The cancer

Jackson Carlaw is the individual who also complained about the Scottish Parliament Corporate Body purchasing an outfit for the use of Holyrood’s official piper. The cost was around £1,000. But the issue for Carlaw isn’t the expenditure of public funds. It’s the fact that official piper is one Stuart McMillan – Scottish National Party Member of the Scottish Parliament for the Greenock and Inverclyde constituency.

As the Scottish Parliament’s official piper Mr McMillan has played at numerous events and does not charge for services. He has thus saved the public purse rather more than the amount spent on the piper’s outfit which, in any case, remains the property of the Scottish Parliament.

I mention this to illustrate just how petty, puerile and senseless British Nationalists like Carlaw can be when it comes to attacking the hated SNP.

The issues surrounding the allegations against Alex Salmond and the conduct of the investigation by British civil servants are, of course, very far from being as trivial as other matter that the likes of Carlaw have latched onto in their desperation to smear any SNP figure. But Carlaw’s motives are just as malicious.

The bitter resentment and hatred of the SNP harboured by the British parties squatting in the Scottish Parliament is a cancer at the heart of Scotland’s politics. Our nation will not be well until we remove that tumour.


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Play the game!

Lesley Riddoch’s theory seems to be that if the SNP plays nice with the British parties then maybe they’ll let us join in their game of British politics. And if we play very nice they may even reward us with the baubles and beads of high office. And if we play very, very nice, they could even see their way to letting us exercise our democratic right of self-determination.

And, if we are really quite exceptionally nice for long enough then perhaps, when we choose to restore Scotland’s independence, they won’t throw a petulant tantrum and get all “standoffish, combative, self-harming, dogmatic and partisan”.

Now, I appreciate that Lesley presents this as a very tentative theory. She swaddles it with caveats, provisos, conditions, qualifiers and disclaimers. But it seems to me that what she describes involves a massive investment of trust and compromise by the SNP with absolutely no firm assurance of any return at all. And whatever dividend there may be amounts to nothing more than what we already own or are clearly entitled to.

It all sounds lovely. Everybody getting along; working together; treating each other with respect. All collegiate and cooperative. All harmony and light.

It’s just not British! And that’s the problem. Lesley’s notional “unity government” faces two rather significant obstacles – the nature of the British political elite; and the nature of the Union.

The British political elite doesn’t do respect for Scotland’s elected representatives. It does EVEL. The Union doesn’t make provision for popular sovereignty and the kind of democracy Scotland aspires to. It imposes the sovereignty of parliament and executive as proxy for a monarch and tolerates only such democracy as poses no threat to established power.

The British establishment deals with challenges to its power in one of two ways. The challenger is either crushed out of existence, or it is absorbed into the structures of power, privilege and patronage which define the British state. What Lesley describes sounds horribly like the SNP letting itself be enveloped in the coils of the snake.

I can think of no more grotesque contradiction than an SNP MP at the head of the UK Government in Scotland. That’s not playing nice. That’s being played.


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BritNats say the daftest things!

My readers are doubtless familiar with the catalogue of inanities spouted by British Nationalists as they attempt to defend the indefensible. The dictates of reason and logic are no obstacle to those determined to maintain the Union at any cost. Truth and accuracy count for nothing compared to the British Nationalist’s devotion to the British ruling elites. There is no conduct, however reprehensible, that cannot be justified when it’s purpose is to preserve the structures of power, privilege and patronage which define the British state.

Reprehensible, or merely ridiculous. British Nationalists are ever willing to appear the fool in the service of their ideology. One need only witness an episode of First Minister’s Questions and the antics of the British politicians squatting in the Scottish Parliament to be struck by the eagerness with which they make themselves appear pathologically stupid in their efforts to undermine public confidence in Scotland’s Parliament, Government, institutions and public services. Who can forget British Labour in Scotland’s (BLiS) Iain Gray demanding to know where the money would come from for an oil fund. Or, more recently (and perhaps less amusingly), Maurice Corry for the British Conservative & Unionist Party in Scotland (BCUPS) insisting that the lower alcohol limit introduced by the SNP administration had caused an increase in road traffic accidents.

This kind of idiocy pervades British Nationalist rhetoric. During the 2014 independence referendum campaign there were countless instances when the Project Fear propaganda descended into farce. You may recall an official paper published by the UK Government which claimed that the cost of setting up an independent Scottish state would be over £2bn. This was almost immediately revised down to £1.5bn before the whole claim was hastily buried amid a storm of criticism from people who can do arithmetic and the academics whose research had been grossly misrepresented.

Then there was the claim that independent Scotland would have to renegotiate around 8,500 existing treaties. This figure, too, was revised down from Liberal Democrat Willie Rennie‘s original claim that “They would have to negotiate over 14,000 international treaties…”.

What both these examples of BritNat bawheidery have in common is that they both seem plausible.so long as you don’t think about them too much. Or at all. Question the claim about post-independence set-up costs and we find that, according to the very researchers cited by the UK Government, this would be more realistically estimated at £200m, spread over a decade or so. Examine the claim about thousands of treaties and we find that, in order to get the scariest figure possible the British Nationalists have been obliged to include the likes of a ‘Treaty with the King of Dahomey [regarding] Peace, Commerce, Slave Trade, Human Sacrifices’.

The point here is that it simply didn’t matter to British Nationalists that their claims were dishonest or daft. Knowing that those claims would never be scrutinised by the mainstream media, they just ran with the wildest story they could concoct. The lies and nonsense were trumpeted by the British media while the rebuttals and debunking remained relatively invisible. Truth is determined by the loudest voice. Reality is less important than perception. And the British establishment owns the machinery by which perceptions are manipulated. Even today, some five years since Project Fear was at its most feverish, there are many people in Scotland who remain unaware of the extent to which they were misled, deceived and lied to by the British government, the British political parties and Better Together.

If that sounds a bit Orwellian then there’s a good reason. The similarities to George Orwell’s dystopian vision are difficult to ignore. His ‘1984’ is, of course, fiction. In noting the similarities we must make due allowance for such licence as may taken by a writer the better to tell their tale. In real life, there is no Winston Smith sitting at a machine laboriously altering old newspapers in order to have them with the currently decreed truth. In 2019 the process of rewriting history is more sophisticated. More subtle. More insidious. Today, manufactured truth need not totally replace redundant truth. Instead, we have media which is a constantly, instantly renewing palimpsest. The old truth is not eradicated in order to replace it with the new truth. The old truth is, rather, gradually but rapidly obscured by a constant stream of new truths that are superimposed on it.

Think for example of Ruth Davidson’s enthusiastic championing of the Remain campaign in the 2016 EU referendum; now all but completely obliterated by the media-generated new truth of her at least equally enthusiastic support for the diametrically opposite position. The record of her previous stance is still there. Nobody has methodically tracked down and erased Davidson’s every written and spoken word on the absolute necessity of staying in the EU. Nobody needs to. What Orwell didn’t – couldn’t – foresee was the massive manipulative power of media in the age of the internet. If Orwell was writing today, Winston Smith would be probably be presenting rolling TV news for the BBC rather than altering old newspaper articles for the Ministry of Truth.

As I said at the start, most people reading this will be painfully familiar with the British Nationalists’ routine. It hasn’t altered much over the years. But, from time to time, they do come up with some fresh material. Or, at least, some material that isn’t as stale and mouldy as the usual stuff. For an example, I turn to everybody’s favourite British Nationalist cringe-monkey, Duncan Hothersall. For those who don’t recognise the name, Duncan is a sometime BLiS mouthpiece and one of the British establishment’s most prolific Twitter propagandists. An individual whose unthinking devotion to the British state and the ‘One Nation’ project is rivalled only by his mindless hatred of the SNP and his profound contempt for pretty much anything that is Scottish. He’s not called a cringe-monkey for no reason.

Duncan emphatically dismisses the notion that the people of Scotland are capable of running our country absent the beneficent intervention of the British political elite. He dogmatically rejects the idea that we deserve governments we actually elect. Generally speaking, he subscribes to the Tom Gordon ‘Scotland Is A Hell-hole’ school of thought. Everything in Scotland is awful and it’s all the SNP’s fault because everything was wonderful when British Labour was in charge and the Tories aren’t all that bad because at least they are Unionists and isn’t that the most important thing?

Bad as Scotland is, the one thing that would definitely make it worse, according to Duncan, is independence. Supposing Scotland was laid waste by pestilence and famine and rendered an uninhabitable desert by some devastating nuclear holocaust, Duncan’s dying breath would be expended on insisting that this is nothing compared to the fate that would have befallen us if we had chosen to be a normal independent nation.

There is, I strongly suspect, no news of Scotland so heartening; no achievement of Scotland’s people so impressive; no policy of the Scottish Government so successful, that Duncan couldn’t turn it into a gobbet of #SNPBAD propaganda or a Jeremiad on the ‘dangers’ of independence – abbreviated for Twitter, of course. Take a look at this.

You can almost taste the idiocy emanating from Hothersall’s response in a noxious miasma of bitterness and bigotry. As he would have it, no matter how horrific Brexit is, independence would surpass it. Try to get your head around the ‘logic’ which insists that, however much of a catastrophic mistake Brexit turns out to be, being the country that chooses not to make that mistake and has the power to ensure that choice is honoured, has to be a bigger mistake.

And that’s before we get to the comparison between the EU and the UK as political unions. A comparison which, even making allowances for the limitations of the medium, is stunningly simplistic, shallow and vacuous. In his assessment of the EU, Duncan echoes the inanity of the Mad Brexiteers who are totally, wilfully oblivious to the fact that over a period of almost seven decades the EU has evolved as the solution to a raft of issues – as well as bringing peace and prosperity to a continent historically blighted by bloody conflict.

Whatever it’s defects and failings, none but the most embittered Europhobe would deny that the EU was established for the most worthy of reasons and with the best of intentions. The EU’s fundamental purpose is honourable and its existence is broadly beneficial to member states even if, in practice, it often falls short of what we might hope of it in certain areas.

Compare this with the Union under which Scotland toils. A union that was contrived in a different age for purposes that were never relevant to us.

A union that we, the people, had no part in creating or sanctioning. An anachronistic, dysfunctional, corrupt union which serves none of the people off these islands well.

A union which was always intended to serve the purposes of the ruling elites. A union which, in that regard if no other, has not changed one iota in the last three centuries.

A union that sucks the human and material resources out of our nation and in return gives us government by parties that we have emphatically rejected at the polls.

A union that imposes policies which are anathema to our people. Policies which have been rejected by our democratically elected representatives.

A union which serves primarily as a constitutional device by means of which the people of Scotland are denied the full and effective exercise of the sovereignty that is theirs by absolute right.

A union which, were we being given that option now, not one of us would vote to join – but which we are nonetheless being asked to vote to remain in.

A union which we would reject just as we rejected Brexit.

Duncan Hothersall is a fool, blinded by British Nationalist fervour and partisan prejudice. Of the two political unions to which he refers, only one is actively doing harm to Scotland, and promising to do very much worse. Only one poses a real and imminent threat to Scotland’s democracy. Only one is so anti-democratic as to try and deny Scotland’s right of self-determination. Only one requires that the people of Scotland, our democratic institutions and our elected representatives be treated with callous contempt.

If you doubt how dreadful and dangerous the Union is, just listen to some of the crazies who imagine it to be the divinely ordained natural order.


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Comfortable with uncertainty

George Kerevan states that the Sustainable Growth Commission (SGC) “wants an independent Scotland to keep the pound sterling for an indefinite period”. This is not the case. What the SGC suggests is that Scotland continues to use our existing currency for a transitional period which is undefined. ‘Undefined’ is not the same as ‘indefinite’.

As in many other areas, this is simply a matter of the SGC acknowledging reality. The point at which Scotland transitions from sterling to any new currency arrangement cannot be predetermined. It must be a matter for the judgement of the government of the day taking account of prevailing circumstances.

It is, of course, possible to argue that there should be no transition period; that Scotland should move to an independent currency immediately upon independence being restored. But, if the need – or desirability – of a transitional arrangement is accepted, then it must also be accepted that the duration of this period cannot be set in stone. To do so would impose undue constraint on the Scottish Government.

The most we might sensibly do is place an obligation on the government to move to an independent currency at the earliest possible time.

We might reasonably suppose that, if the intention is to adopt an economic strategy informed by MMT, some preparation will be required. This could necessitate a transitional arrangement even if it is not ideal. The crucial factor here is the timescale for restoring independence.

If we had another five years then it would almost certainly be possible to eliminate the need for a post-independence transitional currency arrangement. Anybody who thinks we can afford to wait that long to dissolve the Union really isn’t paying attention. Perhaps because they’re too busy obsessing about the fine detail of currency arrangements and economic policy.

Not being either an economist or a political fantasist, I long since became comfortable with the fact that the future can nether be wholly known nor absolutely determined. I am satisfied that Scotland will have a functioning currency. Because the notion that we might not is too ridiculous to contemplate. And I am satisfied that Scotland is perfectly capable of managing its own currency arrangements and economic policy. Because the implication that we might not is both profoundly offensive and contrary to all available evidence.

Run! Don’t walk!

This is pure fantasy from British Labour. They claim they will campaign in a snap UK general election on a promise to renegotiate the Brexit ‘deal’ without May’s ‘red lines’. Just a few wee problems with that.

British Labour has shown itself remarkably reluctant to force that UK general election. Not least because the polls indicate they would lose. In this instance, we have to give the polls some credence. When the official opposition is five points behind the worst government in living memory, there’s definitely something amiss. They should be at least five points ahead. It’s very difficult to see how British Labour might recover even half of that ten point gap. It would take something big. And all they are offering is empty promises.

Like the empty promise to renegotiate the Brexit deal. But first they’d have somehow persuade the EU to extend the Article 50 negotiation period. How are they going to do that from the opposition benches? Then they’d have to win the election – against the odds. Then they’d have to persuade the EU to reopen negotiations after they’ve said repeatedly and with increasing forcefulness that they will do no such thing.

And even if they pull off this series of little miracles, they’ll still face the obstacle of getting their shiny new ‘deal’ approved by the British parliament. If MP’s are not going to approve May’s deal with it’s ‘red lines’ what chance is there that they’d vote through a ‘deal’ which would inevitably be portrayed as a total capitulation to the EU?

A change of tenant at 10 Downing Street is not going to resolve the Brexit issue. In fact, it may well be that the British political elite have finally managed to create a situation which simply cannot be resolved.

Scotland at least has the option to walk away from this toxic situation. We should do so as briskly as we possibly can. #DissolveTheUnion


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Why are we waiting?

Ian Blackford is undoubtedly correct when he says that “there is no such thing as a good Brexit“. It is certainly the case that there is no form of Brexit that negates the democratic will of Scotland’s people, who voted decisively to remain part of the EU. There is no form of Brexit which does anything other than demonstrate the British state’s contempt for Scotland – and for democracy.

So, what is unclear? What might be revealed by this ‘clarity’ we’re told we must wait for? What might we see when the “fog of Brexit clears” that is any different from the festival of incompetence we’ve watched spiralling into a catastrophic fiasco over the last 30 months?

What are we waiting for?

It is understandable that the SNP does not oppose a so-called ‘People’s Vote’? Opposing the people’s right to directly vote on fundamental constitutional issues is not a good look. Anybody who has watched British Nationalists “becoming increasingly strident, increasingly shrill, in their insistence that there must not be another Scottish independence referendum” knows just how ugly such anti-democratic rhetoric can be.

But is supporting calls for a ‘People’s Vote’ any better? Is it appropriate for the SNP to participate in a campaign to revisit the UK-wide Leave vote? What would be the purpose of a new EU referendum? If the purpose was to allow the people of Scotland an opportunity to reconsider an earlier choice in the light of significantly altered circumstances, then demanding a ‘Peoples Vote’ would be democratically warranted. But there is not the slightest indication that the people of Scotland want a chance to change their minds. Or that they would do so given the opportunity. In fact, the signs are that Scotland would vote Remain by an even bigger margin than the original 62%.

The only purpose of a ‘People’s Vote’ is to allow England to have a change of heart. By supporting a new referendum on EU membership the SNP is effectively saying that they are happy for Scotland’s fate to once again be placed in the hands of voters in England. The party might insist that Scotland’s vote in such a referendum be respected. But that isn’t going to happen. It isn’t going to happen because the Union absolutely requires that Scotland’s democratic will be subordinate to England’s. Just as it absolutely requires that Scotland’s interests must be subordinate to those of the British state. The very best that we could realistically expect is an assurance from the British political elite that Scotland’s vote would be ‘taken into consideration’. And we all know what such assurances are worth.

The SNP should have taken a neutral position on a ‘People’s Vote’ – neither supporting nor opposing. It’s England’s Brexit. It’s England’s problem. If they want a fresh vote on EU membership in the hope of resolving the problem, let them get on with it.

The position that the SNP has taken – actively demanding another vote – looks like nothing more than another delaying tactic. Another way of putting off effective action to resolve the real constitutional issue facing Scotland. Not Brexit, but the Union which denies the people of Scotland full and effective exercise of their sovereignty.

Unless and until we #DissolveTheUnion, the British state’s contempt for Scotland made so egregiously evident by Brexit will continue. Ian Blackford says,

It is the job of the Scottish Government to protect the interests of Scotland.

What are they waiting for?


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The deadly Section 30!

There appears to be a general assumption that (a) Nicola Sturgeon will renew the request for a Section 30 order with a view to holding a new independence referendum; and (b) that Theresa May will refuse. If I have learned anything in more than half a century observing politics – and people – it is that one should beware of easy assumptions.

I have made my views on asking for a Section 30 order plain on many occasions. It would be a mistake. I take the view that the British Prime Minister cannot have a veto over the right of self-determination that is vested wholly in the people of Scotland and guaranteed by the Charter of the United Nations. To ask Westminster’s permission for a referendum is to acknowledge and affirm their authority to refuse that permission and, thereby, effectively veto the exercise of Scotland’s right of self-determination.

One response to this is that the precedent has been set by Alex Salmond going down the Section 30 route for the 2014 referendum. I reject this argument. I maintain that Salmond had options and chose the Section 30 route only because that was judged to be the best option in the circumstances which prevailed at the time. I see no reason why this should have the effect of precluding all other options for all time.

Those circumstances no longer prevail. The entire political environment has altered dramatically since 2014. To choose the Section 30 route even in such drastically different circumstances could be argued to imply that it is the appropriate or sole option in any circumstances. Asking for a Section 30 order again really would set a precedent. Granting the British political elite a veto over Scotland’s right of self-determination once can be seen as politically astute. Doing so twice would surely be political folly.

The argument goes that Theresa May will refuse the Section 30 order and Nicola Sturgeon can then claim that she tried that route and has now been forced by British intransigence to go another way. That’s really not a good look. Doing something only because you’ve been forced into it doesn’t give the impression of being in control. Going that other route should be a matter of choice. It should be seen as decisive action, rather than compelled reaction.

But what if Theresa May doesn’t refuse that Section 30 order? Suggesting this possibility usually elicits a response querying why she would allow it. What possible reason could Theresa May have for granting a Section 30 order? I can think of one. It’s all about control of the process.

If Theresa May grants a Section 30 order this means that there must be a new agreement between the two governments establishing the ground rules for the referendum. By asking for the Section 30 order, Nicola Sturgeon would be accepting the need for such a negotiated agreement. Theresa May would then make demands that Nicola Sturgeon couldn’t possibly agree to – such as a qualified majority requirement or the exclusion from the franchise of 16/17-year olds. No agreement! No referendum!

Requesting a Section 30 order is a lose/lose scenario for Nicola Sturgeon. Either way, she ends up having to find another way forward having been made to look weak and having afforded the British political elite an authority to which they are not entitled. The First Minister must seize control of the process from the outset.


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