Monday, August 2, 2021

Last year, the UK political class and their scientific advisers expected us all to accept Covid infection and a great many of us to die - and, no, they have no right to tell us to shut up about that episode now

This is an observation I've made before.  I'm sometimes accused of being "on the wrong side of history", particularly in relation to the trans issue, even though my views are more nuanced than some.  The jury has to be out on that - when you have two movements that regard themselves as progressive (gender critical feminism and trans activism) in direct conflict with each other, anyone who claims to know for sure the future verdict of history is over-reaching themselves.  So, it's true, I can't say for certain that I'm on the right side of history on the trans debate or several other debates.  But there's one debate that I'm fully entitled to say that history has already judged me to be on the right side of - and that's the herd immunity debate of early 2020.  At a time when the Scottish Government was locked into a Westminster-led "Four Nations" herd immunity strategy, I was putting out blogpost after blogpost begging them to change course, to come into line with WHO guidance, and to start trying to suppress the virus.  Frankly, it's beyond all credible dispute that I made the right call, and that the Scottish Government were following the wrong course until they finally U-turned in late March, by which time a lot of the damage was already done.

Early yesterday morning, I tweeted something that should have been utterly uncontroversial.  I contrasted a media report revealing that many people are being reinfected after a previous natural Covid infection with Jason Leitch's claim in early 2020 to know that it was essentially impossible to catch the virus twice.  He was using that claim to justify his insistence that the whole Scottish population had to be infected with Covid, albeit in a "smooth" and "safe" fashion, and that doing so would bring the crisis to an end.  Even at the time, it was a statement of the obvious that the herd immunity policy was idiotic and devoid of all sense of human responsibility if there was any chance at all that Leitch's claim was wrong - and, sadly, we now have cast-iron proof that it was.  To make any sense of where we are now, a year and a half later, it's important to recognise and face up to the truly catastrophic error of judgement that was made.

But, remarkably, an awful lot people disagree and want the whole matter swept under the carpet.  The first person to react to my tweet yesterday was the veteran journalist Ruth Wishart, who demanded to know what the point was of "badmouthing" Leitch, who in her view has given "heroic" service during the pandemic - a downright bizarre way of describing the contribution of a man who became the public face of a policy which deliberately allowed a highly contagious virus to move through the population during early-to-mid March 2020, and thus led directly to several thousand avoidable deaths.  Yes, it's good that the mistake was eventually tacitly accepted and that the policy was belatedly changed, but all that achieved was to prevent thousands more people from needlessly dying - it didn't reverse the disaster that was already occurring.  

I pointed this out to Ruth, and her only response was to demand to know what my epidemiological qualifications are, and to contrast that with Leitch's allegedly peerless expertise.  Hmmmm.  You know, I'd have thought Leitch and his cheerleaders would want to maintain a diplomatic silence on his qualifications at this stage, given the notorious incident last spring when he tried to shut down Piers Morgan's perfectly reasonable questions by smugly referring to his fabled masters degree in public health.  We now know that the masters-less Morgan was correct and the "highly qualified" Leitch was completely wrong, because Leitch was arguing that from a public health point of view it was right to go to a mass-attended indoor concert in late March 2020.  "I would have gone myself" he fatuously added.  Morgan pointed out that this was an utterly incredible position for a man such as Leitch to take, and at that point Leitch refused to engage further, instead taking the "I'm qualified and you're not" tack.  If ever there was an interview that ought to have put a government official out of a job, that was the one.

Ruth Wishart quickly blocked me, apparently taking the view that unqualified adoration of the saintly Jason Leitch is an indispensable part of social media etiquette.  However, that wasn't the end of the matter, because the inexplicably enormous Leitch Fan Club picked up where she left off, and for the remainder of the day my notifications were buzzing with literally dozens, possibly well over a hundred, furious replies.  Some of them were downright abusive.  In particular, there was one anonymous troll who tried to pull rank on me by claiming to be a bioscientist involved in Covid research.  Given that he/she became increasingly abusive as the exchange progressed, and given that he/she was peddling false information that has long since been debunked, I can only hope that the bioscientist claim was untruthful too. After many, many hours I blocked the individual in question, to which they reacted by calling me a "w***er".  I've since reported them to Twitter.  (On past form that's probably a waste of time, but as a matter of principle I'm not going to pretend that abusive behaviour is OK.)

I said to someone last night that this passionate support for Leitch almost resembles a religion, given how irrationally angry people become at the sight of even the mildest and most legitimate criticism of their hero.  Insisting that his detractors must acknowledge "what he's sacrificed for us during the pandemic" carries a distinctly Jesus-like connotation.  The other similarity with religion is the dependence on a 'founding myth' of what happened in the early days of Covid, which naturally absolves Leitch of all blame.  The core beliefs of the Church of Leitch are as follows...

* That Leitch was correct when he claimed that you couldn't catch the virus twice, but that "the science has since changed".

* That Leitch did not in fact support a herd immunity policy, and that his statements on the subject were "misunderstood".

* That, in any case, Leitch was speaking in line with a monolithic global scientific consensus when he said that the virus had to be allowed to move through the whole population.  (This appears to contradict the claim that he never actually supported herd immunity, but don't worry - faith sometimes involves contradictions.)

* That Leitch was fully in conformity with WHO guidance, and that he has simply "moved with the times as the science has evolved".

Every single one of those is a fairy tale.  In February and March 2020, Leitch and all the other propagandists for the Westminster approach were in open defiance of the world-leading experts of the WHO, who were stressing again and again that coronavirus was not flu - it had a much higher death rate but was also transmitted in a way that made suppression possible by means of social distancing and rigorous contact tracing.  WHO leaders urged all countries to follow the good examples of China and South Korea by preventing transmission.  Leitch and his counterparts in England decided that they knew better than the WHO, and that the South Korean approach couldn't work (even though it was plainly working remarkably well in South Korea itself).  Instead Leitch wanted us all to catch what he clearly believed to be a relatively mild illness, and the only purpose of any limited restrictions was to create a sort of "orderly infection queue system" so that not too many people would be ill at any one time and the hospitals would not be overwhelmed.

That, of course, is the herd immunity strategy in a nutshell.  The notion that Leitch was "misunderstood" in his support for herd immunity is laughable beyond belief.  Indeed, the very thing that makes Leitch important in the story of the UK epidemic is that his public statements in support of herd immunity were considerably more explicit than those from Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance (although Vallance famously let his guard slip on a couple of occasions and made fairly direct comments about seeking an infection rate of around 60%).

There are so many quotes related to herd immunity from Leitch's Grand Complacency Tour of the TV and radio studios, but for convenience all the quotes below are taken from a Channel 4 interview on 16th March 2020.  It can be viewed in full HERE

Interviewer: "You'll be aware of this Public Health England document...that says they expect 80% of the population to be infected, and perhaps 15% to be hospitalised.  Are those sort of percentages that you recognise...?"

Leitch: "They are...and they're the kind of numbers we've been working with for the last few weeks.  They're not all going to happen on Wednesday.  Which is one of the reasons why the method we're trying to apply in Scotland and the UK is to smooth that hospitalisation over time."

In other words, he was totally cool with huge numbers of infections and hospitalisations, as long as they happened sloooooowly.  He does go on to say that the absolute numbers talked about in the Public Health England document could be reduced somewhat with "mitigation" measures - but "mitigation" has a very different meaning from "containment" or "suppression".  It still implies mass infection.  

Leitch: "To be honest, some people are going to die of the disease this virus causes.  The vast majority of people are going to recover.  They're going to have minor illness, they're going to stay at home for seven days..."

Note the complacency dripping from that statement - clearly he believes Covid is not a SARS-like event, and that it's basically safe to expose the population to it.  His breezy prediction that "some" people would die was something of an understatement - there have in fact been over 10,000 deaths in Scotland so far, and crucially that happened in spite of the fact that the Scottish Government later changed course and tried to stop transmission.  The mind boggles as to how many tens of thousands of deaths would have been recorded if the policy Leitch set out to Channel 4 had been seen through to its bitter conclusion.  

Interviewer: "Do you agree with Patrick Vallance, the Chief Scientific Adviser, that one of the aims of the UK Government is for people to develop an immunity to this disease?"

Leitch: "I do, I ABSOLUTELY AGREE WITH HIM, because WE HAVE NO CHOICE. You can't get rid of the virus.  You can wish it away but it will not go.  Therefore we have to MANAGE THE INFECTION SAFELY ACROSS THE WHOLE POPULATION."

Remember this was open defiance of WHO guidance at the time, which clearly stated there was a choice: suppression of the virus, in their view, was both perfectly achievable and essential.  And there were umpteen statements from the WHO making clear that the idea that people could be mass-infected "safely" was grotesque and wrong.  The aim, they stressed, had to be to stop people becoming infected in the first place.

Interviewer: "The British Society of Immunology say they don't know yet if this novel virus will induce long-term immunity.  So why are you so sure that it will when they're not?"

Leitch: "So we KNOW that if you get it, you don't appear to get it again."

This removes any alibi for Leitch that "the science has changed" and that his claim about reinfection being impossible was "true at the time".  He was invited by the interviewer to agree with a statement of the bleedin' obvious that we simply didn't know yet after a few short weeks whether reinfection was possible.  And he declined.  He stated that we "knew" enough to be confident that infecting "the whole population" was "safe" and would bring the crisis to an end.

Frankly, anyone who reads or watches that interview and continues to maintain that Leitch was "misunderstood" over his support for herd immunity is making themselves look utterly ridiculous.  As I've said before, I look forward to Leitch's appearance before the inevitable public inquiry, because any semi-competent QC will identify all of the above points within about 0.003 microseconds.  He doesn't have a leg to stand on, and it's incomprehensible that he's still in office.   

The last thing I want to say is this.  The abusive troll claiming to be a "bioscientist" said he was sick and tired of people like me, without any relevant qualifications, giving their views on this subject.  Well, frankly, that person can take a hike, because herd immunity/mass infection was not the private project of Leitch, or of Catherine Calderwood, or of Chris Whitty, or of Patrick Vallance, or of other WHO-defying British scientists, or of the political class at Holyrood or Westminster.  All of us were expected to dutifully become infected because of decisions these people made, a large minority of us were expected to accept hospitalisation with a serious illness, and many of us were expected to die.  We all have a stake in Leitch's reckless approach last year, and to tell us to shut up about it is breathtaking arrogance that I and many, many others will simply never accept.  I will be continuing to speak out, no matter how inconvenient that may be to a small number of officials and their devoted fans.  

*   *   *

Another person has let me know that they plan to nominate me for one of the three male positions on the Alba Party's National Executive Committee, so I'm now at least 20% of the way towards making the ballot.  The chances of actually being elected are probably pretty slim, but there's a case to be made for giving members as wide a choice as possible, so if you're a party member, by all means nominate me for the NEC if you'd like to.  I gather Denise Findlay might be standing for one of the three female spots, so she'd be a great person to nominate too (as would many others - we're really spoilt for choice).

*   *   *

I'm now home from my staycation, so I can reveal the answer to the "guess the location in the video" teaser - it was in the north-west of Skye, about three miles from Neist Point Lighthouse.  Stravaiger got it bang on, but the precision of his answer (he even provided a grid reference) freaked me out and I didn't publish his comment!  A couple of people thought it was Uig in the north-east of Skye, and having also passed through there on my travels I can see why - it does look quite similar.

*   *   *

Click here for the Scot Goes Pop fundraiser.

31 comments:

  1. Good article James. This godlike worship of characters like Leitch are truly scary. I used to think better of Ruth Wishart but her worship of president nickla just gives me the dry boak.

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  2. An absolute belter of an article James on a topic that you have always been spot on with your comments.

    Leitch and Sturgeon basically did what they were told to say and do by Johnson and the rest of them in London. Sturgeon just threw in the odd small delay and variation to make it look as if they were in control. They let 5,000 German football fans fly in to Glasgow in late March for a European game at Ibrox. At that time the fans came from one of the highest rates of infection in Germany.

    If there is any justice in the UK all involved in the Covid disaster should be investigated for criminal negligence ( spoiler alert - they won't be).

    You are telling the truth James - best watch out that Sturgeon doesn't set her dogs on you.

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  3. The liar who says he is Scottish and Skies is behaving like the obnoxious prat he truly is on WGD. Claims he is a data analyst just like he used to claim he is a rock basher. It now seems that Campbell and you James are public enemies 1 and 2 in his tiny brain.

    Now I understand why he lets SS rip away at Campbell ( Kavanagh hates Campbell and tried to set him up just like Sturgeon did with Salmond ) but why does he let him attack you James. You do realise his attacks will become more and more deranged.

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    1. As I've said before, I have no problem at all with Paul - he's been very kind to me, and we're still on good terms in spite of being on opposite sides of the SNP-Alba schism.

      Winter sports enthusiasts are responsible for their own comments.

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    2. It does seem that SS is continually using the WGD site as nothing more than a platform to attack you, James.

      Hell hath no fury like a Skier scorned. :)

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    3. The way I see it is that you James want Scottish independence but your friend Kavanagh wants a successful blog and despite knowing what Sturgeon has done Kavanagh panders to the idiots who believe in Sturgeon.

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    4. There's no-one who wants independence more than Paul Kavanagh.

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    5. James thats what they say about Sturgeon as well.

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    6. Skier is an eccentric individual to put it politely who claims to have expertise in all sorts of disciplines - geologist, psephologist, accountant, company director, lecturer - maybe he has added 'bioscientist' to the list! I suspect many of these personas, like his French wife, are figments of an overactive imagination. Otherwise, where does he find the time to conduct his in-depth survey of gender neutral toilets! No doubt he is clutching his £20 refund, anxiously awaiting the launch of the next 'ringfenced (honestly, this time we mean it) fund' for indyref2. A true believer in the cult of St Nicola, he is no asset to any site except as comic relief.



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  4. Well said sir, well said, more power to your pen. As a simple man with no qualifications I can still look objectively at any and all evidence on this subject and make a reasonable decision on what is/has happened. As you say , to suggest we (the great unwashed) simply shut up and do not challenge/query our “betters” reminds me of the book The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists. I am ashamed that this is happening in Scotland now.

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  5. I’ve never agreed with a blog post so much. Keep it up James, who knows the truth might prevail in the end.

    I am sick of these people who, even when they are wrong, still think they were “right at the time”. The same stupid game is being played by people who at one time called the lab leak a “conspiracy” but now admit it’s possible/likely but amazingly still think others were wrong who arrived at the same conclusion earlier. There is no talking to people like that. Even when they are wrong they are right.

    I am disappointed Ruth Wishart didn’t see sense because she usually does.

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  6. As a gay man, now in his seventies, I lived through the aids epidemic, still ongoing but now under some control even though an effective vaccine has not yet been invented almost forty years on. The early days of that era were eerily similar to the Covid pandemic in that total ignorance of its cause and mode of transmission, reigned. I should also add that I have no medical training, being an Engineer by profession, but that does not mean I am unable to assess public information statements and policies as to whether they make sense or not, and some of the Covid advice, in my opinion, has been woeful if its true intention was to prevent spread of the virus and not promote it.

    The earliest data from China on the current pandemic, suggested that it was possible to become infected twice by the disease, and that's before the number of variants we have today were known to exist. As a layman, I was aware that by their very nature, viruses tend to mutate (I get a new flu jag every year), so why did herd immunity seem to gain traction in the top strata of the medical profession the way it did?

    Also, the dramatic rate of spread of infection in China, and the far east, suggested to me that one of the principal methods of transmission was through the air. Two of the most immediately effective policies there, seemed to be to prevent public gatherings, together with personal quarantine. If spread primarily through physical contact, isolation by quarantine would have been unlikely to cut the infection rate so dramatically and immediately. After all, everybody has to eat, and if Covid was passed primarily by touch, the disease would have continued its relentless spread, albeit at a reduced rate, as food and the necessities of life have to be delivered and consumed in the home during quarantine. Infections did not continue their meteoric rise, falling dramatically, indicating transmission was primarily through the air. Yet, British advice was that masks were ineffective and that handwashing was of primary importance. I now suspect this was because the UK simply did not have an adequate supply of masks, because again, in the early days, it was the far eastern countries where mask-wearing was virtually universal as lockdown eased, that the rate of spread was lowest.

    I also think that the UK has been very badly served by the public face of its pandemic advisers, who I suspect have caved in to government bullying and "moderated" their public statements towards the politicians' views, rather than those of "the science". I hope they can live with their consciences, because their "imprecise", sometimes misleading or downright bad, advice has almost certainly caused tens of thousands of preventable deaths.

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  7. With the normal caveats that this is just a leak of a draft etc and could change; but:

    SNP members will be asked to support a motion calling for indyref2 legislation to be brought to Holyrood at the 'earliest moment' after the pandemic, according to reports

    https://twitter.com/ScotNational/status/1422180884279607298

    SNP members will be asked to support a motion calling for indyref2 legislation to be brought to Holyrood at the “earliest moment” after the pandemic, according to a leaked draft agenda for the party’s September conference.

    The Telegraph reports that the draft agenda includes a motion stating legislation for a vote should come after a “clear end” to the coronavirus crisis.

    Apart from the fact there is not going to be a 'clear end' to the crisis, if anything (based on a few reports that have come out over last few weeks) the risk of vaccine resistant or more deadly variants of COVID is going to be the main risk in the short to medium term with then the possibility of it becoming less of a risk in the long term.

    So in reality a clear end will be when the population has got to used to living with COVID and the fact that x amount of people will die from it per year, in the same way that we do with other diseases. Not got a clue when that will be but can't see that being in the next year to 18 months.

    The second part is that it is not even about holding the referendum until COVID is 'over' now the SNP is saying that it can't even start passing the legislation until its over.

    Last month we held a major sporting event, today all restrictions bar a handful (masks travel restrictions etc) will most likely be dropped, in a couple of months COP26 is happening, Nicola is inviting Boris for a chat in Bute house, but yet the SNP are saying that they can't possibly even pass legistlation for let alone hold a referendum until COVID is over?

    Reading around social media etc there is a lot of excitement that the trigger for a second referendum is going to be pulled at the SNP conference. But, if this leak is anything close to accurate, instead a referendum is once again being kicked down the road once again.

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    1. DRAFT REFERENDUM BILL
      Conference welcomes the draft Referendum Bill published before the recent Scottish
      Parliamentary elections and the commitment in our manifesto to passing that Bill and holding a
      referendum as soon as it is safe to hold a proper, detailed, serious national debate on
      independence.
      Conference notes that the Scottish Parliament election results in May 2021 demonstrate clear,
      majority support for a referendum on independence.
      Conference believes that people in Scotland should not have their health, wellbeing and future
      economic potential compromised by holding a referendum on independence before it is safe to
      do so, and that this decision should be determined by data driven criteria about the clear end to
      the public health crisis, which would allow a full, normal, and energetic referendum campaign.
      Conference expects that the Scottish Government will bring forward the draft Bill at the earliest
      such moment and looks forward to placing the decision about our National future in the hands of
      those who live and vote here.

      To be clear the above resolution is nothing to do with the SNP Policy Development Committee. It is a mandate for delay as nothing can be done until the pandemic is certified as over. Why Holyrood can pass any number of bills now but not one about a Referendum is a mystery. Equally what can't you answer the questions about currency, pensions, the border, EU, etc? How does Covid prevent that?

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  8. HEAR! HEAR! I have long held the view that the mob in Edinburgh are just as dim as the Tories in London.

    Leitch always strikes me as especially dim-witted as he always talks as if he were addressing a public meeting and seems to lack any awareness of himself.

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  9. The liar SS takes great delight in Hubbard not winning a medal in the Olympics and seems to think that this shows concerns about women's sport being ruined by the participation of transwomen is unjustified. What he doesn't point out that Hubbard is in her forties and her sport is weight lifting.

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  10. Don't forget his denial that Westminster arranged for England only supply of facemasks when in fact they had done so.

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  11. It would appear on the evidence that I have that the jag doesn't stop you getting the China Tory Plague or its variants. It appears that actually getting this plague or any of its variants doesn't give you immunity either.

    My brother in law has now tested positive no less than three times. He has been jagged twice as well.

    Duke Sturgeon is now collaborating with Boris Johnson to totally scupper any Indy Referendum and collaborating with him in spreading the Tory Plague to which to me there is obviously no real immunity and thus hide behind it.

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  12. You spotted it earlier than me, plenty people missed the first wave as time to lock down and close the borders so well done.

    What I find astonishing is that I've not seen anyone who has critisised the second wave. It was longer and worse than the first wave. Scotland could have closed its borders and erradicated covid and that would all have been avoided, but the politicians chose not to.

    I even saw an article by Lorna Slater saying the Scottish Government had acted fast. Which is just weirdly wrong for an opposition politician.

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  13. Ever wonder why they're NOT talking about how badly India is infected. Doesn't agree with their required narrative.

    https://www.thedesertreview.com/news/national/ivermectin-obliterates-97-percent-of-delhi-cases/article_6a3be6b2-c31f-11eb-836d-2722d2325a08.html

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  14. not sure about Denise Findlay, she got her arse handed to her on a plate on twitter by andrew tickle (lallans peat worrier) for making ignorant comments about scots law. I support Craig Murray and the campaign for justice but we dont need folk making us all look stupid.
    give her a body swerve

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  15. It jùst shows how big a joke Sturgeon and her "an independence referendum is just over the next hill" is when the BBC are posting articles asking whatever happened to indyref2.

    Meanwhile Sturgeon is asking Johnston over for a cup of tea and getting the two fingers. What sort of a leader is this for an Independence Party. The current SNP leadership are only interested in retaining power as a colonial government. They do NOT want independence. They are a pathetic excuse for a party that is SUPPOSED to be for Scottish independence.

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  16. Inspired by the liar SS some old folk on WGD have been belittling SGP by saying the low number of comments btl shows it is a site that is not well regarded now. Of course the pea brains do not realise that if that is their top criteria for the best blog then WOS wins hands down. 😂😂😂😂😂

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    1. Any supposed "low number of comments" simply reflects the fact that pre-moderation is switched on and I've become considerably more selective about what I allow through. I have, alas, acquired one or two stalkers on my travels.

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    2. Wings the best blog ! Thatgave me a good laugh !

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    3. I think he's referring to the number of 'hits'. Wings, while moribund, still attracts a lot of traffic.

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    4. Alec Lomax. I never said Wings was the best blog. I just pointed out the stupidity of the comment by the poster on WGD who was making a case for Wings being the best blog as Wings clearly has the greatest number of btl comments.

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  17. It is about time all those both votes SNP posters on SGP turned up and apologised for inflicting all those BRITNAT MSPS on the people of Scotland. You know who you are.

    An independence super majority was there for the taking but you blew it big time.

    Stop hiding and admit you got it wrong.

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    1. Is there much use pointing out that 49% of "the people of Scotland" voted for BRITNAT MSPS, yet ended up with only 44% of seats being occupied by them? Nah, probably not

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    2. Keaton you answered your own question.

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  18. James you are correct, please keep up alerting people to this situation, I sent you email.

    Private Eye comment, backs you up.

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