Friday, February 15, 2019

Memo to Andrew Wilson: Brexit is happening right now. Did no-one tell you?

In a way it's rather helpful that Andrew Wilson has started to denigrate and mock some of his comrades in the Yes movement, because it shows up his pious calls for love and harmony and kindness for the facade that they always were.  Now perhaps we can discuss his views frankly.  Many of us defended him from attacks by the radical left after the Growth Commission reported, because we recognised that there is no coalition available for winning independence that doesn't include centrist voters.  But pragmatism isn't just about centrism, it's also about accepting the facts of the world around us.  What is Andrew's answer to the national crisis that faces Scotland, ie. that as things stand, we will be dragged out of the EU, the single market and the customs union in around six weeks, causing immense economic harm?  As far as I can see, his response is:

"Let's pretend it's not happening."

There can be no other explanation for Andrew's implicit call for the SNP's manifesto commitment for an indyref in the event of Brexit to be ripped up.  There can be no other explanation for his insistence upon the softest possible form of independence, maintaining maximum ties with the rest of these islands.  That cheerfully ignores the fact that an independent Scotland will be seeking membership of European institutions that England and Wales will almost certainly no longer be part of.  A degree of rupture will be inevitable - that's not necessarily a good thing, but it's a direct consequence of decisions taken by our neighbours, not by ourselves.

The tendency within the SNP that Andrew represents clearly never wanted the independence campaign to be linked to Brexit.  They wanted a UK-wide Remain vote, and then a gradual build-up to a second indyref in the distant future.  They were horrified by Nicola Sturgeon reacting to Brexit by committing to a swift independence referendum, and were relieved when she pulled back somewhat.  But what they don't seem to realise is that delaying an independence referendum hasn't made - and can't make - the crisis of Brexit vanish in a puff of smoke.  The option of SNP gradualism within Remain Britain no longer exists, because Britain really is leaving Europe, and it's doing so pretty much right now. 

Sticking our heads in the sand and basing our strategy on the conviction that "what is happening shouldn't be happening and should go away and stop ruining our plans" is not an especially promising recipe for success.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

A projection that the SNP will prosper

Just a quick note to let you know that I have a piece in The National today about the latest YouGov seats projection for Westminster, which shows the SNP going up to 39 seats.  You can read the article HERE.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Nicola Sturgeon's 3-5 year timescale points to an independence referendum in the near future

One of the frustrating things about recent months has been the SNP leadership increasingly taking the view that the 'process' aspect of how Scottish independence will come about is none of the business of the ordinary people of this country, and that we should occupy our minds with other matters instead.  That attitude is of course completely unrealistic and has left Kremlinology as our only recourse if we want to know what is happening, as most of us do.  There have been alarming indications from the likes of Andrew Wilson, who has posed as the defender of Nicola Sturgeon against largely fictional "attacks" on her for allegedly deciding to delay the calling of an independence referendum.  That has the feel of a mind game, but what is the nature of the game?  Is Mr Wilson an outrider for the leadership, trying to soften us up for an impending decision to let the mandate for a pre-2021 referendum expire?  Or is the mind game directed at the leadership, trying to coax Nicola Sturgeon into believing that a decision to delay is somehow inevitable and she should simply confirm it?

Ms Sturgeon's comments in the US would tend towards the latter theory, because they're not really consistent with plans for an indefinite delay.  She was asked whether Scotland would be applying for EU membership as an independent country within three to five years, and she said she thought it would.  As we all know, there would inevitably be a gap of at least two years or so between Scotland voting for independence and actually getting it, so that leaves only three possibilities: a) the mandate for a pre-2021 referendum will be honoured, b) the referendum will be delayed until beyond the 2021 election but with an intention to hold it on an extremely tight timetable immediately after that election, or c) a forthcoming election will be used to double as an independence referendum.

Any of those options would be preferable to the highly inappropriate "ca' canny" mood music of recent weeks (haven't you noticed we're facing a national crisis right now, guys?), so let's hope Ms Sturgeon's words foreshadow some positive action in the weeks to come.  I'm coming round to the idea that we may need a snap Westminster general election to save the SNP from its own caution, though - the leadership may need seat gains and the feeling of being on the front foot before they're quite ready to take a risk.  And calling a referendum would always be a risk - starting with Yes at 60% or whatever would be an entirely illusory comfort blanket.  In a referendum campaign you can lose or gain a third of your votes in the blink of an eye.

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To confirm that the SNP would have a reasonable chance of seat gains in an early general election, YouGov have produced new figures from their seats forecast model, which predicted the last election more accurately than conventional polling.  The central forecast for the SNP is 39 seats (up 4 on the current position), with the likelihood being that they would fall somewhere between 35 and 43.  There are five Labour seats listed as having a 50% or greater chance of falling to the SNP - Rutherglen & Hamilton West, Glasgow North-East (thoroughly deserved, Mr Sweeney), Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeath, Midlothian, and Coatbridge, Chryston & Bellshill.

I can't remember this happening during the 2017 election, but a projection for the Scottish popular vote has also been provided -

SNP 40% (+3)
Conservatives 28% (-1)
Labour 20% (-7)
Liberal Democrats 9% (+2)

That appears to represent a substantial adjustment on the raw polling numbers, which put the SNP on a massive 48% of the vote.  Even on the adjusted figures, though, there is a clear swing to the SNP from the Tories as well as from Labour, which makes it a tad surprising that no Tory seats are forecast to fall to the SNP.  On a uniform swing, Stirling ought to switch hands extremely easily.

Scot Goes Pop: The Trailer

During the summer, Phantom Power (the maker of the amazing Nation and Journey to Yes series) very kindly offered to film a short trailer for Scot Goes Pop.  You can see the results below...

Friday, February 8, 2019

Whether we like it or not, the constitutional destinies of Scotland and Northern Ireland are entwined

Well, with a certain degree of trepidation, I'm going to make a few comments about the recent controversy relating to my fellow iScot columnist Jason Michael McCann.  My initial gut reaction to the tweet in which he was accused of branding British soldiers in Northern Ireland as "legitimate targets" was that it seemed considerably more clear-cut than the accusation of anti-semitism made against Grouse Beater.  Whereas Grouse Beater's comment had been extremely elliptical, and his detractors were having to make heroic efforts of interpretation to see in it what they were determined to see, Jason's comment did on face value appear to say exactly what it was alleged to say.  And yet his subsequent explanation (that he was simply quoting how republican paramilitaries would view the situation, and was warning about a return to violence that he did not wish to happen) was also more compelling than Grouse Beater's, because it was crystal-clear and fully backed up by reams of evidence from his own past writings.

It seems highly likely that the penny eventually dropped with the SNP leadership that they'd interpreted Jason's tweet incorrectly, and that they decided on the grounds of expediency to just let people carry on thinking that they viewed him as a monster.  That's not surprising but it is depressing, and it fits into a familiar pattern of 'little people' on the pro-independence side being ruthlessly thrown under the bus at the first sign of trouble.  I can remember way, way back when Jeff Breslin was the leading SNP blogger, and he innocently published some gossip about postal vote returns without realising he was technically breaking the law.  After he discovered his mistake, he did everything possible to make amends and even resigned his SNP membership, but that didn't stop a party spokesperson making a gratuitously disparaging comment about him in the press.  Some reward for him practically being the SNP's one-person alternative media presence during a crucial period in Scottish political history.  I know some will argue that these decisions are just hard-headed realpolitik, but there's also a case to be made that a lack of solidarity from the top, and a treating of foot-soldiers as instantly expendable, does eventually get noticed and can prove counter-productive.

Since Jason was hung out to dry, some Yes supporters who don't approve of him have seized the opportunity to really stick the boot in, castigating him for his membership of Sinn Féin and his decision to post a photo of himself with Gerry Adams.  One relatively well-known Yesser even cited her own supposed "opposition to sectarianism" as justification for her distaste towards the Adams photo - which rather eccentrically means she must think that the way to eradicate sectarianism is by treating the leaders of Northern Ireland's nationalist population as untouchable.  In a world where the Queen has long since shaken hands with the late Martin McGuinness, that's a destructive attitude that really belongs to another era.

It's worth recalling that the elected official within the SNP who played a key role in the campaign against Grouse Beater is known for her use of the slogan "Aabudy Welcome".  Some have laughed at the bitter irony of those words, because the ideology that underpins them all too often appears to be an authoritarian one of exclusion, and of censorship, and of silencing certain undesirable groups.  But actually one thing that she and her critics would surely agree on is that Scotland's Irish community is welcome in the Yes movement.  By the broadest definition, those of Irish descent are the largest ethnic minority in this country, and indeed I belong to that minority myself.  One of the key features of the SNP's civic nationalism is that we don't impose "Tebbit Tests" on people - we allow and encourage people to retain national identities other than Scottish.  People can be comfortably Pakistani and Scottish, or Italian and Scottish, or English and Scottish.  For someone who identifies as Irish, that means it's perfectly OK to have strong views on Ireland's political future, running in parallel with equally strong views about Scotland's political future.  No amount of waffle about the Old Firm can justify a lack of respect for Jason McCann's right to hold those parallel views, or indeed to hold Sinn Féin membership while he is also involved in Scotland's Yes movement.

In any case, whether we like it or not, the future of all of us in Scotland may be bound up with Sinn Féin's current strategy.  The more the SNP hold back from a definite commitment to a quick indyref, the more likely it is that the event that eventually makes the decisive difference will be Sinn Féin succeeding with the help of the Irish government in gaining a referendum on Irish unity. By that point, the pressure on the SNP to demand an immediate Section 30 order would be irresistible, and the Tories' "now is not the time" excuse for denying one would ring hopelessly hollow.  Scotland is not making decisions in isolation - we're all stuck in this "precious union" together, and that will become increasingly apparent as the months wear on.

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Scot Goes Pop fundraiser: If you'd like to help this blog continue during what could be an epic few months ahead, just a reminder that last year's fundraiser is still very much open for donations, and hasn't reached the target figure yet.

Also, did you know that Scot Goes Pop has a sister Facebook group?  It's called Scottish Independence Required By Next Tuesday, and you can find it here.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Voters backed the SNP so they would be given a choice on Scotland's future *at the time of Brexit* - not 10, 20 or 30 years later

I'm not sure how much impact Andrew Wilson's article in The National on indyref timing will have, because we all know where he's coming from, so his views are already factored in - a bit like Jim Sillars (not that there's much comparison between the two men in any other sense).  But I do think it's important to challenge the specific arguments for a potentially indefinite delay whenever they are put forward.

There's always a question mark over the motivations of those who wouldn't mind the indyref issue going away for the foreseeable future - is it because their real interest is in maintaining the SNP as a party of power within the devolved system (and they think pushing for independence makes that harder), or do they genuinely think that waiting will maximise the chances of Scotland becoming independent in the long run?  If we take Andrew at his word and assume it's the latter, what's missing from his article is an acknowledgement that using the mandate for a pre-2021 referendum isn't just about pragmatic considerations of when independence is most likely to be won.  It's also effectively about honouring a contract with voters, who were invited to vote SNP in both 2016 and 2017 on the specific basis that they would be given a choice on Scotland's future in the event of Brexit.  Giving people the choice at the time they asked for it, not at a far-distant time that might suit certain politicians better, should be regarded as a good thing in itself.  What people do with that choice is up to them.

Then we come to the hoary old point about whether we need to have 60% support for Yes in the polls before calling a referendum - an arbitrary and utterly unattainable target figure that is effectively an argument for never holding a referendum and for Scotland never becoming an independent country.  Andrew is rather elliptical on that point in his article, and that's probably intentional.  On the one hand he makes the entirely sensible observation that "the polls will lag until the question is ready to be put", which on the face of it is an acknowledgement that any large shifts of public opinion are only likely to occur after a referendum is actually called, and that therefore sub-50 (let alone sub-60) showings for Yes in the polls should not be used as an argument for delay.  But then he moves straight back to utopia-chasing by saying that "our focus must turn to those who need persuaded to get the coalition for Yes comfortably over 50% and towards 60% and beyond", which sounds very much like "we must not act until that happens", and which amounts to "we must not act at all".  Of course, he could be saying that we should be ready to push towards 60% support once the campaign is actually underway, but why would we need to do that, when 50% + 1 is enough?  It doesn't make sense.

So on balance this does look like another outing for the "60% threshold for calling an indyref".  If so, I'm not surprised Andrew shied away from stating it directly, because it really is pretty silly.

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The Telegraph said yesterday that the SNP had secured a majority for their Budget with the help of the "hard-left Greens".  That echoes the words of Willie Rennie a few weeks ago, who said that the SNP were turning to the "hard-left" rather than reaching a sensible deal with a mainstream party like the Liberal Democrats (ahem).  But this ignores the fact that the SNP were open to doing a budget deal with pretty much any party, and that the unionist parties made that impossible by setting ludicrous conditions. The Lib Dems themselves, for example, laid down an absolute precondition that the SNP would have to temporarily take their push for independence off the table, which is a bit like telling the Lib Dems they have to temporarily stop believing in liberalism, or telling the Tories they have to temporarily stop believing in free-market capitalism.

It's really simple, guys: if you think a "hard-left" deal is bad for Scotland, negotiate in good faith and don't leave a deal with the Greens as the only remaining practical option.  The unionist parties are effectively the midwives of this deal.

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Scot Goes Pop fundraiser: If you'd like to help this blog continue during what could be an epic few months ahead, just a reminder that last year's fundraiser is still very much open for donations, and hasn't reached the target figure yet.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Watch Thou For The Mutant!

Well, I was initially stumped as to how I could possibly top the truly bonkers, paranoid hysteria of the "Beware The Liars!" title of Peter A Bell's latest blogpost, which is accompanied by what (if I may say so) is a rather fetching photo of my good self.  Luckily John Wyndham's classic sci-fi novel The Chrysalids popped into my head and saved the day.

(I honestly haven't mocked that poster up, by the way, it's genuine.)

Peter's reply on the UDI point is really rather comical, because having spent several paragraphs angrily insisting that he is viscerally opposed to UDI, he then totally contradicts himself by baldly stating that "there is no route to independence which does not involve breaking the rules devised by the British state" and that "nothing happens unless and until the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament does something that it does not have the legal power to do" and that Scotland can become independent without the "consent" of the "British elite" and that it can do so by "breaching the terms of the union".  He goes on to helpfully explain that the reason he dubs this proposed extra-legal action "Dissolve The Union" rather than something more negative is because it is an exercise in "framing/reframing", ie. turning a negative concept on its head by reframing it as something positive.

In other words, the reason he is so angry at his plan being characterised as UDI is not because that characterisation isn't factually accurate (it is) but because it ruins the attempt at a cosmetic rebranding exercise, which rather hopelessly depended for its success on absolutely everyone adopting the same euphemistic language (in line with Peter's recent stern instruction to "STFU about UDI!").

I rest my case, m'lud.  I've rarely seen such an impressive example of a man arguing against himself and winning so decisively.

I'll comment briefly on some of Peter's misrepresentations about my own position, and at this point I would just note the irony of him branding me a "liar" on the basis that I wouldn't accept that he is the sole authority on what his words mean.  If he actually followed his own stricture, there's no way he would be continuing to peddle the wild allegation that I have blocked him from posting comments on this blog, in spite of me having told him multiple times that I have not done so, and in spite of me having explained time and again that there is no facility on this blogging platform for blocking individuals.  (His attempted get-out clause on the latter point is a link to an article which he implies shows a method by which individuals can be blocked from commenting on Blogspot, but in fact shows no such thing.)

His stricture also ought to preclude him from claiming that I've stated that "Scotland was extinguished" by the union of 1707, because as he knows I've stated nothing of the sort.  What I did point out is that the pre-1707 Scottish Parliament ceased to exist as a result of the union, and that the present-day Scottish Parliament is not a continuation of it, but is instead a body that derives its limited legal authority from an Act of the UK Parliament.  That is simply a fact.  Peter clearly doesn't like that fact, and I don't like it much either, but facts are important just the same.

Peter also bizarrely claims that I have accused adherents of "Dissolve the Union" of being opposed to a referendum.  I have not done so, and he will search in vain for any suggestion to the contrary.  Indeed, in one sense whether a referendum is held or not is completely irrelevant to the issue of UDI.  Regardless of whether or not a popular mandate is established for an independence declaration, it's still UDI if that declaration is unilateral.  For example, it's widely known that the government of Quebec was contemplating UDI if there had been a Yes vote in the 1995 independence referendum, because they didn't have any confidence that the Canadian government would respect the result.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

The UDI that dares not speak its name

As you may have noticed, I've recently been getting pelters in pretty much equal measure from both the "let's postpone Indyref2 indefinitely" people and the "UDI next Wednesday" people.  If I was Sarah Smith, I'd breezily tell you that this shows I must be getting the balance just about right.  But I'm not Sarah Smith, so I'll take a moment to respond substantively to the latest meltdown.

I defended Peter A Bell to the hilt in my last blog, and Peter being Peter, he was not at all happy about it.  In fact that's the understatement of the century - so far he's posted nineteen tweets on the subject, most of them highly abusive, and just for good measure I awoke to an abusive email from him this morning as well.

Here are the nineteen tweets in full.  Make yourself a cup of tea and put your feet up, because we're going to be here for a while.

Tweet #1: "I note that James Kelly (Scot Goes Pop) persists in peddling lies."

Tweet #2: "It's bad enough we have British Nationalists misrepresenting the views of Yes activists without self-proclaimed independence bloggers joining in."

Tweet #3: "I will be posting this at intervals until James Kelly (Scot Goes Pop) removes the lies."

Tweet #4: "Actually, I may keep on posting this even if James Kelly does remove the lies. People should know he's a lying wee s***e."

Tweet #5: "James Kelly (Scot Goes Pop) asserts the right to lie about me while blocking me so I can't respond to his lies. In my eyes that makes him a despicable a******e."

Tweet #6: "This lying little t*** has had ample opportunity to remove the lies from his blog. Apparently, he doesn't care that people know he's a lying c***."

Tweet #7: "This piece of s*** also lied about @CraigMurrayOrg. But at least Craig was able to respond. Kelly has me blocked so I can't expose his lies. How's that working for you, you lying wee nyaff?"

Tweet #8: "This will be getting posted all day every day until that lying b****** James Kelly removes his lies from his website."

Tweet #9: "James Kelly (Scot Goes Pop) is a verminous liar."

Tweet #10: "James Kelly (Scot Goes Pop) continues to decline my invitation to remove the lies from his blog."

Tweet #11: "James Kelly (Scot Goes Pop) is a brazen liar. I have NEVER advocated UDI. Quite the contrary. Please ignore the lying little a******e."

Tweet #12: "UPDATE: James Kelly (Scot Goes Pop) is still a lying f*****t."

Tweet #13: "James Kelly (Scot Goes Pop) isn't only a liar. He's also an arrogant p**** who imagines he has a right to maliciously misrepresent others' views with impunity."

Tweet #14: "Just checked and @JamesKelly (Scot Goes Pop) still hasn't removed the lies about me from his website. Maybe I need to write an article letting everybody know what a despicable liar this little creep is."

Tweet #15: "Will it ever dawn on @JamesKelly that he can't get away with lying. He'll be exposed."

Tweet #16: "I wonder how many other people @JamesKelly has lied about. I ignore his lying blog and only found out the wee **** was lying about me through a third party."

Tweet #17: "If lying little s*** @JamesKelly imagines there's an end to this, he doesn't know me. I detest liars. Particularly those that claim to be part of the independence movement. I have time. I won't let up."

Tweet #18: "If there's anything worse than a liar it's a stupid liar. Somebody who tells pointless lies which are bound to be exposed. Somebody like @JamesKelly (Scot Goes Pop)."

Tweet #19: "It is evident that @JamesKelly (Scot Goes Pop) has never read anything that I've written. And yet the arrogant p**** thinks he's qualified to represent my views."

And here's the email...

Subject line: "Liar"

Text: "Just to let you know I'll be Tweeting about what a lying piece of s*** you are for the foreseeable future.

Peter A Bell"

And this, remember, is his reaction to a blogpost in which I defended him.  The mind boggles as to how he'd have reacted if I'd been mildly critical.  You've gotta love Peter, he's a national treasure.

Now, somewhere in that mountain of repetitive text you may have spotted the actual substance of his complaint (it's not easy to pick out, I know).  Essentially he's claiming that I was wrong to say he supports a unilateral declaration of independence (UDI) for Scotland.  But his denial might have a tad more credibility if he hadn't made it from a Twitter account that is currently named "Peter A Bell #DissolveTheUnion". Yes, folks, Peter A Bell is a strong and passionate supporter of UDI, but he just calls it something else and is apparently furious that I won't play along with his little fiction.

In November, I took part in an edition of the Through a Scottish Prism podcast with Peter, in which he helpfully set out his support for UDI in the following unambiguous terms -

"At some point somebody's got to do something bold and decisive, and there's nobody else who can do that but Nicola Sturgeon.  So if you're asking about when, I would say in the next two months...I think it'll have to be in the next two months...I have actually stopped talking for the most part, I sometimes get led into it...rather than talking about a referendum, I would rather talk about action to resolve the constitutional issue, and leave that open as to what form that action takes.  And there are a number of ways that that can go.  I've made no secret of the fact that my favoured course of action would be for Nicola Sturgeon, and I'm just going to state this very briefly now, Nicola Sturgeon stands up in Holyrood and says that because of this, that and the next thing, we've decided that we will dissolve the union on such-and-such a date, subject to a referendum on such-and-such a date."

Neither the Scottish government, nor the Scottish Parliament, has the legal power to "dissolve the union".  There is no debate to be had over that - it is simply a fact.  Therefore if the action Peter is proposing is taken, it would inescapably amount to a unilateral declaration of independence.  Peter is somewhat elliptical in his writings about the exact basis for his contention that this preferred form of UDI is not UDI at all, but from what I can gather it relates to the oft-heard belief that the Treaty of Union is something that the Scottish Parliament can simply decide to repeal at any moment of its choosing, in which case the union ceases to be in force and there is nothing to declare independence from, unilaterally or otherwise.  That, not to put too fine a point on it, is complete and utter garbage.  The parties to the Treaty of Union no longer exist, other than in the singular form of the United Kingdom Parliament and government.  The present-day Scottish Parliament is not a continuation of the pre-1707 parliament.  It draws its legal authority wholly and exclusively from an Act of the UK Parliament, and that Act specifically withholds powers related to the constitution.  (And the legal authority of the UK Parliament to withhold those powers derives from the Treaty of Union itself, which invested the UK Parliament with all of the powers of the pre-1707 Scottish Parliament.)

As Craig Murray has pointed out, UDI can often be a highly effective course of action, because if enough states recognise such a declaration, the domestic legal position effectively becomes redundant.  But a spade is still a spade, and UDI is still UDI.  So, no, I regret to inform Peter that the accurate observations in my previous blogpost will not be deleted.  On the plus side, that doubtless means I can look forward to being entertained by his wonderfully abusive tweets on a daily basis for weeks (perhaps years?) to come.

A couple of miscellaneous points: as Peter 'alludes' to (ahem), Craig Murray did indeed make a small correction to something I said in the blogpost about him, but I'm not sure that the correction has quite the cosmic significance that Peter is making out.  I said that Craig is not in favour of a referendum, but Craig pointed out that he is not opposed to a referendum.  He expects Westminster to refuse a Section 30 order, and wants Nicola Sturgeon to respond to that refusal by setting in motion a process that will lead to UDI.

Secondly, Peter has been banging on for weeks about how I've supposedly "blocked" him from posting comments on this blog, and as you can see he's now complaining that this means he hasn't been able to "expose" my "lies".  I've explained this before and it looks like I'll have to explain it many, many more times before it finally penetrates his skull: not only is it untrue that I have blocked him from posting comments, it would be physically impossible for me to block him even if I wanted to.  The facility to block individual commenters does not exist on this blogging platform - the only way of doing it would be to block all comments from everyone.  My guess is that he encountered a technical glitch when trying to post a comment and has jumped to a wild conclusion.

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Scot Goes Pop fundraiser: If you'd like to help this blog continue during what could be an epic few months ahead, just a reminder that last year's fundraiser is still very much open for donations, and hasn't reached the target figure yet.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Looking for a "mature" way forward? Start with a pragmatic acceptance that a big increase in Yes support is only possible AFTER a referendum is actually called

In the wake of Joyce McMillan's clarion call for inaction and passivity last week, Kevin Williamson of Bella fame posted the following risible tweet -

"Plenty of vitriol directed at @joycemcm and @AndrewWilson for suggesting not rushing into #indyref2.  @NicolaSturgeon will get same - called a Unionist/Britnat/traitor from the Wings/Kelly/Murray/Bell/fundamentalist wing of Yes - if she doesn't call #indyref2 in the next six weeks."

It isn't the main point of this blogpost, but it is just worth pausing for a moment and marvelling at the sheer comical absurdity of Kevin's attempt to lump together as "fundamentalists" four people who hold such wildly different views.  Just for starters, Craig Murray will not be remotely bothered if Nicola Sturgeon doesn't call a referendum within the next six weeks, because as I understand it he doesn't even want a referendum - he favours an alternative method of attaining independence.  Indeed, I'd have thought one of the basic requirements for anyone to qualify as a "fundamentalist" would be support for UDI, and only two of the four names mentioned (Craig and Peter Bell) have gone down that road.  For my part, I don't think Westminster can ever hold a veto on Scottish self-determination, so I suppose it's true that if absolutely every other option was exhausted (ie. if there was a clear mandate for independence that was completely ignored), I might eventually start thinking the unthinkable, but we're a long, long way from that point yet.

At least three of the four of us have an impeccable track record of supporting Nicola Sturgeon when she announced a delay in the indyref timetable in the summer of 2017, whereas Kevin can't even boast a track record of backing Nicola Sturgeon in the 2016 Holyrood list vote.  So it's something of a mystery as to where Kevin is getting the idea that we're going to start behaving totally out of character by branding her a "traitor" if she doesn't take a certain course of action within a six-week timetable that I'm not aware any of us have even mentioned.  And to the best of my knowledge none of us are in the habit of throwing around nasty insults like "traitor" anyway - I'm certainly not, and I know that Stuart Campbell has a setting on the comments section of Wings that automatically intercepts any attempt to use the word "traitor" and changes it to "tractor".

(Not that I'd want to embarrass Kevin, but if you want to know the rather amusing real reason why he's so eager to smear me as a "fundamentalist", just click HERE and HERE.)

Anyway, my initial response to Kevin's tweet was to point out to him that he appears not to have caught up with the growing and impressive ideological diversity of the "fundamentalist wing of Yes", because it seemed that his fellow traveller Robin McAlpine was considerably more impatient for a referendum than the likes of me.  I now realise that I did Robin a disservice, though, because his latest CommonSpace article makes clear that the action he is impatient for is a renewed independence campaign, and that he partly agrees with Joyce McMillan that it would be "immature" to call for a referendum until that campaign has succeeded in growing support for independence to the point where the London government cannot possibly deny a request for a referendum.

I don't doubt Robin's sincerity, but I have to say what he's suggesting is strategically naive, and is frankly a recipe for Scotland never holding a referendum and never becoming independent.  There are two questions to consider - a) would the Tories magically drop their opposition to a Section 30 order if Yes were on 55% rather than 47%, and b) is there any possibility whatsoever that a campaign without the focus of a referendum or election date could gain enough traction to get Yes to that level of support?  The answer to both questions is self-evidently "no".  The reason the Tories don't want to grant a Section 30 order is because they don't want Scotland to become an independent country - an increased Yes vote in the polls would just make them even more intransigent.  (Look at the current situation with Brexit: has majority support for Remain in the polls led to the Tory leadership dropping its opposition to a second EU referendum?  Er, no.  Of course it hasn't.)  And as for the limitations of any non-referendum campaign for independence, you only have to look at the relatively minor effect of the emotional shock of the surprise referendum outcome in June 2016.  There were a couple of polls in the aftermath of the Brexit decision that had Yes in the low 50s, and then normal service was quickly resumed.  If Robin thinks that any random, unfocused independence campaign, one that the mainstream media can easily and happily ignore, can somehow surpass the impact of Scotland being dragged out of the EU against its will, all I can say is that's wildly optimistic.

There is, however, one hard-headed, mature and realistic way of potentially bringing about a big and fast change to public opinion, and that is to actually call a referendum (or an election that doubles as a referendum).  We've seen it time and again now - voters are open to changing their views in the heat of a referendum/election campaign, when their minds are focused on a real and impending choice.  They are considerably less open to changing their views at any other time, when they may rather resent even being asked to think about the subject in any depth.

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Scot Goes Pop fundraiser: If you'd like to help this blog continue during what could be an epic few months ahead, just a reminder that last year's fundraiser is still very much open for donations, and hasn't reached the target figure yet.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Scotland's shame: the disgraceful behaviour of the Daily Record and David Clegg

I was trying to remember this morning when it was that the scales first fell from my eyes about what a disgusting, disreputable publication the Daily Record is.  It was actually long before the independence referendum and the notorious "Vow".  About ten or fifteen years ago, there was a documentary on Channel 4 that featured fly-on-the-wall footage of a young brother and sister being interviewed by a Record reporter.  They were in an incestuous relationship, and wanted to bring to wider public attention a phenomenon called Genetic Sexual Attraction (GSA), which causes siblings who didn't know each other during childhood to feel a strong attraction to each other when they meet as adults.  The Record reporter gave every indication that he was primarily interested in GSA and that the subject would be treated sympathetically, but he must have known even as he was sitting there that he was about to betray their trust.  The documentary later showed their shock as they opened the newspaper to discover a splash that essentially branded them as perverts, and only mentioned GSA in passing.  The quotes that were included from the interview were all taken out of context and were presented as a feeble 'defence' against accusations that had been ranged against them.  Needless to say, the Record hadn't even bothered to give them the courtesy of a warning about what was about to hit them.

Would the Record attempt a story like that now?  I suspect not, simply because public attitudes about sex have become more liberal and it would rebound on them.  Incest is still regarded as wrong in all circumstances, but there would be a greater willingness to listen sympathetically to a reasonable explanation.  But even if the parameters within which the Record are able to ruin lives have changed, their readiness to ruin lives in pursuit of a sensationalist story has not changed at all.  Their appalling front page today is just the latest in a long line of examples, and David Clegg's eagerness to promote that front page on social media will be a mark of shame until his dying day.

There is a gloating, mocking air to the words "Alexander Elliott Anderson Salmond, you are accused of..." which leaves no room for doubt that the Record's agenda is political revenge.  I suspect that any complainant would be deeply distressed to see their accounts weaponised in that way, and also trivialised by the unmistakeable use of "Cluedo"-type language.  Meanwhile readers are clearly being invited to believe that the only salient point is that Salmond has been charged with the offences that are itemised in huge lettering.  There is only the tiniest of token nods to the fact that the charges have yet to be tested in court.  Essentially Mr Salmond's right to a presumption of innocence has been totally disregarded.

In case you had any remaining sliver of doubt about what game the Record are playing, Salmond is branded at the bottom of the page as "the face of independence", a point expanded on by an article by Clegg that tries to argue that the independence cause has been seriously damaged.  Anyone would think it was the Yes movement that had been charged with sexual offences.  Anyone would think that politicians from other movements and other parties are immune to criminal charges, or to the possibility of personal misdemeanours that are self-evidently unrelated to their politics.  Even very recent history tells us otherwise.

And yes, I know the front page of The Sun is, if anything, even worse.