Don’t ask! Take!

3. The prospect of an even more hard-line Brexiteer now becoming PM and threatening a no deal exit is deeply concerning. Added to the experience of the past three years, this makes it all the more important that Scotland is given the choice of becoming an independent country.— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) May 24, 2019

That’s my emphasis on the above Tweet from Nicola Sturgeon; part of the First Minister’s characteristically gracious but pointed statement responding to Theresa May’s much-anticipated resignation announcement. I highlight it as an example of the kind of talk that brings me to the verge of despair. The kind of talk which tells of a mindset that is totally inadequate for the purpose of taking forward the cause of restoring Scotland’s independence.

Power is never given. Power is only taken.

This is not just an iron law of politics, it is inescapable logic. The power to bestow is merely the prettily painted face of the power to withhold. The converse of, and stolid attendant to the power to give is the power to deny or deprive. The power to take. Thus, power that is given is not real power at all. It cannot be when the acquisition of it is conditional on the consent of another and the ongoing possession of it depends on the other’s continuing approval.

The very act of requesting power acknowledges the other’s superordinate status. And, by necessary implication, the subordinate status of the petitioner. One only asks if one is prepared to accept refusal. And if refusal is unacceptable, then asking is pointless – unless the purpose is to signal weakness.

Why would we ask for something that is ours by absolute right?

This mindset has to change. The ‘petitioner mindset’ demeans us all. It begs the question, can we really call ourselves a nation if we allow that our nationhood is in the gift of what is, for all relevant purposes, a foreign power?

Nations don’t ask if they can be nations. Nations assert their nationhood. Independence is the starting point. The normal condition. The default status. It is anything other than independence which must ask permission to pertain.

The predecessors of today’s British political elite were ‘given’ power over Scotland by the grasping, self-serving, corrupt antecedents of today’s ideological Unionists. Ever since, the Union has served as a constitutional device by which the sovereign people of Scotland are denied the full and proper exercise of their sovereignty. That sovereignty remains ours. It is inalienable. We no more require Westminster’s consent to exercise it than we require their permission to breathe.

We must, as a matter of the utmost urgency, rid ourselves of the insidious notion – inculcated over more than three centuries of domination that has been sometimes brutal, sometimes subtle – that the supremacy claimed by the British state over Scotland is rightful. It is not! It cannot be! And it must be forcefully rejected!

Scotland looks to our elected leaders to assert and affirm the sovereignty of Scotland’s people. Not merely as a form of words in some declaration, but in fundamental practical ways. We look to our elected representatives and the only Parliament with democratic legitimacy in Scotland to defend our inalienable rights by their every word and deed.

Nicola Sturgeon is clever, astute, principled and determined. She is, without question, the most fitting political leader for Scotland at this time. But we need her to be, not just clever, but bold. Not just astute, but decisive. Not just principled, but fervent in pursuit of those principles. Not just determined, but assertive, even aggressive in demanding respect for the sovereignty of Scotland’s people and Scotland’s status as a nation.

We will get behind you, Nicola. But not if you are standing at England’s door with a begging bowl.

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Who to trust?

Always one to look for the silver lining, I reckon a very important lesson can be learned from the appalling way that EU citizens from outwith the UK have been treated. Bearing in mind that the British government is responsible for the arrangements under which local authorities administer the vote, it is clear they cannot be trusted to do the job properly. It appears they have brought the same tragic incompetence to the running of this election as to the entire Brexit fiasco.

Scotland cannot continue to be subject to this gross ineptitude. Nor is it reasonable to expect that we should let a hostile British government, or its agencies, have any role in the administration of a new independence referendum.

I have long stressed how important it is that, when we hold a new referendum, the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament should control the whole process. That there should be no role whatever for the British government at any stage of that process.

If people have been denied a vote in the European Parliament elections due to an ‘administrative error’, imagine what a hostile British government might do to sabotage a referendum to end the Union.

What’s that you say? They would never stoop so low? Really? Can we be absolutely sure of that? With the threat of rabid British Nationalism looming, can we afford to take a chance?

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The aim

I think after all of the experience of the last three years, Scotland should have the opportunity to decide whether we want to become an independent European nation.

Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland

First Minister,

As you will surely be aware, the constitution of the Scottish National Party states the aims of the party as follows –

(a) Independence for Scotland; that is the restoration of Scottish national sovereignty by restoration of full powers to the Scottish Parliament, so that its authority is limited only by the sovereign power of the Scottish People to bind it with a written constitution and by such agreements as it may freely enter into with other nations or states or international organisations for the purpose of furthering international cooperation, world peace and the protection of the environment.

(b) The furtherance of all Scottish interests.

Constitution of the Scottish National Party

The first of these aims could just as readily stand as a mission statement for the entire independence movement. That is why the Scottish National Party is the de facto political arm of that movement. That is why you, as leader of the party, are the person to whom the Yes movement looks for leadership. That is why, ultimately, you are the individual in whom is invested the hope and trust of every man, woman and child who is part of the Yes movement.

It is that single objective which unites us. Regardless of our views on any issue of public policy, we are all bound by that common purpose. Whatever differences there may be in our vision of Scotland’s future, we all share that same aspiration – the restoration of Scottish national sovereignty by restoration of full powers to the Scottish Parliament.

There is no ambiguity about that stated aim. There is no equivocation. No caveats or conditions. No reservations or qualifications or provisions. It embraces and enshrines the essential principle of democracy – that all legitimate political authority derives from the people. That the people are sovereign. It is a complete, concise and coherent statement. It says all that need be said. Understand that statement, and you understand everything that matters about Scotland’s independence cause.

To reject that statement would be to reject democracy. To fail to vigorously and unhesitatingly pursue the aims set out in that statement would be a betrayal of Scotland’s interests and Scotland’s cause.

So, First Minister, please allow me to suggest a couple of amendments to the comment you made to Andrew Marr.

I think after all of the experience of the last three HUNDRED years, Scotland should DEMAND that it become an independent European nation AGAIN!

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Identifying the problem

Boris Johnson is not Scotland’s problem.

Brexit is not Scotland’s problem.

The horribly dysfunctional British political system is not Scotland’s problem.

None of this is Scotland’s problem, unless we choose to make it our problem. Which is what Ian Blackford seems to be doing. He seems to be of a mind to treat England’s self-inflicted woes as part of Scotland’s domestic politics when we really need to be developing a mindset which places this firmly in the category of external affairs.

Boris Johnson, Brexit and the dysfunctional British state are not the reasons Scotland needs urgently to restore its independence. The reason is that the Union makes these things Scotland’s problem when they most definitely are not.

The Union renders Scotland subject to the vagaries of the Westminster/Whitehall machine. The Union makes Scotland’s democratic choices conditional on England’s concurrence and the British political elite’s approval. The Union stipulates that the likes of Boris Johnson will speak for Scotland regardless of how much we despise and detest everything that he represents.

Boris Johnson is not Scotland’s problem.

Brexit is not Scotland’s problem.

The ineptitude and maliciousness and corruption of the British political elite is not Scotland’s problem.

Scotland’s problem is the Union. The solution is obvious. We must dissolve the Union. Why won’t Ian Blackford just say so?

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The BBC won’t change

Good to see the SNP taking a more robust position on the British media. It won’t make any difference, of course. The BBC is part of the British establishment. It is the voice of the ruling elite. It would be folly to imagine that voice might serve anything other than the interests of the ruling elite.

Even if there is an Ofcom investigation, and even if the BBC is found to have breached any law, regulation or code of conduct, it will not change. Even if it is ruled that the BBC has been wilfully dishonest, it will not change. It will not change because it cannot change. It cannot change because it is part of the British establishment. The BBC can change only if and to the extent that the British establishment changes.

Right now, the entire British state is in full defensive mode. Other, perhaps, than in time of war, the British establishment has never been more resistant to change. At such times, the tendency is to look backwards. To cling to the past. To hold to a standard based on a mythical golden age. Any more realistic standard is just too much of a challenge. The British establishment is not going to change. So the British media are not going to change.

In truth, the fundamental nature of the British state has not changed in more than three centuries. There has been no revolution such as is required to destroy and replace the ruling elite. All that has changed are the methods by which that ruling elite maintains its structures of power, privilege and patronage. And even that boils down to the one thing – manipulation. The British establishment has grown more efficient at manipulating people. It has improved the apparatus by which public perceptions are managed. The British propaganda machine is second to none. And better than most because it has had such a long period of uninterrupted development serving the same purpose. Serving the same ruling elite.

This machinery of manipulation is now so deeply entrenched and woven into British society as to have become all but invisible and undetectable. The disinformation, distortion and dishonesty of the British media tend not to be seen as such by those who identify as British because it is so much part of the culture in which they have been embedded all their lives and generation after generation.

Even those who operate this machinery of manipulation are not necessarily fully aware that what they are doing is propaganda. It is entirely possible that the people responsible for BBC Question Time genuinely believe they are doing an excellent job. They believe they are presenting the truth because they have never questioned the truth they are presenting. They have never learned to question it. Their capacity for questioning has been excised. The manipulators are effective because they themselves are products of the machinery of manipulation.

The BBC will not change. The British media will not change. Only we can change. People can recover the capacity to question. They can become aware of the machinery of manipulation and its methods. And, being aware, they can be resistant to its effects. They may even break the machinery.

So, it’s good that Keith Brown is publicly denouncing the BBC. Not because it will bring about change in the corporation, but because it may prompt a few more people to question the version of the truth that is being fed to them.

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Down among the dreck and the dross

When I say that I feel soiled just responding to a newspaper article in which Nigel Farage is quoted I’d ask you to believe that this is not mere rhetoric. Imagine, then, how I feel about being obliged to agree with him. The political discourse around Scotland’s constitutional issue very possibly ranks among the most dishonest in the world. In fact, I can’t think of a single honest thing any British Nationalist has ever said on the matter. Those who regard the preservation of the Union at any cost as their divinely-ordained mission will lie unabashedly in the service of their vile, anti-democratic ideology. The independence debate is dishonest entirely because the British state’s propaganda machine has made it so.

Nigel Farage is the lowest form of political life. (Some may protest the qualifier.) But that is not to say he is ineffective. He may not be smart, but he possesses low cunning in abundance. He may lack charisma, but he is adept at insinuating himself into the affections of the politically illiterate and the intellectually inadequate. He may be totally unprincipled, but this hardly matters when you have no conscience.

You have to be clever to build. You have to be clever to demolish without harm. You don’t have to be clever to destroy without concern for the consequences.

Blend the worst qualities of the oleaginous, lip-licking lounge lizard with the sleekit, scavenging opportunism of the urban fox and the cold, mechanical callousness of the crocodile and the resultant creature would shun the company of Nigel Farage for fear of being tainted. Would that more voters had the standards of that monstrous chimera.

But, for all his obnoxiousness, Farage cannot be dismissed. Especially when his message of mindless hate is being echoed within Scotland’s Yes movement. You don’t have to be all that astute to realise who Farage is appealing to. His language precisely matches that of the more fanatical voices among Yes/Leave voters. The Europhobes. The isolationists. You can probably put names to the description. They certainly know who they are.

The worst of these openly boast that they will vote No in any independence referendum which does not overturn the Scottish electorate’s democratically declared preference that Scotland should remain in the European Union. Others may be less forthright but nonetheless seize on any opportunity to attack the SNP and undermine the Yes movement.

I confess to having great difficulty getting my head around the mind-bending inanity of this. These are people who say that they want the people of Scotland to decide the direction their nation takes. Except, it seems, when they choose the ‘wrong’ direction. Then these nominal independence supporters insist that Scotland must be overruled by voters in England.

They will join the chorus of protests against the British establishment’s refusal to respect Scotland’s democratic choices while themselves refusing to accept the result of the EU referendum.

Most confusing of all is their position on the matter of Scotland making a choice about EU membership. It is an inescapable fact that the EU referendum represented the best test of Scottish voters’ views on the issue that is possible this side of independence. Especially when combined with the repeated votes for the SNP in elections where the party stands on an explicit ‘Independence in Europe’ platform, there can be absolutely no doubt that this is the favoured policy.

It is equally obvious that there cannot be a specific test of Scottish voters’ views on the issue until after independence. That’s the independence that these people propose to vote against.

It’s absolute madness!

Furthermore, the Europhobes will commonly accuse those of us who point out this madness of wanting to deny the people of Scotland a say on the issue of EU membership. This despite the fact that, as far as I am aware, nobody has ever suggested that the Europhobes would be prevented from campaigning for such a referendum post-independence. Indeed, it isn’t really possible to see how they might be prevented from doing so.

In fact, it is they who don’t want such a referendum. Because they know how difficult it would be to gather the necessary support. So, instead, they want to allow the imposition of the Brexit we voted against.

The Europhobes and isolationists in the Yes movement are every bit as dishonest as the Mad Brexiteers and just as contemptuous of Scotland’s democracy as British Nationalists. That is why Nigel Farage sees them as natural allies.

And now I must away and steep myself in bleach.

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The British media are lying to you!

Question Time does not bar people from its audience because they have held elected office or are political activists.

There is a selection process to ensure a range of views are heard and last night’s QT audience included supporters of different political parties, including the SNP.

BBC spokesperson

The truth. The partial truth. And anything but the truth.

The British establishment long since mastered the art of prevarication, obfuscation, equivocation and falsification. Its broadcasting arm deploys these as casually as you and I blink. and almost as frequently. The BBC’s response to those protesting the blatant padding of the Question Time audience stands as an object lesson in how to tell a lie without actually saying anything that is untrue.

It is almost certainly true that the makers of the programme do not deliberately exclude from the audience people who have “held elected office or are political activists”. But this is not the substance of the complaint. The purpose of the denial is to create the impression of wild allegations having been made.

Nobody, to the best of my knowledge, has accused the BBC or its agents of barring people on the grounds of their political activism or past political office. The charge is, rather that people seem to have been selected on the basis of their known British Nationalist affiliation. How else to explain the extraordinary number of prominent hard-line Unionists who find their way into the studio?

While the claim that there is no process actively barring people of a certain political persuasion, it is rather noticeable that precious few former or serving SNP politicians are selected.

It is undoubtedly true that there is a “selection process”. And that this process serves to “ensure a range of views are heard”. Again, the denials and assurances divert from the complaint. Yes, it is possible for pro-Independence views to be heard. But they rarely are. Just as it possible for pro-independence politicians and activists to be selected. But they rarely are.

It is not a matter of absolutes, but of balance. The BBC (or its agents) can disprove accusations of exclusion simply by pointing to a lone SNP Councillor in the audience – regardless of whether that individual has been allowed to speak. They can refute allegations that a range of views are not being aired by referring to a solitary pro-independence comment. The question is, how accurately does the programme as a whole reflect the political reality? And the answer has to be, not well. In fact, not at all.

BBC Question Time is propaganda. What it presents to the viewing audience is, not a reflection of the way things actually are, but a contrived impression of the way the British establishment thinks things should be. The way British Nationalists desperately want things to be. And the way an uber-parochial, curiosity deficient, intellectually indolent London-centric media elite suppose things to be.

This grotesque fairground-mirror portrayal of politics is particularly, painfully evident when Question Time ventures into Scotland precisely because the political reality here departs so markedly from the British standard. A contrast that the people of Scotland have much cause to celebrate, even as they deplore the BBC’s evident inability to be honest with them.

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