Spare us your Brexit baubles

Some clarification is required. Unintentionally, I’m sure, the impression is being given that the UK Government might negotiate a deal with the EU which would be satisfactory as a substitute for independence. I know that this is not what the First Minister intends to convey. Her priority is to ensure that she is seen to be open to compromise and to avoid giving EU leaders cause to suppose she is merely using Brexit to leverage independence. But, as so often happens, this nuanced politics is simplified by the media to the point where all the subtleties are lost. Complex situations tend to become simple dichotomies as they pass through the media mincer.

Let us be clear. There is no such get-out clause for the British state. There is no acceptable substitute for independence. Even if, by some process of magic, Theresa May did manage to get a surprisingly good deal from the EU, the demand for independence would remain.

Sean Swan, a Lecturer in the Department of Political Science at Gonzaga University, put it rather well.

“The reason Brexit justifies calling a referendum on Scottish independence lies not in the fact that the Brexit referendum produced different results in England and in Scotland, but in the London government’s reaction to this fact. Scotland’s government, virtually all its MPs, and a clear majority of its people, are opposed to leaving the EU. That fact, as far as London is concerned, is irrelevant. It is there that the democratic outrage lies. It would still be a democratic outrage regardless of what the particular issue was. The point is the negation of Scotland’s democratic will, not the EU question as such.”

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Journey to Yes…

These excellent videos are worth watching:

A big thanks to Phantom Power.

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A good bit of intolerance…

Yesterday, I lost some followers on Twitter because I had dared to suggest that the Scottish parliament should not be suspended for the rest of the day but to carry on as usual.

“How dare you, show some respect for the dead” I was told.  The comment that made me really angry was the inference that I was saying it because I wanted the Indy vote to still go ahead, which is utter rubbish.  I live in England and it doesn’t affect me one way or the other if that vote had taken place.  I would have said the same thing regardless of what the business of the day was.  How dare someone try and state that about me!

I had every sympathy for what was taking place, and I felt sorry for those that were killed or injured, but, it was not Holyrood that was under attack.  I believe, that in the face of terrorism the best thing to do is carry on our daily business as usual.  If we don’t, then terrorism wins – plain and simple.

By all means, disagree with me, but unfollow?  Really?  At a time when the so-called supporters for a new referendum talk about being inclusive and respect those that voted ‘No’ last time, they unfollow you because they disagree with something one says or thinks.  They don’t sound very inclusive to me.  If this is what an independent Scotland would look like, then you know what, I don’t want any part of it.

There is no place for intolerance, especially where freedom of speech is concerned.

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Appropriate behaviour

On social media, and perhaps elsewhere, there has been some questioning of the appropriateness of suspending proceedings at Holyrood in the wake of the incident in London yesterday. Regardless of the merits of this particular case, such questioning raises a valid point. How do we rate these incidents? How do we keep score? What criteria do we use to decide which incidents are worth suspending parliament for and which aren’t?

There will always be somebody who considers any incident serious enough to warrant this kind of response. How do we tell them we regard that incident as relatively trivial?

I’m not saying it was wrong to suspend proceedings at Holyrood. That was a matter for the parliamentary authorities. They had to use their judgement. And there were doubtless practical considerations in this instance. But it is inevitable that, at some point and in some circumstances, that judgement will be called into question.

These things tend to escalate. Once suspending proceedings is introduced as a token of respect, increasing numbers of people will demand that same token as the due response in circumstances they identify as warranting it – genuinely or as a political device. The exceptional gesture becomes first a desirable bauble, then a valued commodity and eventually a general ‘right’.

It also develops into a weapon. Failure or refusal to afford the tribute is used as a stick with which to beat opponents.

It’s akin to the Princess Di effect. Mourning becomes a competitive spectator event. The worth of the deceased is measured by the number and size of the improvised shrines erected in their memory; and the amount of ‘impromptu’ public grieving that is caught by cameras; and the number of times some mawkish message is retweeted.

Afraid to be considered disrespectful, people join in the snowballing process. Unwilling to allow that their favourite dead celebrity is somehow less worthy of celebration than some other dead celebrity, they try to outdo one another in the theatricality of their ceremonials.

Very quickly, it all becomes a bit tacky. Eventually, it gets to be quite obscene.

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Shrinking the numbers

There is a reason for British nationalists’ desperate and dishonest efforts to minimise public demand for a new independence referendum – apart from the rather obvious fact that they regard that referendum as a threat to the Union, which must be defended at any cost. It relates to the questions of what constitutes sufficient demand for a referendum. Unionists are tying themselves in knots trying to make demand for a fresh vote look negligible because it doesn’t have to be 50%+.

It is fundamental to democracy that the default position favours the voice of the people. The assumption must always be in favour of a vote. Demand for a referendum need only be substantial. Precisely what that means, in percentage terms, is open to debate. A debate which takes due account of the context. It would not be unreasonable to argue that 33% takes us into qualifying territory, depending on the issue being addressed.

It goes without saying that anything in the region of 50% would make demand for a referendum undeniable. And that’s why every effort is made to split the vote.

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All monies received are used in furtherance of the campaign
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Boxing clever

Few speeches in recent times have been more eagerly anticipated than Nicola Sturgeon’s address to the SNP Spring Conference in Aberdeen this afternoon. One doesn’t often get the opportunity to use the phrase ‘fate of nations’ without being accused of hyperbole, but it would be appropriate on this occasion.

Yesterday’s speeches from Angus Robertson and John Swinney set the tone. That tone is defiant and determined. As you would expect, the assembled delegates lapped it up. Many are expecting Sturgeon to continue in the same vein. And there’s no doubt she will do just that. But those hoping for high drama may be disappointed. Having had the opportunity to study Theresa May’s political ‘style’, Sturgeon can be confident that a reasonable and conciliatory approach will elicit more clumsy arrogance from the British Prime Minister. Sturgeon simply has to keep on saying the right things knowing she can rely on May to say the wrong things.

There is, however, no doubt where all of this is leading. Sturgeon might appear to be letting Theresa May off lightly. But this is only to strengthen her ow position when the serious confrontation starts. There is such a thing as natural justice. People have a sense of what is fair. The more Sturgeon provokes arrogant, imperious responses from her adversary, the more people will come to see Theresa May’s behaviour as an affront to democracy.

Nicola Sturgeon’s speech this afternoon if important. Of that there is no doubt. But this game could well have some way to go yet.

If you find these articles interesting, please consider a small donation.
All monies received are used in furtherance of the campaign
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What was the question?

Scots will be choosing not between independence and the status quo, as they were in 2014

Whoa! That’s not right! The No campaign started off insisting it stood for the status quo. But that changed rapidly when the realisation dawned that they were trying to sell the least popular option. After that, the UK Government, the British parties and Better Together/Project Fear started promising all manner of constitutional reform – culminating in the infamous ‘Vow’.

The problem was that, while independence is a simple concept made to look complex by torrents of British nationalist propaganda, what was being offered by the anti-independence campaign was never made clear.

The choice facing voters in 2014 was not between independence and the status quo. It was between asserting their own sovereignty and handing to the British (Tory) establishment the power to define what a No vote meant after the ballots were counted.

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