Harvie’s havers!

Well! That was disappointing! I read the headline and supposed we might be in for some serious, hard-headed thinking about the strategy for the new referendum campaign. I wasn’t long in being disabused of that notion.

It all started so well, with talk of the fundamental constitutional argument for independence. This gave the impression that Patrick Harvie was about to put that fundamental constitutional argument right where it belongs, at the very heart of the campaign.

Then he wrote of “…the need for the campaign to draw strength from its diversity…” and instantly dispelled any notion I’d had that Patrick Harvie might be about to contribute some significant insight. And, as if to confirm that this wasn’t just a momentary lapse, he comes out with this,

“…rather than expecting every Yes voter to bury the rest of their politics. There will never be a majority if independence appeals only to those who feel motivated by flags and patriotism…”

Our Patrick seems to have a bit of a thing about flags. Were I in a more light-hearted frame of mind after reading his article, I might have asked if his mummy had been frightened by a banner when she was expecting him. He certainly seems to suppose that they carry some dark meaning. I look at a Saltire and see only an emblem of Scotland and its people. Goodness knows what ghastly horrors poor Patrick sees.

What is perplexing is that, having correctly identified the essence of the constitutional argument – that the people of Scotland are sovereign and they alone should decide the nation’s future – he seems to forget it completely. Having paid lip service to this fundamental idea, he goes on to imply that, when you “bury” the rest of politics, all that’s left is “flags and patriotism”. What happened to that core idea that the people are the legitimate source of legitimate political authority? What happened to the “basic democratic argument, that it’s the people who live in Scotland who should decide the country’s future”?

The point that Patrick Harvie so tragically misses is that this is precisely what is left when you strip away all the various policy agendas. It all comes down to the question of who decides. To say that “flags and patriotism” is all you have left when these policy agendas are taken out of the equation is to put “flags and patriotism” where the fundamental constitutional argument should be. I don’t suppose, given his pathological aversion to such things, that this was Patrick Harvie’s intention. Which kinda makes it worse. Because one might have hoped that he would have put some thought into and article which is purports to be advising us on how to fight the next referendum campaign.

I sincerely trust nobody is listening to his advice. Because he clearly hasn’t a clue. After identifying the fundamental issue of the campaign, he woefully fails to follow the thought. If it’s the fundamental issue, then it’s what the campaign has to be all about. You don’t identify that core issue and then just drop it to and go off on a speculation spree about stuff that is not and cannot be part of your campaign strategy. You cannot sensibly base a campaign strategy on what your opponents might do or what might happen if something else doesn’t.

You can campaign for a thing. Or you can campaign against a thing. But in all cases it must be absolutely clear what the thing is. You cannot campaign either for or against a disputed concept. It has to be something on which there is general agreement within your campaign. Otherwise, your campaign spends all its time disputing the concept concept instead of campaigning for it.

The undisputed concept of the independence campaign is not independence. Because independence is a disputed concept. There are myriad definitions and explanations of independence. It means different things to different people. The one thing they all have in common is the desire to #DissolveTheUnion.

Patrick Harvie doesn’t understand the basics of a political, as opposed to and electoral, campaign. A single issue campaign must focus on that single issue. So, totally contrary to what Patrick Harvie commends, it is absolutely essential that Yes campaigners to “bury the rest of their politics” for the duration of the campaign and to try and persuade voters to do the same. To set aside those policy agendas until after independence is restored. To get voters to focus on the fundamental constitutional issue.

I realised as soon as he wrote of “the need for the campaign to draw strength from its diversity” that Patrick Harvie was making a tragic error. He is confusing the movement with the campaign. The Yes movement draws its strength from its diversity. But what is diversity in a movement is division and diffusion in a campaign.

Ignore Patrick Harvie. There are three key words you should remember when considering the shape and form of the new referendum campaign – SOLIDARITY! FOCUS! DISCIPLINE!

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All the policies anybody could want!

It’s not often any thinking person finds cause to agree with the odious Jackie Baillie, but she is perfectly correct in reminding her bosses that ““Scottish party policy is very clear”. It is very clearly as arrogantly anti-democratic as Tory policy on the matter of Scotland’s right of self-determination. As dogmatically anti-democratic as the policies of all the British parties. They all state emphatically that their policy is to deny Scotland’s democratic right of self determination. Each is as anti-democratic as they others.

Where Baillie bids farewell to reality and departs for the land of dumb delusion is when she says,

… Labour’s position on Scotland’s future is a decision for Scottish Labour, which the UK party must accept.

This is just wrong. There is no ‘Scottish Labour Party’. There is only the British Labour Party. The entity calling itself the ‘Scottish Labour’ is, in fact, ‘British Labour in Scotland’ (BLiS). Not being a party, BLiS has absolutely no policy-making powers. And no party may present different policies to different constituencies. That’s the law! One party! One policy! The reality that Jackie Ballie has lost her tenuous grip on is precisely the opposite of what she asserts. British Labour’s position on Scotland’s future is a matter for British Labour. And the pretendy wee party in Scotland must accept that policy.

It gets weirder. Because, notwithstanding Ballie’s tantrums, British Labour’s policy on the matter of a new independence referendum actually accords with that of BLiS, even though there is no need for it to do so. British Labour’s 2017 election manifesto spells it out in no uncertain terms. In a section titled – with unwittingly hilarious irony and characteristic hypocrisy – ‘Extending Democracy’, we find the following.

Labour opposes a second Scottish independence referendum. It is unwanted and unnecessary, and we will campaign tirelessly to ensure Scotland remains part of the UK. Independence would lead to turbo-charged austerity for Scottish families.

British Labour Manifetso 2017

Evidently, democracy isn’t to be extended as far as Scotland. That passage could have been written by Jackie Baillie herself. Or any British Nationalist ideologue from any of the British parties. So what is she making such a fuss about?

It seems she’s upset about some remarks made by one of her many superiors which, on the face of it, appear to state another British Labour policy which is perfectly clear. Former Scottish Labour Party chairman Bob Thomson points out that McDonnell’s position is “a restatement of existing, long-standing Scottish Labour Party [sic] policy”. He reminds all concerned that policy dates from the 1989 Claim of Right,

…which was signed by every Labour MP – including Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling – except Tam Dalyell and endorsed by the annual conference of the Scottish party.

Bob Thomson goes on to explain,

This position has never been rescinded. There is also a lot of hypocrisy from Labour MPs and MSPs who support a second referendum on Brexit but oppose a second referendum on independence, the democratic principles are the same. (emphasis added)

The particular and relevant “democratic principle” to which Bob Thomson refers is stated in the opening words of the 1989 Claim of Right.

We, gathered as the Scottish Constitutional Convention, do hereby acknowledge the sovereign right of the Scottish people to determine the form of Government best suited to their needs…

Claim of Right 1989

This is as explicit an acknowledgement of Scotland’s right of self-determination as we might wish for.

Remember what I said about “One party! One policy!”? Well, it seems I was wrong. Because British Labour clearly has two policies (at least) on the matter of Scotland’s right of self-determination. John McDonnell says one thing, backed-up by British Labour’s extant endorsement of the Claim of Right. Jackie Baillie says the opposite supported by British Labour’s 2017 general election manifesto. British Labour simultaneously acknowledges and denies Scotland’s right of self-determination.

Confused? You will be! Because, while the position referred to by John MCDonnell must take precedence over that stated by Jackie Baillie – he speaking for the real party while she speaks for a bit of the pretendy one (don’t ask!) – that isn’t British Labour’s true position. Their true position is the one stated by Baillie. The anti-democratic position which denies Scotland’s right of self-determination is the reality behind the soothingly democratic facade presented by McDonnell.

As I wrote at the time,

John McDonnell is undertaking to respect the Scottish Parliament. not now but at some unspecified time in the future, because he is as certain as he needs to be that there will be no Scottish Parliament by that time.

He is undertaking to respect the democratic will of the people of Scotland, not now but at some unspecified time in the future, because he is confident the Tories have a plan to ensure that the people of Scotland are prevented from ever deciding the constitutional status of our nation or choosing the form of government that best suits our needs.

John McDonnell is attempting to deceive the people of Scotland in the name of preserving the Union. Don’t be fooled!

Read the words!

You could devote time and effort to untangling this web of lies and deceit. Or you could simply accept that it is a web of lies and deceit and that this is all you need to know.

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A response to David Pratt

David Pratt marches at the head of an army of straw men to do battle with windmills. For want of a “clamour of voices and rumbling of dissent” he invents it. The yells of “Unionist apologist” and “England-supporting quisling” exist nowhere but in his self-righteously hectoring prose.

Far more prevalent than the “negativism” David Pratt rails against is the form of negativism in which he indulges. The nagging, niggling negativism of those who place themselves above and apart from the Yes movement the better to cast a condescending eye over all its doings and tell us it’s doing it all wrong. The negativism which holds that diversity is great, so long as it is limited to attitudes and perspectives approved by some self-appointed elite. The negativism which celebrates inclusiveness, so long as it doesn’t include those who express their passion for independence or their detestation of the Union in terms as robust as they are honest.

I have the utmost respect for David Pratt as a journalist. I greatly admire his work as a foreign correspondent. But I wonder what in his wide experience has brought him to the belief that Scotland’s voters are such delicate blooms that even to raise ones voice in their vicinity is to cause them to shrink and wither. I wonder, too, what it is in his observations of various political cultures that leads him to conclude that politics is improved by making it the exclusive province of an educated elite possessed of a certain erudition and eloquence.

My experience may not be as broad and wide-ranging as David Pratt’s, but I can, think, claim intimate acquaintance with the extraordinary – some might say unprecedented – grass roots democratic movement which emerged in Scotland in the early days of the 2014 independence referendum campaign. I know that the strength and power of the Yes movement is attributed to a diversity that recognises no limits and an inclusiveness that allows no exceptions. There is no “Yes, but…”.

There is a view, to which David Pratt would appear to subscribe, that the independence campaign must be conducted in a manner calculated to avoid offending anybody who might possibly claim to be offended; instantly disowning any voice which is reported as having ruffled the dubiously fragile sensibilities of those who stand to gain from being allowed to dictate the terms of debate. The inevitable result is a campaign which is weak, insipid, vacuous and endlessly apologetic.

Then there is the view that the independence campaign needs to be assured, assertive, uncompromising and most definitely unapologetic. I subscribe to this view and will promote and defend it in every way I can using whatever language I deem appropriate.

Many voices! One message! This is the Yes movement that I know. And if some of those voices are coarse enough to make even me wince, I welcome them nonetheless; because even the coarsest of voices is better than the silence of disengagement, alienation and apathy. Even the most vulgar voice raised in righteous anger is preferable to the silence that allows injustice to persist.

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Getting assertive

I wonder if our First Minister is aware of the Precautionary Principle. In the context of the duties and responsibilities of the Scottish Government in the current situation of constitutional upheaval, the Precautionary Principle may be stated thus,

Where there exists a threat of serious or irreversible damage to the nation’s interests, lack of total certainty concerning outcomes outwith the control of policy-makers shall not be used to justify postponing measures to prevent such damage.

This might be more succinctly expressed as,

First do no harm or by inaction allow harm to occur.

There can be no doubt that Scotland being forcibly taken out of the EU represents, at the very least, a threat of serious or irreversible damage to the nation’s economic interests as well as our political, social and cultural well-being.

(In fact, it is the Union which poses this threat by affording the British state the power to impose policies such as Brexit on Scotland; but the First Minister has inexplicably chosen to hang the entire independence cause on the Brexit peg, so we shall go along with that for the moment.)

Given the real and imminent threat posed by Brexit, the Precautionary Principle holds that the Scottish Government’s uncertainty about the precise details of the outcome cannot excuse failure to act to prevent Scotland suffering harm.

It may be argued that the duty of the Scottish Government to prevent harm to Scotland extends to preventing harm to neighbouring or other territories where this may impact Scotland. But, to whatever extent such a duty exists it is overridden by a duty to respect the democratic will of the people of those territories. There is not, and neither could there be, an inalienable right to suffer no harm. People have a democratic right to vote against their own interests. Governments may only intervene to mitigate the harm.

It may further be argued that, given the nature of the devolution settlement, the referendum in 2016 was a UK-wide vote on UK membership of the EU; and that, being still part of the UK, Scotland is bound by the result every bit as much as the rest of the UK (rUK). This argument relies on three assumptions or contentions –

  • That Scotland is not a nation in any but the most trivial sense of that term.
  • That the Scottish Parliament is merely an annex to the UK Parliament.
  • That the Scottish Government is merely an adjunct to the UK Government

The first of these assumptions or contentions may be discounted without discussion. The UK Government recognised Scotland’s status as a nation when the UK Prime Minister signed the Edinburgh Agreement prior to the 2014 independence referendum. This fact alone makes it impossible for the British state to now dispute Scotland’s status as a nation.

The remaining assumptions or contentions are less easy to discount. It can readily be maintained that the Scotland Act 1998 makes the Scottish Parliament effectively no more than an annex of Westminster, and the Scottish Government no more than an adjunct to the British executive. But bear in mind that this is a matter of constitutional law. And that, unlike criminal law – which works best by being rigorously obeyed – constitutional law works best by being constantly challenged.

There exists something which we might call the democratic imperative. An existing constitutional settlement, however thoroughly enshrined in law, may be subsidiary to this democratic imperative. That is to say, the imperative to uphold fundamental democratic principles may carry more weight than the need to abide by the letter of constitutional law. It must be so. Otherwise there could have been no social or political progress. We would still be living with absolute monarchs, warring empires and exploited colonies. (To a greater extent than we are!) Women wouldn’t have the vote and employment rights would be a matter for discussion at secretive gatherings of ‘dangerous radicals’.

All these things changed because the democratic imperative was brought into play. Because the reformed condition had greater democratic legitimacy. Women have the vote because that is more democratic than them being prohibited from voting. The demand for workers’ rights was, and remains, a demand founded on the democratic imperative. Greater democratic legitimacy outweighs lesser democratic legitimacy and the constitutional provisions which maintain that lesser democratic legitimacy.

The Scottish Parliament has democratic legitimacy. This is irrefutable. The manner in which it is elected and the way it operates gives it unimpeachable democratic legitimacy. Compared to Holyrood, Westminster has no democratic legitimacy in Scotland. The fact that Scotland elects 59 members of the UK Parliament is all but meaningless given the grotesquely asymmetric nature of the Union.

If the Scottish Parliament has democratic legitimacy then it follows that the Scottish Government does too. Only in extraordinary circumstances does a system which confers democratic legitimacy on the parliament give rise to an administration whose democratic credentials are seriously questionable. The British political system may be an example of those extraordinary circumstances.

That the the Scottish Parliament is superior to Westminster in terms of democratic legitimacy is not a matter of controversy. That, despite this, it continues to be inferior in terms of constitutional law is a matter of great controversy. There are only two ways in which the conflict between democratic legitimacy and constitutional law can be resolved. Either the UK Parliament concedes the complete authority of the Scottish Parliament in Scotland – which is not going to happen; or the Scottish Government asserts that authority in defiance of the constitutional settlement.

The Precautionary Principle demands that the First Minister of Scotland act immediately to prevent the harm that will be done to Scotland, not only by Brexit, but by the impact of ‘One Nation’ British Nationalism. The only way to do this is by asserting the primacy of the Scottish Parliament on the grounds of its democratic legitimacy. That this will entail dissolution of the Union and the restoration of Scotland’s rightful constitutional status may be considered a bonus.

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Read the words!

If I am cynical about British Labour it’s for good reason. This is a party of back-stabbers who have no qualms about turning their blades on voters should self-interest demand it. They betrayed Scotland for their precious Union before. They will do so again. They colluded with the Tories in the 2014 Scottish independence referendum campaign because of their mutual interest in maintaining the structures of power, privilege and patronage which constitute the British state. Those structures have not changed. Nor has the shared imperative of the British establishment parties to keep a political system which serves them well, even as it fails the people in all manner of tragic ways.

In an otherwise rather silly column which imagines British Labour supporting independence, Kevin McKenna notes that their operation in Scotland hasn’t changed since the British parties lost control of Holyrood. Discussing what he persists in calling ‘Scottish Labour’, McKenna observes that British Labour in Scotland (BLiS) “has been in retreat for 12 years”. It is a commonplace of Scottish political commentary that this retreat has been into a bubble of bitter resentment towards both the SNP and the voters who had the effrontery to rob BLiS of what they regard as their entitled status in Scotland. A resentment so corrosive that neither rational nor creative thinking can survive.

It’s difficult to know whether the resentment which has paralysed BLiS for all that time also infected the rest of the party, or whether the resentment is simply more concentrated in BLiS, them being more directly affected. What we can know for certain is that, in terms of policy, there is but one British Labour. If BLiS didn’t adapt to Scotland’s new political and electoral reality in 12 years, neither did British Labour as a whole.

The question that arises is why would British Labour change now. If, indeed, it has genuinely changed in the ways that many seem to suppose are implied by John McDonnell’s ‘promise’ that British Labour would not block a new Scottish independence referendum.

I look at this ‘promise’ with the jaundiced eye of my cynicism and I smell deviousness and duplicity. This is, of course, the hallmark stench of British politics. But the stink seems particularly strong around John McDonnell’s comments. My first thought is that this is a ploy to split the pro-independence vote in Scotland. A ploy which, were it effective, would serve both to undermine the independence movement and weaken the SNP. There is obvious advantage here for both British Labour and the British Nationalist ideology it shares with other British establishment parties.

So what! I hear some in the Yes movement say. If BLiS drops its dogmatic opposition to anew independence referendum this only strengthens the mandate to hold such a referendum. But that mandate requires no strengthening. It is already as strong as it needs to be – and then some. And British Labour are not in power at Westminster. They are not in a position to decide whether the British parliament should grant gracious consent allowing Scots to exercise the fundamental right of self-determination. So John McDonnell is giving us precisely nothing with his ‘promise’ not to block a new referendum even if we are naive enough to suppose that promise would be kept should it be put to the test.

McDonnell is aware that a large proportion of traditional British Labour voters in Scotland support the restoration of Scotland’s independence and that many of them have been ‘lending’ their votes to the SNP knowing that this is the only way to achieve that objective. He will know, also, that many of those people are itching to get back to voting as their fathers did and their fathers before them. They feel a certain loyalty to British Labour – or to the values which British Labour once represented – and they will seize on any excuse to return to the fold. John McDonnell’s ‘promise’ provides that excuse.

This still leaves the question of why McDonnell has decided to make this ‘promise’ at this time. But we’ve already seen that the ‘promise’ isn’t worth much even if taken at face value. And its value gets increasing dubious the more closely we scrutinise it. Let’s remind ourselves of his precise words.

The Scottish Parliament will come to a considered view on that and they will submit that to the Government and the English parliament itself.

If the Scottish people decide they want a referendum that’s for them.

We would not block something like that. We would let the Scottish people decide. That’s democracy.

There are other views within the party but that’s our view.

Note the final sentence. That’s a get-out clause if ever there was one. Who is he referring to when he says “our view”. How are we to be sure that view prevails against those “other views within the party “. Note what he doesn’t say. He doesn’t say that this is now official arty policy. His words can easily be interpreted, or portrayed, as implying that the matter is being debated within the party. There is nothing conclusive there. Nothing anybody should be clinging to.

Perhaps even more significantly, note the use of the future and future unreal conditional tense. The Scottish Parliament “WILL COME to a considered view”; “they WILL SUBMIT that to the Government”; “we WOULD NOT block something like that”; “we WOULD LET the Scottish people decide”.

At no time does John McDonnell acknowledge the existing mandate. At not time does he recognise that the Scottish Parliament has already “come to a considered view”. Nowhere does he mention that this “considered view” has already been submitted to “the Government and the English parliament [sic]”. To do so would be to respect the authority of the Scottish Parliament. Which no British Nationalist politician can or will ever do.

Nor will they respect Scotland’s people. John McDonnell also says,

“If the Scottish people decide they want a referendum that’s for them.”

He refuses to allow that the Scottish people have already made known their choice in this matter by voting for parties with a clear manifesto commitment to holding a new referendum.

It may be thought that John McDonnell is taking a bit of a risk with this ‘promise’ to break with British Nationalist dogma and respect democratic principles. What if British Labour does end up in power and all the conditions he stipulates are met? Wouldn’t that make it awkward for British Labour to renege? Which brings us, finally, to an answer to the question of why this ‘promise’ is being made now.

John McDonnell is a professional politician and so is not inclined to take risks where the cost would fall on himself or his party. Therefore, he must have reason to be sure that British Labour will never be put in the position of being expected to honour his ‘promise’. He would only make such a promise if he was confident that the Tories were about to apply a ‘final solution’ to the Scottish problem.

John McDonnell is undertaking to respect the Scottish Parliament. not now but at some unspecified time in the future, because he is as certain as he needs to be that there will be no Scottish Parliament by that time.

He is undertaking to respect the democratic will of the people of Scotland, not now but at some unspecified time in the future, because he is confident the Tories have a plan to ensure that the people of Scotland are prevented from ever deciding the constitutional status of our nation or choosing the form of government that best suits our needs.

John McDonnell is attempting to deceive the people of Scotland in the name of preserving the Union. Don’t be fooled!

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Campaigning with flair

My Scotland poll: Yes to independence takes the lead

Polls don’t predict anything, of course. But let’s make some allowances for the rather excitable headline in The National (Scottish independence soars ahead as Ashcroft poll predicts Yes win).

That being said, there are occasions when pols try to predict. Or, to be more precise, they ask their respondents for their predictions. The Ashcroft poll which is causing such exhilaration among Yes supporters and such agitation among Unionists asked the following question.

If there were to be a new referendum on Scottish Independence within the next two years, what do you think would be the most likely outcome?

By a margin 52% to 30% respondents stated that they thought the outcome would be a win for Yes.

This finding has considerable implications for the independence campaign strategy. Taking it at face value, it tells us that the idea of independence, not so long ago considered outlandish, has gone well beyond being normalised. To the extent that this accurately reflects public attitudes, it suggests that people are resigned to independence being inevitable whatever their personal attitudes to the prospect.

Some of us realised the inevitability of independence some time ago. Almost exactly five years ago I wrote,

I take the view that independence is now inevitable and that a No vote can only postpone it for five or maybe ten years. I take this view not only because I believe that the spirit of progressive activism that has arisen in Scotland will not be suppressed, but also because I recognise that the response of the British state to a No vote will, itself, provide greater impetus for the independence movement. My concern is not that the restoration of Scotland’s rightful constitutional status will not be achieved but that, in the interim, irreversible harm will have been done to Scotland’s institutions and that serious, perhaps irreparable damage will have been done to the relationship between Scotland and the rest of the UK.

Please stay: A response to Jim Sillars’s essay in the Daily Record

In March 2016, with the EU referendum looming, i expanded on this point.

The first and most important thing to remember is that independence is coming anyway. Independence is inevitable. It is inevitable because any devolution measure which succeeds in terms of the aims and objectives of the British state necessarily fails in terms of the aspirations and priorities of Scotland’s people. And this was never more true than it is of the latest round of inept and malicious constitutional tinkering represented by the Scotland Bill.

EU referendum is not Scotland’s fight

What is significant is that there now appears to be a more general acceptance of this inevitability. Whether this is because of growing concerns about the way in which “the relationship between Scotland and the rest of the UK” is being soured by British politicians; or whether it is due to increasing dissatisfaction with a devolution settlement which looks daily more insecure; or whether it is simply an artefact of the ubiquity and pervasiveness of the Yes movement, we have no way of knowing. It is likely to be some combination of all these factors as well as others, such as just plain weariness with a constitutional debate that won’t go away no matter how much British Nationalists would like to wish it away.

This has the potential to open up some new lines of attack for the Yes campaign. It could, for example, piggy-back on British Nationalist propaganda about ‘voter fatigue’ by suggesting that the easiest way to stop the campaigning is to vote Yes. Because it’s highly unlikely that there will be a campaign to take Scotland back into the Union. Portraying a Yes vote as drawing a line under the issue and allowing us to get on with building a better nation could appeal to more than a few people.

Perhaps more importantly, the idea of independence being inevitable could usefully augment a campaign which seeks to turn the issue around and put Unionists on the defensive. An anti-Union campaign on a question about dissolving the Union could make good use of the argument that most people are resigned to independence happening and so the onus is on Unionists to persuade them otherwise.

There is another valuable lesson in all of this. Above all, the Yes campaign has to be imaginative enough to incorporate new material into its strategy. And flexible enough to be able to do this on the fly. We should not need taught that running a dusted-off and polished-up version of the 2014 campaign is a very bad idea. After all, at that time few among the general public thought independence was even possible, far less inevitable.

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Tether’s end

Nicola Sturgeon makes an important point. As she didn’t quite say, you can be pro-independence and non-SNP; but you can’t be pro-independence and anti-SNP. If you want independence then you have to support the SNP at least to the extent of keeping them in office until independence is restored. The party is one of the four critical components which must work together for the independence project to succeed. It is the lever by which we will prise Scotland out of the Union.

Scottish National Party (SNP) = Lever
Scottish Government (SG) = Fulcrum
Scottish Parliament (SP) = Base
Yes Movement (YM) = Force
snp + sg + sp + ym = i

This is well understood across the independence movement. Even among the myriad factions of the radical left, there is grudging acknowledgement that the SNP, being the only available source of effective political power, is essential to the process of restoring Scotland’s independence.

The question now tends to be whether the SNP has fully taken on board that the Yes movement is important for more than just providing campaign foot-soldiers and photo-op extras. There seems little to indicate that the party leadership realises what a valuable resource the Yes movement is. Even at this late stage, there is only tentative and overly cautious reaching-out to the wider independence movement. The SNP appears intent on keeping Yessers at arms length, only prepared to interact via some intermediary organisation. This is not an effective way of providing the leadership that the independence cause requires. Hopefully, the relationship between party and movement will change. But that needs to happen in a hurry.

Reading what the First Minister’s said in the interview with LBC broadcaster Iain Dale, we at last see some indication that she recognises the urgency of Scotland’s predicament.

“I think there is growing support for independence in Scotland and I think there is, accompanying that, a growing sense of urgency that if we don’t want to get dragged down a path, and I’m not just talking about Brexit here although largely that’s what I mean, but dragged down a sort of political path that we don’t want to go down, then we need to consider becoming independent sooner rather than later.”

Two phrases stand out in the above. The remark about a “growing sense of urgency” will be welcomed by the increasing number of people across the Yes movement who have been expressing concerns about the lack of of any sense of urgency on the part of the Scottish Government. Many people will also be heartened by Nicola Sturgeon’s assurance that she’s “not just talking about Brexit”. There is a widespread view that, both as a party and as an administration, the SNP has been entirely too focused on England’s self-inflicted Brexit problems – to the extent that it has somewhat lost sight of the independence cause.

These comments seem to give renewed hope and encouragement to those of us who feel the hot, stinking breath of rabid British Nationalism on our necks. But we’ve been here so often before. All too often we’ve seized on something Nicola Sturgeon has said desperate to believe that it portends bold and decisive action to save Scotland from the looming ‘One Nation’ project. All too often we have been disappointed.

There is a limit to how long this can go on. We may be reaching that limit now.

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