Under pressure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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The mechanical and the organic

There’s a strong sense that Ian Blackford is being politic. That he is saying what was required in response to direct criticism. I do not get the impression that this is a thoughtful response. The sentiment is worthy. But sentiment alone is not sufficient.

The criticism that the wider Yes movement is being ignored by the SNP is dismissed with just the right amount of sincerity tinged with precisely the correct degree of indignation. The warmth of the reassurance is nicely calculated. The idea of a shared aim is well conveyed. But what does any of it mean in practical terms?

I want to know how, exactly, we are all supposed to “work collectively together”. I know the Yes movement takes lectures from nobody when it comes to networking and cooperation. I also know that the SNP runs a formidable election-winning machine. What I want to know is how the various components might be brought together to develop and conduct an effective referendum campaign.

I know that Nicola Sturgeon is just the kind of political leader the nation needs at this time. I know that the Yes movement has evolved to find find leadership as it is required. But can Nicola Sturgeon provide the leadership that the Yes movement needs. And can the Yes movement accept Nicola Sturgeon as the source of that leadership?

I know that a political movement and a political party are very different beasts. How might both be harnessed to a campaign which stands apart from both party and movement?

I appreciate the conciliatory tone of Ian Blackford’s remarks. But I want to hear his thoughts on how party and movement arrive at a functioning accommodation. Or, if that is too much to ask, at least some indication that he and his colleagues are thinking about the practical aspect of that accommodation.



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Two messages

What better way to follow up the tremendous success of the SNP in the European Parliament elections than with a highly visible public display of support for independence? And what better way to help create that highly visible public display of support for Scotland’s cause than to attend the All Under One Banner March in Galashiels on Saturday 1 June?

No sane, sober and sensible person can deny that the EU election result in Scotland is a triumph for the SNP. (And for progressive politics in Scotland; let’s not forget the Scottish Greens’ 8% on top of the SNP’s 38%.) So perhaps we should draw a discreet veil over this Tweet from Stirling Tories.

Ignore the SNP spin. The fact is that in a depressed turnout election, where they sunk a lot of effort Scotland-wide to get their vote out and saw their opponents struggling, they’ve gone nowhere from their 2017 GE result.

No-one has won from these elections that no-one wanted.

https://t.co/iHKaaz5DHq— Stirling Tories (@stirling_tories) May 27, 2019

Or perhaps not.

This was also a massive boost for the independence cause – even if Nicola Sturgeon seemed initially reluctant to include the Yes movement in her own celebration of the result.

Formal declaration to come, but clear now that @theSNP has won the Euro election emphatically – we are on course to take 3 out of 6 seats. A historic victory. And Scotland has rejected Brexit again. 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿🇪🇺🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) May 26, 2019

Perhaps we should set aside, for the moment, her extraordinary focus on Brexit and look instead on what the First Minister said later.

“If all Westminster has to offer is more chaos and confusion – potentially under the premiership of an extreme Tory Brexiteer – then more and more people will come to the conclusion that Scotland’s future is best served as an independent country.”

Not quite the bold, decisive call to action that many in the Yes movement are awaiting. But at least there’s a mention of the independence cause. Let’s all be grateful for that.

Fortunately, the Yes movement is self-motivating. We act of our own volition and do what we reckon needs to be done. Much as we would wish for some leadership from the SNP, it is clear this is not going to be forthcoming. So we find leadership where we may. Or, to be more precise, leadership arises within the Yes movement where and when it is needed. And, when the need passes, it merges again into the body of the Yes family.

So, we will gather in Galashiels on Saturday 1 June. We will march. We will sing. We will chant. We will wave flags and hold aloft banners. We will make and listen to speeches. We will enjoy music. We will be together. We will be joyous. Some of us will be sore.

We will do all of this for as many reasons as there are people attending. We will certainly do it to send a message to those who sneer at the SNP’s electoral success with the same contempt they have for Scotland’s people, Scotland’s democratic institutions and Scotland’s distinctive political culture. The message is, “We’ve had enough!”

But we will also be sending a message to Nicola Sturgeon. A respectful but forceful message.

IT IS TIME!



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The aim

I think after all of the experience of the last three years, Scotland should have the opportunity to decide whether we want to become an independent European nation.

Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland

First Minister,

As you will surely be aware, the constitution of the Scottish National Party states the aims of the party as follows –

(a) Independence for Scotland; that is the restoration of Scottish national sovereignty by restoration of full powers to the Scottish Parliament, so that its authority is limited only by the sovereign power of the Scottish People to bind it with a written constitution and by such agreements as it may freely enter into with other nations or states or international organisations for the purpose of furthering international cooperation, world peace and the protection of the environment.

(b) The furtherance of all Scottish interests.

Constitution of the Scottish National Party

The first of these aims could just as readily stand as a mission statement for the entire independence movement. That is why the Scottish National Party is the de facto political arm of that movement. That is why you, as leader of the party, are the person to whom the Yes movement looks for leadership. That is why, ultimately, you are the individual in whom is invested the hope and trust of every man, woman and child who is part of the Yes movement.

It is that single objective which unites us. Regardless of our views on any issue of public policy, we are all bound by that common purpose. Whatever differences there may be in our vision of Scotland’s future, we all share that same aspiration – the restoration of Scottish national sovereignty by restoration of full powers to the Scottish Parliament.

There is no ambiguity about that stated aim. There is no equivocation. No caveats or conditions. No reservations or qualifications or provisions. It embraces and enshrines the essential principle of democracy – that all legitimate political authority derives from the people. That the people are sovereign. It is a complete, concise and coherent statement. It says all that need be said. Understand that statement, and you understand everything that matters about Scotland’s independence cause.

To reject that statement would be to reject democracy. To fail to vigorously and unhesitatingly pursue the aims set out in that statement would be a betrayal of Scotland’s interests and Scotland’s cause.

So, First Minister, please allow me to suggest a couple of amendments to the comment you made to Andrew Marr.

I think after all of the experience of the last three HUNDRED years, Scotland should DEMAND that it become an independent European nation AGAIN!


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The point of it all

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Why are we marching?

Today, the Yes movement marches in Glasgow. As many as 100,000 people from every corner of Scotland will converge on the city for what will be one of the biggest political demonstrations our nation has ever seen.

If past events are any guide, it will be a joyous occasion attended by people of all ages and from all walks of life. There will be bands. There will be flags. There will be speeches. There will be people from other parts of the world – individuals and groups who have travelled many hundreds or even thousands of kilometres to lend their support to Scotland’s Yes movement. There will be songs. There will be chants. There will be smiles and laughter.

There will be the energy of people motivated by a great cause. A worthy cause. A just cause.

There will be the excitement of knowing the time is at hand when gatherings such as that today in Glasgow will seem like mere rehearsals for Scotland’s Independence Day celebrations.

But why are we marching? What is the purpose of today’s event and the many more which All Under One Banner has planned for the months ahead?

Are we marching to tell Theresa May that we’ve had enough? Are we marching to tell the British parties that they have failed Scotland’s people? Are we marching to send a message to the British Government in London?

What would be the point of that? They’re not listening! They never listened before. They’re not listening now. And there is no possibility that they ever will listen.

They’re not listening because they don’t care. The British political elite cares less than nothing for Scotland’s needs and priorities; our hopes and aspirations. The whole point of the Union is that they don’t have to care. They don’t have to care because nothing we say or do can have any meaningful impact.

As Brexit has demonstrated so vividly, the Union ensures that the people of Scotland cannot be politically effective within the British state. Therefore, we can safely be ignored by British politicians.

We may be tossed a few crumbs from time to time. The British ruling elite may consider it expedient to experiment with devolution, secure in the knowledge that they retain the power to strip it all away with a stroke of a pen. The power which rightfully belongs to the people of Scotland has been taken from them by the Union. We may insist that the people are sovereign. But as long as we accept the Union, we will never be allowed to properly exercise that sovereignty.

Marching to send a message to the British government is futile. Petitioning the British government for our democratic right of self-determination is both futile and demeaning. It is not the British government we need to be addressing.

The Yes movement marches in Glasgow today, not to send an angry message to the British Prime Minister, but to send a hopeful message to Scotland’s First Minister.

There is no point hoping that the British government will respond to our democratic demands. That’s not how the British state works. That not what the Union is for. Only the Scottish Government has the power to act on our behalf. Only the Scottish Government has the mandate to do what is required. Only the Scottish Parliament has democratic legitimacy and the rightful authority to speak for Scotland.

We march in Glasgow today to tell Nicola Sturgeon that now is the time to act. To assure her that she has our full backing. To insist that she join with the Yes movement in order that, together, we may restore the powers of Scotland’s Parliament, the sovereignty of Scotland’s people and the pride of our nation by ending the Union.


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Gathering our strength


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.

I wrote the above after the first National Yes Registry Gathering back in May. I think you can tell from my comments that I was greatly impressed and enthused by an event which brought together hundreds of Yes activists in Stirling’s Albert Hall to discuss matters such as organising and funding the movement; currency and national debt; voting systems; the economy; a written constitution and, of course, campaigning in a new independence referendum.

I am now looking forward to the second such event – Gathering 2 – which takes place on Saturday 24 November. The venue, once again, is the Albert Hall, Stirling and registration is from 09:00. Tickets for the full-day event cost £14 and can be obtained from Eventbrite.

I cannot stress enough how important these events are to the Yes movement and the cause of independence. Our strength lies, not in great wealth or charismatic leadership, but in grassroots numbers and our ability to find leadership where and when it is required. To maximise this strength, we must develop powerful networks which allow us to tap into the skills of individuals and the resources of groups and use the collective power of the Yes movement to greatest effect. The movement must organise in order to campaign. The Gatherings are a highly effective way to network and organise.

But Gathering 2 is special for another reason. As you will be aware, the SNP has been seeking to consult as widely as possible on the Sustainable Growth Commission Report. To this end, the party held a series of National Assemblies for the purpose of consultation among members of the SNP. But the party was always determined to widen this consultation and Depute Leader Keith Brown MSP has joined with National Yes Registry with the aim of establishing a framework for engaging as fully as possible with the Yes movement. As Gathering 2 organiser Janey MacDonald says,

This is the very first grassroots-run consultation to be officially sanctioned by any Scottish party of government. It’s a historic moment for Yes, and underlines how essential it is that as many of our movement take part in the Gathering as possible, to maximise the legitimacy of this unique opportunity and directly influence power. Come and add your voice.

This is no exaggeration. Gathering 2 promises to be a transformational exercise for both the Yes movement and for the SNP. It is emblematic of the distinctive political culture that we are developing in Scotland. This is how we want, and intend, to do politics. This is democracy in action. The Yes movement has, for some time now, been reaching out to the SNP as its de facto political arm. This cooperation between the party and National Yes Registry represents the SNP’s positive and constructive response.It is no exaggeration at all to say that this changes everything. And you can be part of this change. You can be there as history is made. You can help shape that history.

Which still leaves us with a campaign to prepare for the moment when Nicola Sturgeon initiates the final phase of the project to restore Scotland’s rightful constitutional status. At Gathering 2 you will not only have the opportunity to help set parameters for the official grassroots’ consultation on the Sustainable Growth Commission Report, you will also see the launch of the newly-completed IndyApp 2.0 and be able to participate in a range of seminars and discussions. Most notably, perhaps, on the ‘hot topic’ of reframing.

Keith Brown himself will be attending Gathering 2 along with Sustainable Growth Commission Report authors Jim Mather & Roger Mullin, who will give a short presentation and be available to answer questions and take points from the various working groups.

In addition, there will be a seminar on reframing led by recognised experts Bill Mills and Dr. June Maxwell – with ample opportunity to discuss and learn about this fascinating subject.

But the most important people at Gathering 2 will be the grassroots Yes activists who are prepared to give of their time and talents to make all of this work. I urge you to attend and participate if you possibly can. You will be contributing to a uniquely important exercise in policy consultation. You will be helping to create the campaign which will lead to the restoration of Scotland’s independence. And you will also enjoy a most inspiring and rewarding experience.


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