Who to trust?

Always one to look for the silver lining, I reckon a very important lesson can be learned from the appalling way that EU citizens from outwith the UK have been treated. Bearing in mind that the British government is responsible for the arrangements under which local authorities administer the vote, it is clear they cannot be trusted to do the job properly. It appears they have brought the same tragic incompetence to the running of this election as to the entire Brexit fiasco.

Scotland cannot continue to be subject to this gross ineptitude. Nor is it reasonable to expect that we should let a hostile British government, or its agencies, have any role in the administration of a new independence referendum.

I have long stressed how important it is that, when we hold a new referendum, the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament should control the whole process. That there should be no role whatever for the British government at any stage of that process.

If people have been denied a vote in the European Parliament elections due to an ‘administrative error’, imagine what a hostile British government might do to sabotage a referendum to end the Union.

What’s that you say? They would never stoop so low? Really? Can we be absolutely sure of that? With the threat of rabid British Nationalism looming, can we afford to take a chance?



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Of divides and loyalties

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Spot the coup!

filthy_handsNews that the Home Office will no longer speak to MSPs about their constituents on immigration matters comes little more than a week after we learned that MSPs are being obstructed from helping constituents with problems claiming benefits. New procedures instituted by the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) mean that MSPs may no longer contact Job Centre staff directly in an effort to resolve constituents’ problems. Regardless of how urgent the situation, they are now required to submit an enquiry by email and await a written response. Now it has been revealed that the Home Office is refusing to engage with MSPs wishing to discuss immigration issues affecting individuals and families in their constituencies.

In both cases, these new arrangements apply only to MSPs. MPs will not be similarly impeded in their efforts to help members of the public. It is difficult not to see a pattern emerging here. Especially when these recent developments are placed alongside other evidence of the British establishment’s increasing antipathy towards the Scottish Parliament. Take, for example, Ruth Davidson’s endlessly repeated insistence that there is ‘no demand. for a new independence referendum in brazen contempt of a decision taken by the Scottish Parliament.

Or the UK Government’s wilful failure to engage with the Scottish Government over the Brexit process.

Or the high-handed, imperious manner in which the UK government swept away the fundamental principle that powers not specifically reserved to Westminster are devolved.

This goes beyond mere ignorance of or disdain for the devolution settlement. What we are seeing is a purposeful and concerted effort to undermine and delegitimise the Scottish Parliament.

This is not new. Devolved powers over income tax and welfare are little more than a clumsily contrived collection of fiscal and political traps and pitfalls that have only been substantially avoided thanks partly to the artlessness of their construction but mainly to the skill and determination of people such as John Swinney, Derek Mackay and Jeane Freeman. Devolution was never more than a device by which to placate democratic dissent whilst continuing to withhold powers from the Scottish Parliament. Latterly, it was transformed into a political weapon deployed against the SNP, the Scottish Government and now the Scottish Parliament itself.

What is different now is that all pretence has been dropped. The attacks on Scotland’s democratic institutions have become as open and unsubtle as the attacks on Scotland’s public services. The effort to diminish and denigrate the Scottish Parliament is being ratcheted up at the same time as the British state’s presence in Scotland is being enhanced and promoted. There is nether accident nor coincidence in the fact that MSPs are being hampered in the performance of their duties whilst the British state pours resources into building up the ‘UK Government in Scotland’. It is not mere happenstance that the British media is redoubling its efforts to raise the profile of British Nationalist politicians like Ruth Davidson whilst shielding them from proper scrutiny.

This is an assault on Scotland’s democracy. This is an effort aimed at eradicating Scotland’s distinctive political culture. This is the British Nationalist ‘One Nation’ project in action. This is a political coup in progress.


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Scotland’s champion

james_wolffeIt is interesting that James Wolffe QC “wants the case thrown out right at the start”. Does this indicate at last the sense of urgency that many of us have been seeking from the SNP administration? It would be gratifying to think so.

Be that as it may, we can certainly welcome the tone of the Lord Advocate’s submission to the UK Supreme Court. It represents an explicit and forceful challenge to the arrogantly assumed supremacy of Westminster and the idea that the British ruling elites can dispose of Scotland as they please. It may be seen as asserting on behalf of the Scottish Parliament a democratic legitimacy which Westminster lacks. Behind the legalese lies the simple claim that the Scottish Parliament truly speaks for Scotland in a way that Westminster never can.

This is important. This is crucial. Our Parliament is the foundation on which our democracy is built. It is the soil from which has grown Scotland’s distinctive political culture. It is the guardian of our precious public services. It is the guarantor of our right of self-determination. The facilitator of our capacity to choose the form of government which best serves the needs, priorities and aspirations of Scotland’s people.

The people of Scotland are sovereign. The Scottish Parliament gives agency to that sovereignty. It is the alternative – and the antidote – to the structures of power, privilege and patronage which define the British state. It is what stands between us and the anti-democratic British Nationalist ‘One Nation’ project. It must be defended by every means available to us. It must be defended in the courts. If necessary, it must be defended on the streets.


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Mind your language!

saltire_breakoutIt is disappointing to find The National referring to “the NHS”, as if there were a single UK-wide health service. The British media and the British political parties habitually conflate NHS Scotland with NHS England in order to taint the Scottish health service with the defects and failings of its English counterpart. If it is to effectively offer an alternative perspective on Scotland, it is essential that The National avoids such misleading terms.

As we gear up for a new referendum campaign, we must all play a part in reframing Scotland’s political discourse. When the British propaganda machine refers to “the NHS” this is not mere carelessness. It is intentional. It is part of a purposeful effort to confine the narrative to a particular frame – the frame of a ‘One Nation’ British state. We must emphatically reject this frame. We must reclaim our language. We must create our own narrative. We must reframe our entire political discourse.

Scotland is a nation. It is not part of another nation. We are not seeking independence from another nation. Scotland is not ‘un-independent’. Scotland is an independent nation within a political union. We are not seeking independence from ‘Britain’. Britain does not exist as a country. It exists only as a convenient myth created by and on behalf of a British ruling elite. Britain is not a nation. It is the structures of power, privilege and patronage which support and sustain that ruling elite. It is a system by which the few ensure that their interests are served at the expense of the many.

The political union which has been imposed on Scotland is democratically unsustainable because it denies Scotland’s status as a nation and prohibits the effective exercise by Scotland’s people of the sovereignty that is inalienably theirs. Historically, the British state has maintained its grip on Scotland by persuading enough of us that we are subordinate. Language plays a huge part in this process. The wilful discounting of Scotland’s separate health service being just one example.

With the evolution of a distinctive and increasingly divergent political culture in Scotland, more and more people are questioning the myth of the British nation and challenging the asserted authority of the British political elite. People are no longer inclined to meekly accept that Westminster can have a veto on their right of self-determination. People are more inclined to openly and loudly protest the efforts to subordinate Scotland to the British Crown in the British Parliament.

Realising that the Union can no longer be held together with pomp, pageantry and propaganda, the British establishment has resolved to formally strip Scotland of its status as a nation using the opportunity presented by Brexit.

If we are to successfully resist this malignant ‘One Nation’ British Nationalist project, we must escape the mindset inculcated in us over generations of immersion in a narrative shaped by, and for the purposes of, the ruling elites of the British state . We must do this in ways large and small. By insisting on the distinction between NHS Scotland and the rapidly disintegrating remnants of England’s health service. By exacting respect for our democratic institutions and elected representatives. By requiring an end to the withholding of powers from the Scottish Parliament.

By demanding that the Union be dissolved.


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Shall there be a Scottish Parliament?

national_power_grabThere shall be a Scottish Parliament. But only if we are prepared to fight for it.

There shall be a Scottish Parliament. But not if we allow the British political elite to have its way.

There shall be a Scottish Parliament. But we must now decide, as a matter of great urgency whether it is to be a Parliament which exists and functions only by the grace and favour of the British state, or a Parliament which exists by the command of Scotland’s people and functions as the instrument of their democratic will.

This matters. It is important. It is crucial. It matters because the fundamental nature of our Parliament, and the manner in which it operates, reflects and defines what kind of nation Scotland is and what kind of people we are. If we are to be a nation where all political authority derives from the people, we must fight to be that kind of nation. If we, the people of Scotland, are to be sovereign in our own land, we must forcefully affirm and vigorously defend our sovereignty.

The Scottish Parliament is the rock upon which our sovereignty rests. It is the sole guarantor of our democracy. It is the only Parliament with democratic legitimacy in Scotland. It is not just the Scottish Parliament, it is the Parliament of Scotland. It belongs to the people of Scotland.

Only the people of Scotland possess the rightful authority to define and constrain the powers of our Parliament. The British government – unelected by and unaccountable to the people of Scotland – has no such authority. A lawfully established and democratically elected Parliament cannot be subordinate to any external power that is not ultimately answerable to the people of Scotland. The attempt by the British political elite to assert supreme authority over the Scottish Parliament is an assault on democracy. It is an affront to the nation of Scotland. It is an insult to the people of Scotland.

The time has come to choose what kind of people we are and what kind of nation we want Scotland to be. The time has come to decide where power lies now and in the future. Will it lie with a Scottish Parliament serving the needs, priorities and aspirations of the people of Scotland? Or is power to be usurped by faceless, unelected, unaccountable appointees of the British state serving only the structures of power, privilege and patronage which advantage the few at increasing cost to the many?

There shall be a Scottish Parliament. But only if we resolve to make it so.


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Decline to cringe!

scotlands_parliamentI’m not sure why we should be expected to pay any heed whatever to Lord Lang of Monkton and/or Lord Forsyth of Drumlean. The very manner in which they demand to be addressed resonates with a presumption of privileged power which is an affront to democracy. They, along with their 800-odd colleagues in the British Parliament, are products of the system of patronage which rewards loyal service to the few at whatever expense to the many. Their aristocratic titles signify their tried and tested allegiance to established power.

Lang and Forsyth speak for nobody other than the pampered elites of the British state. A fact only underlined by their having previously held the position of the British state’s representative in Scotland. They played no legitimate part in Scotland’s democracy then. They have no legitimate role in Scotland’s democracy now.

What these ermined nonentities say is of interest only because the attitudes evinced are not peculiar to denizens of the House of Dead Stoat Cloaks but characteristic of the entire British political elite. Contempt for the concerns of the electorate and disdain for the essentials of democracy are hallmarks of the British political system.

Note how those concerns are dismissed as mere ‘grievances’, absent any attempt to address the cause of the complaint. Note how care for constitutional matters is brushed aside as if the fundamentals of democracy are of no consequence.

Note, also, how Their Bladderships accuse the Scottish Government of neglecting “education, the economy and all the other matters that are their responsibility”, not because the SNP administration isn’t fulfilling its responsibilities in these areas, but because it is doing so differently, and with a degree of success which is an increasing embarrassment to a British political elite with its constant mantra of ‘no other way’ as it piles the gross iniquities of austerity on the absurd inequities of neo-liberal orthodoxy and the perpetual inequalities of British ‘demockracy’.

Thus, they display those other defining characteristics of the British ruling elite – duplicity, mendacity and a burning, bilious resentment of any challenge to or questioning of the imperious authority of the British state.

Imagine describing your ailments to your GP only to have them dismiss this as a tedious cataloguing of mere symptoms. Consider your reaction should your doctor inform you that they attach no importance whatever to respiration and blood circulation and that, instead, health is to be measured by the quality of your apparel and the contents of your wallet. This would surely be cause for alarm. But, ludicrous as the proposition may be, it is directly analogous to the narrative being peddled by the men in the polecat coats.

It matters not at all what is the cause and content of your grievance. You are not entitled to have a grievance against the British political elite. Nor do you, or your elected representatives, have any right to meddle in matters of political power and rightful authority and democratic legitimacy such as are the concern of constitutional politics. As a citizen of a subordinate region of the realm, you are supposed to know your place on the unimportant periphery of a ‘One Nation’ British state, and behave accordingly.

You are supposed to cringe. You may choose not to.

The spluttering indignation expressed by Lang and Forsyth is occasioned by the fact that more and more people in Scotland are declining to cringe in the way we’re meant to. The more we assert and exercise our democratic rights, the greater their outrage.


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