What is independence?

My first article for today having been destroyed by a failure of the WordPress autosave function, I offer this brief comment as an addendum reinforcing a point made in an earlier piece called A strategy for penetrating No territory.

Prompted by a claim made on Twitter, I sought to establish whether anybody had actually ever heard any independence supporter say that there is “no such thing as independence”. To date, Jim Fairlie seems to be unique. But the responses indicated something interesting. And something which is not sufficiently recognised. People define independence in different ways.

Obviously, British Nationalists present independence – for Scotland, at least – as something outlandish and scary. Despite the fact that many nations have managed to achieve independence, and many more have survived very well as independent states, British state propaganda would have us believe that Scotland is the exception. For Scotland, independence is a leap into the unknown. A terrifying adventure in uncharted territory. Complete nonsense, of course. But the British media has been quite successful in attaching such fearful connotations to the idea of independence.

Mr Fairlie, as I understand it, entertains notions of independence which many would consider rigidly ‘isolationist’. A personal definition of independence which derives from a combination of his bitter resentment of the success of the ‘gradualist’ wing of the SNP – which he fervently opposed – and his equally bitter hatred of the EU. But don’t take my word for it. I’m sure Jim would be happy to explain his idea of the one and only thing that independence can mean.

I’m curious to know if anyone has ever heard an SNP supporter say that there is “no such thing as independence”. pic.twitter.com/dNIYBpSsmf— Peter A Bell #DissolveTheUnion (@BerthanPete) May 16, 2019

Within the Yes movement, our cherished diversity ensures that there are almost as many definitions or descriptions or explanations of independence as there are people defining, describing and explaining. This is generally regarded as one of the Yes movement’s great strengths. But for a political campaign, such vagueness is fatal.

A political campaign must be sharp and focused. It must be possible to state its purposed unambiguously and coherently in a few words. Nobody should be in any doubt what the campaign is about. Especially the activists fighting that campaign.

This is why we should now be conducting a campaign to dissolve the Union. Because that objective encapsulates the core purpose of the independence cause. It precisely states the aim of every single independence supporter, regardless of how they define the term.


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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 point of it all

Factionalism! The reef upon which radical politics so frequently founders. My ism is better than your ism! Only I represent the One True Way! You are failing The Cause! Therefore I must start my own Faction in order to follow the One True Way and further The Cause!

And let us draw a discreet veil over the fact that The Cause can hardly be furthered by splitting its support. Make that a heavy tarpaulin, because this is a fact so blindingly obvious that the standard discreet veil will hardly suffice to conceal it.

While you’re about it, you’d best ensure the tarpaulin is big enough to cover something else The Splitters would much rather not draw attention to. Namely, that the battle to restore Scotland’s rightful constitutional status must, perforce, be fought from within the British state. Because that is where Scotland is. Duh! The campaign must be conducted according to the rules, procedures, conventions and practices of the archaic and little more than nominally democratic British political system. (At least up to the point where those rules etc. must be broken. But that’s another matter.)

The British political system is profoundly and inexorably adversarial. It operates on a ‘rule of twos’. Thus, the two-party system. Thus also, winners and losers. One winner takes all. All losers cease to be of any consequence bar the one loser chosen to be representative. Government and Official Opposition. Another binary. It is a system which, by design and evolution, excludes factions – and, thereby, excludes radical politics.

The constitutional battle is no exception. It, too, must be binary. Not least for the purposes of propaganda, there must be an ‘Us’ and a ‘Them’. Good guys and bad guys. Colonists and indigenous peoples unjustly contesting the colonists’ claim to ’empty lands’. Unionists and nationalists. Because the British ruling elite controls the media, as well as for more prosaic reasons of electoral reality, the ‘Them’ to their ‘Us’ is and will be for as long as matters to any of us, the Scottish National Party. It is the political arm of the independence movement. Any ‘alternatives’ might as well not exist for all the impact they will have on the British state.

Bear in mind, also, that this is a British state which recognises only brute power. It is a near-impregnable object. It may only be breached by a massive force focused on a single point.

The Splitters will, of course deny the very thing that gives them their name. They will insist that they are not splitting support for The Cause as they are still supporting The Cause – but in their own manner and under their own banner. Remaining stubbornly blind to the inescapable logic that having their own manner and banner definitively implies a split.

The factions proliferate. The forces for reform are scattered. Diversity becomes division becomes diffusion becomes disadvantage becomes defeat.

It has taken decades to get the SNP in a position to be the effective political force that the independence cause absolutely requires. It would be an act beyond political madness to discard that tool at this crucial time in the hope of being able to fashion a new one. Or, even worse, an entire tool shed full of new and untested devices.

I criticise the SNP. Not because I want to replace it with something better, but because I want to make it something better, I want it to be the effective political force the independence cause needs. I want it to be the political arm of the Yes movement. And I recognise that it is not doing particularly well in this regard.

But I don’t only blame the SNP for this. The Yes movement has made great strides towards accepting, if not exactly embracing, the SNP as its political arm. This effort has not been adequately reciprocated by the party. It all to often appears as if the effort is being rebuffed. This is a tragic mistake. There are good reason why the SNP, as a political party, must be wary of close association with external bodies. Especially when those bodies are as powerful as the Yes movement. But it is up to the party to find a way. It is up to the SNP to be different from other political parties. That is what the people of Scotland, and certainly those in the independence movement, have come to expect.

But many in the Yes movement expect too much of the SNP. They expect it to mirror the Yes movement in ways that are quite impossible for a political party. And, if the SNP stops being a (successful) political party, it stops being the tool that the Yes movement needs.

An accommodation must be found. Factionalism is most certainly not any kind of solution. It is, in fact, a way of avoiding the difficult task of finding that accommodation between the SNP and the Yes movement – and among all the elements of the independence cause – which will allow each and all to be effective.

In the Yes movement, we have come almost to worship diversity as the greatest of virtues. For a movement, this may be true, But for a campaign, the greatest virtue is solidarity. In celebrating our diversity, we have fallen into the habit of talking about our differences, rather than that which we hold in common. Recognition that “we all want the same thing” tends to come as an afterthought to lengthy discussion of distinctive policy platforms – if it comes at all. We talk about our respective visions for Scotland’s future, relegating consideration of the key to that future to somewhere lower down the agenda.

The single point at which all the elements of the independence cause meet is the Union. The thing that everybody in the independence movement agrees on is that the Union must end. It cannot even be said that all agree on independence. Because there are differing ideas about what independence means. There is no ambiguity whatever about the imperative to end the Union.

It is a happy coincidence that the point at which all the elements of the independence campaign come together also happens to be the British state’s weakest point. So, let’s not talk of factions. No faction is going to prise Scotland out of its entanglement in the British state. This will only be achieved by the four constituent parts of the independence campaign acting in accord. The SNP as the lever. The Scottish Government (Nicola Sturgeon) as the fulcrum. The Scottish Parliament as the base. The Yes movement as the force.

And let us all agree that the object we are acting against is the Union.


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Monomania

Ruth Davidson, who supposedly wants us all to stop talking incessantly about independence, never stops talking about independence – claiming that Nicola Sturgeon never stops talking about independence and wanting her to stop talking about independence.

Meanwhile, the people who never want to stop talking about independence accuse Nicola Sturgeon of not wanting to talk about independence; want her to start talking about independence; and want want Ruth Davidson to stop talking about stopping independence.

There’s a reason we don’t see much political satire on TV these days. It would be too difficult to distinguish between an episode of Spitting Image and an edition of the Andrew Marr Show.

But – and I’m going to shock you here – Ruth Davidson is right. She’s right accidentally, coincidentally and for the wrong reasons. But, this being Ruth Davidson, she has to take what she can get. It’s unlikely she’ll ever do better.

She’s right to talk about independence all the time because the constitutional issue is, ultimately, the only issue that really matters. All other political questions always come back eventually to the matter of who decides. We all should follow Ruth Davidson’s example. We SHOULD be talking about independence all the time.

The First Minister of Scotland and leader of what is effectively the political arm of the independence movement certainly should be talking about little else but the constitutional issue. Because any and all other issues facing Scotland crucially depend on how we answer the question of what constitutes legitimate political authority in Scotland.

Ruth Davidson will, of course, insist that the people of Scotland answered this question in 2014. She will obdurately continue to insist on this no matter how often it is explained to her how the right of self-determination works or how it is possible for a referendum to produce a result, but not a decision. As I wrote some months ago,

Scotland’s 2014 independence referendum is illustrative. While it was perfectly clear that a Yes vote meant independence by way of a reasonably well described process, there was no indication whatever of what a No vote meant. Initially, it was said to be a vote for the status quo. As the referendum campaign progressed, however, all manner of stuff was hooked onto the No vote – up to and including ‘The Vow’.

In practice, a No vote meant whatever the British establishment wanted it to mean. This turned out to be pretty much the opposite of everything that had been promised. And something very, very far from the status quo that was originally offered. Thus, the referendum produced an indisputable result, but no decision. Because the No option was effectively undefined, a No vote in the referendum could not settle the issue. There was nothing to settle on.

Alpacas might fly

Superficially, the 2014 referendum result may seem to imply the people of Scotland opting to forego the opportunity to be a normal democratic nation where important decisions affecting people’s lives are made by a parliament and government they elect. From the self-serving perspective of British Nationalists, the 2014 referendum result had to be interpreted as the people of Scotland saying they wanted ultimate political power to lie, not in their own hands, but in the hands of the British political elite of which Davidson flatters herself to think she is a part.

No account of Ruth Davidson’s character would be complete without the terms ‘superficial’ and ‘self-serving’.

To be scrupulously fair to Davidson, there is little to indicate that she is intellectually equipped to comprehend that a referendum might produce a result without a decision. It is certain that, being immersed in and suffused with British political culture, basic democratic principles such as self-determination and popular sovereignty must be alien and anathema.

Ruth Davidson is what she is because that is what the British establishment requires her to be. She is what she is because that is what she had to be in order to serve the British ruling elite and, thereby, have some kind of political career. She is what she is because that is all she is capable of being.

Ruth Davidson never stops talking about independence, not because she recognises the importance of the constitutional issue, but because it’s the only thing she supposes she understands. The tragedy is that she really, really doesn’t.


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Campaigners or counsellors?

Does it ever occur to Carolyn Leckie and all the other happy-clappers telling Yes activists they should be “listening to and empathising with someone not convinced by the case for independence” that there may be a very good reason why those Yes activists find this so difficult? Have they ever stopped to consider the possibility that, right-on and virtuous as it may appear, giving people free rein to parrot the British Nationalist propaganda they’ve absorbed may not be the super-solution they suppose it to be? Have they, for even one moment, entertained the possibility that, trendy as the culture of counselling may be, it might actually be the wrong approach?

If everybody is listening, what are they listening to? If Yes activists are intent on trying to empathise with those who are filled with fear and self-doubt, who is going to challenge their fears and question the cause of their self-doubt?

The reason Yes activists find it difficult to listen to people who are “not convinced” by “the case for independence” may be that they’ve heard it all before and know the trepidation to be irrational. They know that there is no real basis for the fear and self-doubt. They know that the scare stories have been comprehensively and repeatedly debunked.

They know that these people remain “unconvinced”, not because they haven’t been given ample opportunity to voice their ‘concerns’ and have them addressed, but because THEY are not listening.

Or perhaps Yes activists find it difficult to listen to the “unconvinced” because they recognise that the fears are not genuine. That they are post hoc rationalisations of a position arrived at, not through reason, but through prejudice or simple inertia.

Fear is the ugly offspring of ignorance. It is a void. A space in which imagination is not tamed by the constraints of knowledge. A space which the mass media have evolved to populate with monsters.

All the people who are amenable to being persuaded by the ‘positive case for independence’ have already been persuaded. What remains are the mindless bigots and people who have grown comfortable with their ignorance. People who are content with their imaginings. People who don’t really want to know. People who don’t want to make the effort to think. They will not be provoked to think by being given ’empathetic’ assurances that it’s OK to embrace ignorance.

If someone expresses the firm belief that independence would leave Scotland without a functioning currency then, however baseless it may be, that belief is not going to be undermined by sympathetic noises signalling a readiness to accept that this a real possibility which they have every right to be concerned about. Ignorance should always be challenged.

If we are to listen to those who cling to their faith in the British state despite all that has happened, then we are entitled to demand that they explain their beliefs and account for their fears and justify their lack of confidence.

The Yes campaign in the 2014 referendum was hamstrung by an obsession with being ‘positive’. It was hobbled by notions of commanding some sort of moral and ethical high ground while our opponents were left to dominate the battlefield of realpolitik. It was crippled by a reluctance to go on the offensive against propaganda-fed ignorance and debilitated by a conviction that minds could only be changed by being inoffensive to the point of being ineffectual.

It’s time to be assertive. It’s time to be aggressive. It’s time to stop being so defensive and apologetic and self-critical and start vigorously, ruthlessly denouncing the British Nationalist ideology which threatens our democracy.

No, Carolyn! I will not listen patiently while people talk Scotland down. And I can no more empathise with the idea that we are inadequate and unworthy than I can with the belief that the affairs of humankind are overlooked by a great wizard in the sky.


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Passion and despair

I am passionate about independence. I am passionate about independence because I am passionate about justice. I detest injustice. I abhor unfairness. I execrate social, political and economic arrangements which are fuelled by exploitation and inequity and insecurity. I despise the elites who contrive and perpetuate gross social imbalances for their own social, political and economic advantage.

I am passionate about independence because I am passionate about democracy. I hold these truths to be self-evident: that the people are sovereign; that the sovereignty of the people is absolute and inalienable; that all legitimate political authority derives from and returns to the people. Only by way of fully functioning participative democracy can the people be an effective countervailing force with the capacity to confront entrenched elites and challenge established power.

I am passionate about restoring Scotland’s rightful constitutional status because the Union is a grotesque constitutional anomaly by which the people of Scotland are denied the full and effective exercise of the sovereignty which is theirs by right. The Union is an affront to justice and an insult to democracy. The structures of power, privilege and patronage which constitute the British state represent the very antithesis of fundamental democratic principles.

In every fibre of my being and every fraction of my intellect I carry the conviction that, in the name of justice and democracy, the Union must be dissolved and constitutional normality reinstated in Scotland. Only by breaking free of the British state can Scotland realise its potential as a nation and work towards its aspirations as a society.

I am not passionate about the Scottish National Party. I am a member of the SNP. I support the party in various ways. I campaign for its candidates in elections. I celebrate its electoral successes. But I can’t say I’m passionate about it. The very notion of being passionate about a political party seems distinctly odd – even a bit disturbing.

Just as trade unions are the means by which individuals exercise power in the realm of employment, so political parties are the means by which we exercise power in the sphere of public policy. Both offer individuals the opportunity to combine and act collectively. Both serve an entirely practical purpose. I favour the SNP because it is the best tool for the job.

As the party of government, the SNP has proved to be remarkably effective. The bit of the party leader’s address to conference which catalogues the administration’s past achievements and declares its future intentions is never problematic for Nicola Sturgeon. They don’t get everything done. They don’t get everything right. But they earn the highest accolade that a political party in Scotland might hope for – they’re a’ right. The people are the ultimate arbiters of whether a government is doing an acceptable job. The fact that the SNP has a minimum lead of around 24 points over the British parties, despite the rabid hostility of the British media and the rest of the British establishment, proves that I’m far from alone in reckoning that, when it comes to government, the SNP is simply the best tool for the job.

Some would say that they’re the only tool available. Certainly, the British parties have disqualified themselves from government by their refusal to respect the sovereign will of Scotland’s people and their open contempt for the Scottish Parliament. They don’t even pretend to serve Scotland’s interests. They serve only the British state. The SNP’s lead over the British parties may, in part, be explained by the fact that, in electoral terms, they and the British parties are not really in the same race. The SNP is at least attempting to appeal to the entire nation. The British parties are just squabbling over the diminishing British Nationalist vote.

There are rational reasons to elect an SNP government. Nobody votes for any of the British parties in the belief that Scotland would be better governed by them. People vote for the British parties solely in the fervent hope of preserving the Union, at whatever cost to Scotland.

As the party of independence, it is even more obvious that there is no alternative to the SNP. Only the SNP is in a position to provide the effective political power without which the independence movement cannot prevail against the British state. Anyone who disputes this can safely be dismissed as a fantasist.

But being the one and only party of independence puts an onus on the SNP to find an accommodation with the wider independence movement. And to do so as a matter of urgency. Similarly, the wider Yes movement must find an accommodation with the SNP. Yes activists outwith the SNP must accept that, while the Yes movement is wonderfully diverse, the SNP cannot have the same kind of flexibility. Just about every policy agenda imaginable can exist under the umbrella of the Yes movement. The SNP, as a political party, can only stand on that policy agenda which has been approved by its members.

In matters of policy there can only be tolerance and the realisation that no policy agenda is worth the beer-mat it’s scribbled on unless independence is achieved. Where the SNP and the Yes movement will find a workable accommodation is, not on matters of policy, but on the fundamental principles of justice and democracy discussed above.

The best that can be said of the SNP in this regard is that it has a great deal of work to do. Some of the things Nicola Sturgeon said in her address to the SNP Spring Conference give great cause for concern. Let’s take a look at a few quotes.

We must recognise that these are different times and new circumstances. This isn’t a re-running of 2014. The UK that existed then does not exist any more. Our approach must be different.

I would wholeheartedly endorse this statement, but for the fact that nothing in what follows matches up to the sentiment. Everything that is known about what Nicola Sturgeon calls “our strategy to win our country’s independence” suggests the intention to take precisely the same approach as for the 2014 referendum. (I’ll come back to that word “win” later.) Take this, for example,

We are establishing a non-party Citizens’ Assembly so that people from across Scotland can guide the conversation.

While I enthusiastically welcome anything that seems intended to encourage engagement with politics and facilitate participation in the democratic process, in terms of the independence campaign is this not looking like a revamped Yes Scotland? Does it not seem that, just as in 2012, the SNP feels the need to put in place some sort of buffer between itself and the wider independence movement? Whatever else it may be, The Citizens’ Assembly has the appearance of a device to keep the Yes movement at arms length.

Is another talking shop what the independence movement needs at this juncture? Look at what Nicola Sturgeon said the Citizens’ Assembly will be “tasked with considering”.

What kind of country are we seeking to build?

How can we best overcome the challenges we face, including those arising from Brexit?

And what further work should be carried out to give people the detail they need to make informed choices about the future of the country?

Again, Mike Russell will set out more details shortly, and seek views from other parties on the operation and remit.

Haven’t we done all this? Haven’t we been ‘having this conversation’ for at least seven years? What is the point? How does any of this relate to the ‘different approach’ to the independence campaign which is required?

What the Yes movement needs right now is, not more research or more analysis or more discussion, but more leadership!

And so I can announce today that we will now launch the biggest campaign on the economics of independence in our party’s history

Isn’t that exactly the basis on which the 2014 campaign was fought? Wasn’t one of the main problems with the campaign that we allowed British Nationalists to take the debate onto the ground of economics so that we were prevented from discussing it as a constitutional issue?

Why is Nicola Sturgeon pandering to British Nationalists’ endless demands for more and better answers rather than demanding at least some answers from those who are determined to preserve an iniquitous constitutional arrangement?

There is no economic case against independence. Why, then, must there be an economic case for independence?

You cannot answer a constitutional question with a calculator!

For all her fine words about “our approach must be different”, Nicola Sturgeon can’t help drifting back to the same approach as was ultimately unsuccessful in the 2014 referendum campaign because she hasn’t changed her thinking since then. She’s coming at it with the same mindset. A mindset which is fatally flawed. A mindset which is evidenced by her characterisation of independence as a “prize” which must be “won” rather than as an absolute right which the British state is trying by devious means to withhold from the people of Scotland.

The SNP and the Yes movement must be purged of the idea that independence is something for which we must qualify in a series of tests set and marked by the British political elite. If we take this approach, there will always be another test. And there will always be at least one test which we cannot pass no matter how many Citizens’ Assemblies we task with finding the ‘correct’ answers.

Nicola Sturgeon again,

Independence is about the children we can lift out of poverty. And the fairer, more equal society we can create. That starts with building confidence in the economic case. Answering people’s questions. Addressing their concerns. And inspiring them about the future.

No! Independence is about rectifying the constitutional anomaly which allows the imposition on Scotland of the policies which cause children to be in poverty. It is the policies we then choose as an independent nation which will lift those children out of poverty. And it sure as hell doesn’t start with validating a lack of confidence about Scotland’s ability to manage its affairs. Or endlessly answering questions whose sole purpose is to create the impression of doubt. Even the attempt to answer such questions fosters uncertainty. It’s not more answers we need but better questions of our own. Questions that expose the true nature of the Union.

Despair seems to be my default state at the moment. Nicola Sturgeon’s conference address did nothing to dispel that despair. Reading it, I get the clear impression of an SNP leadership set on once again allowing the British establishment to set the agenda, determine the rules of engagement, and control the process. It’s just as well I wasn’t there to hear it.


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Political Campaigning for Dummies #1

Since it appeared in The National on Thursday 14 February, Andrew Wilson’s latest column has provoked a considerable amount of comment. It is safe to say that almost all of this comment has been highly critical. All of those which I’ve seen express various degrees of outrage at one of our First Minister’s advisers urging the ‘softest possible form of Scottish independence’. None of those that I’ve seen show any evidence that the individual commenting on Andrew’s article has taken the trouble to read it first.

The fact is that the words ‘softest possible form of Scottish independence’ do not appear anywhere in the piece. What Andrew actually says, after some discussion of aspects of the Sustainable Growth Commission’s report, is,

In the parlance of Brexit, we offer the softest of possible changes to the current arrangements, not the hardest.

Andrew Wilson: Next Scottish White Paper will learn from 2014 – and from Brexit

He is talking about changes to particular arrangements in the period immediately after independence. Using the “parlance of Brexit” may have been an unfortunate choice of rhetorical device, but it is no more than that – a rhetorical device. What he is saying is that the transition to independence should take the least disruptive course rather than the most disruptive. A statement which is only controversial if one is committed to maximising tumult and turbulence in the early years of Scotland’s restored independence. Or, to put it another way, you’d have to be some kind of nutter to be outraged by what Andrew Wilson actually said.

There is much to criticise in Andrew’s article. For example, his claim that the “first and most striking lesson” that the independence campaign might take from the Brexit fiasco is that we need “a prospectus and a rigorous plan”. He would say that, wouldn’t he? Given that he’s in the business of developing that prospectus and that plan.

Fortunately, Andrew is not – so far as I am aware – involved in planning the campaign which will take us to independence. The prospectus and plan to which he refers are really just attempts to explain. And, as Ronald Regan observed in one of his lucid moments, “If you’re explaining, you’re losing!”.

The “first and most striking lesson” to be taken from the Brexit mess is that a political campaign needs a comprehensible and unambiguous objective. That aim must also be deliverable. But first and foremost it must be absolutely clear what the campaign’s purpose is. You can’t even begin to formulate a prospectus and plan unless and until you establish what it is that the campaign aims to achieve.

That the Leave campaign failed in this regard is evident from the fact that much, if not all, of the early debate concerned the meaning of Brexit. A debate which was not in any sense resolved by Theresa May explaining that “Brexit means Brexit”. It is a measure of the laminar shallowness of this remark that, had you entertained an idea of Brexit as a sugar-coated dung beetle, May’s ‘explanation’ would have done absolutely nothing to disabuse you of this notion.

I hate to remind you. But Theresa May is the British Prime Minister and the person in charge of taking the UK out of the EU. A fact which makes the idea of Brexit as a sugar-coated dung beetle seem sensible and credible by comparison.

Having taken a lesson from the Leave campaign’s abysmal failure to precisely define its aim, how might the Yes movement do better. It’s safe to assume that most people would say the objective is the restoration of Scotland’s independence. But, as we discovered during the 2014 referendum campaign, the concept of independence is open to almost endless interpretation. The Yes movement spent pretty much the entire campaign trying to explain what independence means; what independence is. There were almost as many different explanations as there were people doing the explaining. Every one of those explanations invited demands for further explanation from an anti-independence campaign intent on sowing doubt and confusion. And every one of those demands drew the Yes campaign into further attempt to explain.

If it’s true that “when you’re explaining, you’re losing”, then the Yes campaign was losing big-style.

What is required is a tighter ‘mission statement’. One that states exactly what it is that is the end being pursued by the campaign. That is where #DissolveTheUnion comes in. It serves admirably as that comprehensible and unambiguous objective. There is no ‘flavour’ of independence which does not require the dissolution of the Union which is the antithesis of independence. The fundamental and essential aim of the independence cause is to bring an end to the Union. The break it. To consign it to the history from which it emerged and to which it remains incorrigibly bound.

The other lesson for today is not to trust the British media. It is remarkable that this lesson has yet to be learned by so many in the Yes movement. Of all people, you’d think those who are part of the campaign which is most commonly the target British media dishonesty would be familiar enough with the methods used to manipulate perceptions to avoid being taken in. But evidently, this is not so.

As has been pointed out, the words which caused offence did not appear in Andrew Wilson’s column. So, where did they come from? They came from headlines such as the one pictured from The Herald. People should know by now that the headline does not provide an indication of what the story below it is about. The headline tells you what the author and/or the publication want you to think the story is about. The headline is the first thrust in the process of manipulating the reader’s perception of the story. It plants the seed of deception which will then be fed by the standfirst and watered by the next few paragraphs. The default assumption when looking at any political story in the British media is that the headline is a lie.

There are abundant clues to tell the active consumer of media messages that they are being fed lies. There’s the fact that it’s The Herald, for a start. Then there’s the by-line. Tom Gordon is arguably the British media’s most adept exponent of anti-Scottish spin. He has played a major role in creating a genre of stories portraying Scotland as a dystopia where all is calamity and failure – unless it’s catastrophe and collapse. Having helped create the ‘Scotland as Hell-hole’ genre, Tom Gordon has very much made it his own. Tales of dysfunction and disaster in NHS Scotland are his speciality. Misrepresenting someone associated with the SNP is something Gordon does while roosting upside-down in his cave.

The ‘single quotes’ are another giveaway. They pretty much always tell the reader that what’s enclosed has its origins in the professionally fervid imagination of some mercenary hack. In the instance under discussion, the ‘single quotes’ scream out that the words within them were not actually spoken or written. Or, at least, they do for the minimally astute consumer of the British media’s output. Which clearly doesn’t include those denouncing Andrew Wilson for something he didn’t say.

Surely one of the most basic lessons to be learned by anyone hoping to be part of a political campaign is that your shouldn’t embrace your opponents’ propaganda. And you sure as hell shouldn’t promulgate that propaganda by parroting it all over social media. If, as a campaign activist, you are saying the same things as the opposition campaign, you are in desperate need of shutting the f*** up and applying such wit as you possess to reflecting on your behaviour.


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