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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Women against democracy!

There is a powerful and disturbing irony in the fact that, women having fought so hard for so long and at such great cost to secure the right to vote, it is now women who are leading the clamour to have this right curtailed or denied.

Ruth “Queen of the BritNats” Davidson long since established herself as the leading anti-democracy campaigner in Scotland with her shrill, demagogic demands that the Scottish people be denied the right to choose the constitutional status of their nation and the form of government which best suits their needs.

Now, Davidson’s boss – Theresa May – is proving equally strident in her insistence that people across the UK should not have the opportunity to make an informed choice about leaving the EU. Or, at least, a marginally better informed choice than they were presented with in 2016.

The anti-democratic nature of British Nationalism was strikingly revealed last week when disgraced MSP and total bollard, Annie Wells, responded on behalf of the British Conservative & Unionist Party in Scotland (BCUPS) to the launch of the Scottish Government’s public consultation on prisoner voting. In a Tweet seething with self-righteous rage, Wells boasted that “we [BCUPS] are the only party that oppose prisoners having the right to vote”.

I don’t know if this boast is true. What I do know is that Wells doesn’t much care about such niceties as truth and accuracy. But the remark is illuminating anyway. Note how Wells acknowledges that voting is a right. And how ready she is to deny that right with all the vehemence she has left over from supporting her boss’s anti-democratic campaign against a new independence referendum.

Set aside, for a moment, the fact that this relates to persons incarcerated for criminal acts. A right is a right – as Wells’s boss’s boss might put it. While talking of voting as a right, Wells treats it as a privilege. Something that is in the gift of established power; to be gracious granted or spitefully withheld according to the whim of those who wield that power.

In a true democracy, the right to vote is absolute and inalienable. It is a necessary and ineluctable function of citizenship or qualifying residency. Any working definition of democracy must start from the assumption that everybody has the right to vote. The right to vote is not granted and does not need to be claimed or won. It is as much part of the individual born into a truly democratic society as their skin.

From the default assumption that all persons own the right to vote, an argument must be made, under rules set out in the constitution, for withholding this right from defined groups or specified individuals. It is trivial to argue that the right to vote must be rendered functionally inoperative in the case of infants. Nonetheless, the argument must be made. Qualifying as a true democracy demands that the right to vote is in no circumstances withheld lightly.

It is less and less easy to argue that the right to vote should be withheld from individuals as they get older. Strong counter-arguments can be made in the case of persons aged twelve. There are no rational and persuasive arguments for withholding the right to vote from persons aged sixteen.

Once an individual has reached the constitutionally established age at which their right to vote ceases to be withheld, any argument for withholding that right must apply to the specific individual. Any blanket withholding of voting rights across a group is a breach of individual human rights and definitively undemocratic.

Annie Wells expresses pride in being part of a campaign to impose just such a blanket ban. Her attitude, and the attitude generally evinced by British Nationalists, is that voting is a privilege. More ominously, she espouses the principle of denying this ‘privilege’ to groups delineated, not by any human universal such as age, but by criteria determined by the state or its agencies. Groups such as that labelled ‘prisoners’.

Labels are cheap. I’m sure Annie Wells has an abundant supply of them. You might even find that you are already wearing one or more of them. Just such a discovery was made in the wake of the 2014 referendum by a group which the British establishment labelled ‘Scottish MPs’.

Annie Wells. Ruth Davidson. Theresa May. They shame the memory of such as Flora Drummond, Emily Wilding Davison and Emmeline Pankhurst.


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A third force?

Leaving aside for a moment the whole Brexit fiasco – doubtless to everyone’s great relief – it is worth noting that there is something rather interesting happening here as what in another time would have been referred to as the ‘minor parties’ at Westminster challenge, not only the government, but also the official opposition.

From a Scottish perspective, much of what has been happening in politics over the past three decades can be viewed as an increasingly desperate effort on the part of the British establishment to get back to ‘business as usual’. The British media, even more than British politicians, has evinced an almost frantic desire to return to the simplicities and certainties of the old British two-party politics that prevailed until the upstart SNP came along and made things complicated.

And now Westminster has been infected. The efforts to stifle, suppress and sideline the SNP contingent in the British Parliament have been to no avail. They’ve tried everything from EVEL to drowning out SNP MP’s contributions in the chamber with a cacophony of babble and barnyard noises. They’ve denied the SNP group at Westminster the opportunity to debate issues that have profound implications for Scotland. They’ve all but entirely excluded the SNP administration in Edinburgh from Brexit (sorry!) negotiations. They’ve worked assiduously to keep SNP politicians off our TV screens.

Despite all this, those pestilential ‘Nats’ persist in conducting themselves as if a clear and incontrovertible mandate from the electorate entitled them to a significant participatory role in the British political system. What the hell is wrong with these people!? They act as if being the third largest group at Westminster could possibly compensate for their appalling Scottishness.

Why can’t they just accept that their party, like their piffling little country and its pretendy wee parliament, is entirely peripheral to the ‘real’ politics of the British state? Why can’t they settle for the privilege of being allowed to sit on the glorious green benches in the divinely ordained ‘Mother of Parliaments’? Why do they insist on interfering in important matters best left to the British political elite?

The fact that the ‘smaller parties’ are uniting to confront the two ‘main parties’ is a highly significant development. It may not yet be an all-out revolt against the old order, but it sows the seeds. If the British establishment’s customary tactics of divide-and-rule can be overcome once, then this opens the way for further challenges to established power.

British politics is not evolved to cope with a third force. It has historically survived by eliminating potential threats early in the game; either by crushing them or by assimilating them. While being large enough and effective enough to have an impact at its heart, the SNP is sufficiently alien to the British political system to be quite indigestible. It cannot simply be absorbed. And it has proved remarkably resistant to being crushed. It is thus placed to be the core around which other elements of the political and geographical periphery might coalesce to form a third force capable of challenging, not only the old Tory/Labour duopoly, but the very structures of power, privilege and patronage which define the British state.


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The big ‘what if?’

When waiting becomes established as the political strategy of choice, all you do is wait. Waiting is what you plan for. If you are a political leader who has let it be known that waiting is your preferred strategy, your most loyal and trusted advisers will constantly assure you that it is best to wait. Eager to tell you what they believe you want to hear, they will have an endless supply of justifications for waiting at the ready.

One such justification that is being bandied around at the moment is the supposed need to wait and see whether Brexit actually happens. Brexit might yet be called off, goes the argument. And that would change everything, wouldn’t it?

Would it?

Nicola Sturgeon took a gamble when she associated action to resolve the constitutional issue so closely with Brexit. She was betting that people would be smart enough to realise that we are not seeking to restore Scotland’s rightful constitutional status because of Brexit, but because the Union gives the British political elite the power to impose Brexit on us regardless of our democratic wishes.

In the unlikely event that Brexit is stopped, will that be because the British state has suddenly decided to respect Scotland and its people? Of course not! So why should it make any difference whatever to the independence cause?

It doesn’t matter whether Brexit actually goes ahead or not. Because Brexit is not the problem. The problem is an archaic, anachronistic, asymmetric political union which functions as a constitutional device by which the people of Scotland are denied the full and effective exercise of the sovereignty which is theirs by absolute right.

If past experience is a true guide, those peddling this particular justification for further delay will protest that they understand this perfectly. But ‘other people’ don’t. Which, unless they are arrogantly claiming some extraordinary perspicacity, is profoundly insulting to those ‘other people’.

Nicola Sturgeon gambled on people understanding that Brexit is merely a particularly egregious illustration of how badly Scotland fares within the Union. She bet on them realising that Brexit is just the current context for a political struggle that was born with the Union. A struggle which has not changed in its fundamental motivations since the Union was imposed on us. A struggle in which Brexit is just a fleeting episode.

When I hear people wonder what if Brexit doesn’t happen, I fear Nicola Sturgeon may have lost that bet.


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Scotland? What Scotland?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Mystery prize?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why wait? It is time!


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