A need for maturity

According to a number of people who consider themselves qualified to pontificate on such matters, we will never get independence so long as it is associated with the SNP. The party is, we are assured, such a ‘toxic’ brand that it actually puts people off voting to rescue themselves and their country from the deadly grip of the British state.

On hearing this, I have to remind myself that what they are referring to is a party whose electoral success and general popularity is considered something of a political phenomenon. There is a massive logical disconnect between the known, observable, empirically verifiable status of the SNP and the claim that it is somehow ‘poisoning’ the independence movement.

The SNP is already a ‘brand’ that sells. So how can it be the problem when it comes to marketing the Yes ‘brand’? To the extent that there is a problem, we really should be looking elsewhere to find it.

Never mind the fact that the SNP is crucial to the entire project because it provides the effective political power which is essential. Purely from a campaigning perspective, if you are saying that you can’t sell a party that is already as trusted as the SNP then there’s little chance that your campaign is going to be able to sell independence.

Or, to put it another way, until the Yes movement is mature enough to recognise and accept the role of the SNP, and devise a campaign accordingly, it cannot succeed.

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Are you pro-EU?

When this question was posed on Facebook, I responded as follows.

I’m not so much pro-EU as resigned to the fact of its existence. And to the fact that, if it didn’t exist, we’d have to invent it. Or something very like it.

I’m also aware that there is absolutely no way any nation in the world, far less in Europe, can conduct its affairs as if the EU didn’t exist. There is no way to be outside its sphere of influence. It is the biggest single market on the planet and, if you are involved in international trade or commerce or travel or pretty much any other human activity, you will be impacted by EU regulation.

I’m also aware that this is not necessarily a bad thing. The EU has been a very positive influence in terms of consumer protection and workers rights, for example. Harmonisation has generally made trade easier. Although this can be seen as a mixed blessing.

In addition, I am a Scottish nationalist. Therefore, it necessarily follows that I am firmly persuaded that only the people of Scotland have the right to decide on their nation’s relationship with the EU. And should they decide that they want Scotland to leave the EU, then it is their democratically elected government which should be negotiating that process.

I accept that, to the extent that the people of Scotland can be consulted on the issue of EU membership whilst Scotland is still part of the UK, they have opted to remain. I respect that choice; abhor the UK Government’s contempt for the will of Scottish voters, and fully support the Scottish Government’s efforts to defend Scotland’s interests.

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Straw man wars

How many more times must we be subjected to some posturing intellectual ponderously informing us that “the movement is not the party” as if they were revealing some great truth rather than flogging the arse off a straw man that was long since reduced to a pitiful scattering of chaff?

But at least that little gobbet of glibness makes some kind of sense. Which is more than can be said for the following paragraph.

“But the current impasse has partly emerged due to the SNP’s shift towards a central focus on holding an independence referendum. This is a policy that is widely regarded as having been pivotal in offering a route for voters sceptical of independence to back the party in other electoral contests.”

I’ve read that a dozen times now. But for all the superficial cleverness of the words, I still can’t squeeze any meaning out of that second sentence. To be fair, that may be due to the difficulty of getting past the grotesque fallacy of the first sentence. In the world most of us inhabit, it is the British parties and their accomplices in the media who have been obsessing about a new independence referendum, while the SNP tried to focus on the topics that the British parties and the British media were so desperate to divert attention from – austerity and Brexit.

The fact that the author chooses to run with the narrative pushed by British nationalists is very much in keeping with the tone of the piece. A pompous, lecturing, hectoring tone we have become painfully familiar with from those sections of the Yes movement which find it convenient to blame the SNP for perceived or imagined failings of the independence campaign so as to avoid the need to acknowledge their own part in hindering progress towards independence.

Because this embracing of the anti-SNP narrative of unionist propaganda is hardly unusual. It is to be found everywhere the self-appointed priesthood of the Yes movement are given a platform to peddle their high-minded sermons about how the rest of us are doing it all wrong. One thing the independence movement has never lacked, especially it became significant enough to attract the attention of poll-pondering technocrats, controversialist poseurs and righteous radicals, are people telling how we’re talking to the wrong people, in the wrong places, about the wrong things, at the wrong time and in the wrong way.

And, of course, the SNP is always a favourite target for these snipers from the sidelines. The more the party wins, the more the Yes movement’s cadre of carpers find reasons to criticise and condemn. In some sort of Orwellian process, success becomes failure. Progress becomes retreat. Every advance is perversely interpreted as a retreat. An attitude that is almost entirely explained by a deep-seated aversion to effective political power. An aversion which overwhelms any ambition whose realisation is ultimately dependent on effective political power and leaves in its place a willingness to settle for the tawdry garlands of honourable defeat in preference to the weighty responsibilities that come with achieving a goal as momentous as restoring Scotland’s rightful constitutional status.

There is ample evidence of the corrosive attitude to the SNP that infects a small but very vocal part of the Yes movement. Here is one example that speaks volumes about this self-defeating antipathy towards the movement’s crucial political arm.

“Electoral success is also the best means to smooth over internal dissent. The almost mythic discipline of the party in Holyrood and Westminster can partly be attributed to the fact that it has been able to distribute an expanding set of front-bench and committee posts for a decade.”

Here is a paragraph redolent with a bitterness towards the SNP barely distinguishable from that which suffuses the rhetoric of the British parties in Scotland. Granted, the author only “partly” attributes the SNP’s internal discipline – acidly described as “almost mythic” – to patronage. But why comment in such a vein at all? Why not remark, instead, on the vastly more significant explanation for this discipline – the fact that the party has a unifying purpose in it unequivocal, unconditional, unwavering commitment to the cause of bringing Scotland’s government home?

One can’t help but suspect that this resentment is occasioned in both those who attack the independence movement from outside and those who undermine it from within by an identical appreciation of the SNP’s critical role in levering Scotland out of the union.

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Three battles

To succeed, any political campaign ultimately requires effective political power. All the happy-clappy talk of ‘diversity’ and a ‘broad spectrum of views’ is great. But that describes the movement, not the campaign. The campaign, especially as it nears its end-point, has to be almost dictatorial in character. It has to be focused and single-minded and disciplined. The power of the movement has to be gathered behind the spear-point of an effective political agency. In the arena of British politics, which is where the battle for independence must be fought, this means a political party, and a suitable figurehead.

That’s just the way it is. It’s how politics works. Whether you approve or not is irrelevant. Your attitude to the SNP has to be weighed against your desire to succeed. At some juncture, the entire Yes movement has to get behind Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP. You can scream and stamp your feet and protest until your arse drops off, the realpolitik will not be impressed in the slightest.

We have, in effect, three campaigns to fight. They are not entirely separate. Indeed, they overlap and connect in myriad ways. But one takes priority simply on account of chronology. Before we can win the campaign for independence we must first win the campaign to assert, affirm and defend our right of self-determination. That is key.

The British establishment knows that it cannot defeat the independence movement. Because it cannot defend the existing political union. It is indefensible. So established power must forestall the independence movement. It can do that in a couple of ways. It can eliminate or deny access to effective political power. We see this in the effort to undermine the SNP and delegitimise the democratic institutions (Scottish Parliament) by means of which the party exercises effective political power on behalf of the independence movement. (While also doing the ‘day job’ of running a quietly competent administration.)

Alternatively, the British state may seek to forestall challenges to the integrity of its structures of power, privilege and patronage by manipulating or obstructing the democratic process. We see that in the efforts to deny Scotland’s right of self-determination.

The three campaigns that we must conduct are, in no particular order other than what may be obvious due to the constraints of chronology,

(a) Defend Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP. Partly because we need a political party as the political arm of the independence movement. It’s the only means of exercising effective political power. And partly because Nicola Sturgeon is also the democratically elected First Minister; and the SNP is the democratically elected administration. The office of First Minister doesn’t belong to the incumbent. It belongs to us, the people of Scotland. Likewise, the Scottish Government isn’t owned by the party in office. It’s ours! The First Minister and the Scottish Government answer to the Scottish Parliament. Which is also ours. It is our principal democratic institution.

The First Minister, the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament are only as strong as the people who own them. Whatever differences we may have in terms of policy, we must ALL combine to defend the offices and institutions which embody and implement our democracy.

(b) Defend our right of self-determination. Something which surely should need no explanation. What may need to be stressed, however, is the degree to which this right – more precisely, the ability to exercise the right – is in jeopardy. For the reasons explained above, it is a prime target for established power.

The British state is bent on, not only preventing another independence referendum, but on permanently removing even the possibility of a democratic vote on Scotland’s constitutional status.

(c) Defend the sovereignty of Scotland’s people. because that, and not some contrived economic calculation, is what our campaign is all about. It’s about who decides. It is a contest of two wholly incompatible concepts of democracy. One in which all power lies with a privileged, self-serving, self-perpetuating elite. And one which recognises only the people as the ultimate authority.

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Useful myths and dreadful fallacies

James Kelly offers a fair summary of the First Minister’s statement on #ScotRef and #Brexit. But there was this –

“Although she acknowledged that the Tories losing their majority reopened the possibility of a soft Brexit (which presumably would remove the need for a referendum altogether)”…

That’s just wrong. It’s actually wrong in two ways. The Tories losing their majority will have no effect whatever on Brexit ‘negotiations’. They are the government. The EU negotiates with the government. It has not the slightest interest in the size of that government’s majority. It is of significance only internally.

The notion being peddled is that, being weakened, the Tories can be forced to negotiate a ‘soft’ Brexit. That is complete nonsense. In the first place, there is no such thing as a ‘soft’ Brexit. There is only Brexit. And it is NOT going to be soft. And, even if there were such a thing as ‘soft’ Brexit, it wouldn’t be for the UK Government to choose. There isn’t some kind of pick ‘n’ mix menu of option that the UK can select from. There’s what the EU is prepared to grant. Nothing more.

For political reasons, it suits Nicola Sturgeon to go along with the fantasy of a ‘soft’ Brexit. Theresa May can’t be shown to have refused or failed to deliver something unless that something has been demanded. By insisting on something the British PM can’t deliver, but must pretend to be able to negotiate, the FM gains relative power. It’s just basic politics.

The other way in which the quoted statement is wrong is far more serious. The idea that the need for a referendum can be “removed” by anything other than independence is a dangerous fallacy that should be mercilessly shot down whenever it appears. Indeed, Nicola Sturgeon did just that when she stressed that the issue of independence is much bigger than Brexit.

Let’s have no more such drivel.

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Everybody thinks they know better

Er, when did it become likely that the Brexit negotiations would drag on beyond 2021? When did this even become possible, never mind probable? Has the Lisbon Treaty been renegotiated? Because, barring that, Article 50 of that treat continues to stipulate a strict two-year period for negotiations. A period which can only be extended with the agreement of all remaining member nations of the EU. When did it become likely that such agreement would be forthcoming?

There is absolutely no reason to suppose the Brexit negotiations might run beyond the March 2019 deadline. No reason, that is, other than that it suits Carolyn Leckie’s argument to suppose this would happen.

And what is “Nicola Sturgeon’s timetable”? It sometimes seems that everybody and their therapist is claiming the right to define this “timetable” on the First Minister’s behalf. In reality, no firm timetable has been set. Nicola Sturgeon isn’t so stupid as to narrow her options for no good reason. Her consistent position has been that it is Theresa May who is setting the timetable. The closest Nicola Sturgeon has come to pinning herself down is to tentatively link a new independence referendum to a point when the outcome of the Brexit process is sufficiently clear. Which is characteristically clever. Because it effectively leaves her “timetable” wide open. The point at which a new referendum becomes justified is so undefined that it could be any time at all between right now and the March 2019 cut-off date.

Nicola Sturgeon has been careful, and clever, enough to give herself the maximum amount of leeway in deciding on a date for #ScotRef. It’s easy to understand why her political opponents would want to limit her options. It’s not so clear why Carolyn Leckie would wish to do so. Unless, of course, there was a calculation that this might advance the agenda of the righteous radicals who are determined to push the SNP to the left regardless of the consequences for the party’s electoral prospects and, thereby, for the independence campaign.

Because, despite the incessant urging from those who would find ‘honourable defeat’ a satisfactory outcome, there is no rational reason to suppose that a lurch to the left would benefit the SNP. If there were, then surely the likes of Carolyn Leckie would be setting out that rational case rather than bending the reality of the Brexit process to suit her purpose and imagining constraints on First Minister’s options which simply don’t exist.

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The time to speak is now!

As the process which will see Scotland ripped from its favoured place within the family of European nations gathers pace, it has never been more important that we assert and defend our democratic right of self-determination.

That process, already a gross insult to Scotland’s democracy, must inevitably end with the UK being redefined. It will be redefined in a manner determined entirely by the same British political elite that has demonstrated such utter contempt for the will of Scotland’s people. It will be redefined to suit the purposes of the British ruling elites, absolutely without regard for the needs, priorities and aspirations of Scotland’s people.

If we allow it, Scotland shall be locked into a political union devised to perpetuate the structures of power, privilege and patronage which define the British state and subjected in perpetuity to a political and economic system contrived entirely to serve the interests of the few at the expense of the many.

Should we fail to prevent it, Scotland’s distinctive political culture shall be eradicated, our democratic institutions dismantled and our public services decimated – all in the name of ‘One Nation’ British Nationalism.

We yet have a democratic escape route. We can choose that Scotland’s future be decided by those who call Scotland their home. We can choose that our society be shaped in accordance with our own needs, priorities and aspirations. We can choose to take back the power to choose.

We can bring our government home.

Our First Minister and the Scottish Government are fighting for our right to choose. They are defending, on our behalf, the most fundamental of democratic principles. In our own interests, and lest we earn the scorn of future generations, we must support Nicola Sturgeon in her determination to ensure that Scotland and democracy are preserved.

We must demand a new independence referendum to be held at such time as will allow us to avoid the disastrous consequences of placing our nation’s fate in the hands of a British political elite which has no democratic legitimacy in Scotland, having been repeatedly and emphatically rejected by Scotland’s people.

We must insist, loudly and incessantly, that the democratic right of self-determination is vested wholly in the people of Scotland, to be exercised entirely at their discretion.

We must press relentlessly and by every means at our disposal for a new independence referendum in September 2018 – on or around the fourth anniversary of the vote which precipitated our current predicament.

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All monies received are used in furtherance of the campaign
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