A question of courage

A remark by Dr Craig Dalzell on his Common Green blog caught my attention. In an article discussing the post-independence fate of the British state’s nuclear arsenal on Scottish soil, he writes,

… it may be that the Scottish Government simply isn’t brave enough to demand the removal of the weapons…

Controversial as this statement may be, it was not what was suggested that struck me, but my reaction to it. Six months ago – maybe even three months ago – I would have responded angrily that it is totally ridiculous to imagine the SNP would renege on its commitment to remove this abomination from our land. I would have objected strongly to the suggestion that an SNP administration might go into talks with the British government unprepared and timid.

I would have pointed out what a strong hand the Scottish side in talks on the independence settlement would have. I would have mercilessly mocked the notion that SNP politicians could be unaware of that strength, or unwilling to use it.

Don’t get me wrong! I continue to be absolutely persuaded that arrangements for the removal of Trident will be a very important part of the settlement. The British state’s weapons of mass destruction must go. That is a political imperative. The precise nature of the arrangements will depend on a number of factors. But the bottom line is a red line. Trident must go!

No sane, sober and sensible person supposes that the whole shebang will be shut down and shipped out on day one. The single strong card that the Brits will have is safety. And that card trumps pretty much everything. The Scottish Government cannot set an unrealistic deadline for removal of the British state’s nuclear paraphernalia. It may be that the Scottish Government cannot set any kind of deadline at all without risking accusations of compromising safety for the sake of politics. But, whatever the arrangements are, it must be clear that the end-point is the total removal of Trident.

Personally, I favour the ramping rent solution. Craig Dalzell nicely sets out the problems – and potential problems – with a leasing arrangement. The danger that the Scottish exchequer grows over fond of – or reliant on – the revenue. The risk that a short-term lease becomes a long-term lease and then a rolling lease. I believe these issues can be overcome by making the lease increasingly expensive for the British state – rent rising annually by a percentage that also increases – so that there is a financial imperative to move out but no political pressure which might be portrayed as the Scottish Government lacking due concern for safety.

Also, revenue from the lease should be ring-fenced for one-off capital projects that otherwise would be unlikely to be funded. That way, Scotland’s budget doesn’t become dependent on income from the lease.

All of which is by way of an aside. The discussion of options relating to removal of Trident is interesting. But what troubled me about Craig Dalzell’s comment was the suggestion that ” the Scottish Government simply isn’t brave enough”. And the fact that, unlike a few months ago, I now felt disinclined to reject this out of hand.

I now find my self obliged to consider the possibility that the Scottish Government just isn’t brave enough. The long months, stretching into years, of hesitancy and prevarication and general reluctance to confront the constitutional issue has drained the confidence that I once had in the SNP and in Nicola Sturgeon.

The other day, as I was writing about the implications for Scotland of Boris Johnson being anointed British Prime Minister, I paused to reflect on how the Scottish people would react to something like the Scottish Parliament being ‘suspended’. Obviously, there would be anger. But I was surprised to find that, in my imagining, the anger was directed, not at Boris Johnson, the British state or the Union, but at the First Minister and the Scottish Government and the SNP. Being able to imagine something doesn’t make it true or likely. But continuing to envisage it, not in a reverie, but in the light of cold political analysis, causes alarm bells to ring.

The great American aviation pioneer and author, Amelia Earhart, once said,

The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity.

For far too long the de facto political arm of Scotland’s independence movement has been characterised by indecision and inaction. Whatever good the SNP administration has been doing – and it is undeniable that it has done a great deal of good – in terms of providing leadership for the independence movement and taking forward Scotland’s cause, the SNP’s performance has fallen far short of the hopes and expectations of many in the Yes movement. Opportunities have been missed. Initiative has been lost. Momentum has been squandered.

Maybe it’s true. Maybe the Scottish Government just isn’t brave enough.



If you find these articles interesting please consider a small donation to help support this site and my other activities on behalf of Scotland’s independence movement.

Donate with PayPalDonate with Pingit

Wake up and smell the petrol!

Craig Dalzell and Common Weal do excellent work. I have no doubt that their paper on a Scottish Statistics Agency (SSA) is a worthwhile addition to an impressive and valuable body of work. But I am focused on the fight to restore Scotland’s independence. And this sort of thing is, at best, no more than tangentially related to that fight.

Would Scotland benefit from better collection, collation and analysis of a wide range of statistical information relating to all aspect of our economy and society? Of course!

Would such an agency be absolutely required after independence? Of course!

We already knew these things. Craig Dalzell’s paper fleshes out the detail. But it asks no new questions and provides no new answers. It adds nothing whatever to the constitutional debate.

It may well be argued that this was not the intention. But, because Common Weal is closely associated with the Yes movement, it is inevitable that both sides of that constitutional debate will seize on the paper – each for their own purposes.

Had there been any question that Scotland needs a statistics agency, or any reasonable doubt about our ability to create and run such an organisation, then this paper would almost certainly have served to answer those questions and allay those doubts. But, just as there is no serious uncertainty about Scotland’s economic viability, so there is no reason to wonder about whether we can manage the nation’s infrastructure.

So why should we be talking about either as part of the constitutional debate?

There is not, and never could be, an economic argument against independence.

There is not, and never could be, a practical argument against independence.

There are very powerful economic and practical arguments against the Union. It doesn’t work at all well and costs Scotland dearly in terms of realising our potential. Let’s hear more of those arguments. Let’s stop being defensive. Let’s stop acting as if we have to prove our right and ability to be a normal nation. It is the Union which is anomalous. It is for those who advocate the preservation of the Union to persuade us of its value to Scotland. We don’t have to prove anything.

Discussion of what Scotland might be like after independence is perfectly fine. But not if it is seen as making the case for independence. That case is already made. The answer to the question of whether Scotland should be an independent country can only ever be ‘Yes’. It’s not even a sensible question. We should be asking whether there is any rational case at all for Scotland remaining part of the UK.

Useful as debate about post-independence policy may be, it is a distraction from the main issue. The constitutional issue. And it may be a very dangerous distraction. The threat to Scotland’s democracy from ‘One Nation’ British Nationalism is real and imminent. Our democratic institutions, our distinctive political culture, our most precious public services and our potential to develop as a fairer, greener more prosperous nation – all are in immediate jeopardy.

An arsonist is dousing our house in petrol. And we are arguing about what colour to paint the bathroom.


If you find these articles interesting please consider a small donation to help support this site and my other activities on behalf of Scotland’s independence campaign.

donate