Campaigning with flair

My Scotland poll: Yes to independence takes the lead

Polls don’t predict anything, of course. But let’s make some allowances for the rather excitable headline in The National (Scottish independence soars ahead as Ashcroft poll predicts Yes win).

That being said, there are occasions when pols try to predict. Or, to be more precise, they ask their respondents for their predictions. The Ashcroft poll which is causing such exhilaration among Yes supporters and such agitation among Unionists asked the following question.

If there were to be a new referendum on Scottish Independence within the next two years, what do you think would be the most likely outcome?

By a margin 52% to 30% respondents stated that they thought the outcome would be a win for Yes.

This finding has considerable implications for the independence campaign strategy. Taking it at face value, it tells us that the idea of independence, not so long ago considered outlandish, has gone well beyond being normalised. To the extent that this accurately reflects public attitudes, it suggests that people are resigned to independence being inevitable whatever their personal attitudes to the prospect.

Some of us realised the inevitability of independence some time ago. Almost exactly five years ago I wrote,

I take the view that independence is now inevitable and that a No vote can only postpone it for five or maybe ten years. I take this view not only because I believe that the spirit of progressive activism that has arisen in Scotland will not be suppressed, but also because I recognise that the response of the British state to a No vote will, itself, provide greater impetus for the independence movement. My concern is not that the restoration of Scotland’s rightful constitutional status will not be achieved but that, in the interim, irreversible harm will have been done to Scotland’s institutions and that serious, perhaps irreparable damage will have been done to the relationship between Scotland and the rest of the UK.

Please stay: A response to Jim Sillars’s essay in the Daily Record

In March 2016, with the EU referendum looming, i expanded on this point.

The first and most important thing to remember is that independence is coming anyway. Independence is inevitable. It is inevitable because any devolution measure which succeeds in terms of the aims and objectives of the British state necessarily fails in terms of the aspirations and priorities of Scotland’s people. And this was never more true than it is of the latest round of inept and malicious constitutional tinkering represented by the Scotland Bill.

EU referendum is not Scotland’s fight

What is significant is that there now appears to be a more general acceptance of this inevitability. Whether this is because of growing concerns about the way in which “the relationship between Scotland and the rest of the UK” is being soured by British politicians; or whether it is due to increasing dissatisfaction with a devolution settlement which looks daily more insecure; or whether it is simply an artefact of the ubiquity and pervasiveness of the Yes movement, we have no way of knowing. It is likely to be some combination of all these factors as well as others, such as just plain weariness with a constitutional debate that won’t go away no matter how much British Nationalists would like to wish it away.

This has the potential to open up some new lines of attack for the Yes campaign. It could, for example, piggy-back on British Nationalist propaganda about ‘voter fatigue’ by suggesting that the easiest way to stop the campaigning is to vote Yes. Because it’s highly unlikely that there will be a campaign to take Scotland back into the Union. Portraying a Yes vote as drawing a line under the issue and allowing us to get on with building a better nation could appeal to more than a few people.

Perhaps more importantly, the idea of independence being inevitable could usefully augment a campaign which seeks to turn the issue around and put Unionists on the defensive. An anti-Union campaign on a question about dissolving the Union could make good use of the argument that most people are resigned to independence happening and so the onus is on Unionists to persuade them otherwise.

There is another valuable lesson in all of this. Above all, the Yes campaign has to be imaginative enough to incorporate new material into its strategy. And flexible enough to be able to do this on the fly. We should not need taught that running a dusted-off and polished-up version of the 2014 campaign is a very bad idea. After all, at that time few among the general public thought independence was even possible, far less inevitable.

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The mood

Boris Johnston may well be the last Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. But it is distressingly difficult to see how this will be brought about by the SNP. Angus Robertson has lots to say about what the British government will be doing. It would be a very generous interpretation of his article, however, which finds any suggestion that the Scottish Government has plans of its own. Apart, that is, from conducting research of the kind that should have been done long since.

What I take from this article is that the SNP is content to let things play out under the auspices of a malignant child-clown on the assumption that this will somehow lead to the restoration of Scotland’s independence. With all due respect to Angus Robertson, this is dangerous nonsense. Restoring Scotland’s independence will require bold, decisive action by the Scottish Government. If Mr Robertson’s report is any guide, bold, decisive action isn’t even under consideration.

We must assume that Angus Robertson is close to the SNP leadership and familiar with the prevailing mood. Clues to that mood are, perhaps inadvertently, scattered throughout his article. There is, of course, the ongoing obsession with Brexit and the SNP’s stance on that issue – which seems to have shifted from outright opposition to Brexit because Scotland voted Remain, to futile opposition to a particular form of Brexit despite Scotland having voted against any kind of Brexit.

I’d like to ask Angus Robertson what Brexit ‘deal’ might negate that 62% Remain vote? When I voted Remain, did I unwittingly vote to keep Scotland in EU unless there was an acceptable Brexit ‘deal’? Acceptable to whom?

When it comes to Boris Johnson’s interest in Scotland, Angus Robertson discusses this solely in terms of electoral impact. He refers to Boris Johnson and his transition team having “put some thought into how to deal with their unpopularity in Scotland”. When he imagines us asking “where stands Scotland in all of this”, he answers with a firm prediction of SNP electoral success in any head-to-head contest with the Tories. Incredibly, there is no mention at all of the constitutional implications for Scotland of a new hard-line ‘One Nation’ British Nationalist administration in London.

With what looks like quite breath-taking political naivety, Angus Robertson assures us that Scotland is not top of Johnson’s list. How is it possible for him to be unaware that locking Scotland into a unilaterally rewritten ‘British Constitution’ is an imperative for the British state? If Scotland is of as little concern to Boris Johnson as Angus Robertson implies, does it not occur to him to wonder why the self-anointed ‘Minister for the Union’ might be so relaxed about what is surely the greatest threat to his precious Union?

But it was the following passage which really provoked me to anger. Assuming the SNP would trounce the Tories in a Westminster election, Robertson opines,

All of this will strengthen the SNP mandate for the Scottish Parliament to decide on holding the next Scottish independence referendum. Having already won elections to the Scottish Parliament, Westminster Parliament and European Parliament, and secured a majority in favour in the Scottish Parliament, the undemocratic excuses to block a democratic vote will no longer be sustainable.

I read that and found myself wondering how “undemocratic excuses to block a democratic vote” could be “sustainable” in light of three electoral and one parliamentary confirmations of the mandate to hold that vote. I found myself wondering how “undemocratic excuses to block a democratic vote” could ever be “sustainable”. I found myself unable to understand why we would need yet another confirmation of a mandate which was already vastly more valid than the mandate of those making the “undemocratic excuses to block a democratic vote”.

I found myself wondering just how many confirmations of the mandate to hold a new independence referendum would be required before the SNP decides that the “undemocratic excuses to block a democratic vote” are no longer sustainable.

If Angus Robertson is affording us anything like an accurate sense of the SNP leadership’s mood, then Scotland is in serious trouble.

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Best laid schemes?

It lifts my heart to see Angus MacNeil and Chris McEleny trying to inject some much needed sense of urgency into the independence campaign. But a sense of urgency isn’t much use if your plan of action is flawed.

The idea of of using either a Scottish or a UK general election as a substitute for a referendum is problematic for a number of reasons. For a start, no election is ever about a single issue. There is no way that an election can be made a vote on a single issue without the cooperation of all parties. And why would the British parties cooperate? If they were willing to have a vote on the constitutional issue then they wouldn’t be so fanatically opposed to a referendum. All the British parties need do in order to counter this strategy is focus their campaign on a small number of other issues, such as health and education. By doing this, while ignoring the constitutional issue other than when castigating the SNP for ignoring the other issues, the British parties make the outcome of the election disputable. They can easily claim that people were not voting on a single issue.

That is why we have referendums. Because they are the only way to achieve a clear and incontestable expression of the will of the people. And even referendums often fail to do this. Look at the the EU referendum, for example. Can anyone claim that it delivered a clear and incontestable result? It is self-evidently not clear if people are disputing what the outcome actually means. How many different ‘flavours’ of Brexit have been proposed? In every instance, the proponents of each flavour assert that this is what people voted for.

Neither can the result of the EU referendum sensibly be described as incontestable. It is being contested. It is being contested by those of us who are persuaded that the will of Scotland’s people should prevail in Scotland. It is being contested by those who – for good reason – are persuaded that the Leave campaign acted illegally. It cannot be said that the result is incontestable.

It would be no different, and probably much worse, were there an attempt to use an election as a substitute for a referendum. It would inevitably lack the one thing it needs more than anything else – democratic legitimacy.

Then there’s the fact that there is already a mandate for a new constitutional referendum. A very clear mandate with all the democratic legitimacy anybody could wish for. That mandate is being flatly denied by the British state. Why would it be any different for this new mandate? Why wouldn’t the British simply ignore that as well? Especially as we’d be implicitly admitting that the existing mandate was such as could be ignored. By saying we need another one, we’d not only undermine the democratic legitimacy of the mandate we already have, but of any and all mandates.

Angus and Chris want us to put our energies into a flawed project to acquire a new mandate when, surely, we should be exerting ourselves to the fullest in defence of the mandate we have. If we can’t defend that mandate, why would anyone imagine we might successfully defend a mandate which, for the reasons already given, could not possibly be clear and incontestable.

There must be a referendum. The people are sovereign. No significant constitutional reform can stand the test of democratic legitimacy absent the explicit consent of the people. What Angus and Chris are talking about is, not an alternative to a referendum, but an alternative route to a referendum. And it is a route we have already travelled. Apparently, to no avail. We’ve done the thing about using an election to get a mandate for a referendum. We still don’t have a referendum. What purpose might be served by repeating the whole process?

Then there’s the far from small matter of the consequences of delay. The next date for a Scottish general election is 6 May 2021, with the Westminster elections a year after that. All ‘plans’ for delaying action by the Scottish Government to resolve the constitutional issue lack the same thing – proposals for dealing with what the British state is doing to resolve the constitutional issue in its own way and in its own favour. All of these plans are seemingly based on an assumption – or a hope – that the British state will do nothing to prevent those plans going ahead. Every word uttered by British politicians tells us that this is a false assumption and a forlorn hope.

We cannot even be certain that there will be a Scottish Parliament on 6 May 2021. We can be certain that the British state will have taken steps to ensure that Holyrood no longer provides a solid base for the lever that will prise Scotland from the Union.

If, as seems to be the case, Angus and Chris – together with the entire SNP leadership – allow that the existing impediments to a referendum are sufficient to prevent it happening, how do they propose to overcome the much larger obstacles that will undoubtedly be contrived by the British establishment while we wait for a polling day that’s about 20 months away?

I’m sure much more could be said about how flawed this so-called ‘Plan B’ is. But let what has already been said suffice for the moment and consider this latest suggestion from Angus MacNeil. Again, I stress that I have the utmost respect for both Angus and Chris. I very much admire the way in which both these individuals have been prepared to stick their heads above the parapet in trying to impress upon the party leadership and the Yes movement the urgent nature of Scotland’s predicament. But, if their ‘Plan B’ is flawed, the idea of launching a rerun the 2014 Yes campaign can only be described as seriously, dangerously misguided.

For nearly five years now, I have been writing and talking about the need to totally rethink the new referendum campaign taking account of lessons learned from the 2014 referendum. I don’t claim to have been the sole voice warning of the dangers inherent in ignoring those lessons, but we were few. We are few no longer. Perhaps it’s time we were listened to.

Perhaps, instead of mocking and decrying the #DissolveTheUnion campaign, SNP politicians and those ‘big names’ in the Yes movement should practise what they preach and listen to what we have to say. It is curious, in the extreme, that they urge us so fervently to listen to our opponents whilst turning a totally deaf ear to those within the Yes movement who decline to toe the ‘positive’ line.

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How far will they go?

Professor Sir John Curtice is being a tad disingenuous when he says,

It seems that the days when Unionists could claim with confidence that Scots do not want another independence referendum any time soon may have come to an end.

The professor must surely be aware that those days came to an end some time ago. They were at an end long before polling showed 51% in favour of a new referendum at any date. His comments imply that an opinion poll majority is required before a new constitutional referendum can be considered. That is patently not so. For it to be so, those surveys would require some sort of democratic legitimacy and force. However scientific they may be, opinion polls mere indicate the public mood. They do not, and cannot, reflect the will of the people.

In practice, the question of whether a referendum should be held is a matter for the government. Obviously, opinion polling will be factored into deliberations. But, ultimately, it is a decision for the First Minister, taking account of public demand as well as things like the importance of the issue and the need to resolve it occasioned by its overall impact. Opinion polls don’t decide these matters. Nobody elected the pollsters.

Apart from anything else, opinion polls tend to test the wrong thing. The Panelbase survey for the Sunday Times which found that 51% of Scots want a new referendum to be held “either when the UK is negotiating to leave the EU or has finished the negotiations” was clearly asking a rather silly and pointless question. The Brexit negotiations are already finished. They finished months ago. It matters not a toss how much bladders like Jeremy Hunt bang on about negotiating a deal that MPs can agree to, negotiations are already finished. They have ended. There will be no further negotiations. The negotiations that the lying Hunt is talking about aren’t going to happen. Because negotiations are finished. They are completed and concluded. Wound up and terminated.

If the Panelbase poll is to be taken seriously, it must be assumed to indicate that a majority want the new referendum to be held immediately. As in right now! But nobody seriously imagines this to be possible. While it is gratifying to see people realising the urgency of Scotland’s predicament, a sensible date for the new referendum would be Thursday 19 September 2019.

The question never was whether there should be a new referendum. That was always going to be necessary; because the 2014 No vote is known to have been won on a totally false prospectus. Nor is the scheduling of that referendum a matter of public opinion. It is a political decision determined by a combination of circumstances and political judgement.

All in all, this poll is a welcome fillip for Scotland’s cause, but it changes nothing. It may also be portrayed as a blow to British Nationalists. But bear in mind that these British Nationalists have only contempt for public opinion and democracy. And precious little regard for logic, coherence and consistency. They are perfectly capable of totally discounting the 51% in favour of an early referendum whilst simultaneously insisting that the 51% supposedly against independence is absolutely decisive.

I have long maintained that what the Yes movement needs is, not better answers to the questions thrown at us by British Nationalists, but better questions to throw back at them. When we are seeking answers to questions such as whether and when there should be another referendum, it’s because we are allowing the British establishment, its agents and lackeys the privilege and advantage of dictating the agenda. Why the hell are we doing that!?

Why are we not asking the question that Unionists and British Nationalists don’t want asked? The kind of questions that British political journalists are to professionally incompetent and/or intellectually indolent and/or profoundly prejudiced to ask. I will give just one example by way of illustration because it’s time Yes activists started formulating these questions for themselves.

How do Unionists and British Nationalists propose to maintain a political union which is implacably opposed by half of Scotland? What measures are they intending to take? How far are they prepared to go in order to preserve their ‘precious’ Union?

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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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Too timid to win?

Ruth Wishart asks, “does hesitancy now really help the cause?”, and rightly concludes that it does not. But what of hesitancy’s sibling, timidity? Ms Wishart neglects to ask whether or how the cause of restoring Scotland’s might be served by approaching the project with anything less than total commitment and absolute determination.

Having decided that action to resolve Scotland’s constitutional issue should not be further postponed, why so half-hearted about the nature of that action? Having quoted Cannon Kenyon Wright’s resounding affirmation of the ultimate authority of the people, why immediately contradict this assertion by allowing that the British political elite may constrain the authority of the people? Either the people are the source of all legitimate political authority, or they aren’t. If you concede that the British state may overrule or limit that authority, then you are putting the British political elite above and before the people.

When the British Prime Minister says, “We are the state, and we say No!”, did Canon Kenyon Wright insist we should respond saying, “We are the people, and we say Yes… so long as that’s OK by you!”? He did not!

Why then does Ruth Wishart say we, the people of Scotland, should limit ourselves to a “consultative, advisory referendum”? What is the “legal impediment” to holding a fully-fledged, binding referendum if not the voice of the British establishment maintaining that it’s authority supersedes that of the people? How might we ever restore Scotland’s rightful constitutional status so long as we are too timid to defy that voice?

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