A bad place

I’ve just read yet another blog peddling the idea that the mandate for a new independence referendum is entirely conditional on Brexit. This is based solely on a single phrase abstracted from a section of the SNP’s 2016 election manifesto – “taken out of the EU”. But it doesn’t just say “taken out of the EU”. It says “…or if there is a significant and material change in the circumstances that prevailed in 2014, such as Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will” (my emphasis). You can’t pretend those words aren’t there just because it suits your argument.

And you can’t escape the import of that extract. Unless you wilfully distort it by excluding a big chunk of the text and even more of the context, that paragraph sets down two separate and non-mutually exclusive situations in which the Scottish Parliament “should have the right to hold another [independence] referendum”. Those two situations are –

(a) “if there is clear and sustained evidence that independence has become the preferred option of a majority of the Scottish people”

AND/OR

(b) “if there is a significant and material change in the circumstances that prevailed in 2014”

Being “taken out of the EU” is merely given as an example of “significant and material change”. The clue is in the words “such as”. Unfortunately, those who come to this section of the SNP manifesto having already made up their minds what it says tend to be oblivious to the bits that contradict their preconceptions.

It could easily be argued that it was a mistake to include that example. It may be maintained that by doing so the SNP was inviting precisely the kind of distorted interpretation presented in Barrhead Boy’s article, and so many other places besides. That British Nationalists would twist the words to suit their malign purpose was to be expected. The fact that so many in the Yes movement are happily parroting this British Nationalist propaganda is one of the reasons I have lately come to despair for the cause of independence.

Another reason is glib utterances such as “we do not have any instant easy fixes that can magically be deployed”. I am not aware that anybody has ever suggested any “instant easy fixes”. So this is, essentially, nothing more than a rather silly straw man deployed in preference to actually addressing the alternative process implied by the hashtag #DissolveTheUnion. The attitude seems to be that, if you don’t understand an idea and can’t be bothered making the effort, then simply dismiss it with some trite phrase.

But, a couple of days ago in the course of a near day long series of exchanges on Twitter, a realisation gradually dawned on me. It wouldn’t matter if there was an “instant easy fix”. Or, at least a relatively straightforward process by which we could advance the independence cause. It wouldn’t matter because what certainly seems to be the entire Yes movement has convinced itself that the process must be complex and convoluted in order to be ‘real’.

This notion is, I think, closely associated with the notion that the process must be ‘legal’. By which is generally meant, in accordance with whatever laws, regulations and rules devised by the British state are deemed to be relevant. The British political elite make hoops and we must jump through them. Once we have jumped through all the hoops, we’ll have completed a process that is ‘legally watertight’.

There is an obvious problem with this which, for all that it is so obvious, seems to elude those who insist on accepting ‘British’ as the definitive standard in all things. There is no limit to the number of hoops the British state can set up for us to jump through. So long as we meekly accept that we must jump through their hoops, they will always produce another one.

There is no route to independence which does not pass through a point at which there is direct and possibly unpleasant confrontation with the British political elite. If you are trying to contrive some ‘legal’ device by which to bypass that point, you are wasting time and resources. If you are not prepared to face that confrontation, then you are not committed to the cause of independence.

There is also a less obvious issue with this notion of ‘legality’. The relevant standard by which to assess the process whereby Scotland’s independence is restored is democratic not legal. So long as that process by which Scotland’s people exercise their right of self-determination is wholly and transparently democratic, then it cannot be ‘illegal’.

I am now resigned, however, to the fact that this fundamental truth is not going to gain anything like the required traction in the Yes movement. I don’t know how many times I’ve explained what that passage from the SNP manifesto actually says. Even though it’s written in English plain enough that you’d have to be motivated to misunderstand it. Nobody is listening! Likewise, the point about democratic legitimacy being more relevant than legislative compliance. Nobody is listening! Also the exploration of bold and decisive action – necessarily outwith what is permitted by the British state – to resolve the issue of Scotland’s constitutional status. Nobody is listening!

Another thing occurred to me in the course of that Twitter exchange. I’ve found myself in a place where Yes supporters frustrate and annoy me more than British Nationalists. That’s not a place I want to be.


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11 thoughts on “A bad place

  1. Sun Tzu, ‘The Art of War’ –

    Never fight a battle in a salt-march.

    Don’t go campaigning with your land armies in China.

    Never invade Russia during Winter.

    Don’t wait 25 years waiting for the UK government to hand you independence.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I get it Peter.

    There is a large percentage of SNP voters who have absolute faith in the infallibility of our leaders. Anyone who offers a different opinion is being impatient , untrusting and divisive. The truth is that our current leaders are no clearer on the way forward than May’s atrocious war cabinet. This idea of steady ,steady trust me we have a plan. Independence is inevitable etc.

    Well it’s not inevitable. It will happen by creating the correct circumstances and putting the right ingredients in the bowl to make it happen. Failure to do so will result in an empty bowl and a lost future.

    We must have made something happen before March 29. After that everything is up in the air and Scotland’s voice will be weakened.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. I totally agree, we the Scottish people are sovereign, that means it is our right of self determination as to how and who we want we want to run OUR country. Were in this mess because of the British legal gobbledygook. Let just take back what is already ours !!! The unionist mob aren’t going to make it easy of course there not, they’ll muddy the waters as much as they can, they don’t want to lose their cash cow (Scotland) But It is your god given right you the Scottish people !! not by the permission of the Unionist state. Your right to self determination thats basic human rights !! Get off your frikking knees….

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Peter,

    in all the reasoned and reasonable argument you bring forward against those that advocate following the rules of the BritNazi Establishment, you missed to mention that, just a few weeks ago, the same BritNazis have changed rules retroactively and invalidated a perfectly and watertight legal act of the Scottish Parliament, voted by an absolute, crushing majority of its members.

    There is no “legal” way to win against the rule-makers.
    There is only a rightful and democratic way.
    And is that is precluded, we will have to go through the trials and tribulations that many other colonies had to endure to get freedom from the BritNazi Establishment.

    It won’t be pretty, but we hold the levers of power – literally.
    Scotland (8.6% of UK population) supplies 11% of the power to the UK Grid.

    A few power cuts taking offline the power lines that feeds our green renewable leccy to England will be a signal strong enough to wake them up to reality.

    An electric shock.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Mr Bell, I sympathise with your frustration with the apparent lack of understanding by many of Scotland’s constitutional position in the world.

    The Acts of Union of 1707 brought about a union of the PARLIAMENTS of Scotland and England – not the COUNTRIES. Scotland and England remained as separate entities after this union of the legislatures so talk of Scotland ‘becoming’ independent as a country is, to my mind, fatuous. There is not, and never was a ‘country of Great Britain’.

    The 1707 Acts were cleverly worded to attempt to ensure that the then new Parliament of Great Britain became recognised as the supreme legislative body for both countries. They failed in that endeavour in the fields of law, religion and aspects of royal succession where unbridgeable differences could not be eliminated thus confirming that two separate countries remained.

    We do not need to re-assert an independent status which is already ours The job of ‘Yes’ is to unpick the parliamentary union. The best way, the way with the greatest potential for success, is what needs to be decided and acted upon.

    I have no claim to expertise in matters of the constitution but feel that a body consisting all the existing Scottish MPs, MSPs and MEPs backed by a popular vote for the repeal of the 1707 Act would have sufficient international credibility to get the job done irrespective of the inevitable dark machinations of Westminster.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Peter, I think you speak for many of us. I first joined the SNP in 1978.I have never felt moreconcerned about what the SNP is doing – and not doing..

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Peter

    This is the nasty hangover side of 2014. it embedded a false perception of Scotland’s options. I know 2014 taught YES and Scotland a lot. However it also left an insidious mind bug that Westminster is all powerful in the Union.

    As I understand, Salmond was considering a consultative referendum if the Section 30 option was not accepted. I.e. the Section 30 was just one option for Indyref. However, the section 30 came with:
    – POSITIVE of Westminster approval of the result, but also the
    – NEGATIVE of Westminster setting conditions.

    This time, a Section 30 with its Westminster controlled conditions would almost be the worst method. If Scotland really wants to save itself (and I really mean save itself), it will need to wake up from this stupor and quickly. It needs to remember what it has learnt about the landmines of Westminster politics and play its best hand. Stop reading political texts like a tabloid and start from its position of strength.

    YES needs to grow beyond the 2014 mindset. 2019 is a different challenge…that just may have the same answer.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Like banging your head off a brick wall, isn’t it, Peter? I admire your fortitude as I gave up doing so a long time ago. That doesn’t say much about my character, I’m sure…

    Like

  9. Peter,
    you could have written that article without maligning Barrhead Boy whose blog committed neither of the errors you accuse him of. Indeed his reference to the brexit phrase was, to paraphrase yourself, precisely arguing the point that that it may have been “a mistake to include that example”.

    There is no sense, in its context, in which his phrase “fixes that can magically be deployed” can be construed as suggesting excessive complexity is required for independence.

    You undoubtedly know Barrhead Boy better than I do, but I have never regarded him as one of the “do it within English law or don’t bother” crowd.In order of “ease” Independence requires, after gaining clear evidence of a majority will, 1) the acquiescence of England or 2) the recognition (support) of at least some significant other countries, preferably the UN or 3) the wherewithal to withstand economic or military attacks on our country.
    1) is easiest achieved if w do it within English law, 2) is easiest achieved if 1) has been rebuffed and we can show that extra-legal activities have been reasonable in the legitimate pursuit of our right to independence. 3) is difficult to achieve without strong and committed allies.

    Like

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