A bad place

I’ve just read yet another blog peddling the idea that the mandate for a new independence referendum is entirely conditional on Brexit. This is based solely on a single phrase abstracted from a section of the SNP’s 2016 election manifesto – “taken out of the EU”. But it doesn’t just say “taken out of the EU”. It says “…or if there is a significant and material change in the circumstances that prevailed in 2014, such as Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will” (my emphasis). You can’t pretend those words aren’t there just because it suits your argument.

And you can’t escape the import of those words. Unless you wilfully distort it by excluding a big chunk of the text and even more of the context, that paragraph sets down two separate and non-mutually exclusive situations in which the Scottish Parliament “should have the right to hold another [independence] referendum”. Those two situations are –

(a) “if there is clear and sustained evidence that independence has become the preferred option of a majority of the Scottish people”

AND/OR

(b) “if there is a significant and material change in the circumstances that prevailed in 2014”

Being “taken out of the EU” is merely given as an example of “significant and material change”. The clue is in the words “such as”. Unfortunately, those who come to this section of the SNP manifesto having already made up their minds what it says tend to be oblivious to the bits that contradict their preconceptions.

It could easily be argued that it was a mistake to include that example. It may be maintained that by doing so the SNP was inviting precisely the kind of distorted interpretation presented in this article. That British Nationalists would twist the words to suit their malign purpose was to be expected. The fact that so many in the Yes movement are happily parroting this British Nationalist propaganda is one of the reasons I have lately come to despair for the cause of independence.

Another reason is glib utterances such as “we do not have any instant easy fixes that can magically be deployed”. I am not aware that anybody has ever suggested any “instant easy fixes”. So this is, essentially, nothing more than a rather silly straw man deployed in preference to actually addressing the alternative process implied by the hashtag #DissolveTheUnion. The attitude seems to be that, if you don’t understand an idea and can’t be bothered making the effort, then simply dismiss it with some trite phrase.

But, a couple of days ago in the course of a near day long series of exchanges on Twitter, a realisation gradually dawned on me. It wouldn’t matter if there was an “instant easy fix”. Or, at least a relatively straightforward process by which we could advance the independence cause. It wouldn’t matter because what certainly seems to be the entire Yes movement has convinced itself that the process must be complex and convoluted in order to be ‘real’.

This notion is, I think, closely associated with the notion that the process must be ‘legal’. By which is generally meant, in accordance with whatever laws, regulations and rules devised by the British state are deemed to be relevant. The British political elite make hoops and we must jump through them. Once we have jumped through all the hoops, we’ll have completed a process that is ‘legally watertight’.

There is an obvious problem with this which, for all that it is so obvious, seems to elude those who insist on accepting ‘British’ as the definitive standard in all things. There is no limit to the number of hoops the British state can set up for us to jump through. So long as we meekly accept that we must jump through their hoops, they will always produce another one.

There is no route to independence which does not pass through a point at which there is direct and possibly unpleasant confrontation with the British political elite. If you are trying to contrive some ‘legal’ device by which to bypass that point, you are wasting time and resources. If you are not prepared to face that point, then you are not committed to the cause of independence.

There is also a less obvious issue with this notion of ‘legality’. The relevant standard by which the process whereby Scotland’s independence is restored is democratic not legal. So long as that process by which Scotland’s people exercise their right of self-determination is wholly and transparently democratic, then it cannot be ‘illegal’.

I am now resigned, however, to the fact that this fundamental truth is not going to gain anything like the required traction in the Yes movement. I don’t know how many times I’ve explained what that passage from the SNP manifesto actually says. Even though it’s written in English plain enough that you’d have to be motivated to misunderstand it. Nobody is listening! Likewise, the point about democratic legitimacy being more relevant than legislative compliance. Nobody is listening! Also the exploration of bold and decisive action to resolve the issue of Scotland’s constitutional status. Nobody is listening!

Another thing occurred to me in the course of that Twitter exchange. I’ve found myself in a place where Yes supporters frustrate and annoy me more than British Nationalists. That’s not a place I want to be.


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 with paypal

donate with pingit

STFU about UDI!

The concept of a unilateral declaration of independence (UDI) is inappropriate and inapplicable. Scotland is neither a colony nor a possession. Ask the analytical questions. From what would we be unilaterally declaring independence? England? Scotland hasn’t been annexed by England. Suppose England wanted to declare it’s independence. What would it be declaring independence from? Itself?

The UK? The UK isn’t a nation. It is a political union. Leaving a political union isn’t at all equivalent to declaring independence.

Forget UDI! It shouldn’t even be mentioned in relation to Scotland’s independence cause.

What people actually mean when they refer to UDI; what they mistakenly identify as UDI, is a process in which a declaration of intent to change Scotland’s constitutional status precedes a plebiscite to ratify that proposed change.

The closest analogy may be the dissolution of the political union between Norway and Sweden. A union which was, in some significant respects, similar to that between Scotland and England. Certainly, it was the cause of the same kind of tensions between the two nations.

With all the usual caveats about the dangers of simplification, the story starts, as all such stories must, with the nation that wishes to dissolve the union breaking the rules which bind it together. Norway declared its intention to set up its own consular service thus breaching the terms of the political union which reserved foreign policy to Sweden. Sweden refused to recognise the legislation passed by the Norwegian parliament and the Norwegian government resigned; provoking a constitutional crisis when it proved impossible to form a new government.

To resolve the issue of Norway’s constitutional status, the Storting (Norwegian parliament) voted unanimously to dissolve the political union with Sweden. This was on 7 June 1905. Crucially, in order to seize total control of the process, Norway avoided the offer of a negotiated settlement which would have allowed Sweden a measure of influence. Instead, the Storting immediately scheduled a referendum for 13 August – around nine weeks after the vote to dissolve the union.

That referendum resulted in a ‘Yes’ vote of 99.5%.

It shouldn’t be difficult to work out from this how Scotland should proceed. And it has absolutely nothing to do with UDI.


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 with paypal

donate with pingit

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


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 with paypal

donate with pingit

Is it me?

This is video from the Women for Independence AGM. At 50 minutes we hear the First Minister answering a question about the timing of action to resolve Scotland’s constitutional issue. I find her response both disappointing and disturbing?

It is disappointing that Nicola Sturgeon sees fit to dismiss the #DissolveTheUnion hashtag with a joke. If it was that easy, she says, she would have done it long ago. We are told that there are no “shortcuts” to independence. As if anybody thought there was. As if that is what the hashtag refers to. It is extremely disappointing that Nicola Sturgeon has so woefully misunderstood the import of the hashtag.

#DissolveTheUnion is not the simplistic demand that the First Minister seems to have taken it for. In fact, it is rather insulting that she could think Yes campaign activists might be so naive. It suggests she may have badly lost touch with a grassroots movement which, I can assure her, is considerably more sophisticated than she appears to suppose. Nobody is foolish enough to imagine that the restoration of Scotland’s independence is a simple matter. Everybody is well aware of the nature of the opposition we face.

#DissolveTheUnion is intended to suggest a changed mindset in our approach to the independence project. A mindset imbued with the sense that we are, not supplicants petitioning for some boon from a superior authority, but a sovereign people insisting that our right of self-determination be respected. It implies rejection of the British political elite’s asserted power of veto over our fundamental democratic rights. It says that we do not accept the notion of independence being something that is in the gift of the British state. It says independence is not theirs for the giving, but ours for the taking.

There is nothing naive or simplistic about the thinking behind this hashtag. It denotes a significant and necessary shift in our thinking about the manner in which the independence campaign should be conducted. I had hoped, and expected, that Nicola Sturgeon would understand this. I have been left deeply disappointed by her remarks.

Even more disturbing, however, is the First Minister’s insistence that we should not concern ourselves with process. Apparently, the process by which we achieve our goal is unimportant. Apparently, we can afford to disregard that process. We must put all our efforts into selling the idea of independence and trouble ourselves not at all about the means and methods by which this goal might be realised.

I find this astounding. It seems obvious to me that one of the greatest impediments to the restoration of Scotland’s independence is that fact that the constitutional process is all but entirely determined and controlled by the British state. It occurs to me to wonder how we might hope to restore Scotland’s rightful constitutional status whilst the process by which this would come about is so entirely in the hands of forces which are resolved to deny even our fundamental democratic right to choose the form of government which suits us best.

Here’s our First Minister telling us that process is not important. And I am unable to understand how that can possibly be so. I’m listening to the politician I most trust and respect – someone the entire Yes movement looks to for leadership – and what she’s saying simply makes no sense.

Is it me? Am I missing something? Have I got it so seriously wrong? Is it really nonsense to suppose that, in order to restore our independence, we must first seize control of the process by which our independence will be restored?


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 with paypal

donate with pingit

The nub of the matter


Fundamentally, I am sick and tired of Scotland’s future being dictated by governments we never voted for.

Characteristically, Mhairi Black gets to the nub of the matter. Having dealt with and dismissed the entire Brexit fiasco, she identifies the core issue. This is why we need to restore Scotland’s rightful constitutional status. Not for the sake of a desperate, last-ditch attempt to avoid the catastrophe of being dragged out of the EU against our will. Not for the potential prosperity of an independent Scotland. Not for the promise of a gentler, greener, fairer society free of the inequities and iniquities of the Tory British state. We need to normalise Scotland’s constitutional status because the present arrangement is wrong. In every sense of that term, the Union is wrong.

The political union which binds Scotland to the British state is fundamentally unjust. It is an affront to democracy and an insult to the people of this nation.

We need to break the Union, not because of Brexit, but because the Union is what facilitates Brexit. It is what give the British political elite the power to impose Brexit on an unwilling nation. It is what makes it inevitable that Scotland’s future is dictated by governments we never voted for. The gross injustice of Brexit merely exemplifies a condition of abusive subjection which is, not an unintended and incidental side-effect, but an inevitable product and purposeful function of the Union.

Brexit, like austerity and much else, is being inflicted on Scotland because of the Union. Because that is what the Union is for.

This Union that was contrived in a different age for purposes that were never relevant to us.

This Union that we, the people, had no part in creating or sanctioning.

This anachronistic, dysfunctional, corrupt Union which serves none of the people off these islands well.

This Union which was always intended to serve the purposes of the ruling elites of the British state.

This Union which, in that regard if no other, has not changed one iota in the last three centuries.

This Union that sucks the human and material resources out of our nation and in return gives us government by a British political elite that we have emphatically and repeatedly rejected at the polls.

This Union that imposes policies which are anathema to our people. Policies which, to whatever limited extent they have been permitted any say,  have been resolutely opposed by our democratically elected representatives.

This Union that is a plague on Scotland’s politics. A blight on Scotland’s society. A parasite on Scotland’s economy. This Union which is now a real and imminent threat to Scotland’s democracy.

Mhairi Black goes on to say,


I am tired of my country being treated like an irritation for demanding our vote is respected. I want to see a Scotland with enough confidence and self-respect to become truly accountable and independent.

I’m tired too. I want to see a Scotland which at last has enough confidence and self-respect to rid itself of the Union.


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 with paypal

donate with pingit

I despair!

referendum_2018_petitionIn all this talk of postponing the new referendum, whether it be until 2019 or 2021 or 2022, I see no explanation of how those commending delay propose to deal with the measures that the UK Government will surely implement in order to make a referendum impossible or unwinnable or both. It’s as if they think the British state is a benign entity which is just going to sit back and wait until we get our act together. It’s as if they are dumbly unaware that locking Scotland into a unilaterally redefined political union is one of the principal imperatives driving British policy.

How do we even know there will be any Holyrood elections in 2021? How do we know there will be any Scottish Parliament in 2021? And, even if it is allowed to survive while the Postponers are warming their fiddle-fingers at the bonfire of Scotland’s democracy, how can anyone even begin to imagine that it won’t have been stripped of the power to call a referendum?

At a minimum, all the British political elite would have to do is transfer powers over the franchise to the new unelected and unaccountable shadow administration under David Mundell.

But STILL the Postponers have absolutely nothing to say about such matters. They are so wrapped up in trying to think of ways to game the British political system it never occurs to them that there is actually no reason at all why we should be playing according to the rules of that system.

Worse! They genuinely seem to suppose that the ‘right time’ for a new referendum will just magically emerge from conditions which – by THEIR choice! – are all but entirely determined by forces that are intractably opposed to the people of Scotland EVER being permitted to exercise their right of self-determination.

I despair!


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 with paypal

donate with pingit

It’s what we make it

saltire_breakoutI have news for Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp. Brexit is not the only thing happening in the world. It’s not even the only thing happening in Scotland. Were he but able to tear his attention away from Brexit for a second he might notice a few other things going on. Things that might just throw his nice tidy independence timeline into disarray.

Scour that timeline as you may, you will find no mention of the steps the British government will be taking in order to make a new independence referendum impossible or unwinnable of both. Which is odd given that Gordon otherwise seems to suppose the British government to be the only effective actor in all of politics. His timeline is almost entirely a tale of what the British elite does, and how the Scottish Government might react.

No account is taken of the fact that the British state has already started to strip powers from the Scottish Parliament and explicitly signalled its intention to further undermine Scotland’s democratic institutions. The timeline totally ignores the unelected and unaccountable shadow administration under David Mundell which is being readied to take over powers stripped from Holyrood. It blithely disregards things like the transfer to the ‘UK Government in Scotland’ of powers over the franchise. Simply by excluding 16 and 17-year olds Mundell could deal a crippling blow to any new independence referendum. And that’s just one example. Spend a few moments reflecting, in a way Gordon signally fails to do, on the myriad ways the British government might seek to thwart the democratic process.

It seems that the whole Brexit bourach looms so large in Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp’s view that he seems oblivious to the British Nationalist ‘One Nation’ project that is running in parallel with it. A project which, more importantly, would be proceeding regardless of Brexit. Concern for the economic impact of Brexit is understandable. But it should not blind us to the fundamental constitutional issue and the threat to Scotland’s democracy.

While the casual disregard for this real and imminent constitutional threat is perplexing, the stuff about asking for a Section 30 Order is just bloody annoying. I know that Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp is fully aware of the importance of reframing the arguments for the new referendum. He knows what reframing means. He is well aware of how it works. He appreciates that it involves altering perceptions by changing the way an issue is presented. So why is he still mired in the now outmoded mindset of the 2014 referendum? Why is he still thinking in terms of independence being something that is in the gift of the British state, rather than something that is Scotland’s natural right?

Why does he continue to maintain that Scotland’s constitutional status has to be negotiated with the British government as if it required their agreement, rather than simply the expressed will of Scotland’s people?

Why does he so readily accept the notion that the British political elite might have the legitimate authority to veto the right of self-determination that is vested wholly in the people of Scotland?

We do not need Westminster’s permission to exercise our right of self-determination. We don’t need the British political elite’s approval to end a political union in which we are equal partners. The British has neither the right nor the authority to demand that we pass some contrived test in order to qualify for independence. Unless, of course, we afford them that authority. Unless we choose to concede that right.

The approach outlined by Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp is demeaning. The time for asking is past. This is the time for taking.

More and more people in the Yes movement are coming to this conclusion. The idea of Scotland as a supplicant petitioning a superior power for the granting of a constitutional boon is being rejected as inappropriate, offensive and politically ill-judged.

Which brings us to the final flaw in Gordon’s independence timeline. As well as neglecting to have due regard for the British Nationalist ‘One Nation’ project and woefully failing to reframe the issue, no account is taken of the momentum building in the Yes movement. Across Scotland, thousands of individuals and groups are poised, ready for a new referendum campaign. How long does Gordon imagine the enthusiasm and energy can be kept on hold? The reserves are not infinite. At some point, either the dam bursts or the reserves begin to deplete faster than they can be replenished.

People will weary of waiting. They need to act. They will tire of marching. They need to get somewhere. They will only endure so much. They need to see an end to it.

It is time for bold, decisive, assertive action. It is time to do, rather than be done to. It is time for defiance, not compliance. It is time to assert the sovereignty of Scotland’s people. It is time to dissolve the Union and dare the British political elite to stand in Scotland’s way.


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 with paypal

donate with pingit