Of divides and loyalties

SNP depute leader Keith Brown says the poll showed Labour could not stop the Tories in Scotland. But, in truth, British Labour in Scotland has no real interest in stopping the Tories in Scotland. Their imperatives are –

  • to punish the SNP and anybody who votes for them
  • to regain the status they consider theirs by right
  • to reassert the British parties’ control of the Scottish Parliament

The first imperative is spiteful. The second is self-serving. The third is treacherous. Petty, partisan and perfidious. We could be describing any of the British parties currently squatting in Scotland’s Parliament.

The problem for British pollsters and the British analysts who analyse their polls and the British commentators who comment on both the polls and the analysis, is that the British two-party context is no longer relevant in Scotland. Regarding Scotland’s politics through the prism of the British political system became inappropriate in 1999, when the Scottish Parliament reconvened. Increasingly so ever since. But British pundits don’t seem to have realised this yet. And the British media, for the most part, stubbornly denies that there is a distinctive Scottish politics.

British chatterers’ and British scribblers’ first instinct is to regard Labour/Left versus Tory/Right as the default divide in all ‘domestic’ politics. I’m not sure to what extent this is even true in England these days. It certainly isn’t applicable in Scotland. The defining divide in Scottish politics is constitutional. It is Nationalist versus Unionist.

Not that this excludes or ignores the many other divisions in society which are supposed to be managed by the democratic process. It’s just that the constitutional divide has come to encompass things like class and ideology. In one sense, this makes Scottish politics simpler – because, crudely speaking, everything ultimately boils down the constitutional issue. In another sense, it makes Scottish politics more complicated because the constitutional issue is an additional element which must be considered. Or should be considered.

All too often, it isn’t. Analysts and commentators coming at Scotland’s politics from within the bubble of the metropolitan cosy consensus inevitably find it difficult to take account of the fact that what they regard as ‘the Labour vote’ is at least as likely to be the ‘Tory vote’ on account of the constitutional divide. They find it difficult to take account of this only if they even realise that it is a real phenomenon.

And where these British analysts and commentators do acknowledge that the dividing line between British Labour in Scotland (BLiS) and the British Conservative and Unionist Party in Scotland (BCUPS) is somewhat blurred, they tend to talk in terms of ‘tactical voting’. It is NOT tactical voting.

When BLiS voters put their cross next to a BCUPS candidate or party – or, to a lesser extent, vice versa – they like to call it ‘tactical voting’ because this puts a sheen of rationality on a choice made solely on the basis of emotional and often fervent loyalty. Loyalty to the British state. Fealty to the British ruling elites. Devotion to the emblem of British Nationalism.

All of which can be a cause of confusion and consternation to those British pollsters and British analysts and British commentators who share these loyalties so innately and deeply that it is extremely problematic for them to conceive of their being alternative loyalties and a defining political divide between the two.

We have all heard British pundits react with incomprehension when confronted by Scotland’s independence movement. They simply can’t grasp; or can’t take seriously, the proposition that there may be significant numbers of people in their imagined British nation who owe their loyalty to something other than the British state, the British ruling elites and the Union flag.

They simply don’t get that British Labour in Scotland has no real interest in stopping the Tories because they share a loyalty that overrides mere partisan interest. They don’t fully understand that politics in Scotland is an existential battle. Either Scotland survives, or the British establishment prevails. Those are the options. That is the choice facing Scotland’s people. It is my passionate hope that most voters will choose Scotland.


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Out of time

I probably shouldn’t dwell on it, but I can’t help pondering how different things might have been if we’d had a new independence referendum on Thursday 20 September 2018. Looking back may be futile. But looking to the future has rarely been more disturbing and depressing. So indulge me! Allow me this brief reverie. Who knows? It may even prove illuminating.

Suppose we’d had that referendum in 2018. Suppose we’d won. Four months on we’d be well into the process of getting Scotland out of the Union – instead of being in the position of desperately struggling to keep Scotland in the EU – in keeping with the wishes of 62% of the Scottish voters who expressed a preference in the 2016 EU referendum.

If the Brexit process hadn’t ground to a total halt as everybody tried to figure out the implications of the decision to normalise Scotland’s constitutional status then at least we wouldn’t be part of the mess. By now, we might well have agreement from the EU that Scotland would effectively be treated as the continuing state after 29 March 2019.

There is no reason to suppose that the British government’s handling of the Brexit process would have been any less catastrophically inept. Scotland’s elected representatives – along with those of the other ‘peripheral’ parts of the UK – had been denied any meaningful role in the process. So taking them out of the equation with a Yes vote couldn’t really make much difference. Of course, the (r)UK position would be considerably weaker given that they could not claim to speak for Scotland. And given that they would no longer have any claim on Scotland’s resources. But it’s hard to imagine how this could make things any worse than May and her fractious rabble managed even while the UK was relatively intact.

Obviously, there would still be ‘issues’. Many of these would impinge on Scotland. But, as a de facto independent nation, we would have effective input. We would have a say in how these issues were resolved. Scotland’s interests would be represented in a way they never could be as a mere adjunct of England. Which is not to say that we would get everything we wanted from either the EU or the rump UK. But whatever compromises were made would be our compromises. They wouldn’t be compromises made on our behalf without consultation or consideration.

We might well suppose that the departure from the EU of those who actually voted for this – England and Wales – would be made easier in our imagined scenario. It is at least probable that a Yes vote in Scotland’s referendum would prompt a reunification vote in Ireland. Thus resolving cleanly, democratically, peacefully and in a most rational manner, the Irish border/ Good Friday Agreement problem which has been the greatest obstacle to a Withdrawal Agreement not wholly reliant on Santa Claus pulling some ‘alternative arrangements’ out of his sack. (You’ll understand that I didn’t really want to write ‘sack’.)

Had Scotland voted Yes on Thursday 20 September 2018, the increasingly ludicrous Brexit farce played out in Westminster and in the media over the last few months would have been largely avoided. Although this may be to underestimate the capacity of the British political elite to render farcical pretty much anything it is associated with. But this is my reverie. So I get to give them the benefit of whatever doubt I can scrape up. I elect to suppose that, as January 2019 passes, the Brexit thing would be going swimmingly. Even if some way from Olympic-standard synchronised swimming.

Then there’s the parallel negotiations between Scotland and rUK and between Scotland and the EU. The latter would be at an advanced stage by now. With Scotland taking on the UK’s membership of the EU there really wouldn’t be that much to negotiate. Think of it as Scotland inheriting the UK’s EU member’s uniform and having it adjusted to fit. Given that whatever negotiations were required would be conducted in a spirit of trust and constructive good will, there would surely be no impediment to reaching agreement amicably and rapidly. Instead of regarding 29 March with dread, we would be looking forward to Scotland taking its place as an independent nation in the European Union.

As such, Scotland would require a written constitution. An interim constitution to take effect on Independence Day is little more than a formality. It need only establish the basics – which are uncontroversial. We know they are uncontroversial because, if they were at all controversial they wouldn’t belong in an interim constitution. Work on a full draft constitution is ongoing and we can anticipate this this would have accelerated following the Yes vote last September.

It’s more difficult to say what would be happening on the rUK front. British Nationalists have vowed all manner of retribution should Scotland’s people presume to assert their sovereignty. But I seriously doubt that there will be UK Border Agency machine gun towers along the border and RAF bombs raining down on Glasgow Airport. It’s possible that aliens might take advantage of the situation to launch the invasion of Scotland they’ve been planning since Grmthul descended from Blntrmed with the Cclt of Dryf. We’ll take our chances with a bit of intergalactic conflict. We’ll have more immediate, and proximate, ‘foes’ to deal with. Although some of them do have the appearance of alien creatures struggling to maintain human form. Aye! That’s you, Michael Gove!

In reality, or as close to it as we might get in a purely hypothetical exercise, the British establishment is likely to opt for a rather more pragmatic approach than is to be found in the spittle-flecked rhetoric of British Nationalist fanatics. There’s every chance the British political elite will claim independence was being gifted to Scotland by an endlessly beneficent British state which had, of course, always respected the democratic right of Scotland’s people to choose their nation’s status and the form of government that best suits their needs. In much the same way as the 2014 referendum was graciously presented to Scotland by a kindly British Prime Minister, and Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia.

There is no rational reason why dissolving the Union should not be a fairly straightforward matter. It’s not like there isn’t a lot of precedent to draw on. It’s basically a question of attitude. The Brexit mess may give cause to doubt that British politicians are capable of the spirit of trust and constructive good will I mentioned earlier. But we can help them find that spirit by presenting them with as conclusive a Yes vote as we can muster. Assuming an effective registration drive, 60% of an 85% turnout would suffice. That’s 51% of the electorate. 65%, or just over 55% of the electorate would be better. 70% (59.5%) would silence all but the most fanatical British Nationalists and force the British political elite to behave like grown-ups. Or, perhaps, delegate that task to professional civil servants.

Had we voted Yes in a referendum on Thursday 20 September 2018, we could now be be in a place indistinguishable from that where we find ourselves at the start of February 2019. We could be assured of our EU membership, with all the positives that this implies for our economy and society. Our EU citizenship would be secure. Our freedom of movement would be secure. Our access to the single market would be secure. More importantly, these things would be secured on terms freely negotiated by the people elected or appointed to represent Scotland. Politicians and civil servants whose imperatives are informed by the needs, priorities and aspirations of Scotland’s people.

And what if we’d voted No in September 2014? Well, we’d surely be pretty much where we are now. We really had nothing to lose.

Of course, British Nationalists would be bawling about how this had killed the independence movement ‘stone dead’. Rhetoric which would, if history is any guide, be parroted by many in the Yes movement. But these protestations would be no more valid after two referendums than at any other time. However often the people of Scotland inexplicably vote to remain shackled to the British state, they cannot vote away the right of self-determination that is vested wholly in the people to be exercised entirely at their discretion. In terms of the cause of independence, a No vote in a referendum is merely a setback. It does nothing more than delay the inevitable. And the authority to determine the duration of that delay lies entirely with the Scottish people.

Had we voted No in September 2018 we’d be facing precisely the same threat to Scotland’s democracy that confronts us now. We’d be getting dragged out of the EU. Just as we are now. We’d be listening to warnings about shortages of food and medicine. Just as we are now. We’d be looking at the prospect of economic chaos and civil disturbance and martial law. Just as we are now. We’d be seeing powers stripped from the Scottish Parliament and anticipating further assaults on our democratic institutions. Just as we are now. We’d be f***ed! Just as we are now.

But at least we’d have tried to avoid all this. At least we’d have made the effort. At least we’d have shown some resolve to save Scotland from the depredations that come with the Union.

Now, it may be too late. Awakening from my reverie, I must face the reality that we are, if not already too late, then fast approaching a point when that will be the case. It is unlikely that anything other than the most bold and assertive action by the First Minister can possibly prevent us being dragged out of the EU – with all that this implies. None of it good.

Nicola Sturgeon seems no more disposed to take such action than she did in September 2018. Despite everything that has happened since that regrettable outcome in 2014, and despite the real and imminent threat to Scotland’s democracy and identity, the SNP administration’s attitude to taking the cause of independence forward appears unchanged. Their strategy is still a mystery. Their intentions unclear.

Right now, we have even less to lose by bold, decisive action than we did last September. Right now, the threat is greater than it has ever been. Right now, the need for urgency should be absolutely compelling. But I see little sign that any of this has touched our political leaders.

We are almost out of time. And I don’t know if I can face the prospect of sitting here in four months time contemplating what might have been.


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Beware the liars!

Lot’s of things annoy me. It’s the ‘Grumpy Old Man’ syndrome. Age brings the knowledge and experience to better recognise all manner of faults and follies. And, often, less reticence about commenting on these. If one is fortunate, or blessed with a sufficient degree of self-awareness, age also brings the capacity to control anger. To harness it for constructive purposes rather than allowing to become destructive, incoherent rage. Like the song says, anger is an energy. Sometimes, I get quite energised.

Among the things that irks me greatly in the context of the online political debate for which I have a certain enthusiasm, is a particular form of dishonest arrogance amounting, at the extreme, to offensive idiocy. I refer to the practice of telling people what they think rather than asking them. You will all have seen some manifestation of this unfortunate habit. In perhaps it’s most common form it is found in comments which commence, “So you think…”, going on to expound some demented interpretation of what has been stated. Often so demented as to have no evident connection to what has been stated.

“I want Scotland to be a normal independent nation.”

“So you think it’s OK to barbecue babies!”

At another level, we find this curious claim to know another person’s mind better than they themselves do expressed in a more detailed pronouncement prefixed by a phrase such as, “So what you are actually saying is…”. This is followed by some gross distortion of what has, in fact, been said. A falsification which may be malicious, but which is at least as likely to be the consequence of ignorance prideful enough to discount the need for niceties such as research.

This annoys me. The people who indulge in this kind of puerile behaviour annoy me. James Kelly annoys me.

You probably haven’t heard of this James Kelly. He has a blog called ‘Scot Goes Pop’ which sometimes offers mildly interesting analysis of polls. He should stick to that. Because when he starts telling his readers what others views, attitudes, opinions and positions are, he embarrasses himself with his ill-informed presumption.

It was recently brought to my attention that, in a fit of grotesque hauteur, Kelly had taken it upon himself to inform those readers that I was an advocate of a unilateral declaration of independence (UDI) as a means of restoring Scotland’s rightful constitutional status. This came as a great surprise to those who informed me of Kelly’s dishonesty, and to anybody who, unlike the hapless Kelly, had taken the trouble to inform themselves. Needless to say, it also came as both a shock and an irritation to me as I had always supposed myself to be totally dismissive of the very concept of UDI. In fact, I had written frequently and at length about how inappropriate and inapplicable it is in the the context of Scotland’s constitutional issue.

Apparently, the bold Kelly knows better. Apparently, I am an ardent proponent of UDI. Apparently, I only needed some presumptuous little creep to point it out to me. You can imagine how grateful I am to said presumptuous little creep for putting me right on the content of my own mind.

I was not alone in being maliciously misrepresented by Kelly. Craig Murray was likewise informed that his position wasn’t what he’d always supposed it to be. He too was generously afforded the benefit of Kelly’s corrective wisdom. But Craig Murray was at least able to respond directly pointing out that Kelly is nowhere near as clever as he imagines. Not that Kelly paid the slightest attention. After all, what does Craig know about his own views on the process by which the independence campaign moves forward? Kelly is arrogant enough to suppose that his personal ‘interpretation’ takes precedence.

I was not able to directly refute Kelly’s lies because I am blocked from commenting on his blog. He denies this, of course. But he also claims that there is no means of blocking users on the blogging platform that he uses. Which, you won’t be surprised to discover, is another lie.

James Kelly has now followed up his original lies with another article which is, if anything, even more brazenly dishonest. I am not providing a link to it because I despise liars and don’t believe they should be encouraged or supported in any way.

The gist of Kelly’s fetid little diatribe is that, although I state that I do not advocate UDI, I actually advocate UDI. According to Kelly, everything I have said about UDI means the opposite of whatever I’ve said. The explanation for this weird perspective – insofar as there is one – appears to be that Kelly holds with the view that Scotland was ‘extinguished’ by the 1707 Acts of Union and that the only way Scotland’s constitutional status can be altered is with the gracious consent of the British political elite.

This objectionable absurdity was promulgated as part of the British state’s anti-independence propaganda effort during the 2014 referendum campaign. I shan’t trouble with refuting this nonsense here, Others have already done a more than adequate job in that regard. I would simply note that the individual now propounding the notion that Scotland doesn’t exist professes to be a supporter of the Yes movement.

It is this belief in the non-existence and powerlessness of Scotland which allows Kelly to stick a woefully simplistic UDI label on any suggested process which does not involve the democratically elected representatives of Scotland’s people going cap-in-hand to Westminster as supplicants craving favour from a power which is superior despite not having any mandate from the people of Scotland.

Thus, Kelly boldly asserts that what has come to be known as the #DissolveTheUnion position is promoting UDI, despite the complete and comprehensive rejection of UDI which is one of the defining features of that position. We have to keep reminding ourselves that James Kelly knows what any position is better than the people who subscribe to that position. You may opine that this makes him something of an arse. I couldn’t possibly comment.

Had this arse thought to do a little research; or – perish the thought – had he deigned to ask one of those who subscribe to the #DissolveTheUnion position what it means… But that was never going to happen. And, even if Kelly was informed of the facts, there is no reason to suppose he wouldn’t simply ignore them – as he did Craig Murray’s intervention – in favour of his own ‘superior’ knowledge.

For the benefit of those who are interested in the truth and wish some clarification, I am probably as well qualified as anyone to explain what is implied by #DissolveTheUnion. Certainly better qualified than James Kelly, notwithstanding his vaunting self-regard. I can claim to be so qualified on the grounds that I have been ‘officially’ credited by some ‘academics’ as the originator of the hashtag.

Let’s be clear about a couple of things! #DissolveTheUnion does not mean UDI. I do not advocate UDI – quite the contrary. James Kelly is obdurately and shamelessly lying on at least these two counts.

The thinking behind #DissolveTheUnion derives from the concept of framing/reframing. This is too complex a matter to describe in detail, and any attempt at a brief summary by me would doubtless meet with the disapproval of Bill Dale. What is relevant here is the very simple idea of turning an argument around. Reformulating the issue in a way that induces people to think differently about it. Or merely to think about it.

Those who subscribe to the #DissolveTheUnion position are persuaded that, for various reasons, it would be a mistake to adhere to the process which was followed in the 2014 referendum. What, for convenience, we refer to as the Section 30 process. Realising that a process in any way influenced by the British state is unlikely to be the best way forward – for reasons which should be obvious – an alternative is required.

Recognising also that there is no route to independence which does not involve breaking the rules devised by the British state for the purpose of preserving the Union, it is clear that the process chosen must involve more defiance than compliance. With characteristic opinionated finality, James Kelly asserts that,

Neither the Scottish government, nor the Scottish Parliament, has the legal power to “dissolve the union”.  There is no debate to be had over that – it is simply a fact.

He might as well have advised us to give up our aspirations. Because there is no way that either the Scottish government or the Scottish Parliament can possess that “legal power” until we overcome the obstacle of the British state withholding the relevant “legal power” from our Parliament.

Nothing happens unless and until the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament does something that it does not have the “legal power” to do. Nothing changes until the asserted authority of the British state to deny or constrain our right of self-determination is challenged – and defeated!

This is how Norway launched the process which led to the dissolution of the political union with Sweden. Norway breached the terms of that union and defied the Swedish state to stand in its way.

It is important to understand that this is not an alternative to a referendum. There can be no significant constitutional change without the informed consent of the people. The suggestion, by Kelly or anyone else, that those who favour the #DissolveTheUnion process are opposed to a referendum is either ignorant drivel or a malicious lie.

#DissolveTheUnion is merely a different process leading up to a referendum. Instead of pleading with our masters in London for permission to exercise or right of self-determination – or exercising it in a manner constrained by the British state’s self-serving rules – we assume the right to hold that referendum. We challenged the legitimacy of the British state’s effort to prevent or limit the exercise of our right of self-determination.

In the process, we turn the entire referendum debate on its head. No longer is the burden of ‘proof’ with those who propose normalising Scotland’s constitutional status. Instead, the onus is on those who would preserve the constitutional anomaly of the Union.

By declaring the dissolution of the Union on a given date, subject to a referendum on a given date, We have a fait accompli. The Union is effectively dissolved. British Nationalists must argue a case for the Union rather than against independence. While the Yes movement has the comparatively simple task of mounting a campaign against a Union whose detriment to Scotland has become painfully obvious.

Ironically, it would also achieve the one thing James Kelly talks sense about. It would inspire the people of Scotland. It would immediately arouse increased support for the Yes campaign.

Of course this is a bold move! Of course it is radical! But nothing less will suffice. So please beware of those peddling falsehoods about ideas they don’t understand.


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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 that extract. 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 Barrhead Boy’s article, and so many other places besides. 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 confrontation, 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 to assess 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 – necessarily outwith what is permitted by the British state – 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.


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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.


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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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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?


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