A question of courage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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Waiting for Brexit?

Anybody who imagines the outcome of Brexit will ever be clear is living in a world of woefully naive fantasy. That outcome is as clear now as at ever will be. It is certainly clear enough for the purposes of Scotland’s cause. It became clear enough for the cause of restoring Scotland’s rightful constitutional status the moment our 62% Remain vote was contemptuously dismissed by the British political elite. And further clarified when our democratically elected representatives were excluded from was laughably called the Brexit negotiations.

The outcome of Brexit is that the UK’s relationship with the EU, and the rest of the world, will be in chaotic flux for decades. And we will know no more of the true situation at any given time than the British state wants us to know. There will be no clarity. And if you are ever given to understand that there is clarity, beware! You are being lied to!

Those of us who do grown-up politics long ago realised that what matters about Brexit – as with so many things – is, not the reality, but the perception. And who controls the tools by which perception is manipulated? The British state!

Regardless of what happens, Brexit will be portrayed as a success. Even as the Civil Contingencies Act is invoked and the devolved administrations are ‘suspended’ and people are rioting in the streets, we will be told that extraordinary measures are necessary to defend the success of Brexit against the efforts of a few ‘malcontents’ to undermine it.

Untold millions of pounds will be thrown at particular problems, not in the hope of solving them, but to make them appear less like problems. The beneficiaries of this state beneficence will not, of course, be the people most affected by thing like shortages of medicines, but the corporations hired to impose strict rationing and weed out those who are deemed to be causing the shortages by demanding medicines that they don’t really need – according to that stern-looking lady in what looks like a supermarket checkout operator’s tabard.

But let’s suppose for a moment that there was the possibility of a Brexit outcome that is clear. Let’s imagine the idea of clarity about the Brexit outcome is more than just an infantile notion and a desperate rationalisation of inaction. What is the outcome that obviates the need to dissolve the Union? What Brexit outcome changes the independence cause in any way?

Why wait for clarity that you’re never going to get about an outcome that is of no significance?

If, as some claim, Nicola Sturgeon is waiting until the Brexit outcome is clear, then she is a fool. And I am absolutely certain that Nicola Sturgeon is no fool. She is certainly not stupid enough to make a new referendum entire contingent on something that she is trying to prevent. Whatever the explanation is for the lack of action to resolve the constitutional situation, waiting for Brexit surely can’t be any part of it. It remains a mystery.



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The country formerly known as Scotland

I sincerely hope that the First Minister is not taken in by this talk of a “rebranding exercise”. I trust she is aware that this is merely a precursor to, and preparation for, major constitutional reform which will be conducted over the heads of Scotland’s elected representatives and without the consent of Scotland’s people.

Prior to the 2014 independence referendum, people were warned that a No vote would be regarded by the British state as a licence to do what they want with Scotland. What they want is to lock Scotland into a political union on their own terms. A unilateral redefining of Scotland’s constitutional status without any consultation and in total contempt of democratic principles.

This had hardly got underway when the EU referendum came along and shifted the political ground. But Brexit did not deter or hamper the project to lock Scotland into a unilaterally redefined Union. On the contrary, it provides the ideal opportunity. Which people were also warned about prior to the vote in 2016.

To put it briefly and in the simplest of terms – the UK was constitutionally redefined by joining the EU (as it became). It stands to reason that the UK will again undergo constitutional redefinition on leaving the EU. The British political elite has ensured that Scotland, together with the other devolved parliaments, has been all but entirely excluded from the Brexit process. Therefore, the British political elite is ideally placed to dictate the form of the redefinition which the UK will undergo.

Brexit is the British state’s chance to close and barricade the democratic route to restoring Scotland’s rightful constitutional status. This was going to happen anyway. But Brexit makes it easier to ensure that democratic niceties don’t interfere with the process of tightening England-as-Britain’s grip on Scotland and reinforcing the structures of power, privilege and patronage which constitute the British state.

This isn’t something that is going to happen. It is something which is happening right now. The “rebranding exercise” is part of it. The ‘UK Government in Scotland’ is part of it. The ‘UK-wide common frameworks’ are part of it. The ‘EU power grab’ was part of it. The ghastly ‘unionjackery’ defacing our foodstuffs is part of it. Mundell’s new castle in Edinburgh is part of it.

And still people refuse to see!

The anti-democratic British Nationalist ‘One Nation’ project is behind schedule – by about a year. The Article 50 extension granted by the EU gave us a year’s grace. A year in which we could have acted to save Scotland. A year which has been wantonly squandered.

I genuinely despair for our country. The ‘One Nation’ project is gathering pace. The Scottish Parliament is in recess. The Scottish Government seems paralysed. SNP politicians talk as if delay is a consequence-free option. The Yes movement is marching but, for want of political leadership and an actual campaign strategy, it is going nowhere.

Brexit will soon be upon us. The jaws of the ‘One Nation’ project will close. Holyrood, no more! Dignity, fairness and respect, no more! Democracy, no more! Hope, no more!

But doubtless Nicola Sturgeon will “slam” the UK Government in a Tweet.



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Bring down the clowns!

It has, for very good reason, grown all too easy to dismiss the actions of the British state in relation to Scotland as being motivated by pettiness or as the result of incompetence. We see in the likes of Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson (Not to mention the Tory leadership candidates rejected in their favour. Imagine how that must sting!) bumbling clowns playing to an audience so beguiled by the bright lights and sequin sparkle as to think this performance important politics and the tawdry, torn and precariously tilting big-top in which it is being enacted the only place of any consequence.

The clowns know their audience well. They know how it likes to watch the whiteface abuse and humiliate the auguste. They are aware that the loudest and most demonstrative section of the audience identifies with the superior status of the lead clown. They are conscious of how this claque subconsciously associates its myriad hate-figures with the inferior and afflicted fall-guy.

When Hunt, or another of his British ilk, throws a custard pie in Nicola Sturgeon’s face, the audience screams with amused delight as they see in their lumpen imagination Britannia’s bold favourite asserting dominance over her possessions and inflicting defeat and mortification on those who dare challenge her divinely-ordained status. The clowns are adept at pandering to the basest urges of their audience. And should that audience’s enthusiasm for the circus show any signs of flagging, the media is ready to play ringmaster, urging the crowd to renewed frenzies of righteous outrage and vicarious triumph.

To those of us catching glimpses of this spectacle through gaps and rents in the fabric of the circus tent, it seems just that – a show; an entertainment; an interlude. We may readily forget that such performances are, not mere distractions from the serious business of the British state, but the actual conduct of that business. We tend to abstract performances such as the Tory leadership contest from the context of British state affairs and lose sight of the fact that this really is the British political elite doing its day job. We tend to see the clowns as stage actors playing a part when, in fact, they are state actors playing with the lives of real people and the fate of nations.

When the British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs withdraws his office’s support for overseas trips made by Scotland’s First Minister, we should not take this lightly. We should not see it as just a clown lashing out with a flimsy paper plate piled high with harmless foam. We should not regard it as only a bit of macho posturing in the hope of impressing the select few who will select the next British Prime Minister not least on the basis of how ‘tough’ the candidate promises to be with those uppity Jocks.

We must take this seriously. We must see this as offensive action on behalf of the ‘One Nation’ British Nationalist ideology which now stands as the greatest threat to Scotland since England’s armies northwards rushed rebellious Scots to crush.

We must see this for the anti-democratic abuse of power that it truly is. We must recognise that this is a senior Minister of the British state seeking to impede the democratically elected First Minister of Scotland in the performance of her solemn duty to the people of Scotland.

We must know this as one of the most explicit manifestations to date of the British state’s imperative to crush democratic dissent in Scotland and eradicate our distinctive political culture.

The First Minister’s primary responsibility is for Scotland. She is wholly and solely accountable to the people of Scotland. The sworn duty of our First Minister is, first and foremost, to safeguard and further Scotland’s interests in accordance with the mandate afforded by the electorate. Whether or not you voted for Nicola Sturgeon or her party, she represents all of Scotland – nation and people – at home and abroad. That is democracy.

To slight our First Minister, as the British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs has done, is to slight Scotland. To show contempt for the office of First Minister is to show contempt for the people of Scotland who own that office regardless of who the incumbent may be. To attempt to prevent our First Minister from performing her duties and fulfilling her responsibilities is an offence against Scotland’s democracy. To offend against democracy is to offend against all the people who serve and are served by democracy.

We must take this action by the British establishment as a declaration of war. A war to be fought, not with swords and spears on some blood-soaked field, but with truth and justice in the arena of democratic politics. A war, not against a foreign invader, but against an increasingly alien political culture and an appallingly pernicious ideology.

A war, not to assert dominance over another land or people; nor even to defend our own land and people against overt subjugation, but to affirm the fact that Scotland exists as a nation and defend the principle that legitimate political authority in Scotland derives solely and exclusively from the people of Scotland.

Our First Minister acts with that authority. Her every word and deed carries the authority of the people of Scotland. Notwithstanding the pretensions of
certain media-hyped nonentities, Nicola Sturgeon is the head of Scotland’s democratically elected Government sitting in the only Parliament with democratic legitimacy in Scotland.

This is a war, not against England, but against the Union which perverts and corrupts relations between our two nations while encouraging debauched and feckless British politician to presume themselves above the will of Scotland’s people and beyond the reach of our reproach.

Nicola Sturgeon is under attack because the forces behind both Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson are aware of how crucial she is to Scotland’s cause. We have to take seriously the threat of ‘One Nation’ British Nationalism. And we can only counter that threat by dissolving the Union and restoring constitutional normality to our nation.



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I object!

The First Minister may “have no objections to people who are against independence” but I most certainly do. She seems to imagine that denying the right of Scotland’s people to decided the Scotland’s future is but a small, and easily tolerated, part of the Unionist argument against independence. She is wrong. It is the whole of the Unionist argument and it cannot be tolerated.

It is impossible to argue for the preservation of a political union which denies the sovereignty of Scotland’s people without arguing for the denial of the sovereignty of Scotland’s people. And I am no more prepared to tolerate that than I would an argument that people could be sold into slavery. Because that is how fundamental the right of self-determination is to democracy.

Just as it is not possible to legitimately lay claim to democratic credentials while arguing in favour of slavery, so it is not possible to credibly assert adherence to democratic principles while defending and commending a constitutional settlement which rides roughshod over one of democracy’s most basic precepts.

(I realise that simply by writing the word ‘slavery’ I’m inviting British Nationalists to accuse me of saying Scotland’s people are slaves. But I learned long ago that idiots will be idiots. If you try to make allowances for all the idiocies of British Nationalism, you’ll never say very much at all.)

Of course I object to being told that I am unworthy to exercise the sovereignty that is mine by right lest my choices impinge on the preferences of England’s voters.

Of course I object to being told that politicians such as those responsible for the Brexit shambles have more right to decide the future of my country than I do.

Of course I object to being told that political authority derives ultimately from a divinely-ordained monarch rather than the people.

Of course I object to the fact that a parliament in which the people of Scotland have no effective influence is superior to the parliament which we actually elect.

Of course I object to being told that Scotland is ‘Too wee! Too poor! Too stupid!” to be a normal nation and must, instead, be subject to the ministrations and impositions of a British political political elite I know to be incompetent and corrupt and lacking any democratic mandate.

Of course I object to “people who are against independence”. How could I not object when these people are opposed to values and principles that are part of who I am? How could I not object when, wittingly or otherwise, these people argue for the eradication of so much that I consider indispensable in the name of a Union they consider more precious than democracy?

How could I not object to the preservation of a Union which is an affront to democracy and an insult to the people of Scotland?



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Under pressure

I despair of people who can meekly accept over three centuries of their sovereignty being denied, but find in the fleeting ascendancy of a malignant child-clown an incentive to end the gross constitutional anomaly under which the nation labours. If Boris Johnson being British Prime Minister is the best reason these people can think of for ending the Union then they really need to do a bit more thinking.

But we take what we can get. Motives are of academic interest only. Voters are not required to justify their choices. There is no space on any ballot paper where voters must provide their reasons for voting as they have. Which, in a way, is a pity. I suspect those ballot papers would make rather interesting reading.

It is gratifying that, whatever their reasons, enough people have switched from No to Yes that the First Minister can be “confident” of victory at last for Scotland’s cause in that new referendum she has been promising for what seems like decades, but can’t possibly be more than a few years. Such is the sense of unrequited urgency that is felt, to a greater or lesser degree, across all of the Yes movement bar the increasingly isolated and besieged pockets of Postponer complacency.

The question most are asking is when will that confidence be translated into the bold, decisive action that may yet save Scotland from the onslaught of ‘One Nation’ British Nationalist fervour that threatens our democracy, our prosperity and our very identity as a nation? Not to mention our vital public services.

Opinion polls won’t do it. No number of opinion polls, however favourable, will end the Union and restore Scotland to normality. That will only happen when our First Minister decides to cast aside the rules and procedures imposed for the preservation of the Union and the advantage of the British ruling elite. It will only happen when Nicola Sturgeon knows in her heart and her head that the odds favour Yes.

It is her calculation to make. Few doubt that she is politically capable. Fewer still doubt her personal commitment to the restoration of Scotland’s independence. But time is running out. The British establishment understands what is at stake. If there is one certainty in today’s chaotic political condition it is that the British state will move to thwart Scotland’s aspiration to be a normal nation again. For established power, that is an imperative.

Knowing the imperative, we need only look at the options available to anti-democratic British Nationalist to be in a position to predict, with some certainty, what they will do. Broadly speaking, the British state can be expected to attack one or more of the five components parts of Scotland’s independence movement – the SNP, which is the lever by which Scotland will be prised out of the detested Union; The Scottish Government, which is the fulcrum on which the lever moves; the Scottish Parliament which form the solid base on which the lever rests and the Yes movement. which supplies the force to move the lever.

It will be pointed out that all of these are already under attack – with the possible exception of the Yes movement, which doesn’t present a good target. what is happening now; what has happened to date in terms of smearing the SNP, denigrating the Scottish Government and undermining the Scottish Parliament is mere sparring compared to the onslaught which awaits us the other side of Brexit. The contenders for the job of British Prime Minister have all made it abundantly clear that bringing Scotland to heel, by whatever means, is among their top priorities. They will seek to make good on their threats.

The burden of responsibility which rests on Nicola Sturgeon’s shoulders is massive. The decisions she must make have profound implications. The task she faces is daunting in the extreme. She must act before the British state contrives new obstacles and impediments. She must act while the various parts of the independence movement are intact and strong. She must act very soon – and with relentless determination.

For our part, we must continue to urge the First Minister to act. The pressure we put on Nicola Sturgeon translates into the power she wields against the British state. So pile it on! Even if it is only to avoid the ignominy of Boris Johnson being able to declare himself Scotland’s overlord.



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A nightmare scenario

As ever, Andrew Tickell does an excellent job of taking us through the rules and procedures of the Scottish Parliament. His account of how Nicola Sturgeon might force an early Scottish general election is intriguing. But there is one possible twist to the hypothetical tale which either hasn’t occurred to him or, more likely, was considered too outlandish even in an age of bizarre politics – the Grand Coalition.

Suppose that, when Nicola Sturgeon resigns as First Minister, instead of “the ridiculous spectacle of a Davidson-Leonard contest” envisioned by Andrew we had the rather less amusing spectacle of the British parties in Holyrood forming an alliance sufficiently workable to avoid “complete ungovernability”?

Is this really so difficult to imagine? It may not be easy to see such a Grand Coalition working in the longer term, but how long would it have to last in order to foil Nicola Sturgeon’s devious plan to bring about an early election? If the British parties could cobble together any kind of administration and keep it limping along for even a few weeks, Ms Sturgeon would be left looking every bit as foolish as Theresa May did in the aftermath of he snap UK general election in 2017.

There was a time when a formal association between the two main British parties – even at the North Britain branch level – would have been unthinkable. But that all changed in June 2012 with the formation of Better Together / Project Fear. That set the precedent. It is now not possible – or, at least, not sensible – to discount the possibility of a Grand Coalition of British parties in the Scottish Parliament.

Such an alliance would be justified in terms of a shared British Nationalist ideology which readily overcomes the already uncertain political differences between the British Conservative & Unionist Party in Scotland (BCUPS) and British Labour in Scotland (BLiS). Because we’ve seen it before from their predecessors, it is all too easy to imagine Leonard and Davidson sharing a platform festooned with Union flags; and to hear the grandiloquent speeches about a shared determination to “protect our precious Union” and “save Scotland from the evil of the SNP”. Rhetoric which would be echoed by their respective bosses in London, both of whom would eagerly seize the opportunity to play the ‘unity’ card in the hope of trumping the Mad Brexiteer insurgency threatening the cosy two-party arrangement which has served the British establishment so effectively for decades.

If the thought of a Grand Coalition of British parties wresting control of Holyrood from the Scottish parties doesn’t give you nightmares then reflect for a moment on the damage such an administration could do. Think of the ways it could use even temporary power to advance the ‘One Nation’ British Nationalist project. The possibility of such an alliance may be remote. But the prospect is horrifying. Could Nicola Sturgeon afford to take a chance?



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