Cuckoo in the nest

Scotland has a Parliament – democratically elected by means of an electoral system which, for all its faults, works fairly well to ensure proportional representation.

Scotland has a Government – democratically elected by the people of Scotland and trusted enough as an administration to have remained in office for over ten years.

Only the Scottish Parliament has democratic legitimacy in Scotland.

Only the Scottish Government has a mandate from the people of Scotland.

David Mundell was not elected to the Scottish Parliament. He has no claim on the democratic legitimacy of our Parliament.

David Mundell is not part of the Scottish Government. He has no mandate to represent Scotland.

David Mundell is a British cuckoo in the nest of Scottish democracy.

Scotland has a Parliament. Scotland has a Government. Scotland has political leaders with the democratic authority to speak for Scotland’s people.

We don’t need David Mundell. We need politicians whose allegiance is to the people of Scotland, not the vested interests of the British state.

We don’t need the British government. We need a government that is elected by, and fully accountable to, the people of Scotland.

We don’t need Westminster. We need a parliament that is capable of representing the needs, priorities and aspirations of Scotland’s people.

We must bring our government home. We must restore Scotland’s independence.

#Referendum2018

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From a whisper to a roar

Language is important. Especially, perhaps, in politics. And certainly when politicians are dealing with sensitive matters. Bumbling gaffe-monger, Boris Johnson, nicely and frequently illustrates the importance of choosing words carefully. Nicola Sturgeon is NOT Boris Johnson. She is a particularly astute politician. She is fully aware that the right of self-determination is fully vested in the people of Scotland, to be exercised at their discretion. She knows that, while she has the responsibility for implementing the will of the electorate and is required to use her political judgement in relation to the finer details of scheduling a constitutional referendum, neither she nor any other politician has the authority to deny the people of Scotland the opportunity to exercise their right to choose the form of government which suits their needs.

It is simply wrong to say that, in January 2017, Nicola Sturgeon “directly ruled out a new referendum for the following 12 months”. Read her words. Attend to them. The words matter.

“There is not going to be an independence referendum in 2017 – I don’t think there is anybody who thinks that is the case.”

What she said was that the referendum wasn’t going to happen. Not that she was presuming to disallow it or refuse to facilitate it. Note the passive voice. And to emphasise the point that it is political circumstances and forces external to her office that mean there is “not going to be” a new referendum in 2017, she adds the generalising comment suggesting a lack of the requisite public demand.

It is true, however, that the First Minister’s language has changed. Political anoraks like myself, who attend to the niceties and subtleties of such statements, will have noticed a distinct shift in tone over the last few months. Those with ears and minds suitably attuned listened to Nicola Sturgeon’s speech at SNP National Council last December and detected the sub-text in her reference to the imminent publication of the Growth Commission report and that it would be “a catalyst for relaunching the arguments for independence”.

Standing back from specific statements by Nicola Sturgeon and listening to the ‘mood music’ of Scotland’s politics, we find prominent figures in the SNP such as Tommy Sheppard and Pete Wishart rethinking their earlier positions on the timing of a new independence referendum and Angus Robertson proclaiming with a certain theatricality that “There will be a referendum!” and myriad other hints and suggestions which, when taken as a whole, speak to us of moves afoot. Of ground being prepared. Of something building.

Some may also have noticed a new assertiveness from SNP politicians. A greater readiness to take on the media and a more forthright manner in challenging political opponents. It has been a constant complaint of many in the Yes movement that the SNP didn’t stand up for themselves strongly enough. That they let the British media get away with lies and distortions. That they failed to fully capitalise on the confusion and ineptitude of the British parties at Holyrood. That they weren’t doing enough to highlight the contradictions and inconsistencies of British Nationalist propaganda. That they weren’t sufficiently aggressive in denouncing the impositions and iniquities and incompetencies and insults of the British government. Follow the Twitter timelines of SNP MPs and MSPs and you will see that, to whatever extent such complaints may have been justified in the past, they are less and less so now. The language has changed. Not massively. But noticeably. And in very significant ways.

Those with a finger on the relevant pulse may also have noticed a stirring in the Yes movement. There is a distinct sense of forces rallying and loins being girded ready for the fray. I would suggest that this is both cause and effect of the change in the SNP’s public voice. There’s a positive feedback effect as the party is empowered by support from the Yes movement and Yes activists are enthused by the new assertiveness of the SNP. Significantly, this puts the SNP in the vanguard of the independence campaign – which is precisely where it needs to be. And it puts the power of Yes movement behind the SNP – which is exactly what is required.

Of course, there is more to politics than just the stuff politicians say in interviews and on social media, There’s also what they do. There are events and developments. It all has to be taken together. It all forms the context which lends meaning to words and actions. Listening to the language used by Nicola Sturgeon and other SNP politicians in the context of the observable actions and known intent of the British establishment, we cannot but conclude that we are in the early stages of a process that will lead to a new independence referendum in September 2018. We would certainly be foolish not to proceed as if this was the case. We have to assume that we’re heading for #Referendum2018.


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Many voices!

It’s difficult to comment meaningfully on any of this without transgressing against at least one of Ms Leckie’s prescriptions and proscriptions.

Risking her approbation, I am moved to express once again my snorting dismissal of the patently facile notion that there is a particular and very specific way of talking to people that will tend to win them over. I grew profoundly weary of this notion during the first referendum campaign when, even in vastness of the online Yes campaign, you couldn’t move for self-appointed moderators telling you that you were saying the wrong things in the wrong manner.

I utterly reject the elitism and exclusivity inherent in the idea that there is but one voice which is appropriate and effective for the Yes campaign. The idea that people should only be allowed to engage in the debate if they comply with some endless litany of rules about language is anathema tome. Discouraging people from participating because of the way they express themselves is offensive.

Not everybody has access to the same language skills. This should not and must not disqualify them from expressing their views as they are able. The Scottish politics I hope for isn’t afraid of robust debate. The Yes movement I aspire to isn’t contemptuous of the language of the streets.

An appeal for basic fairness is no less worthy for being couched in the vernacular. A denunciation of gross injustice is no less valid for being spiced with epithets and expletives.

I will continue to speak out – with my own voice – in defence of the democratic media and I don’t give a shit how many wannabe web sheriffs I upset in the process.


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Feeding the beast

While very much in sympathy with Derek Bateman’s views on the media in Scotland, I must confess to being less concerned about the fact of a package of pre-written stories provided to newspapers by political parties than I am about the character of those stories. To my mind, in the age of rolling news and near-instant updating, it is only sensible that the press offices should seek to keep the voracious beast fed.

No news is NOT good news. No news is just no news. It’s ‘dead air’, and whatever the newspaper equivalent may be. (A David Torrance column?) The sausage-machine never stops running. So those whose job it is to influence the flavour of the sausages are obliged to ensure the supply of their ingredients is not interrupted by events and occasions that are relics of a time when news was fed to us in periodic chunks rather than as a constant stream.

What concerns me is, not the stock buffering of inputs to this news stream, but the nature and purpose of those inputs. It may well be that ‘they’re all at it’. But that doesn’t mean we should assume that they are all doing it for the same reasons. Or that the inputs being provided are of an undifferentiated type. There are stories. And there are stories.

I’m quite untroubled by articles written in advance about things that are pretty much entirely predictable. Events that are on Nicola Sturgeon’s calendar for the festive season, for example, can probably be written up beforehand with no harm done. All the relevant facts are known. The speeches are written. The quotable bits are highlighted. It’s just sausage-filler.

But stories that are intended to significantly influence the news agenda may be a different matter. A Tory FoI request that’s been held back for several months just so as to fill gaps on the conveyor-belt of grinding anti-SNP negativity is, at the very least, dubious. The unveiling of a new Jeremy Corbyn slogan timed to best suit British Labour’s interests smacks of a troubling degree of collusion between the party and the media.

I’m sure others can think of further examples that illustrate the point. It’s not just about the ‘Christmas Boxes’. It’s about what’s in them.


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The ‘Scottish Tory’ fallacy

geoutcomeThere’s a horrible flaw in this question from the latest Wings Over Scotland/Panelbase poll. It treats “Scottish Tory MPs” as if they were a discrete group separate from the “Conservative majority” in the same way that SNP MPs are distinguished from either a Conservative or a Labour government at Westminster.

Notwithstanding the efforts of the media to convince us that Ruth Davidson is a real leader of a real party with a real group of MPs over which she exercises real authority, the real reality is that there are precisely NO “Scottish Tory MPs”. There are only British Tory MPs who have managed to get elected in Scotland (frequently with the help of British Labour voters).

Ruth Davidson has precisely NO authority over those British Tory MPs from constituencies in Scotland. They are all answerable only and fully to Theresa May and her Whips.

The phrases “dependent on the votes of SNP MPs” and “dependent on the votes of Scottish Conservative MPs” are used as if they refer to things which are directly and meaningfully comparable. That’s just plain wrong.


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The wobbler

Henry McLeish may well be correct in everything he says. His analysis may be insightful. His observations may be perspicacious. His conclusions may be acutely reasoned.

His attitudes may be admirable. His character may be worthy of great respect.

His every utterance may be infused with profound wisdom.

But how might he hope to persuade anybody else when he can’t even convince himself?


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Bad moon rising

Discourse around the constitutional issue has changed quite markedly in the past year. It has almost entirely moved away from debate about the scheduling of a new independence referendum to discussion of how a Yes vote might best be secured and speculation as to what sort of tactics might be resorted to by those opposed to the restoration of Scotland’s rightful constitutional status. For reasons that need not concern us here, there is now pretty general agreement that the vote must take place no later than early 2019; with increasing numbers declaring a preference for September 2018.

Very few in the independence movement now suppose the referendum can be postponed until after Brexit, although the view on the anti-independence side ranges from an obdurate insistence on refusing Scotland’s democratic right of self-determination indefinitely, to a fanatical determination that the people of Scotland must be forever denied the right to choose the form of government which best suits their needs.

There have been other changes. Economic issues no longer dominate in quite the way they once did. There is, on the Yes side at least, a growing realisation that the focus on economics was a Unionist ploy. Confining the debate to economic factors allowed the British state’s propaganda machine to more effectively control the narrative. Aided and abetted by its enthusiastic accomplices in the mainstream print and broadcast media, it was easy for the British establishment to flood the debate with a torrent of ‘official statistics’ and ‘independent reports’ presented – but absolutely never questioned – by a veritable circus of tame economic analysts and openly complicit commentators.

These economic ‘arguments’ having been as thoroughly and comprehensively discredited as the rest of the British state’s propaganda, there is now space in the debate for consideration of the core constitutional issue. We are talking just a bit less about money, and a wee bit more about democracy. Less about the supposed financial costs of independence, and more about the political, social and cultural price of remaining in a ludicrously anachronistic, grotesquely asymmetric and patently anomalous political union.

Even the anti-independence campaign has come to be characterised noticeably less by economic threats and intimidation masquerading as rational economic modelling, and more by a shrill and quite irrational British Nationalist dogma. They appear to have all but abandoned the effort to convince people that the Union is a divinely ordained boon to Scotland and descended into a banal, jingoistic, narrow, exclusive, insular, elitist, xenophobic and increasingly ugly ‘One Nation’ British Nationalism which demands the preservation of an imagined country called ‘Britain’ at absolutely any cost to the people of Scotland – or, for that matter, the people of the rest of these islands.

Groups such as ‘Scotland in Union‘ are symptomatic of this transformation in the nature and character of the anti-independence campaign. When we speculate as to how the effort to preserve the power, privilege and patronage of the British state will be conducted, it makes perfect sense to look to the behaviour of those who possess that power, assert that privilege and benefit from that patronage. It is not a pretty sight.

As obscenely unprincipled and utterly dishonourable as Better Together/Project Fear undoubtedly was, it will surely appear quite benign compared to the gruesome cabal of aristocrats, plutocrats and assorted walking, talking caricatures now emerging from the murk of ancient anonymity to command British Nationalism’s orc-army of buffoons and bigots.

You have been warned!


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