Now is the time

The point about independence being the subject of the first clause in the SNP’s constitution is a fair one. The aspiration to restore Scotland’s rightful constitutional status really does infuse everything that the party does. Although, of course, it must these days concern itself also with matters relating to its role as the party of government.

The decisions have already been made. The electorate has granted the current SNP administration a mandate to hold a new independence referendum and this has been approved by the Scottish Parliament. All that is left is to declare the date. And that is a matter for Nicola Sturgeon. she was elected leader because the membership trusts her judgement. We gave her the job. Now we must let her do it.

Which is not to say that SNP members and the wider Yes movement shouldn’t be offering Nicola Sturgeon every ‘encouragement’ to act as a matter of some urgency. Indeed, a public clamour for a new referendum is just what the First Minister wants and needs. But a conference resolution specifying a date for the vote – which is what some people seem to want – would diminish the authority of the elected party leader. Even if carried such a motion could not possibly be binding on Ms Sturgeon. She cannot be forced by conference to act against her own judgement. If she was unable to accept the date set by conference, she would placed in the situation of having to defy the conference or resign.

The place for word on the new referendum is in Nicola Sturgeon’s address. And there really has to be something meaningful and substantial about the referendum in her speech. Back in June, I was rather critical of Nicola Sturgeon’s speech to the Spring Conference in Aberdeen. I pointed out that there was something missing.

What many of us did hope for was some sense of awareness of the precariousness of Scotland’s situation and the need for urgency in addressing the threat to our Parliament and our democracy. At the very minimum we expected an acknowledgement of the rising power and presence of the Yes movement. We were given neither.

When Nicola Sturgeon said that we should not focus on the when of independence, that felt like a rebuke to a Yes movement which is increasingly concerned that the the consequences of delaying the referendum are not being recognised or appreciated by the SNP leadership. Those concerns most certainly aren’t being addressed by senior SNP politicians. And those who hoped for better from Nicola Sturgeon must now be feeling extremely disappointed.

I fully recognise that this is a difficult decision. Whatever date Nicola Sturgeon chooses for the new referendum she will have to face, not only the virulent condemnation of the British establishment, but also an onslaught from those within the Yes movement who can’t resist the urge to tell the world that they think she’s got it wrong.

Nonetheless, this is a time to be bold, decisive and assertive. Among all the factors Nicola Sturgeon is required to consider, she must take account of the fact that the independence cause desperately needs some strong and positive leadership right now. And I mean, right now! Whatever Iain Macwhirter may say (The SNPs legendary party unity could be finally about to crack), the patience exhibited by members suggests that party solidarity is holding up very well. That the party and the Yes movement are prepared to wait until October – despite being poised for action – demonstrates just how much Nicola Sturgeon is trusted.

But there is a limit. The power of the Yes movement cannot be contained indefinitely. Nicola Sturgeon would be well advised to keep this in mind as she writes her speech for the SNP Conference in October.


If you find these articles interesting please consider a small donation to help support this site and my other activities on behalf of Scotland’s independence campaign.

donate with paypal

donate with pingit

 

It’s the constitution, stupid!

nicola_speechThe hope of “clarity on the shape of Brexit” is as forlorn as the hope that the Scotland’s constitutional issue might be fairly dealt with by the British media. As the likelihood recedes of the final ‘deal’being anything more than an almighty fudge, awaiting something definitive looks less and less like a rational reason for delay and increasingly like an excuse.

We have known all we need to know about Brexit since 23 June 2016, when Scotland voted 62% Remain only to be told that the democratic will of Scotland’s people counts for nothing in the UK. By that date, it was already perfectly clear that Brexit was going to be an economic, diplomatic and constitutional mess. The campaign, which Mad Brexiteers treated like a TV game show, was evidence enough that nobody within the British political elite had a clue what the EU is and the way it works, far less how to take the UK out in anything remotely resembling an orderly fashion

If Brexit is a trigger for a new independence referendum then that trigger was pulled more than two years ago. We’ve waited for the flash. We’ve waited for the bang. We’ve waited for the recoil. Are we now being asked to wait until the bullet rips through Scotland shredding our democracy and pulping our public services?

The idea that the alternative to prevarication is to act “just because of a date on a calendar” doesn’t make any more sense than hitching the new referendum to a Brexit process over which the Scottish Government has no control and vanishingly little influence. Dismissing dates on calendars is, frankly, daft. Dates are meaningful. If they aren’t, why do people keep banging on about 29 March 2019 – so-called Brexit Day?

Dates are important because time is important. In regard to the new referendum, time is crucial. Because the British Nationalist ‘One Nation’ project is not on hold while we dither. It is gathering pace.

But we don’t hear much about that. There is endless talk about Brexit. But we barely hear a mention of the real and abiding reason for wanting independence. The reason that has existed as long as the Union. The reason that has now become an urgent imperative. We need to restore Scotland’s rightful constitutional status, not because of Brexit, but because the Union is, and always has been, a device by which the people of Scotland are denied the exercise of their sovereignty.

The date on the calendar is significant because each passing day brings us closer to the point where Scotland is effectively locked into a political union on terms unilaterally determined by the British political elite.

The clock is ticking. Time is running out. If Scotland is to be rescued from the onslaught of ‘One Nation’ British Nationalism, Nicola Sturgeon must act boldly, decisively and promptly.


If you find these articles interesting please consider a small donation to help support this site and my other activities on behalf of Scotland’s independence campaign.

donate with paypal

donate with pingit

 

Disaffected Tories need a home

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

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

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

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

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


If you find these articles interesting please consider a small donation to help support this site and my other activities on behalf of Scotland’s independence campaign.

donate with paypal

donate with pingit

 

Being positive is not enough

pw_holdThere are two strands of opinion within the Yes movement which I have been particularly critical of over the past few months. I call them ‘The Postponers’ and ‘The Persuaders’.

(I interrupt myself at this point to deal with those who, having read that opening sentence, are already poised over their keyboards ready to pound out some pompous diatribe denouncing the appalling practice of ‘labelling’. My advice to these people is that, instead of pestering me with their inane drivel, they bugger off over to Twitter and start a campaign to have all the nouns removed from dictionaries. #DownWithNouns)

Where was I? Oh yes! I have dealt with ‘The Postponers’ often and at length. Although I have touched on the need for a new mindset and a different attitude as we approach the new referendum, there still needs to be some discussion about the way we conduct the Yes campaign this time. The story of a former Tory councillor having declared her support for independence is an ideal hook on which to hang some remarks about ‘The Persuaders’ and their thinking on the matter.

‘The Persuaders’ is a shorthand term for those who insist that the way to win the new referendum is to gently and delicately woo ‘soft No voters’ with the ‘positive case for independence’. According to this theory, we shall lure these wavering No voters by presenting them with a sufficiently appealing, but always realistic, vision of an independent Scotland. We will win them over by telling them believable tales of economic prosperity illustrated with colourful graphs and charts and peppered with impressive statistics.

If ‘The Persuaders’ have it right, we will start the necessary thousands on that journey from No to Yes by painting a picture of independent Scotland as an enlightened and socially progressive place where inequality and injustice are at least addressed and alleviated by public policy rather than being engendered and exacerbated by it.

Crucially, ‘The Persuaders’ insist that we must never so much as hint at the idea of No voters having got it wrong in 2014. We must assiduously eschew the slightest suggestion that they are in any way responsible for the consequences of their choice. We must never, by word or gesture, hint at the notion that voting No was a mistake. Whatever repercussions it entailed, voting No was a perfectly valid choice. Mentioning the ready availability of information which would have prompted a different choice is taboo. As is any reference to how obviously false the No prospectus was.

No voters effectively gave the British political elite a blank mandate and invited them to fill it in with whatever suited their British Nationalist agenda. They gave the British state licence to do what they pleased with Scotland. And that licence has been used with great relish to our severe detriment. But we are prevailed upon by ‘The Persuaders’ to studiously avoid  making any connection between that No vote and everything that has ensued – from EVEL to Brexit to the ‘power-grab’ and the accelerating erosion of Scotland’s democracy.

‘The Persuaders’ have this unshakeable conviction that all the independence campaign needs in order to win is a better message. A more positive message. A brighter, shinier, glossier message. They are driven by the belief that there exists somewhere a form of words which will change minds in the way that a magic spell might transform a frog into a prince.

There is a problem with this theory. We’ve already done all that. We’ve done every conceivable Yes message – and a few barely conceivable ones. We’ve done the relentlessly positive campaign. Independence is not a complex idea. There are only so many ways that such a fundamentally simple concept can be described or explained. Eventually, the plethora of different descriptions and explanations becomes confusing and meaningless. The effort to find the sharpest and most effective message leads only to a message which is diffuse and vague and devoid of any impact.

The 50% of voters who are already Yes represents pretty much everybody who either doesn’t need any persuasion or has already been persuaded by the tactics of the 2014 Yes campaign. The other 50% is pretty much entirely made up of people who either can’t or won’t be persuaded by any positive message no matter how slick it is. If they were going to be persuaded by that positive vision of independence it would have happened by now. The Yes movement has been offering them that message for more than six years. ‘The Persuaders’ have convinced themselves that it is only a matter of time – and constant repetition – before the message takes effect. How much time will it take? How much time do we have? ‘The Persuaders’ are adamant that the positive independence message needs to be refined just a little bit more and it will become the alchemical formula by which the base metal of No will be transmuted into the gold of Yes.

It is not going to happen.

Ashley Graczyk’s account of how she came to support the independence offers a clue to a more promising strategy. If Ms Graczyk is to be believed – and I find no reason to doubt her – she was prompted to reconsider her position on the constitutional issue, not by the persuasive power of a positive vision, but by a dawning awareness of the negative impact that the Union has on Scotland. Listen to what she says,

I came to the realisation that to preserve and protect the values we have in Scotland we cannot have policies imposed on us from Westminster that jar with the kind of Scotland we are trying to build. So simply, we need independence.

It wasn’t the prospect of a future independent Scotland that persuaded her. It was the reality of the present-day UK.

This tells us how we should approach the new referendum campaign. Of the 50% that polls indicate (probably wrongly) are still No around 20 points can be written off as hard-line Unionists and ideological British Nationalists who would rather burn on the bonfire of the British state than bask in the warm glow of an independent Scotland. Another 20 points can be disregarded, but not discounted. These are the ranks of the disengaged and the resolutely apathetic. We shall return to them.

The final ten points represents the prime target of the Yes campaign. These are the people who are mistakenly identified by ‘The Persuaders’ as ‘soft Nos’ who can be won over by addressing their doubts about independence. But, as pointed out earlier, all the evidence indicates that these doubts have long been impervious to the unrelenting blandishments of determinedly positive Yes campaigners. There simply is no reason to suppose that this is going to change. In place of reason, ‘The Persuaders’ have amassed huge stocks of hope – almost all of it forlorn.

Those ‘soft Nos’ would be more usefully regarded as people who are entertaining doubts about the Union. People like Ashley Graczyk. People whose inertia will be overcome, not by a promise, but by a protest. The way to win these people over is to feed their doubts about the Union. To play upon their uncertainty by making a powerful but honest case against the Union. We have ample ammunition. We simply have to overcome our reluctance to use it. We have to rid ourselves of our addiction to the sense of superiority which comes with being positive.

There is no disgrace or dishonour in fighting against something if it is wrong. The Union is wrong. It is wrong for Scotland. It is arguably wrong for all of the people of these islands. So let’s put an end to it. Then we can devise something better.

Finally, I said we’d get back to the alienated and apathetic who, in my admittedly oversimplified map of Scotland’s electorate, make up that 20% between the wavering Unionists – defined as people who have not yet learned to question the Union – and the entrenched British Nationalists – defined as people who insist that the Union must never be questioned. While the waverers make up the 10 points that would be sufficient to give Yes a conclusive victory, it is worth noting that the strategy of mounting a hard anti-Union campaign is more likely to reach the alienated and apathetic than any amount of positive campaigning for independence.

Anger is a more effective antidote to apathy than aspiration. You won’t sell independence to people who are so disengaged as to be deaf to any entreaties. But you just might rouse a few of these people from their apathetic somnolence if you can make them angry. If they cannot be roused to anger at all it just might be by a campaign pointing out the iniquities of the British state. By targeting those wavering Unionists with an anti-Union campaign, we might actually engage with some of those who suppose they can opt out of politics.

Making a positive case for independence is essential. But it is clearly not enough. We need something extra. There really is no way to further enhance the Yes message. We need to augment the campaign for independence with a campaign against the Union. A campaign to dissolve the Union.


If you find these articles interesting please consider a small donation to help support this site and my other activities on behalf of Scotland’s independence campaign.

donate with paypal

donate with pingit

 

Confronting phantoms

henry_mcleishThe key phrase in what Henry McLeish says is “the Westminster government has paraded its constitutional authority”. This is precisely what has happened, and is happening. The British political elite is asserting ultimate constitutional authority in the hope and expectation that it will not be challenged. The constitutional rights of the devolved parliaments are being steam-rollered by the loudly and constantly proclaimed supremacy of the British state, along with the democratic and, quite possibly, the human rights of the people of these islands.

Henry McLeish is to be applauded for what is without doubt his most insightful and valuable intervention to date. We might wish only that he had been more forthright and forceful in his calls for a challenge to this asserted constitutional authority.

It is a call which echoes what is being urged by increasing numbers of people in the Yes movement. Especially by those who have always been wary of the unfortunate tendency to hitch the independence cause to the Brexit process rather than dealing with it as a matter of fundamental constitutional justice.

While Henry McLeish takes a studiously legalistic approach, others – myself included – see the issue more in terms of a generalised mindset. I contend that we must rid ourselves of the mindset which has us acting only within the frame of established power. We must reframe our actions in terms of our own power. We must do, rather than be done to. We must act, rather than be acted upon.

The people of Scotland are sovereign. The Scottish Parliament represents the will of Scotland’s people. The Scottish Government acts in accordance with the will of the Scottish Parliament. That, and that alone, is the foundation and core structure of Scotland’s democracy.

The right of self-determination, as guaranteed by the Charter of the United Nations, is vested wholly in the sovereign people of Scotland, to be exercised entirely at our discretion. The Scottish Government, acting under the auspices of the Scottish Parliament, is the agency by which we exercise our sovereignty. Only the Scottish Parliament has democratic legitimacy in Scotland. Only the Scottish Government acts with the democratic consent of Scotland’s people.

The people of Scotland have the absolute and inalienable right to choose the form of government which best serves their needs, priorities and aspirations.

Only the people of Scotland have the rightful authority to determine and constrain the powers of the Scottish Parliament.

When a sufficient number of us say we want to exercise our right of self=determination, no power on the planet has the authority to deny us. Only the Parliament and Government that we elect is authorised to be the arbiter of what constitutes a sufficient number. There can be no veto over our right of self-determination.

The Scottish Parliament speaks for the people of Scotland. When that Parliament decides that the existing political union with England must end, the Scottish Government must act on that decision. It must act to dissolve the Union, subject only to this being ratified by plebiscite.

That’s it! No mention of Westminster or courts. Why would there be. What is described above is, in outline at least, the necessary and sufficient process by which constitutional reform is effected in Scotland. Anything else is external interference. Which is explicitly prohibited by the Charter of the United Nations.

It is all and entirely about us. We decide! We, the people, decide! That is the beginning and the end of all democratic politics. The people are the sole source of legitimate political authority. The constitutional authority paraded by Westminster is without substance. It is a spectre conjured by the apparatus of established power. It is a phantom which evaporates upon being confronted.

Henry McLeish would have us confront the constitutional authority claimed by the British state with the power of the European Court of Human Rights and the Convention on Human Rights. Fine! Nothing wrong with that! But, our circumstances being dire and demanding urgency, I suggest we immediately confront the phantom constitutional authority of the British state with the power of the sovereign people of Scotland.


If you find these articles interesting please consider a small donation to help support this site and my other activities on behalf of Scotland’s independence campaign.

donate with paypal

donate with pingit

The habit of malice

jenny_marraUnless Jenny Marra had good reason to believe her claim of a £300,000 “golden goodbye package” then the claim was a malicious untruth. If she cannot demonstrate that she had reasonable grounds to suppose the figure she quoted was accurate then she must, perforce, be branded a liar.

Of course, we know from the Alistair Carmichael affair that, among British politicians, lying to smear political opponents is, not on acceptable, but expected. Should Ms Marra be unable to offer a sufficient explanation for her behaviour we must not expect that she might be condemned by other British politicians. Or that she would be disciplined by British Labour. That’s just not the British way.

At the time of writing, Jenny Marra has not offered any sensible explanation for asserting that Ms Lesley McLay was being given £300,000 by Tayside Health Board. An assertion which we know to have been totally false. Her ‘defence’ appears to be that she was obliged to make up a figure because Tayside Health Board had not told her what the actual figure was. Although it also seems that she neglected to ask them what the actual figure was. So that ‘defence’ looks about as substantial as Danny Alexander’s chin.

More extraordinary than this inane rationalisation is Ms Marra’s insistence that Tayside Health Board should flout its legal and contractual obligations to a former employee. A demand which would be outlandish coming from any politician, but which is truly outrageous when it comes from the convener of the Public Audit and Post-legislative Scrutiny Committee – which is charged with scrutinising the financial performance and general governance of public bodies such as Tayside Health Board.

Jenny Marra might have survived her original offence, whether that offence was wilful dishonesty or just an embarrassing misjudgement born of mindless malice towards the SNP of the sort that has been so long actively encouraged by the British parties that it is now habitual. But it is difficult to see how she can possibly continue as convener of the Public Audit and Post-legislative Scrutiny Committee having evinced such a cavalier attitude to legal and contractual compliance.


If you find these articles interesting please consider a small donation to help support this site and my other activities on behalf of Scotland’s independence campaign.

donate with paypal

donate with pingit