Scotland? What Scotland?

Theresa May has ignored Scotland throughout the whole Brexit process, and excluding The National in this way simply underlines how she is running scared of answering tough questions.

The stuff about Theresa May “running scared” of difficult questions makes for great political rhetoric. But, as I’m sure the First Minister is well aware, it doesn’t quite reflect the reality.

Theresa May is not afraid of tough questions, for two reasons. Firstly, as a professional politician, she is trained to deal with hard interrogation. And, as the British Prime Minister, she has a small army of advisers whose task it is to ensure she is thoroughly briefed and equipped with well-rehearsed responses for any question.

This, incidentally, is how she will deal with Jeremy Corbyn in the proposed TV .debate’. She will be armed with a sword of stock phrases and a shield of glittering generalities. Corbyn will have nothing but a water-pistol loaded with vacuous slogans and the Pac-A-Mac of his self-righteousness.

Then there’s the arrogance. I have not the slightest doubt that Theresa May considers herself an excellent orator and debater. Again, she has a small army of people around her whose jobs rely on assuring their charge of her shining brilliance after every performance – no matter how dire that performance may have been. May, like most senior British politicians, exists in a bubble of near-adulation that shields her from both criticism and reality. She is entirely oblivious to the ineptitude that is clearly apparent to detached observers. And almost entirely unaware of how widely she is detested.

This conceit of herself makes her unafraid. The protective phalanx of minders makes her self-assured.

The significant point in the above quote is right at the start. When Nicola Sturgeon says “Theresa May has ignored Scotland throughout the whole Brexit process”, she hints at what is actually behind decision to exclude The National from her press event. The British establishment has discovered the power of ignoring.

We exist in a world of media. We swim in a sea mediated messages. If something isn’t trending on Twitter or the subject of Facebook fury, it barely exists. If it doesn’t warrant a mention in the crowded 15-20 minute space of rolling news, then it isn’t happening. If it isn’t being talked about by the Andrews Marr and Neil, it just isn’t important.

The British establishment has deployed the ignoring strategy as one strand of its effort to diminish Scotland in the public consciousness. They denigrate our public services, delegitimise our democratic institutions and trivialise Scottish issues They aim to eradicate our distinctive political culture.. They seek to obliterate our national identity in a storm of unionjackery.

The National would seem an obvious target for this studied ignoring. May’s lackeys doubtless thought it in keeping with the ignoring agenda to exclude the paper which, almost uniquely, presents the news from a Scottish perspective. Very evidently, they got it wrong.


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What’s the word?

I have always eschewed the use of terms such as “traitor” or “quisling” when referring to those who stand in fervent opposition to the restoration of Scotland’s independence. Indeed, I have frequently chided my fellow Yes supporters for resorting to such inflammatory language. But this leaves us with a problem.

There are people who, while claiming to be “proud Scots” or even “real Scots” (whatever that means) nonetheless strive to do actual harm to Scotland. They actively try to deter inward investment. They seek to dilute the Scottish brand. They denigrate Scotland’s public services and physical infrastructure. They undermine public confidence in our democratic institutions. The worst of them constantly portray Scotland as a place fraught with crisis and chaos; a ‘failed state’; some kind of third-world hell-hole.

The shorthand for all of this is the sub-text underlying all Unionist rhetoric and British Nationalist propaganda – TOO WEE! TOO POOR! TOO STUPID!

The problem is this. If, as I am wont to insist, we should not call such people “traitors”, what should we call them? What would be an appropriate alternative epithet for someone whose purpose is to sabotage Scotland’s economy; destroy our public services; eliminate our distinctive political culture; and obliterate our national identity?


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Mystery prize?

I am baffled. I cannot, for the life of me, understand why Mike Russell continues to cling to the hope that there might be a “better deal for Scotland” in sight. There is no reason to suppose that Jean-Claude Juncker is only joking when he says there will be no return to the negotiating table if the ‘deal’ is rejected by the British Parliament. There is no way for the EU to offer Scotland a separate arrangement keeping us within the European single market and customs union. And it’s an absolute certainty that the British government isn’t going to seek such an arrangement on Scotland’s behalf – or agree to it if, by some unknown means, the EU were to make the offer despite having said that there would be no further negotiation. So, where is this ‘deal’ going to come from? Who are these “others” with whom the Scottish Government is going to work in order to secure the ‘deal’?

Mike Russell does not strike me as the type to indulge in wishful thinking. Presumably, he has identified some way that a special arrangement for Scotland might be achieved. Presumably, he has a realistic hope of success in this venture. I just can’t figure out how. What am I missing?

I sincerely hope I’m missing something. Because the alternative is that Mike Russell’s talk is just another delaying tactic putting off the moment when Nicola Sturgeon must take some kind of decisive action to resolve the constitutional issue. If, as I strongly suspect, this special deal for Scotland is a political impossibility, then talk of it can only be an attempt to rationalise more of the waiting which seems to have become established as the Scottish Government’s main strategy.

There really can’t be any justification for further delay. Even if a deal to keep Scotland within the European single market and customs union was a realistic prospect, it is not what we voted for. It would not negate that 62% Remain vote. To even consider such a deal is to contemplate compromising Scotland’s democracy in a manner and to an extent that even those who understand the rationale for compromise will find very hard to accept.

It’s not all or only about Brexit. Even if it were possible to significantly mitigate the impact of Brexit, as Mike Russell appears to believe, this would do absolutely nothing to address the grotesque constitutional anomaly which makes it possible for the British ruling elite to treat Scotland with utter contempt. And inevitable that they will continue to do so.

So long as we are bound by the anachronistic, anti-democratic Union, the people of Scotland will be denied full and effective exercise of our sovereignty. If we accept Scotland being dragged out of the EU contrary to the will of the people – regardless of the terms – then we will be expected to endure further and greater abuses at the hand of a British political elite resolved to impose its ‘One Nation’ British Nationalist ideology on Scotland.

It is time for Mike Russell and all of us to acknowledge that, even if there was some Brexit ‘deal’ that we’d be prepared to accept, however reluctantly and at whatever cost, beyond that lies another affront to our democracy and insult to our pride that we will not wish to tolerate. And beyond that, another. on and on. Worse and worse. Until we end the Union.

Why wait? It is time!


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It is time!

Nicola Sturgeon is to be commended and admired for sticking with her effort to mitigate the appalling folly of Brexit. But surely she must now accept that this effort has been in vain. Nothing now can prevent Scotland being dragged out of the EU against the will of the people of Scotland and on terms that the First Minister has clearly indicated are totally unacceptable even given her willingness to abide by the UK-wide Leave vote.

That sufferance of Scotland’s voice being ignored was, in itself, a massive compromise. Some would argue that it was already a compromise too far. It has to be the last such compromise.

Let us, for the moment, set aside partisan politics and policy agendas. Let us, instead, consider the matter of fundamental democratic principle. Let us focus on the fact that all legitimate political authority derives from the people.Government requires the consent of the people. Policies imposed absent popular consent lack democratic legitimacy. Government that disregards the will of the people is not democratic. Government which acts contrary to the expressed will of the people is, by definition, anti-democratic.

The Union is a constitutional device which allows the British government to treat the will of Scotland’s people with coldly calculated contempt. Brexit represents merely one particularly egregious example of this callous disdain for democracy. The Union is anti-democratic. The Union facilitates an ongoing breach of that most essential democratic principle – the people of Scotland are sovereign!

And let us be bold enough to talk, not just of principle, but of pride. Our pride must count for something. The pride of the people of Scotland must have some worth. We must cling to our self-respect all the more determinedly in the face of the corrosive contempt exhibited by the British political elite which would otherwise strip us of any regard we have for ourselves. If we do not respect ourselves; our capacities and capabilities and qualities as a nation, then how can we protest the disrespect shown to us by others? If we do not take pride our democracy, how might we expect others to do so. If we do not defend our sovereignty, who will?

More than any other individual, we look to our First Minister to represent Scotland’s attitude to itself. More than anyone else, it is Nicola Sturgeon who bears responsibility for asserting our sovereignty and defending our democracy.

It is time, Nicola! It is time to take a stand for principle! It is time to take a stand for pride! It is time to take the bold and decisive action which will end the Union and restore the sovereignty of Scotland’s people!

It is time!


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Old lies


In the run up to the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence, Spain made clear it would resist an independent Scotland’s application to join the EU for fear of fuelling the Catalonian separatist movement.

Ousted Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy

This statement in The National is just not true. Whatever Mariano Rajoy said as a favour to David Cameron – doubtless with some quid pro quo involved – Madrid’s official position was much more nuanced. There was, indeed, a fear of “fuelling the Catalonian separatist movement”. But to obviate this possibility Spain took the line that Scotland becoming independent was irrelevant to the Catalonian situation due to the constitutional differences.

This position was spelled out as long ago as 2014 by one of Josep Borrell’s predecessors as Foreign Minister.

Spain’s veto seems unlikely. José Manuel García-Margallo, Spain’s foreign minister, declined to state that Spain would veto Scottish accession when invited to do so. Instead, the Spanish Government has taken the line that the cases of Catalonia and Scotland are fundamentally different because the UK’s constitutional setting permits referendums on secession while the current Spanish constitution enshrines the indivisibility of the Spanish state and establishes that national sovereignty belongs to all Spaniards.

Thinking about it for a moment, rather than accepting the British state’s propaganda or falling into line with the metropolitan media’s cosy consensus, one can readily see how actively opposing Scotland’s entry into the EU would fatally contradict this official position. It would be a tacit acknowledgement that there were parallels to be drawn between to two situations. The very thing that Spain was at pains to deny.

The point, of course, is that this “myth” has not just now been “busted”. The reality is that the myth never had any substance. The claim that Spain would veto Scotland’s membership of the EU was, for all practical purposes, a lie. One of countless lies told by Better Together/Project Fear, the British political parties and the British government.

But these lies are not being newly exposed now. Those lies were known to be lies at the time. The article referred to above was published before the 2014 referendum. There were many more such articles. Most, if not all, of the British Nationalist propaganda had been debunked before Scotland voted.

Many of those who voted on Thursday 18 September were making an informed choice. They had taken the trouble to question the British propaganda. They had made the effort to find the facts – or, at least, better information.

Others opted to make arguably the most significant political choice they will ever make on the sole basis of the lies peddled by the British media. Please don’t ask me to respect those people or their choice. After all, they showed scant respect for Scotland or the democratic process.


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The manipulators


Predictably, there were some Yes supporters who couldn’t resist signalling their glee at the prospect of several hundred people and their families facing uncertainty in the weeks before Christmas.

If, like me, you have learned to question absolutely everything conveyed by the media, you will have read Kevin McKenna’s assertion in The National and wondered if it was true. You will have wondered if there actually any Yes supporters indulging in public displays of unseemly schadenfreude at the prospective misfortune of Scotsman employees and their families.

If, like me, you have learned to distrust such claims unless backed up with persuasive evidence or authoritative argument, you will be wondering why Mr McKenna has neglected to provide even a single example to illustrate the behaviour to which he refers. After all, he must have witnessed this behaviour. He would hardly claim that Yes supporters were “signalling their glee” at the possibility of people suffering the Dickensian Yuletide he evokes unless he had actually seen at least one or two instances of such contemptible conduct. He wouldn’t expect us to take this serious allegation on trust. Would he?

If, like me, you have learned that certain terms can have a particular significance when deployed by journalists, you will have realised that prefacing this claim with the word ‘predictably’ is intended to strongly imply a truth so obvious that the reader would be a fool to doubt it. Or, if not a fool, then certainly someone outside the priesthood of journalism and so denied their privileged access to truth. Which amounts to the same thing as being a fool, I suppose.

Journalists are manipulators. They manipulate information. They manipulate language. They manipulate perception. Ultimately, they manipulate people. This is entirely unsurprising and quite uncontroversial. After all, journalists work, for the most part, in an industry devoted to manipulation of people’s perceptions. Manipulation is a function of control. Control is a function of power. Power must be made manifest. Manipulators gotta manipulate. They can’t help themselves. Crucially, they don’t get paid unless they can demonstrate their ability to manipulate. And you’re only as good as your most recent bit of manipulation.

This doesn’t necessarily make journalists bad people. Everybody has to make a living. And it very much depends on what power is being served by those manipulative skills. Or, rather, how we perceive the power that is so served.

Perhaps, like me, you begin to see the problem.


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Gathering our strength


The Gathering worked like a precision machine building itself out of a confusing array of disparate bits gathered from across the geographic and social length and breadth of Scotland.

I wrote the above after the first National Yes Registry Gathering back in May. I think you can tell from my comments that I was greatly impressed and enthused by an event which brought together hundreds of Yes activists in Stirling’s Albert Hall to discuss matters such as organising and funding the movement; currency and national debt; voting systems; the economy; a written constitution and, of course, campaigning in a new independence referendum.

I am now looking forward to the second such event – Gathering 2 – which takes place on Saturday 24 November. The venue, once again, is the Albert Hall, Stirling and registration is from 09:00. Tickets for the full-day event cost £14 and can be obtained from Eventbrite.

I cannot stress enough how important these events are to the Yes movement and the cause of independence. Our strength lies, not in great wealth or charismatic leadership, but in grassroots numbers and our ability to find leadership where and when it is required. To maximise this strength, we must develop powerful networks which allow us to tap into the skills of individuals and the resources of groups and use the collective power of the Yes movement to greatest effect. The movement must organise in order to campaign. The Gatherings are a highly effective way to network and organise.

But Gathering 2 is special for another reason. As you will be aware, the SNP has been seeking to consult as widely as possible on the Sustainable Growth Commission Report. To this end, the party held a series of National Assemblies for the purpose of consultation among members of the SNP. But the party was always determined to widen this consultation and Depute Leader Keith Brown MSP has joined with National Yes Registry with the aim of establishing a framework for engaging as fully as possible with the Yes movement. As Gathering 2 organiser Janey MacDonald says,

This is the very first grassroots-run consultation to be officially sanctioned by any Scottish party of government. It’s a historic moment for Yes, and underlines how essential it is that as many of our movement take part in the Gathering as possible, to maximise the legitimacy of this unique opportunity and directly influence power. Come and add your voice.

This is no exaggeration. Gathering 2 promises to be a transformational exercise for both the Yes movement and for the SNP. It is emblematic of the distinctive political culture that we are developing in Scotland. This is how we want, and intend, to do politics. This is democracy in action. The Yes movement has, for some time now, been reaching out to the SNP as its de facto political arm. This cooperation between the party and National Yes Registry represents the SNP’s positive and constructive response.It is no exaggeration at all to say that this changes everything. And you can be part of this change. You can be there as history is made. You can help shape that history.

Which still leaves us with a campaign to prepare for the moment when Nicola Sturgeon initiates the final phase of the project to restore Scotland’s rightful constitutional status. At Gathering 2 you will not only have the opportunity to help set parameters for the official grassroots’ consultation on the Sustainable Growth Commission Report, you will also see the launch of the newly-completed IndyApp 2.0 and be able to participate in a range of seminars and discussions. Most notably, perhaps, on the ‘hot topic’ of reframing.

Keith Brown himself will be attending Gathering 2 along with Sustainable Growth Commission Report authors Jim Mather & Roger Mullin, who will give a short presentation and be available to answer questions and take points from the various working groups.

In addition, there will be a seminar on reframing led by recognised experts Bill Mills and Dr. June Maxwell – with ample opportunity to discuss and learn about this fascinating subject.

But the most important people at Gathering 2 will be the grassroots Yes activists who are prepared to give of their time and talents to make all of this work. I urge you to attend and participate if you possibly can. You will be contributing to a uniquely important exercise in policy consultation. You will be helping to create the campaign which will lead to the restoration of Scotland’s independence. And you will also enjoy a most inspiring and rewarding experience.


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