A mythical creature

Andrew Tickell assures us that “there are reflective Unionists”. To whatever extent this may be so. one has to wonder what it is that they are reflecting on. Evidently, not the inability of self-proclaimed Unionist politicians to explain precisely – or even vaguely – what it is that makes the Union so ‘precious’. Nor does the content of the constitutional discourse suggest that any Unionist has spent so much as a moment reflecting on the matter of why upwards of half the people of Scotland find the Union markedly less than ‘precious’.

When the best explanation for Scottish antipathy to the Union offered by those who might reasonably be expected to provide a distillation of Unionist ideology is a failure to adequately smother Scotland in the symbols of British Nationalism, then “reflective” is surely not the first word anyone would reach for in attempting to characterise Unionist thinking.

An argument could be made that it is unfair to judge all Unionists by Matt Hancock’s vacuous nonsense about the need to ramp up the ubiquity of Union flags that are already exceedingly hard to avoid. It could be argued that it is unjustly selective to highlight Jeremy Hunt’s “vapid non sequitur” about Adam Smith and grotesquely contrived reference to Culloden. Such arguments could be made – but for the fact that these are very far from untypical of Unionist rhetoric. Indeed, I doubt there’s anyone experienced in debating the constitutional issue who couldn’t provide more and better evidence casting serious doubt on the existence of such a creature as a reflective Unionist.

Of course, experience of debating the constitutional issue with Unionists must, itself, be something of a rarity as said Unionists are famously reluctant to engage. Which might be taken to imply that they have nothing to bring to such debate. The rehashed lies and reheated scare stories left over from Project Fear can hardly be presented as the product of rational reflection.

It is said that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. And this may be true, in a general sense. But when a claim is made for the existence of something which, if it exists as claimed, must leave some trace of its existence, and no such trace can be discovered, then it is perfectly reasonable to conclude that the claims of its existence have been greatly exaggerated.

The ‘positive case for the Union’ is very much a case in point. If such a thing existed, or ever had existed, there would surely be some lingering trace of it in the utterances of those who seek to portray themselves as champions of the Union. If there was such a thing as a reflective Unionist, surely we would have heard from them by now.

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A modest proposal

With the Referendums (Scotland) Bill now going through Parliament, we can be confident that the Scottish Government has a plan which will ensure that the people of Scotland are able to exercise our right of self-determination in accordance with the norms of democracy. There will be a referendum – with or without permission from Sajid Javid or any of the other anti-democratic British Nationalist ideologues vying to become the next Prime Minister of the disintegrating British state.

And that referendum will be soon. For reasons which I have outlined elsewhere, my money is on September of this year. Talk of the “latter half” of 2020 is, I believe, a diversion. And, even if it isn’t and this really is Nicola Sturgeon’s preferred time-frame, I reckon unfolding circumstances will force an earlier vote. I’m absolutely sure that she and Mike Russell have prepared for this. The option has certainly been kept open by the proposed legislation.

I am also persuaded that Nicola Sturgeon and Mike Russell have devised a way to satisfactorily address the concerns that I, and many others, have about requesting a Section 30 order. If the Referendums (Scotland) Bill doesn’t do that, then there is no point to it. But my reading of the Bill convinces me that those concerns can safely be set aside for the moment.

We know that there will be a referendum. We have to proceed on the assumption that it will be sooner rather than later. So we have to start thinking about the campaign.

Actually, many of us have been thinking about this for some years. Even in the immediate aftermath of the 2014 it was clear that the matter was not settled. That referendum produced a result, but not a decision. The issue was always going to have to be revisited. We’ve had well over four years to consider how we should campaign in the coming referendum. If the best we can come up with in that time is a repeat of the 2014 campaign with a new logo, than we clearly aren’t thinking hard enough.

As you would expect, I have my own thoughts on how the Yes movement should fight the #ScotRef2019 campaign. I’ve been writing and talking about this since October 2014. It is clear to me that, if we are to be confident of securing the additional 10 points required to win the new referendum, we have to approach the whole constitutional issue with a totally fresh mindset.

More on that later. For the moment I’d like to deal with something fundamental. Something that many in the Yes movement probably don’t think about very much, if at all. Because we’ve all moved beyond the first questions that must be asked of any proposal – such as the proposal to #DissolveTheUnion. There are three things that any proposal must have before it can really be considered a proposal.

  • A sufficient reason
  • A viable plan
  • A credible alternative

Let’s look at these in relation to the proposal to dissolve the Union, taking them in reverse order.

Is there a credible alternative to the Union?

The alternative, of course, is independence. And, independence being the normal, default status of nations, the question really should be “Is the Union a credible alternative to independence?”. Unless there is a powerfully persuasive argument that the Union is better than independence, then independence must be a credible alternative.

Asking if there is a credible alternative to not being independent is a bit like asking if there is a credible alternative to not breathing.

Is there a viable plan for dissolving the Union?

By which is meant, is there an evidently workable way of getting from the status quo to the status being proposed? Is there a way of implementing the proposal to dissolve the Union?

Again, it is clear that there must be a way for nations which are not independent to become independent. It has been done many, many times. It is not a novel thing. The broad principles governing the process are set out in the Charter of the United Nations. The practicalities are pretty much all covered by precedent and the various conventions which have been developed over the centuries.

Let’s talk!

I enjoy visiting groups throughout Scotland to talk about the constitutional issue.

I will travel anywhere in Scotland if it is at all practical.

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In Scotland’s case, much of the work has already been done – ore partly done. We already have much (most?) of the infrastructure and institutions of an independent nation. And we have people who have been planning for the dissolution of the Union for many years.

The Union is an artifice. It was created by politicians and lawyers and civil servants. It can be dismantled by politicians and lawyers and civil servants.

This is another question that really needs to be turned around. If there is some obstacle or impediment that makes the process of becoming independent unworkable, then let those claiming it can’t be done give their reasons. Let them describe those obstacles and impediments. And if the obstacles and impediments are of their making, let them explain their reasons.

Is there sufficient reason to dissolve the Union?

The Union shouldn’t exist. If a political union on these terms was to be mooted now, it would provoke more ridicule than anger. The Union is a constitutional device by which the people of Scotland are denied the full and effective exercise of their sovereignty. The Union is a denial of popular sovereignty. It imposes the alien concept of parliamentary sovereignty – a prettified version of absolute monarchy – along with a range of policies which are wilfully or incidentally contrary to Scotland’s interests.

The Union is a constitutional cage within which Scotland’s needs, priorities and aspirations are confined lest they conflict with the interests of the British state.

The Union, as has been noted, is anomalous. It is an aberration. And an abomination. Within the Union Scotland cannot even be a fully functioning democracy, never mind the progressive and prosperous nation we aspire to be. The Union simply will not allow it.

The difficulty isn’t finding sufficient reasons why the Union should be dissolved. The problem is explaining why it is allowed to persist.

In dealing with these basic requirement of a proposal, one thing has become clear. Restoring Scotland’s rightful constitutional status requires no justification. There is no need for a ‘positive case for independence’. It is the Union which must be justified. It is those who insist on preserving the Union who must explain why the people of Scotland should tolerate a constitutional arrangement which makes them second-class citizens in an increasingly intolerant and repressive British state, rather than normal citizens of a normal country.

It is for British Nationalists and hard-line Unionists to tell us what it is that Scotland gets from the Union which makes it worth the sacrifice of our democratic rights and our dignity. And, as they do, they better be aware that they cannot get away with the old lies.

Which neatly leads into the matter of how the coming referendum campaign should be fought. Let’s think about that.

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The state of BLiS

Kevin McKenna may be correct when he says that “the Labour Party in Scotland has been on the wrong side of the constitutional debate in this country”. (For the benefit of Unionists, “this country” refers to Scotland.) But he doesn’t seem to realise that it is the only “side of the constitutional debate” that they can possibly be on. He advises that “it [‘Scottish Labour’] must fashion a realistic and more pragmatic position on Scottish independence” having earlier noted that “the relationship between Westminster Labour and Holyrood Labour proceeds on a master and serf basis”. Does Kevin McKenna fail to fully comprehend the nature of a master/serf relationship?

Firstly, we must issue the regrettably still necessary advisory that there is no such political party as ‘Scottish Labour’. No such party exists. The thing calling itself ‘Scottish Labour’ is not a political party. There is no ‘Scottish Labour’, there is only British Labour. And there’s a bit of British Labour which is in Scotland and which, therefore, should properly be referred to as British Labour in Scotland (BLiS).

Journalists seem to have particular difficulty getting their heads around this apparently very simple concept. It’s quite unreal the way they persist in treating ‘Scottish Labour’ as if it was a real political party and whoever has their name chalked on the ‘Scottish Labour’ leader’s office door as if they were a real leader of a real party. They really need to get real.

(It goes without saying that the BBC is particularly bad for this. As far as BBC Scotland is concerned, ‘Scottish Labour’ is still the main political party in Scotland. That’s what comes of listening to their own news bulletins.)

Let’s talk!

I enjoy visiting groups throughout Scotland to talk about the constitutional issue.

I will travel anywhere in Scotland if it is at all practical.

I do not charge a fee.

I do not ask for expenses but will accept contributions if offered.

I aim to cover all costs from donations to this site.

If you would like to discuss a visit to your group please email speaker@peterabell.scot

Now that we’re all (except the Pacific Quay mob) clear on the fact that ‘Scottish Labour’ is NOT a political party in its own right but is, in fact, British Labour in Scotland, it should be obvious why it is “wrong side of the constitutional debate in this country”. (For the benefit of Unionists, this still means Scotland.) The clue is in the word ‘British’. It is British Labour in Scotland. It is a British party. It is in Scotland, but not of Scotland. And certainly not for Scotland.

British Labour in Scotland can no more “fashion a realistic and more pragmatic position on Scottish independence” than the British Conservative & Unionist Party in Scotland (BCUPS). Both are ineluctably and immutably part of the British establishment. They are embedded in, and utterly dependent on, the structures of power, privilege and patronage which define the British state. They are the servants of the British state.

The outposts of these British parties in Scotland have no meaningful autonomy. They cannot formulate policy independently of the party of which they are but a small part. They just can’t. They pretend to. But they can’t.

Both BLiS and BCUPS can only be on the British side of the constitutional issue. Neither can fashion a realistic or pragmatic or even sensible position on Scottish independence because they are bound by their essential nature to seek the preservation of the Union at any cost to Scotland and its people.

But perhaps it is not the nature of the relationship of the pretendy parties to the real parties that Kevin McKenna hasn’t quite grasped. Perhaps it’s the nature of the constitutional divide itself which eludes him. Maybe he still thinks of it as a divide between Scottish Nationalists and Scottish Unionists. If that ever was the case it certainly isn’t now. The divide is between Scottish Nationalists and British Nationalists. Between Scotland and the British state.

British Labour in Scotland is on the “wrong side” of the constitutional issue because it is on the British side. Not as a matter of choice, but because it cannot be otherwise. The people who associate themselves with BLiS do have a choice, however. They will shortly be called upon to make that choice.

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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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The final message

The First Minister calls on Scotland’s voters to send a Brexit message to Westminster. But didn’t we already do that? Didn’t we send a very clear message when we voted almost 2 to 1 to Remain part of the EU? Wasn’t that message contemptuously ignored by the British political elite?

Send a message that “Scotland has had enough of being ignored”, says Nicola Sturgeon, even as she urges us to once again invite the imperious disdain of the British state.

We are up to our chins in British shite and using our last breath before being submerged to tell the British political elite, yet again, that they only get to shite on us one more time. Or maybe two. Almost certainly no more than three. Then they’ll get their final warning. Aye!

Of course we will vote SNP on Thursday 23 May! What other option is there? But, as we do, let us consider that it is surely time to stop offering up our faces to be spat upon by British Nationalists. It is surely time to stop hoping that Westminster will listen and start demanding that the Scottish Government does.

It is surely time to tell our First Minister that the only message we want to send to the British government is one giving notice of our intention to dissolve the Union.

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The National concludes an article on the latest frantic manoeuvrings in the grotesque Brexit farce with the words, “There was scepticism over how it would work.” In this instance, it was referring to a draft bill that “could see Brexit reversed”.

The bill would give the Prime Minister and Parliament six weeks to reach a consensus on a way ahead.

If they can’t agree, then May would be forced to either extend or revoke Article 50 unilaterally.

You can see why there are doubts about the viability of this scheme. But those eight words at the end of a piece in The National could apply to Brexit itself as well as pretty much everything Brexit-related. And particularly to all the measures being suggested as ways to resolve the situation created – or, at least, given force – by the 2016 EU referendum. There is cause for serious scepticism about how any such effort would work. They are products of denial about just how totally irreparable the situation is. Quite simply, Brexit can’t be fixed.

When David Cameron opened the can clearly labelled with a warning that the contents were potentially lethal he released a host of highly venomous worms. Those nasties are not going back in the can. To egregiously mix my metaphors, the genie of narrow, insular, xenophobic, supremacist British Nationalism isn’t for returning to its bottle. The Leave vote carried by England’s voters (with a little help from Wales) gave licence to the basest, meanest, shallowest and most mindless political dogmatism. No matter how it plays out, Brexit will poison British politics for decades to come.

Not even stopping Brexit will prevent this. In fact, revoking Article 50 would only serve to concentrate and strengthen the poison. Not that this should be seen as an argument against revoking Article 50. It is merely to point out that if this is done in the hope of resetting everything to some pre-Brexit state of relative political stability, then that is a woefully forlorn hope. Polls suggest that anti-EU sentiments are as prevalent now in England as they were in 2016. It’s as if the further the Brexit process descends into chaos the more support for it hardens. The more clear it becomes how much Brexit is going to hurt, the more a perversely macho and ominously militaristic ‘Empire / Dunkirk / Blitz / 19666 World Cup’ spirit is invoked. Desolation? Devastation? Ruination? Is that all you’ve got? Bring it on! We can take it! ‘Cos we’re British, innit!

The Mad Brexiteers are going to be just as angry at being denied the masochistic rapture of a catastrophic Brexit as others are at being subjected to its cruelty. That anger may dissipate over time. But it will do a lot of damage while it is a significant factor in British politics.

Brexit can’t be fixed. Not even by stopping it. Anybody working on the assumption that there is a way of resolving the Brexit situation is operating on a false premise. There is no resolution. No prevention. Only damage limitation.

But it is not only the ‘usual suspect’ who are hooked on the notion that Brexit can be fixed – either by changing it or by stopping it. The otherwise very sensible SNP also seems to have been entranced by the notion. Go the increasing annoyance of many in the party and the wider independence movement, Nicola Sturgeon et al seem to be prioritising relieving the UK of Brexit over relieving Scotland of the Union.

So intent is the SNP on saving England from its own folly that one of the most influential and, dare I say, revered figures in the party has recently set out a quite astounding proposal. speaking at an event in support of a ‘people’s vote’, Joanna Cherry MP said,

I believe that, ultimately, what may be required is a temporary cross-party UK Government to seek an extension of article 50, to hold a second EU referendum and then revoke art 50, before holding a General Election.

This is being talked about by many commentators, including influential commentators in Scotland such as Dr Kirsty Hughes of the Scottish Centre for European Relations and Lesley Riddoch the pro-independence journalist…

I confess, I had not heard this suggestion before. Or it might be more accurate to say that it hadn’t previously caught my attention. I may have seen some mention of the idea, but dismissed it for the nonsense it so evidently is. Not that this has prevented others enthusing about it. Lindsay Bruce, for example. penned an article for Wings Over Scotland in which he even suggests that this coalition might attract some “disgruntled Tories”. Think about that for a moment. The SNP subsumed into a UK coalition government dominated by British Nationalists and including Tories. Try selling that one on the doorsteps in Glasgow and Dundee!

Claims are made for the efficacy of this ‘unity government’ which rival in hyperbole even 1960s TV washing powder commercials. The amazing things it can do include, not only fixing Brexit, but getting Scotland a new independence referendum and a host of new powers for the Scottish Parliament in the meantime. It will, proponents assert, give Scotland a stronger voice in the British parliament and make everybody think the SNP is wonderful and persuade thousands of ‘undecideds’ that they should opt for independence. Truly, the Cillit Bang of coalitions.

But the claims made for this coalition idea are all empty assertions not supported by any facts, evidence or reasoned argument. Simply saying “the SNP will be better placed to ensure Scotland’s voice is heard” doesn’t make it true.

In reality, there is absolutely no reason to suppose that being subsumed in a coalition UK government dominated by British Nationalists would strengthen the SNP Westminster group’s position in any way. Even at an intuitive level, this seems exceedingly unlikely. Just putting the reality of the situation into words reveals how counter-intuitive is the notion that it makes the group better able to represent Scotland’s interests.

Fantasy politics and wishful thinking aside, being subsumed in a coalition UK government certainly doesn’t strengthen the SNP group and would almost certainly constrain it in ways that don’t apply to opposition parties. For all the unthinking enthusiasm greeting this notion in some quarters, I have yet to see any mention of a single thing that the SNP could do in such a coalition that it cannot do now. Nothing! Not a solitary thing.

We are assured that the SNP would be able to demand all sorts of concession in return for allowing itself to be subsumed in a British Nationalist coalition. But scrutinise this assurance for even a few seconds and it evaporates. Ask the important and relevant questions. Why would the SNP be offered any meaningful concessions? Why would they be offered any concessions at all? If such a coalition came about it would be politically impossible for the SNP to refuse to join it. Especially after having shown enthusiasm for the idea. British Labour, who would dominate the coalition, need only decline to offer any concessions and dare the SNP to put the coalition in jeopardy.

And even supposing concessions were offered, could the British Nationalists be trusted to honour their commitments? History suggests otherwise. History suggests you’d have to be a complete idiot to put your faith in any promises made to Scotland by any British party or politician. How easily some people forget.

Oh! But the coalition could stop Brexit! Or it could reopen the negotiations that the EU has stated emphatically will not be reopened! Really? This British Nationalist coalition will be dominated by British Labour. Do they look like they might be ready to revoke Article 50? How many of their MPs would rebel against such a move? And even if the EU could somehow be persuaded to reopen negotiations despite having stated repeatedly and with increasing insistence that they will not do so, does British Labour look any more capable of negotiating a ‘deal’ than their fellow British Nationalists in the Tory party? I don’t think so!

You can be absolutely certain that no SNP MP would be allowed anywhere near those negotiations. It is a flagrant denial of political reality to suppose that British Labour would want to strengthen the SNP in any way. They want to destroy the SNP. Anybody who hasn’t realised that by now must have their head up their arse. British Labour’s only reason for inviting the SNP into a coalition would be to control or constrain them. To limit their options. To weaken them. And they would only associate the SNP with the Brexit negotiations in order to blame them when things went wrong.

That’s real-world politics!

But let’s suppose there were concessions offered, despite British Labour having neither a need nor an incentive to do so. would they be meaningful at all? We’ve already seen how massively dubious is the notion that this coalition could or would stop Brexit. What about the ‘powers’ that might be promised to the Scottish Parliament?

Firstly, we have to acknowledge – if we’re being realistic – that all indications are that the British state is intent on reducing the powers of the Scottish Parliament – if not on abolishing it completely. This subject has thoroughly enough dealt with elsewhere, so there’s no need to rehash it now. We may simply note that the EU power-grab is a very real thing. As is the shadow administration being set up by David Mundell. Anybody who thinks that’s an end to the stripping of powers from Holyrood is deluded.

But this may not prevent the promising of further powers. So, if we have any sense, we must ask why the British establishment would promise new powers when its purpose is to undermine the Scottish Parliament. There are two reasons.

Devolution has always been more about withholding powers from the Scottish Parliament than granting them. Crucially, what is granted can be withdrawn. Real power is never given. Real power is taken. Power that is given is not real power. But in light of the licence given to it by the No vote in 2014, the British establishment went further. Rather than being a tool by which the power of the Scottish Parliament could be controlled, devolution was forged into a weapon to be wielded against the hated SNP. The manner in which limited powers over such as tax and welfare were framed was intended to set numerous political and fiscal traps for the SNP administration. This too is a topic which has been dealt with at length elsewhere. The only reason there is not more evidence of these political and fiscal traps is that the SNP administration showed itself to be remarkably adept at avoiding them.

What does this have to do with powers which might be offered to the Scottish Parliament for the purpose of luring the SNP into a coalition? Quite simply, with the EU power-grab the British state now controls procurement and standards. It has always controlled the budget. Budget! Procurement! Standards! Control these, and you control everything. Whatever powers may be devolved to the Scottish Parliament, policy can always be ‘guided’ in whatever direction the British state desires through its control of the key powers.

Powers promised as part of any coalition deal would be completely meaningless. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be offered.

It is, when you stop to think about it, blindingly obvious that the SNP has nothing to gain from allowing itself to be subsumed in a British coalition. And that’s before we consider the damage that would be done in terms of support for the party. The independence cause has nothing to gain from this daft coalition idea. The new referendum that might be promised and then might be allowed to actually happen is already ours. It is not in the gift of Westminster.

A Section 30 concession could be an even worse trap than those devolved tax and welfare powers. Going down the Section 30 route means accepting that the referendum could only go ahead on the basis of an agreement between the two governments. Edinburgh Agreement 2! The British government need only seek to impose unacceptable conditions – such as a qualified majority – and there’s no agreement and therefore no ‘legal’ referendum. The independence cause is advanced not one millimetre.

More importantly, Scotland gains nothing from the SNP being subsumed in this putative British Nationalist-dominated coalition. The party that is supposed to be Scotland’s voice in Westminster would be all but entirely silenced. If you think the British media ignores the SNP now wait until they are in a coalition with Jeremy Corbyn as its official spokesperson.

Of course, this multi-party coalition is too unlikely to be taken seriously. But it must be of some concern that senior figures in the SNP and the Yes movement are even talking about such a thing. It suggests to me that they have lost sight of the goal. They have been fatally distracted by Brexit. And, perhaps, fatally attracted to the convoluted games of British political. Too intent on proving how good they are at playing those games.

This is deeply regrettable. The idea that there is a path to independence through the arcane workings of Westminster is sheer folly. No matter how adept SNP MPs may be at navigating the maze. Scotland’s rightful constitutional status will not be restored by becoming part of apparatus of the British state. The very thing we seek to break with.

If Joanna Cherry is offering an insight to the way SNP MPs are thinking; if they truly have been seduced by British politics to the extent that she implies, then it is clearly well past time we brought them home.

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The snarling of the beast

It was always going to happen. British Nationalists were always going to find something to latch onto. They were always going to find some vulnerability that they could exploit. Simply be virtue of the fact that they were constantly attacking Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP on any grounds however spurious, it was pretty much inevitable that one of those attacks would find some wee tear that they could pick at. When you blast away in all directions with a scatter-gun then you’re almost bound to eventually at least graze one of your chosen targets.

Although, for obvious reasons, not much was said about it at the time, this was part of the reasoning behind the drive to hold a new referendum last September. It seemed obvious that, given the British establishment’s frenzied determination to find – or fashion – some dirt on a senior SNP figure, the longer this effort was allowed to continue the greater the chances that it would have some measure of success.

Forget the ‘conspiracy theories’ about highly placed British civil service ‘moles’ in the SNP administration with orders to sabotage one or more SNP politicians at the first opportunity. I’m not saying the British establishment is not capable of such conduct. Only that they are probably not competent. Appalling as the British political elite may be, civil servants are generally decent people with a strong sense of duty and very much focused on their careers. They are not easily corrupted.

And it isn’t necessary anyway. Civil servants are just people and subject as all of us are to human folly and frailty. One of them was going to screw up in some way at some point. And it is becoming clearer by the day that there were one or two senior civil servants in the vicinity of the First Minister who are perhaps more prone to human weaknesses and defects of character than most. And certainly more so than is desirable in a senior civil servant.

It was only a matter of time. The more time they were allowed, the greater the chance that British Nationalists would strike lucky.

Why a civil servant and not one of the senior SNP politicians themselves? Why was it more likely that a crack would eventually appear in the machinery of the Scottish Government rather than in any of its leading personalities? Simply because those leading personalities are the first generation of front-line figures in a new party of government. They haven’t risen to power through established structures which could help them over humps and cover their arses where necessary. In order to get there, they’ve had to keep their noses, not merely clean as in free of dangling snot, but clean as in pristine. Antiseptically clean.

What makes the allegations against Alex Salmond less than credible is the fact that his reputation is of such immense value to him, together with his awareness that the British establishment and its media hyenas were constantly raking through his bins looking for any titbit they could exploit. In all of history, few politicians have come under such intense and prolonged scrutiny. British Nationalist frustration at being unable to find anything is palpable. Those less prejudiced might consider the failure of such a massive effort to find evidence of wrongdoing to strongly suggest that no such evidence exists.

Similar considerations apply regarding the insinuations against Nicola Sturgeon. Together with the confused and contradictory nature of those insinuations. Almost as if her attackers are trying to cover all possible permutations of wrongdoing regardless of whether they make any sense. Which leads us to consider the reputations of those attackers compared with that of Nicola Sturgeon.

That there is a smear campaign against both Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon is certain. Since at least 2007, there has not been a moment when there wasn’t some kind of smear campaign against one or both of them either in progress or in preparation. The current exercise in negative propaganda appears to be gaining more traction than any that have gone before. But this may be a function of the resources that are being applied to the effort rather than an indication of any substance behind the allegations and insinuations.

Of one thing we can be fairly sure; this smear campaign is opportunistic rather than conspiratorial. A senior civil servant has behaved in a manner that is dubious, at best. The British Nationalist beast’s primitive instincts have been triggered as it senses potential weakness. It is responding with all the petty, mindless viciousness we’ve come to expect from politicians bred in the British political system.

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