Intolerable

yesIn order to take this swivel-eyed scaremongering about Siol nan Gaidheal seriously, you have to believe some stuff that is every bit as crazy as the delusional drivel subscribed to by that insignificant band of brain-dead ‘blood and soil’ nationalists. You have to believe that Scotland in 2018 is just like Germany in 1928, with social and economic conditions and a political culture which combine to provide fertile ground for the rise of fascism.

You must also believe that Siol nan Gaidheal is, not a semi-detached support group for the socially inadequate, scientifically illiterate and pathologically sad, but a terrifying reincarnation of Hitler’s Nazis, faithful to the obscene original in every sordid detail and just as politically effective.

You then must eschew all further reflection that might risk exposing the insulting ridiculousness of this demented fantasy and proceed directly to death-camps on the outskirts of Auchterarder where Siol nan Gaidheal‘s psychopathic minions implement the ‘Final Solution’ to the ‘White Settler’ problem with all the cold, heartless, mechanical efficiency for which the Gaelic master-race is renowned.

Those who seek to put Siol nan Gaidheal on a historical pedestal alongside the Nazis would doubtless respond to my dismissive attitude by insisting that there are similarities between the ideologies and by incessantly referring to Karl Popper’s Paradox of Tolerance. But similarity doesn’t imply equivalence any more than correlation implies causality. And, while they bang on about Popper, they assiduously ‘forget’ to mention that what he was warning against was unlimited tolerance of the intolerant, Which, to the best of my knowledge, nobody has proposed. I certainly did not.

At no time did Popper suggest we abandon all reason and sense of perspective and treat every instance of vaguely politically organised intolerance as if it represented an immediate threat to democratic civilisation. It is worth contrasting his reasoned argument with the grotesque exaggerations and frantic virtue signalling of the Angry Villagers.

Less well known is the paradox of tolerance: Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them. — In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be unwise. But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive, and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols. We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant.

What Jason Michael and others are presenting is an absolutist perversion of Popper’s analysis in which suppression is the first resort rather than the last and rational assessment of the threat is foregone altogether. It is a form of madness on a par with anything spouted by Siol nan Gaidheal. and arguably more pernicious. Because, while the threat to democracy posed by Siol nan Gaidheal is too small to be measured, the absolute intolerance proposed by Jason Michael is a very real threat to the Yes movement.

I repeat, with not the slightest hope that the import of the words will register on those intent on engineering an irrational fear of Siol nan Gaidheal, that nobody is suggesting unlimited tolerance of fascism. My own remarks on the matter are perfectly clear despite much malicious misrepresentation by others. Far from suggesting unlimited tolerance, I don’t suggest any tolerance at all. I merely point out that the Yes movement, as it is presently constituted, has no mechanisms by which to suppress – or exclude – any individual or group. Further to this, I assert that creating such mechanisms necessarily and irrevocably alters the fundamental nature of the Yes movement – in ways that many might regard as unfortunate, if not catastrophic.

Unlike Jason – who apparently believes that the people of Scotland are one Siol nan Gaidheal slogan away from descent into rabid fascism – I am totally confident that society as whole is perfectly capable of providing the appropriate level of suppression whenever it may be required. There is no need to destroy the Yes movement in order to save Scotland from the Siol nan Gaidheal bogey-man. Scotland does not so readily succumb to bogey-men.

Which brings us to the final bit of Jason’s inanity which I intend to address in what will be my last contribution to an exchange which has been as depressing and dispiriting for me as I’m sure it has been for all who value the Yes movement.

In the article referred to earlier I set out what I consider makes the Yes movement special, if not unique.

The Yes movement that I have known and cherished is open and inclusive. It is totally open and inclusive. It is open and inclusive, not because those who are part of the Yes movement choose that it should be so, but because it is incapable of being anything else. By it’s very nature, the Yes movement cannot be other than open and inclusive. It is devoid of the capacity to be exclusive. It lacks the structures, the hierarchies, the regulations and the apparatus required in order to formally include or exclude anyone.

Jason, and others, are quite explicit about their desire to destroy the fundamental character of the Yes movement by creating mechanisms by which any group or individual might be excluded. They say it’s only in relation to Siol nan Gaidheal. But when did it ever happen that the power of patronage was left unused having become available? Once mechanisms exist by which inclusion may be offered or exclusion threatened, that power will be used. That’s just the way the world is. That’s just the way people are.

I made myself unpopular by asking awkward questions about who exactly would wield this power of patronage newly created within what was formerly known as the Yes movement. Once the principle is accepted that inclusion in the Yes movement is conditional on satisfactorily passing a test of motives (Or whatever other tests may be devised. They tend to proliferate.), then all motives must be scrutinised. And some authority has to do the scrutinising. Some authority has to administer the test. Some authority has to adjudicate on who is deemed fit to be part of the Yes movement. Who would take on this authority?

Jason imagines he gets around this issue by proposing that it should be a matter of “general consensus”. More acute readers would immediately think of the obvious question which Jason is at pains to avoid either asking or answering – who decides when this “general consensus” has been arrived at? All this does is shift the power of patronage dangerously towards anonymity. It resolves precisely nothing.

Creating mechanisms by which any individual or group can be excluded and placing inclusion in the gift of some self-appointed, unaccountable clique spells the end of the Yes movement as we have known it. Worse! It destroys the essential inclusive character of the Yes movement for no good reason. It serves no purpose which is not already very adequately fulfilled by society as a whole.

At best, it is wantonly irresponsible. At worst, it is yet another attempt by some elitist clique to take ownership and control of the Yes movement. Either way, it is intolerable.


If you find these articles interesting please consider a small donation to help support this site and my other activities on behalf of Scotland’s independence campaign.

donate with paypal

donate with pingit

SNP Conference: Something missing

nicola_speechConference is over. I have that strange mix of feelings which tend to come in the wake of being part of an important event – part sad it’s over; part glad it’s over. Sad because an SNP Conference is an enjoyable and uplifting experience. This is real democracy at work. Especially as much of the last couple of days was taken up with protracted, complex and  – let’s face it – dry as dust internal matters.

Which is not to say these matters aren’t important. They most certainly are. The party is currently engaged in a process of internal reorganisation largely aimed at allowing more full and effective participation by all 100,000+ members. Obviously, I can’t go into detail on this. Not only because it is internal party business, but because it would make for the dullest blog in the entire history of blogging. Suffice it to say that, dreadfully dull and confusingly complex as these debates may be, their purpose is worthy and honourable.

There is, I suspect – although to the best of my knowledge this has never been formally studied – a strong correlation between the functional democracy within a political party and that party’s ability to properly serve democracy either in government or opposition. The very fact that the SNP is striving so hard for inclusiveness and engagement within its own structures and processes almost automatically makes it more fit to govern.

The mills of the SNP’s internal reorganisation may grind slowly. But the product will be worth the effort. Of that, I am supremely confident.

Then there’s the social side of things. After the business of the day is done, it’s time to turn to unwind. The evenings spent meeting with friends – old and new – from different parts of the country are as important in their way as anything which goes one at the conference venue.

While I’ve thoroughly enjoyed endless chats with countless folk over beer or a meal, I have to say that the highlight of this weekend’s entertainment was an evening spent in the company of one of Scotland’s brightest talents Alan Bissett. The author, playwright, poet and raconteur put on a specially prepared show in which he performed a selection of his work, including scenes from his plays and readings from his books. And it was wonderful.

Back to the serious business of conference. As well as the discussions on internal reorganisation mentioned above there were the resolutions to be debated – along with all the attendant amendments. This is where the party activists shine as they take to the platform to speak – often with great eloquence and passion – on a range of issues. It is these debates which shape party policy. This is the party talking to the leadership.

Then there’s the set-piece speeches. This is the leadership talking to the party and the public. There were some excellent speeches. There always are. John Swinney spoke with very obvious passion about his aspirations for Scotland’s education system; and just a little pride in the progress which has already been made. Nobody listening could possibly doubt that this is a man who genuinely cares about Scotland’s children and young people. Coming from anyone else, the words “Equal from birth! Equal in life!” might sound like an empty slogan. When John Swinney utters those words there is no mistaking the power of his commitment.

Mike Russell confirmed his role as Scotland’s champion in the battle to save Scotland’s Parliament from the rapacious depredations of ‘One Nation’ British Nationalism. He didn’t quite put it like that. But one gets a distinct sense that he’d like to. His anger at what the UK Government is attempting is every bit as genuine as John Swinney’s commitment to give Scotland a world-class education system. Both make it very clear that they see the Union as both a threat to what we have, and an obstacle to achieving more. Both are quite explicit about their determination to remove that obstacle.

And so to the grand finale. The big one. The Party Leader’s address to Conference. Nicola Sturgeon’s speech. Before commenting on this, it is important to note yet again the fact that the SNP two quite distinct roles. It is both the party of government – the administration, and the political arm of the independence movement. When Nicola Sturgeon speaks, she may do so in her role as First Minister, or as the de facto figurehead of the independence movement. Occasionally, as in her Conference address, she will speak in both roles.

The speech follows a fairly well established format. There are regular components, such as the tribute to the host city and the jokes at the expense of one or more British establishment figures. Generally, however, the speech can be divided into two parts – a listing of the Scottish Government’s achievements and announcement of significant new policy initiatives, and something on the constitutional issue. This reflects the party’s dual role.

In regard to the first, Nicola Sturgeon was superb. It would be surprising if she wasn’t given that she has such strong material to work with. Her administration’s achievements have been little short of miraculous when considered in the context of Westminster austerity and the debilitating constraints of devolution. The announcement too were impressive. The immediate pay rise for NHS Scotland staff being probably the standout example. I would urge you to read the speech in full so as to better appreciate what an excellent job the SNP administration is doing – whatever the media may say to the contrary.

It was when Nicola Sturgeon turned to the matter of independence and a new referendum that things went badly wrong.

Let me make this clear – although my remarks will inevitably be misrepresented regardless of any clarification. Nobody with an ounce of sense anticipated that Nicola Sturgeon would use her conference address to announce the date of a new referendum. That was never going to happen. She is far to astute to squander her options at this stage.

What may of us did hope for was some sense of awareness of the precariousness of Scotland’s situation and the need for urgency in addressing the threat to our Parliament and our democracy. At the very minimum we expected an acknowledgement of the rising power and presence of the Yes movement. We were given neither.

When Nicola Sturgeon said that we should not “focus on the ‘when’ of independence”, that felt like a rebuke to a Yes movement which is increasingly concerned that the the consequences of delaying the referendum are not being recognised or appreciated by the SNP leadership. Those concerns most certainly aren’t being addressed by senior SNP politicians. And those who hoped for better from Nicola Sturgeon must now be feeling extremely disappointed.

Perhaps worse, however, was the disregard – dare I say, disdain – for the Yes movement. In recent weeks there have been massively significant events which have shown how the Yes movement is growing, maturing and becoming more active. The marches in Glasgow and Dumfries, as well as The Gathering in Stirling, are rightly regarded by the wider independence movement as landmark events with great import for the independence cause. People are bound to be perplexed and offended that Nicola Sturgeon chose to ignore them.

It grieves me to say it, but Nicola has made a grave error of judgement. Doubtless, some will say that that she was ill-served by her advisers and speech writer. There is some merit in this argument. I can’t be the only one who cringed at references to “the NHS” rather than ‘NHS Scotland’. But, as Party Leader and First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon is ultimately responsible. The Scottish buck stops with her.

Listening to Nicola Sturgeon’s remarks about the referendum I got a sense of something bordering on complacency. In her failure to give to much as a hat-tip to the Yes movement, for the first time ever I got a disturbingly distinct impression of a political leader detached from the base of that movement.

PS – If you’d like to chat about events at the SNP Conference, I’ll be talking about my impressions and listening to yours at The Bridge Street Social Club on Sunday 10 June from 14:00.


If you find these articles interesting please consider a small donation to help support this site and my other activities on behalf of Scotland’s independence campaign.

donate with paypal

donate with pingit

SNP Conference: Fuel efficiency

snp_conference

As the first day of the SNP Conference dawns in Aberdeen, an atmosphere of anticipation is building. This weekend presents Nicola Sturgeon with a serious challenge. After the marches in Glasgow and Dumfries, it is evident that momentum is building within the Yes movement. The Gathering in Stirling, meanwhile, demonstrates the extent to which the Yes movement has matured. Four years ago, it was a bairn; full of youthful enthusiasm and endowed with the impertinence to do stuff just because nobody told them they couldn’t.

Now, the Yes movement has grown into formidable political and social force. Now, it knows exactly what it can do. The Yes movement has the power to shake and shape nations. Nicola Sturgeon will be well aware of this. And she will know that she has to treat this power with respect.

The Yes movement is hungry for action. Being older and wiser it is not reckless enough to demand action for its own sake. It is well aware of the political realities and the demands on the SNP leader’s political judgement. But the Yes movement needs to be fed. Nicola Sturgeon has to give them something this weekend.

Some in the Yes movement will not be satisfied with anything less than a firm date for the new referendum. They will almost certainly have to go unsatisfied. But there must, at the very least, be some acknowledgement of the fact that the Yes movement is a factor in Nicola Sturgeon’s deliberations.

Too often and too much, perhaps, we hear about the significance of Brexit; and economics; and the antics of the British government; and the polls. There is a danger that the Yes movement may feel sidelined in all of this. There is a real risk that, if its significance is not adequately recognised, the enthusiasm may turn to resentment.

It is difficult to know quite what form of words will allow Nicola Sturgeon to keep the Yes movement on board and positively engaged without closing off valuable options in her dealings with the British government. But she will have to find those words. The energy of the Yes movement is what fuels the independence cause. Nicola Sturgeon has the unenviable task of ensuring that fuel does not burn to fast too soon.

It all makes for great political drama. And I’ll be there watching.

PS – If you’d like to chat about events at the SNP Conference, I’ll be talking about my impressions and listening to yours at The Bridge Street Social Club on Sunday 10 June from 14:00.


If you find these articles interesting please consider a small donation to help support this site and my other activities on behalf of Scotland’s independence campaign.

donate with paypal

donate with pingit

 

Irresistible force

gatheringThey should just give up. Theresa May and her trusted lieutenants, Ruth Davidson and David Mundell, should simply abandon the ‘One Nation’ British Nationalist project. Davidson should tell her faithful allies, Richard Leonard and Willie Rennie, the game’s a bogey. If, as she shovels stinking fish-guts of prevarication and obfuscation over the stern of Brexit-bound Britain, May had caught a glimpse of The Gathering, she’d have turned to the other ‘One Nation’ British Nationalists and mumbled, “We’re gonna need a bigger lie!”.

On Sunday 27 May, around 500 activists from Scotland’s Yes movement assembled at the Albert Halls in Stirling to discuss matters such as organising and funding the movement; currency and national debt; voting systems; the economy; a written constitution and several topics relating to campaigning in a new independence referendum – which pretty much everybody seemed to agree is imminent.

The event was organised and run by the National Yes Registry, a group dedicated to developing networks connecting the baffling number and range of groups which make up what must be one of the biggest grass-roots democratic movements ever known. A movement with absolutely no formal hierarchy but which, nonetheless, manages to be coordinated without being directed and to find leadership where it is required without having any recognised or recognisable leaders.

The sheer ambition of The Gathering would have made a seasoned professional event organiser blanch. To say that the agenda for the full-day event was packed would be a risible understatement. The complexity involved in some of the activities and the need to marshal so many people meant that the potential for the thing to collapse into chaos was ever-present. And yet the whole event went off without a hitch. Other than some minor timetable slippage such is inevitable, The Gathering worked like a precision machine building itself out of a confusing array of disparate bits gathered from across the geographic and social length and breadth of Scotland.

It was an impressive sight to behold. But this was very much more than a happy-clappy group-bonding experience. There was serious business being attended to. There was a purpose to it all. Beneath the informal atmosphere and amicable discussion there was an intensity and earnestness that spoke of people with a common purpose. For all the banter and bonhomie, there was no mistaking the strand of steely resolve running through proceedings. This is about rescuing Scotland from an anachronistic, anomalous, dysfunctional political Union which is increasingly deleterious to our nation’s interests and a ‘One Nation’ British Nationalist project which represents a growing threat to Scotland’s democracy.

By way of illustrating the serious business of The Gathering, one of the five topics chosen from the original list of 21 for more detailed discussion was the concept of reframing and how it might be useful to the Yes campaign.

A frame, or frame of reference, is a complex schema of ingrained and unquestioned beliefs, values and attitudes by which we infer meaning from words and actions. By changing any part of that frame – or reframing – meaning can be altered.

The process of reframing involves distancing from the actual words and actions in order to consider the construct of assumptions, preconceptions and prejudices which bestows meaning to them. It is then possible to envisage and formulate alternative constructs which give a different meaning to those words and actions. Selected attributes of the existing frames can be disregarded or downplayed while other other aspects are emphasised so as to create a new frame, and new meaning.

Something seen as a problem can be reframed as an opportunity. A weakness can be reframed as a strength. Negatives can be reframed as positives. Understand the frame within which something is interpreted and it becomes possible to devise a frame which prompts a different interpretation.

gathering_pab

The work-group which elected to deal with reframing came up with some ideas relating directly to the Yes campaign. It was suggested that the ‘Too wee! Too poor! Too stupid!’ narrative of Project Fear could be reframed as ‘Big enough! Clever enough! Rich enough!’.

The group proposed that the always contentious ‘currency issue’ should be reframed by ignoring the ‘What currency?’ question and asking instead ‘Is Scotland capable of managing its own currency affairs?’. Thus, a frame of challenged entitlement and uncertain resolution is replaced with a frame of straightforward competence.

More broadly, it was put to the plenary session of The Gathering that the entire independence cause could be reorientated by taking the question asked in the 2014 referendum, ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’, and reframing it as, ‘Should the Union be dissolved?’.

Although it’s obviously not simply a matter of changing the question, but of imbuing a whole new mindset, it can readily be seen how this reframing alters the whole tenor of the constitutional debate. It takes it from a frame in which Scotland is the presumptuous supplicant petitioning a superior British state for some favour, to a frame in which Scotland is merely asserting its right to restore its normal constitutional status by withdrawing from an outmoded and untenable political union to which it has been nominally an equal party.

It is this kind of thinking and planning which intimates that the Yes movement has matured and evolved. It has developed into an extraordinary democratic phenomenon which, while retaining its original diversity, openness and informality, has become a force which, when applied to a unified, focused and disciplined political campaign, now seems irresistible.

This article was written for the June issue of iScot Magazine. As you will have noted, it gives away some of the secrets of the Yes movement’s clandestine plans to restore Scotland to constitutional normality. The magazine has already gone to print. So the only way to prevent this material falling into the wrong hands is for Yes supporters to buy up all copies as soon as they become available.


If you find these articles interesting please consider a small donation to help support this site and my other activities on behalf of Scotland’s independence campaign.

donate with paypal

donate with pingit

 

New referendum! New mindset!

If an independence referendum were to be called today and the SNP go it alone and be the official ‘Yes’ campaign and it’s SNP versus everyone else, we will lose based solely on voting history. – Chris McEleny

referendum_2018_petitionIf the Yes campaign is to succeed in the coming independence referendum we urgently need a fresh mindset. Sorry, Chris! But this is not it.

Let me say first of all that, having seen him perform in two Depute Leader contests, I have considerable respect for Chris McEleny. I have not the slightest doubt that he is destined to play a major role in Scotland’s politics. But I would suggest that he might benefit from shaking off some of the more conventional thinking that is evident from his views on the new independence referendum.

In some respects, Chris has already done this. He has been prepared to break from the herd and at least put a time-frame around the new referendum. He has said that the vote should be held within eighteen months. Which is a considerable improvement on the indefinite postponement being advocated by some in the SNP. But eighteen months is plenty of time for the British state to do massive damage to Scotland’s democratic institutions and public services. As with the more tremulous Postponers, I’ve yet to hear him explain how he’d go about preventing ‘One Nation’ British Nationalists wreaking the havoc that they promise.

A curious thing about Chris’s approach – which seems to be fairly typical of what is becoming the conventional thinking on the matter – is the insistence that “we need to think differently”, quickly followed by a ‘plan’ for the new Yes campaigned so closely modelled on the first one as to be barely distinguishable. Meet the “new Yes Scotland team”! Just like the old Yes Scotland team!

The other thing that puts Chris with the conventional thinkers is the idea that a constitutional referendum can be reduced to a mathematical formula. If our ambitions are limited by “voting history” then we will never even aim for anything, far less achieve it. The nature and form of our activism cannot be dictated by history if we are to have any hope of shaping the future. We will not do what needs to be done by succumbing to the notion that we can only ever do what has been done.

The whole point of campaigning is to make future outcomes different from past outcomes.

I have never heard anybody suggest that the SNP “go it alone”. Never! I constantly hear people insisting that the SNP is not the whole of the independence movement. But I have yet to hear anybody make the claim that it is. I really don’t know what purpose is served by incessantly denying something which, not only isn’t asserted, but is actually impossible.

What needs to be recognised is that the SNP is the political arm of the Yes movement. The independence campaign desperately needs an injection of hard-headed political realism. We have to stop pandering to the various factions which, for whatever reason, resent the SNP’s crucial role. We have to face up to them and tell them straight that the sniping has to stop. We have to get across to every Yes supporters the reality of our situation. Which is that the sure way to lose is to fight the same campaign we fought for the 2014 referendum.

We have to drive home the hard political reality that we will only win by putting the full weight of the Yes movement behind Nicola Sturgeon.

It’s not that complicated! The effective political power provided by the SNP is essential to the independence project. As a political party constrained by its constitution as well as the policies and positions approved by its members, the SNP cannot change to accommodate the diversity of the Yes movement. Therefore, the Yes movement must accommodate the SNP.

It’s not that difficult! The Yes movement doesn’t actually have to change. It doesn’t have to ‘become’ the SNP. It only has to recognise that the movement is not the campaign. The Yes movement and the SNP remain distinct. But both serve a campaign. And that campaign has to be fronted by the SNP for the glaringly obvious reason that the SNP is at the front of the campaign. It is at the point where the independence movement comes up against the British state.

What is the point of the Yes movement putting its weight behind some “new Yes Scotland team” when, almost by definition, that “team” can have no effective political power? A team which is formed for the very purpose of pandering to the factions whose aversion to effective political power outweighs their commitment to the cause of restoring Scotland’s rightful constitutional status.

The Yes movement doesn’t need to be told to “embrace moderate views, socialist philosophies, environmental, radical and democratic thinking”. The Yes movement already does that. The Yes movement is diverse, open and unconstrained. It doesn’t need this to be mediated by a “new Yes team” which will no more represent all of that immensely broad character than the SNP does.

The Yes movement must feed its power directly into a Yes campaign which, in contrast to its own character, is united, focused and disciplined. Like a real, professional political campaign has to be.

This united, focused and disciplined campaign must go on the attack in a way that simply didn’t happen in the 2014 effort. The Union has never been so fragile. It has never been so vulnerable. The Yes campaign must exploit the British state’s weaknesses as ruthlessly and relentlessly as may be consistent with fighting a principled campaign.

The solidarity, focus, discipline and aggression of that campaign then needs to be put at the service of the SNP and, ultimately, Nicola Sturgeon.

The power of the Yes movement must not be diffused by being filtered through some compromise ‘team’. It must not be diverted to some substitute ‘leader’. The power must be directed where it will be most effective.

That is realpolitik. That is how we win.


If you find these articles interesting please consider a small donation to help support this site and my other activities on behalf of Scotland’s independence campaign.

donate with paypal

donate with pingit

 

Politics meets physics

pushedCarolyn Leckie informs us that she finds it tiresome to be told that, regardless of their standing in the Yes movement, non-members of the SNP do not enjoy the same status within the party as those who actually pay their dues as members. It irks her, apparently, that SNP activists have the gall to insist that she has less right to influence party policy than those who devote their time and resources to working through the SNP’s democratic internal procedures.

Imagine my dismay.

I don’t suppose Ms Leckie is much interested in the actual views of an actual SNP member; preferring her own grotesque caricature of blind party loyalty, bigoted intolerance and political sectarianism. But what I find tiresome are the entirely redundant reminders that the SNP is not the independence movement. What irks me is the notion that it’s frightfully clever and a sign of great political sophistication to contradict a claim that nobody has ever made.

What irritates me is high-minded lecturing about the vital importance of “broad alliances” when I am aware that it was the SNP which, prior to the first independence referendum, set up Yes Scotland precisely to facilitate such alliances. I surely won’t be the only SNP member to find this supercilious scolding all the more annoying when I recall so vividly the hours spent on streets and doorsteps and on campaign buses and in meeting halls the length and breadth of the country in the company of similarly motivated people from across every divide in Scottish society bar the one that separates those who aspire to a better, fairer, more prosperous nation from those devoted to the preservation of an anachronistic and dysfunctional political union at whatever cost to Scotland.

I wonder at the lack of self-awareness which allows Carolyn Leckie to recognise that the Scottish Government is being pounded daily by the media while rebuking those who seek to defend against this propaganda onslaught for supposedly succumbing to the temptation to denounce anyone who criticises the Scottish Government or deviates from SNP policy. To point out the folly of those within the Yes camp who thoughtlessly parrot the British Nationalist narrative of the mainstream media is in no way equivalent to branding them “some kind of traitor to the Yes movement”; and to suggest that it is seems no more than an attempt to silence those who condemn pointless sniping at the SNP administration.

Nobody is suggesting, or ever has suggested, that the SNP administration should be immune from criticism. But those who have sense enough to recognise how essential the SNP is to the independence project should also be sensible enough to avoid the temptation to denounce the Scottish Government or the party on the basis of smears, distortions and downright lies promulgated by media they know to be massively prejudiced. And those who dont have the wits to avoid this temptation fully deserve whatever condemnation comes their way.

Which brings me to another thing that I find tiresome. Namely, those whose eagerness to flaunt their non-SNP credentials overwhelms their intellectual appreciation of realpolitik. I am irked by someone who can acknowledge that the SNP is by far the “largest chunk [of the independence movement] , in terms of both activists and voters” but then insist that it is the SNP which must accommodate the minority who have “no strong affinity with the party”.

To put it bluntly, what is being suggested is that the leadership of the SNP should disregard the membership and the policies and positions developed by the party as whole to do the bidding of that part of the Yes movement which chooses not to participate in the process of developing those policies and positions.

Stripped of all the fine rhetoric about broad alliances this can be seen for the totally unrealistic nonsense that it is.

Carolyn Leckie is so intent on delivering her three lessons that need to be taken on board by both the SNP leadership and the party’s activist base that she remains woefully oblivious to even the possibility that it might be she and others who opt for waggy-fingered lecturing over open-minded listening who have lessons to learn.

Let’s not get side-tracked by puzzling over an appropriate way of responding to the haughty presumption that bids such people think they have the right and the authority to dictate to the SNP leadership and party activists. Let us, instead, remain focused on a rational consideration of the lessons that might usefully be taken on board by those who prefer to pontificate from the giddy heights of the moral and intellectual superiority they supposedly gain by standing proudly aloof from the hot, sweaty, noisy engine-room of democratic politics.

The SNP is the de facto political arm of Scotland’s independence movement. The Yes movement needs to learn, not just to acknowledge this incontrovertible fact, but to embrace it. The Yes movement needs to learn to celebrate the fact that the independence project at last has access to effective political power. Most crucially, the Yes movement needs to learn how this effective political power can be used most effectively. And, just as importantly, how the SNP cannot be used.

The SNP cannot possibly be a vehicle for every pressure group, political faction and policy agenda in Scotland. It can only ever be a vehicle for the policies and positions determined and/or approved by the membership. These constraints cannot simply be ignored. The party cannot realistically be expected to bend to the whim of any or every part of a Yes movement which is so extraordinarily diverse.

The SNP not only isn’t the independence movement, it cannot possibly be the independence movement. It is, by any reasoned analysis, impossible for the SNP to be the independence movement. Which only makes the incessant reminders that it isn’t the independence movement all the more irritatingly, irksomely, tiresomely superfluous.

Next lesson! The SNP is absolutely essential to the independence movement. It is the de facto political arm of the independence movement. It has taken decades to grow that political arm. The independence movement will not quickly grow another political arm should this one be lost or crippled. So the Yes movement needs to learn to look after it. It doesn’t matter a **** whether or not you like the SNP, it’s all you’ve got. Its all you’re going to get in anything remotely close to the time-frame within which we must act if Scotland is to be saved from the ravages of a rampant One Nation British Nationalist ideology.

The Yes movement needs to learn, if not to love the SNP, then at least to accept the vital role that the party plays in achieving the aims of the Yes movement. (I might add that political progressives also need to learn that, whatever their opinion of the SNP, it represents their best and almost certainly their only hope of maintaining a political environment in which progressive politics can at least survive.)

Let’s now put these two lessons together and see where that takes us. We know two things. We know that the SNP is absolutely vital to the independence project in that effective political power is required and only the SNP is in a position to provide that effective political power. We know that the SNP cannot be the independence movement in that it cannot accommodate within itself all the diversity of the independence movement. What conclusion do we arrive at when we put these two pieces of knowledge together?

The obvious conclusion is that it must be the wider independence movement which accommodates the SNP. There is no other way that it can work. The error made by Carolyn Leckie and all too many others is to start from the conclusion that the SNP must do all the work needed to facilitate those “broad alliances” and work backwards from that shaping their arguments to serve this preconception.

The Yes movement must learn that, to succeed, there is no alternative but to accept the SNP as it is. Because, even if the party was as susceptible to external pressure as some want it to be, not even internal influence is going to change the SNP into something that accords with every facet of the Yes movement. I repeat! The SNP cannot possibly be the independence movement. It can only be a tool of the Yes movement. And the Yes movement better learn how to use that tool both thoroughly and quickly.

The analogy (recently adapted slightly) which seems to find most favour with those who have appreciated the realpolitik goes like this –

  • The SNP is the lever by which Scotland will be extricated from the Union.
  • The Scottish Government, and particularly the First Minister, represents the fulcrum on which that lever moves.
  • The Scottish Parliament is the solid ground on which the fulcrum rests.
  • The Yes movement is the force which must be applied to the lever in order to make it work.

Remove, disable or weaken any part of this arrangement, and the entire effort fails. Perhaps the best lesson a non-SNP member can learn is some basic Newtonian physics.

NOTE: It was necessary to edit this blog as, when I started writing it, the article appeared under a different by-line.


If you find these articles interesting please consider a small donation to help support this site and my other activities on behalf of Scotland’s independence campaign.

donate with paypal

donate with pingit

A mighty force

I’m suffering from blogger’s guilt. A blog is a hungry and a demanding beast. It wants to be fed all the time. Fail to feed it, and it whines and nags and nips and nibbles at your conscience until you’re forced to bash out something just to appease the monster.

Not that I don’t have lots to say. But I feel a certain responsibility to consider whether people want to hear it. Or read it. I know, for example, that more than a few people are uncomfortable with some of the things I say about the way the Yes movement behaved in the first referendum campaign. Others are disinclined to listen to the arguments for #Referendum2018; having already made up their minds that delay – undefined if not indefinite – until some ‘optimum’ moment – undefined if not indefinable – is the smart strategy.

My views on how the new referendum campaign should be conducted by no means find favour with everybody. And I often get an adverse reaction to some of the things I say when talk turns, as it invariably does, to the economic arguments which are imposed on the constitutional debate.

It is a token of how open-minded people in the Yes movement are that they are prepared to turn out, even in the most atrocious weather, to take part in events.where I’m speaking. I have the utmost respect and affection for these people. These are good people. These are the people who make democracy work.

There are things that people don’t really want to hear. But the people I’m meeting still want these things to be said. If that sounds contradictory then all I can offer is the truism that people are complicated. Let’s leave it at that.

I think it is generally accepted that the first referendum campaign transformed Scottish politics. The media and the British establishment are desperate to drag us back to the arid rhetoric, monochromatic simplicity and faux rivalries of the old two-party politics. But the Yes movement is not for abandoning the rich vein of political discourse uncovered during the two-year period leading up to the vote in September 2014. I am forcefully reminded of this every time I attend an event such as the one in Tain last night (Monday 5 March).

A couple of dozen people defied the rain and the cold and the snow still piled deep everywhere to gather together in a room in the Duthac Centre (see picture above) to give me a fair hearing and then point out where I’d got it wrong. The discussion went on for almost three hours, and we still weren’t done. As ever, the business of the evening was conducted in a spirit of goodwill, high spirits and great comradeship. It was productive. But it was also good fun.

I have always thought that the Yes movement is something special. The more I meet with the people who are part of this great popular phenomenon, the more I am convinced that we are witnessing a powerful wave of democratic dissent such as has rarely been seen. The Yes movement is a mighty force made up of people who are simultaneously ordinary and remarkable.

I always come away from these occasions having learned something. I also come away thinking this Yes movement of ours can achieve anything. If that mighty force is tapped and deployed and channelled in the right way, nothing that the imperious British state can do will prevent the restoration of Scotland’s independence.

Now that I’ve tossed a few morsels to the blog monster, I can start preparing for the next event on my wee Highlands & Islands tour, which is at the Pentland Hotel in Thurso this evening. Maybe I’ll see you there.


If you find these articles interesting please consider a small donation to help support this site and my other activities on behalf of Scotland’s independence campaign.

donate with paypal

donate with pingit