawful protest in the face of injustice is a defining feature of functioning democracy. Actively protesting injustice is not only a right, but a responsibility. It is gratifying to know that, with the notable exception of Murdo Fraser and his despicable ilk, the people of Scotland are prepared to accept this responsibility and exercise the right to demonstrate their support for Clara Ponsati.

But it is important to recognise and accept that such protest is not an alternative to due process of law but, rather, a supplement to and augmentation of formal procedures. Proud as I am that the people of Scotland are demonstrating their readiness to stand in defence of justice and democracy, I am prouder still of the fact that Clara Ponsati feels able to put her trust in our justice system.

The test of a functioning democracy is its capacity to deal with injustice as a matter of course, rather than by exceptional means. If we cannot be confident that Scotland’s courts will afford Clara Ponsati the justice that is her due, then our democracy is failing us just as surely as Spain’s is failing the people of Catalonia.


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Lose the plot

project_fearOh dear! That headline is bound to rouse the tedious conspiracy theorists convinced that the 2014 independence referendum was ‘rigged’. Only the other day I was subjected to a wee rant from one who insist that he can prove the referendum was ‘rigged’, but declines to do so. Things threatened to get quite heated when I pointed out that, in terms of the end result, there was effectively no difference between being unable to prove something and refusing to do so. There is no meaningful distinction between having no evidence and having evidence which you cannot or will not share.

Not that absence of evidence is any impediment to a conspiracy theorists conviction. This is simply absorbed into the theory. The fact that there is no concrete evidence of anything becomes proof of the power of those concealing the conspiracy. The ‘logic’ seems to be that, if there were no conspiracy, there would surely be at least some evidence of one.

The count-rigging conspiracy theorists have an additional problem in that, not only are they unable (or unwilling) to show how the rigging was done, they can’t even explain how it might have been done. They can’t even demonstrate that it was possible to methodically interfere with the count in such a way as to significantly affect the outcome in a predictable way. Were they able to satisfy even this basic prerequisite of credibility perhaps the term ‘conspiracy theorist’ wouldn’t be quite such a pejorative epithet.

The vacuousness of this particular conspiracy theory is easily exposed. Simply ask a few obvious, if awkward, questions of those propounding the theory. How many people would need to be actively and knowingly involved in the plot for it to succeed? How would these people be recruited? How would confidentiality be ensured? How would they circumvent all the checks and safeguards in place to prevent errors or tampering?

The most irksome thing about all this tinfoil-hattery is, not the profoundly ill-informed inanity of the claims about the referendum having been rigged; nor even that the claims can never be substantiated; nor yet that there is absolutely no possibility of the result being formally overturned, but the fact that it is all such a totally pointless distraction. In practical terms, it just doesn’t matter.

Granted, proving that people associated with the British Nationalist cause rigged the count would disgrace the collaborators. But the No campaign is already disgraced. It is difficult to see how the architects of Project Fear could be further shamed. All the blatant lies and empty promises and contrived scaremongering of the British establishment have been exposed. That they are quite unabashed at all of this strongly suggests that they are impervious to embarrassment. Further revelations of wrongdoing and misconduct would simply be shrugged off like all the rest. Proving conclusively that they rigged the count would have no effect on them.

For all practical purposes, whether or not the referendum count was rigged is irrelevant. Because the outcome cannot stand anyway. It cannot stand for reasons which are already proved. No further reasons are required. While the Scottish Government had to accept the result under the terms of the Edinburgh Agreement, the matter of Scotland’s constitutional status could not possibly be regarded as settled because the No vote was won on a totally false prospectus.

There was always going to be another referendum. There will be another referendum. All indications are that there will be a new referendum in September 2018. That is what we should be focused on.

Obsessives will latch onto even the most tenuous and insubstantial ‘link’ between the scandal du jour and their favourite conspiracy theory. Let them. Ignore them. The fight Scotland’s Yes movement faces in the coming weeks and months will demand all the resources we can muster. We can’t afford to squander our energies fighting battles of the past.


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Let’s get assertive!

saltire_breakoutJason Michael may well be correct when he says that no nation can be dominated without its consent. But he’s a bit late in urging that Scotland must not give that consent to the British state. Because that is precisely what we did on Thursday 18 September 2014.

On that day, for the fifteen hours that polls were open, the people of Scotland held in their hands total political in a manner and to an extent that is exceptional, if not unprecedented, in even the best functioning democracies.

Sovereignty is vested in the people. The people are the ultimate arbiters of public policy. All legitimate political authority derives from the people. To be legitimate, political authority must derive from the people. Only the people can legitimise political authority. However this is stated or explicated, it ultimately distils down to the most fundamental principle of democracy – popular sovereignty. The sovereignty of the people. Only the people are sovereign. There is no sovereignty other than the sovereignty of the people.

While the sovereignty of the people is an abiding principle, the exercise of this sovereignty is, in practice and of necessity, mediated by the democratic institutions and processes adopted by and pertinent to the nation. Just as the individual is rarely, if ever, able to fully exercise their personal sovereignty – in the sense of always and only doing what suits them – so it is only under vanishingly rare circumstances that the electorate has an opportunity to act as the ultimate political authority.

Democracy is pooled sovereignty. The sovereignty of the individual is not diluted by being pooled. But the exercise of that sovereignty is both distributed and narrowly applied. Which is perfectly adequate for most of society’s purposes. Democracy is not significantly diminished by the compromises we make in order that the machinery of society can run without the full and constant attention of every individual.

In elections, the exercise of sovereignty is constrained by the process. We make choices, by means of a prescribed procedure, only from among a small number of candidates offering a limited range of policy options. A system of representative democracy, such as we have, involves using elections to give – or, more accurately to lend – politicians the authority to decide, subject to various checks and balances. The fundamental principle of popular sovereignty means that we do so always with the assumption and on the condition that we, the electors, retain the sole and exclusive authority to decide who decides.

Scotland’s independence referendum in 2014 was different. What was at stake in that referendum was the issue of ultimate political authority in Scotland. The matter of who decides the matter of who decides. In that referendum, the people of Scotland were asked to make a simple but portentous choice. Holding ultimate political power in our hands, we were asked to choose between keeping that power to ourselves, and handing it to a British political elite which we do not elect and which is not democratically accountable to us.

We chose the latter. By voting No, Scotland gave its consent to being dominated by the British state. That No vote was effectively a licence granted to the British establishment to do with Scotland as they please. Being undefined, the No vote could mean whatever the British political elite wanted it to mean. Is it any wonder they view Scotland with such obvious contempt?

The task now is to rectify the fateful mistake we made in 2014. We must revoke the licence we gave to the British state. We must re-assert our right to decide who decides. We must snatch back the power to fully exercise our sovereignty. We must recover our dignity and restore our authority. And we must do so urgently.

Asking for a Section 30 order is most definitely not the way to do this. To petition the British government for permission to exercise our right of self-determination is to confirm the British state as a superior authority. It is to accept the very licence which it is our urgent and essential purpose to rescind. It is to allow that the right of self-determination is in the gift of the British state, rather than being vested wholly in the people of Scotland, to be exercised entirely at our discretion.

Talk of requesting a Section 30 order isn’t “reassessing the terrain for a 2018 referendum” so much as revisiting the terrain of the 2014 referendum.

We need to approach #Referendum2018 with a new mindset. A more assertive mindset. A mindset which actively resists the idea of the supremacy of the British state rather than meekly pandering to it. A mindset which rejects the alien concept of the sovereignty of the British parliament in favour of the democratic principle of the sovereignty of Scotland’s people.

We need to rid ourselves of the indoctrinated notion that independence is something we must ask for and fully embrace the fact that it is already ours for the taking. Scotland is not a part of another nation asking permission to leave. Scotland is an equal partner in a political union giving notice of its intention to dissolve that union.

We don’t need to explain this choice. We are under no obligation to justify it. Independence is normal. Restoring normality requires neither explanation nor justification. It is the proposal to keep Scotland in a political union that is so evidently detrimental to our national interests which must be explained. It is the Union which must be justified.

We gave our consent to be dominated. That was a mistake. It’s easily fixed. We simply withdraw that consent.


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The right to hear

social_mediaEverything comes at a price. And that includes freedom of expression. We accept that, in return for a service which delivers letters and packages to our homes, there will also be some junk mail littering the doormat. In exchange for the convenience of email, we accept a certain amount of unsolicited clutter in our inboxes. The price of a ‘free press’ is that we accept the print and broadcast media being used to manipulate public opinion. It would be foolish to suppose that there would be no cost associated with social media.

In all cases, the cost must be weighed against the benefit. We don’t nail shut our letterboxes just because we receive a few leaflets we didn’t ask for. We don’t abandon our email accounts just because we get some spam. It would be unfortunate if an overreaction to the cost of free and open communication were to deprive us of useful services or place undue constraints on our ability to communicate.

It might readily be argued that freedom of expression, as well as meaning the right to say what we want, also implies the right to hear what we want. In a properly functioning democracy, such rights are vested in the individual. If the starting point for the right of free speech is that anybody can say anything, then the necessary and inevitable corollary is that anybody can hear anything. This also implies that we should be as wary of those seeking to regulate what we may look at or listen to as we are of efforts to regulate the manner and content of expression.

Of course, there are limits to freedom of expression. As a society, we adopt legislation to prohibit communication which has evident potential for serious harm. Incitement to violence is, perhaps, the most obvious example. Exhortation to racial or sectarian hatred may be more problematic, but we nonetheless accept the need to have laws. It is a matter of balance. A question of where the line should be drawn.

But the presumption must always favour the right over regulation. Otherwise, the right is too readily eroded. It is not the right which must be argued but the case for impinging upon it. And this applies also to the right to hear – or read, or view or otherwise receive mediated messages. A right which is meaningless without the element of choice. To mean anything at all, the right to hear what we want depends on there being numerous and diverse voices for us to select from.

In Scotland, we have a particular problem in this regard. On the overarching issue of the constitutional question the mainstream/corporate media lies almost entirely on one side. And when I say ‘lies’ I mean that both in the sense of favouring the British establishment and the sense of promulgating untruths on behalf of the British state. The British media – print and broadcast – lies to the people of Scotland constantly and incessantly and in every way imaginable. All is deceit and disinformation. With only a precious few exceptions, such as The National and iScot Magazine, the print media is firmly aligned with established power – differing only in the explicitness of their commitment to British Nationalism and the extent to which they are prepared to abandon principle and professionalism for the sake of preserving the structures of power, privilege and patronage which define the British state.

Broadcasting is even more one-sided. The BBC is the voice of the ruling elites of the British state. It cannot be otherwise. It is a loud, ubiquitous and inordinately influential voice. It is very well resourced and, despite numerous scandals, still clings to much of the authority it acquired when respect was actually earned.

Social media provides the only countervailing voice. Without the alternative media there is little or no choice. The right to hear what we want would be rendered meaningless were it not for the options offered online.

I don’t doubt that the power of the social media giants is being abused for political and commercial purposes; just as the power of traditional media is bent to the service of established power and vested interests. But, while being aware of the price we may pay in terms of our privacy and intrusive messages, we must be mindful of what we gain from a medium which is open, accessible and unconstrained. There is something essentially democratic about this medium. It would be regrettable if that were to be lost in a clamour of knee-jerk reaction to failings and deficiencies on the part of those charged with managing this invaluable resource.

Rather than a rush to regulate what people may hear, perhaps we’d do better to educate people about how to listen. Maybe what we need is, not more constrained media, but more critical consumers of media messages.


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Decline to cringe!

scotlands_parliamentI’m not sure why we should be expected to pay any heed whatever to Lord Lang of Monkton and/or Lord Forsyth of Drumlean. The very manner in which they demand to be addressed resonates with a presumption of privileged power which is an affront to democracy. They, along with their 800-odd colleagues in the British Parliament, are products of the system of patronage which rewards loyal service to the few at whatever expense to the many. Their aristocratic titles signify their tried and tested allegiance to established power.

Lang and Forsyth speak for nobody other than the pampered elites of the British state. A fact only underlined by their having previously held the position of the British state’s representative in Scotland. They played no legitimate part in Scotland’s democracy then. They have no legitimate role in Scotland’s democracy now.

What these ermined nonentities say is of interest only because the attitudes evinced are not peculiar to denizens of the House of Dead Stoat Cloaks but characteristic of the entire British political elite. Contempt for the concerns of the electorate and disdain for the essentials of democracy are hallmarks of the British political system.

Note how those concerns are dismissed as mere ‘grievances’, absent any attempt to address the cause of the complaint. Note how care for constitutional matters is brushed aside as if the fundamentals of democracy are of no consequence.

Note, also, how Their Bladderships accuse the Scottish Government of neglecting “education, the economy and all the other matters that are their responsibility”, not because the SNP administration isn’t fulfilling its responsibilities in these areas, but because it is doing so differently, and with a degree of success which is an increasing embarrassment to a British political elite with its constant mantra of ‘no other way’ as it piles the gross iniquities of austerity on the absurd inequities of neo-liberal orthodoxy and the perpetual inequalities of British ‘demockracy’.

Thus, they display those other defining characteristics of the British ruling elite – duplicity, mendacity and a burning, bilious resentment of any challenge to or questioning of the imperious authority of the British state.

Imagine describing your ailments to your GP only to have them dismiss this as a tedious cataloguing of mere symptoms. Consider your reaction should your doctor inform you that they attach no importance whatever to respiration and blood circulation and that, instead, health is to be measured by the quality of your apparel and the contents of your wallet. This would surely be cause for alarm. But, ludicrous as the proposition may be, it is directly analogous to the narrative being peddled by the men in the polecat coats.

It matters not at all what is the cause and content of your grievance. You are not entitled to have a grievance against the British political elite. Nor do you, or your elected representatives, have any right to meddle in matters of political power and rightful authority and democratic legitimacy such as are the concern of constitutional politics. As a citizen of a subordinate region of the realm, you are supposed to know your place on the unimportant periphery of a ‘One Nation’ British state, and behave accordingly.

You are supposed to cringe. You may choose not to.

The spluttering indignation expressed by Lang and Forsyth is occasioned by the fact that more and more people in Scotland are declining to cringe in the way we’re meant to. The more we assert and exercise our democratic rights, the greater their outrage.


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The tool

ff_davidson.pngAs we wearily condemn yet another instance of British betrayal, let us not forget the role played by the media in this latest bit of unabashed duplicity. The mainstream media helped peddle the utterly false notion of Ruth Davidson as a significant political leader commanding a small but powerful group of “Scottish Tory” MPs; regularly attending cabinet meetings at Downing Street, and exerting real influence within the British Government. It was all lies!

There is no such group! There are only British Tory MPs, some of whom happen to have managed to get themselves elected in Scotland. Those British Tory MPs take their orders from Theresa May and the British Tory Whips at Westminster, not Ruth Davidson. Other than for the purposes of the occasional photo-opp, there is no place reserved for Davidson at British cabinet meetings. On a scale of one to ten, Davidson’s influence isn’t on the scale of one to ten. In terms of British politics, she is several promotions away from the rank of nonentity.

Which is not to say she isn’t useful to her masters in London. It was expedient to market Davidson in Scotland as a politician of some substance in the hope of persuading voters here that there might be some point in voting for Tories. Affording their leader a high media profile was like giving Pan Drops to the Tory faithful in North Britainshire. Being crowned Queen of the BritNats helped persuade hardline Unionists to abandon British Labour in Scotland (BLiS) in favour of the British Conservative & Unionist Party in Scotland (BCUPS). Elevating Davidson to the status of First Minister-in-waiting was a ploy to divert attention from Nicola Sturgeon and maybe even diminish her in the eyes of the more gullible consumers of British propaganda.

In all of this, the British media have been totally complicit. They lie to us in order that the British political elite may more effectively deceive us. They mislead and misinform us to facilitate the duplicity and mendacity of British politicians. As part of the British establishment, the British media naturally serves established power. It cannot be otherwise. Considerations of veracity and accuracy simply don’t enter into it. Truth is whatever serves the structures of power, privilege and patronage which define the British state.

Ruth Davidson is a tool. She has been coldly utilised by her superiors in the British Tory party. She has been professionally exploited by the British media. When her usefulness is at an end – which may be far sooner than she would like – Davidson will be discarded like a snottery hanky.

But waste no pity on the wretch. She chose the role of puppet. As a British Nationalist, she is content to sacrifice her dignity for the greater glory of the British state. She could have chosen differently. She could have chosen to serve the people of Scotland. She could have chosen to serve democracy. She didn’t. Hell mend her!


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To kneel? Or to stand?

For all Partick Harvie’s fine wordsgreer_harvie_greens.jpg, the tremulous vacillation and pathetic submissiveness exhibited by Ross Greer reminds us that there is only one political party that is, by virtue of its binding constitution, unequivocally and unconditionally committed to the restoration of Scotland’s rightful constitutional status – the Scottish National Party.

Whilst all support for the cause of independence is, of course, very welcome, those who are dedicated to this cause simply cannot afford to rely on politicians who so meekly accept the asserted superiority of the British state in what is supposed to be a political union in which both (all?) parties are equal.

The right of self-determination – as enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations – is vested wholly in the people of Scotland, to be exercised entirely at their discretion. Scotland’s electorate has provided the Scottish Government with a mandate to hold a new referendum and, by necessary implication, the delegated authority to decide how and when that mandate will be exercised. This mandate has been affirmed by the Scottish Parliament. The only Parliament with democratic legitimacy in Scotland. The only Parliament which truly represents the democratic will of Scotland’s people.

And that is an end of it!

No organisation or entity has the legitimate political authority to deny Scotland’s right of self-determination. No law or regulation can be valid which denies or constrains a fundamental, inalienable democratic right.

The British state’s claim to ultimate authority can only be enforced if we, the people of Scotland, voluntarily submit to their imperious diktat in the manner suggested by Ross Greer.

A new independence referendum is ours to demand. Independence is ours to take.

As Ross Greer has so amply demonstrated, only the SNP can properly and effectively serve as the political arm of Scotland’s independence movement. Where others bow before the self-proclaimed superiority of the British political elite, Nicola Sturgeon – as Scotland’s First Minister and as Leader of the Scottish National Party – is bound by a solemn and binding duty to defend Scotland’s democracy.

At a time when Scotland’s democracy is under severe and imminent threat from a rampant British Nationalist regime in London, every true democrat in Scotland must examine their conscience as they ask themselves whether they should kneel alongside Ross Greer, or stand behind Nicola Sturgeon.


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