To bleat, or to snarl?

nicolaWe have to be cautious about the language of politicians. A literal interpretation of what is said may not always be a reliable indicator of intent. When listening to what politicians say, it is always best to be mindful of the wider political context as well as being attentive to the precise form of words used.  Politicians will, for example, make demands of their opponents, not in any hope or expectation that these demands will be met, but in order to highlight their unwillingness or inability to deliver. So, when it is reported that Nicola Sturgeon has “repeated her call for an extension to the Article 50 Brexit negotiating period”, we should not automatically assume that an extension to the Article 50 Brexit negotiating period is what she wants, anticipates, or even considers possible.

Throughout the Brexit fiasco, the largest part of the First Minister’s strategy has been to look reasonable and accommodating relative to the clown troupe actually conducting the process. A strategy which, it must be said, has not severely tested Nicola Sturgeon’s abilities as a politician. Theresa May being to the craft of diplomacy as an inebriated hippopotamus is to the art of the unicycle, looking deft by comparison is hardly difficult. If the aim is to appear ready and willing to explore all options, it makes perfect sense that the possibility of extending the Article 50 negotiating period should be mentioned – even if there is no realistic prospect of such an extension being requested by the British government or much chance of it being granted by the EU.

Talk of further dragging out the agony of Brexit negotiations may be no more than a bit of politicking. The aim may simply be to pile further embarrassment on the British political elite. It’s an easy win for Nicola Sturgeon. If Theresa May rejects the idea of asking for an extension, she looks unreasonable. If she does request an extension, she looks weak. And if/when the request is refused, she suffers yet more humiliation.

But, if we are taking due account of the whole political context, then we are obliged to consider the possibility that this is not mere gamesmanship. We have to ask ourselves whether, in this instance, a superficial reading of Nicola Sturgeon’s words may be all there is to it. We must wonder whether her suggestion that the Article 50 negotiations might be extended beyond two years is, in fact, a clue to her thinking on the independence project. If the First Minister is serious about wanting to give the British government more time to work out some kind of Brexit ‘deal’, what might this tell us about her attitude to the how and the when of action to resolve the constitutional issue?

We cannot be oblivious to the fact that those I refer to as The Postponers are part of the the context in which Nicola Sturgeon made her remarks. She will be listening to all manner of voices as she explores the options available to her. All sorts of people will be seeking to influence her thinking – including those who advocate delaying any action until some undefined – and undefinable – ‘optimal time’. There are people, some of whom may be close to Nicola Sturgeon, who favour allowing ruinous Brexit to proceed. Their thinking is that if enough people are subjected to enough pain then enough of them will turn to independence.

If this strategy seems crude and cruel and callous, that’s because it is. It is also a massively flawed strategy, as I have sought to explain elsewhere. But we cannot know to what extent The Postponers have ‘got to’ the First Minister. We have to at least consider the possibility that they have managed to convince her. We would be remiss if our analysis did not take due account of the possibility that Nicola Sturgeon has been persuaded to further postpone confrontation with the British state.

That confrontation is inevitable. It is an unavoidable part of the process by which Scotland’s rightful constitutional status will be restored. There is nothing to be gained by putting off that confrontation. The British establishment’s determination to lock Scotland into a ‘One Nation’ British state is not going to diminish. We are not going to discover some magical new independence message. However disastrous Brexit is, the British media will manipulate the perception of it just enough to prevent the backlash hoped for by those who insist that ‘Brexit is the key’. The dynamic of relative power is not going to be shifted in Scotland’s favour by anything that the British state does. That shift can only happen when we make it happen.

I listen to people in the Yes movement who suppose they can game the British political system and what I hear is a flock of sheep earnestly discussing the best strategy for hunting wolves, while the wolves get on with doing what comes naturally to them. With the SNP Conference looming, let’s hope that Nicola Sturgeon’s call for an extension to the Article 50 Brexit negotiating period doesn’t turn out to be the bleating of someone who has joined that flock.


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14 thoughts on “To bleat, or to snarl?

  1. Good to see you back Peter. I’m still thinking that, as the conflict is inevitable, they should just announce a date for the next referendum in March. Make withdrawal of it conditional on retaining membership of the Single Market/Customs Union (which won’t happen). Waiting till the end of the year to decide on a date is a potentially disastrous strategy and I agree that its wrong to expose us all to Brexit just to focus people’s minds on voting Yes.

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    1. The supreme court decision will come at the end of October, which i believe the English government did deliberately so that she couldn’t call a date at conference. There has also been a lot of work going on in the background to take care of the legalities.
      My prediction is that the court will find against us which will be the first time Scots law was undermined. It will then go to the eu court who will find in our favour . This will mean we can have a legal vote with no permission needed and it will be controlled completely in Scotland with no interference from Westminster. The electoral commission will not be involved. It also makes sure we have international recognition .

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      1. And so to the now traditional but as yet unanswered question – how do you propose to deal with what the British government does while we wait to see what the British government (and pretty much everybody else) does?

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  2. Mr Bell, I am in complete agreement with you here. I, too, am horrified by the constant delaying tactics, and I have noticed a trend in the National that would suggest that ‘waiting’ is now the perceived wisdom. Waiting, I believe, will be disastrous because, as you state, the British State waits for no man (or woman). For a number of years, I have been saying that we are mere amateurs in relation to the Machiavellian game that Whitehall and the Thames Embankment play whenever they are confronted by opposition to their hegemony. What has happened is that the three British parties in Scotland (at at Westminster) are no longer afraid of the SNP. They are not stupid: they can see that the SNP leadership appears to be unwilling to make a move before Brexit; and they intend to rip out its throat in due course.

    If there is something amiss – with the Scottish economy, or something else – then we require honesty. Otherwise we need to make some forward movement towards independence in some form or another. If we are hoping that increased pain will do the trick, I, too, find that despicable and unnecessary. Yes, there will be conflict and confrontational politics. Nothing worthwhile comes easily. We either take the bulkl by the horns or we shut up and accept our colonial status, soon to be reduced further to regional status within a Greater England.

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  3. Surely we must all agree that Nicola Sturgeon’s main aim in life is to unshackle Scotland from the United Kingdom altogether. Yes she’ll have people around her all clamouring to be heard and she’ll no doubt be taking on board, considering, all that they have to say, however how can she move forward when we don’t even know if the UK will actually leave the EU? Now wouldn’t that be a total disaster for us all, especially for those who think that they have the ability to game the British political system, if that had to happen after she set a date for Indyref2?

    We have to get prior no voters on our side. It’s as simple as that. How many of them would have voted for Independence before now without knowing what kind of deal Westminster was going to get? No many I suspect, especially if a referendum had to be held without obtaining a Section 30 order. I’ve got great faith in Nicola Sturgeon. She knows what she’s doing and has been keeping on top of the ever changing situation. She’s also privy to information that we’ll know nothing about whatsoever and at the end of the day she and her party are our only hope of getting out of this hellhole. So why the constant undermining of her and her party?

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    1. I wanted independence before the EU even came into existence, and long before the UK joined. Why should I care about whether the UK actually quits the EU or not? What matters is who decides. And that has bugger all to do with Brexit. Brexit is NOT the issue. The Union is the issue.

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    2. Petra, no one is trying to undermine Nicola Sturgeon. The UK will leave the EU and nothing anyone says can stop that. It was never, ever on the cards to stay, and those who believe the bull emanating from Westminster will receive a jolt of lightening when they finally realize that the English MPs will vote for the final deal, whatever it is. The longer the delay, the worse the economic situation becomes. This is where the Scots are at a distinct disadvantage: so many just don’t get English Nationalism; they believe it is benign; and they refuse to condemn any manifestation of it for fear of being labelled racist and anti-English, when, in truth it is all the other way round. When you understand that it is English Nationalism banging the drum, you also understand that civil unrest south of the border will be the end result if the UKG fudges it or if the SG leads the charge against it. On day one, when the British – note, British – PM told the three ‘Celtic’ colonies that they would have no voice and no input into Brexit, that was the day to go. We might well have several years of managed austerity after independence, but nothing at all as bad as Brexit for Scotland. If we ever do leave the EU, it should be because Scots voted to leave it or voted for some form of associate membership – and that can happen only if we vote after independence. Any second UK-wide vote now will see Scotland treated in precisely the same way again.

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  4. Sad to say it’s not all about you, what you want and how you feel about the EU. It’s about a couple of million Scots and how they feel and what they want, collectively, for their country. What really matters now is getting a majority of Scots to want to bail out of this so-called Union. The disfunctional Union that is, yes, the issue. Bail out in whatever way we can and that includes using the best opportunity we’ve had in a long time, namely Brexit that is, yes agreed, not the key issue. But does it really matter that Brexit is not the key issue if it gets us out of this Union, ASAP?

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  5. Nicola said something intriguing a few years back in a lecture to New York university. Someone in the audience asked what would happen if Westminster refused a section 30. Her reply:” It’s never been tested”.

    So to me that means she will have another plan in force to bi-pass the need for a section 30. The SNP lawyers will have been working on the legal framework for the last two years. The Tories will have done nothing on this as they are arrogant enough to believe their authority is binding. I don’t know what Nicola’s plan is, but I know she has a plan.

    I just hope for all our sakes it isn’t just to let Brexit happen and for Scotland to suffer the consequences. I believe that the Scots thrive on confidence. History has taught us that the Scots can bury their heads when they are depressed. That way the enemy keeps them in their shackles.

    The key to independence is to understand the complex nature of the Scottish psyche. Laws and rules can be usurped if the will of the people is stronger than the chains of union.

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  6. Peter 15.01. Agree. Well it’s your blog so this is about your opinion! That’s why I read it. You are one of the few along with Craig Murray that speaks to people like me.

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  7. Like your work Peter great stuff mate and yes we should be questioning the motives behind all politicians its our job as the employer we must never again allow our vigilance to slip.

    I can see where you are going with this though have you considered the new EU tax laws into the scenario,i would not be surprised if the EU are in favour of an extension though the criminals will do everything thing they can to avoid this happening.
    I am afraid we have to wait until the little piglets jump but the one thing that is certain is that they will jump and on that day we are free they dissolve the union.

    This was just a little poke in the piggies backside she floats like a butterfly but stings like a swarm of African killer bees you see the last thing the criminals want is an extension lol.

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  8. Eloquently and convincingly put as usual.
    I’m retired now. The boss I always remember and respect was the one whose cardinal rule was “make decisions right”. Don’t wait, don’t prevaricate, make your decision, and once you’ve made it, do everything humanly possible to ensure it was the right one.

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