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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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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