Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Remember, remember, the twenty-third of November: the point of no return for both the British state and the SNP

As a Doctor Who fan, 23rd November was always a very meaningful date when I was growing up (it's the anniversary of the programme's first transmission in 1963 and has frequently been used for anniversary specials).  But it looks like that meaning will soon be overtaken for me: 23rd November will forevermore be the date on which the British authorities in London declared that the UK is no longer a voluntary union, and that Scotland has no democratic means of escaping its imprisonment in the British state unless given special permission by the UK Government.  I use the term 'British authorities in London' advisedly, because one of the clearest signals of the way the wind is blowing was the extreme touchiness the President of the Supreme Court exhibited during his opening remarks at the October hearing, when the only supposed 'public misconception' he seemed interested in clearing up was the entirely accurate claim that he heads a British institution in London deciding Scotland's future.  He tried rather implausibly to portray the court as a part-Scottish institution that has sometimes sat in Scotland (yeah, how many times would that be?) and that applies Scots Law.  He would hardly have felt the need to do that if there was the remotest chance of the court actually upholding Scotland's right to democratically choose its own future.

So one week from today, everything will change for the independence movement, and for the SNP leadership in particular.  Unless the court serves up a massive surprise, the "2023 referendum" that the SNP have continued to hype up over recent months will be officially off.  That will leave behind a vacuum in terms of a mission and a focus for the party membership.  But as long as Nicola Sturgeon sticks to what she has already promised, that vacuum should be very easily filled by a plebiscite election that we can expect within two years.  Indeed, this should be a moment of liberation for the independence movement, because it will free us from the tyranny of 'once in a generation' - we will no longer need be haunted by an excessive fear of defeat, because if we are forced in future through no fault of our own to seek an independence mandate via scheduled elections instead of referendums, the only limit on how quickly we can go back and try again after a defeat will be the frequency with which scheduled elections occur.

Will Nicola Sturgeon stick to the promise, though?  There have been some troubling signs, most notably Mhairi Hunter and Angus Robertson both making comments that seemed to imply that they think a plebiscite election is simply an election in which the SNP seek a mandate with which to pressurise the UK Government into granting a Section 30 order - ie. exactly what they've been doing for years and years and that has proved beyond all doubt to be a dud strategy.  Additionally, Nicola Sturgeon indicated that the SNP might need to take some time to reflect after a Supreme Court defeat - why?  If you've already announced that a plebiscite election will automatically follow such a defeat, why wouldn't you simply use the high-profile nature of the occasion to reiterate that plan, rather than allowing the momentum to flag by embarking on a seemingly redundant spell of humming and hawing?  The only obvious reason I can think of is that you want to use the 'reflection period' as part of a pre-planned choreography for a U-turn, or at least for a watering down of the plebiscite election concept until it comes into line with Hunter's and Robertson's interpretations - in other words until it ceases to be a plebiscite election in any meaningful sense.

I strongly urge rank-and-file SNP members to be vigilant against that danger.  A plebiscite election is not an election in which a mandate for a referendum is sought, nor is it merely an election in which - to use Angus Robertson's odd choice of words - "independence is the key issue".  To qualify as a plebiscite election, the SNP manifesto would have to make it clear that a majority of the vote would constitute an outright mandate for independence, and that if such a mandate is achieved, the UK government would be expected to negotiate an independence settlement without any further need for a referendum.  If that isn't the path the SNP stick to, the Supreme Court verdict will turn into a lose/lose outcome - we'll just carry on ineffectually seeking a Section 30 order, and the only thing that will have changed is that we'll have thrown away our only back-up plan.

That said, if the SNP's members succeed in keeping the leadership honest and a genuine plebiscite election occurs, there will then be a challenge for the smaller pro-independence parties, who will have to realise that splitting the Yes vote under a first-past-the-post system is an indulgence we simply can't afford.

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The social media pile-on directed against me by Stuart Campbell of Wings Over Scotland has predictably continued over recent days.  It's purely and simply an attempt to stop any further legitimate criticisms of Mr Campbell from being expressed, but at some point the penny will have to drop with his supporters that the bully-boy tactic isn't working.  Quite the reverse, in fact: the more attacks I have to respond to, the more you'll find that I do respond to them, and all the outrage and mockery and affected "boredom" will not actually prove to be any sort of deterrent. 

Craig Murray intervened the other night with a friendlier and more equal opportunities attempt at silencing, because he wanted both me and Mr Campbell to shut up. But in doing so, he unwittingly provided some highly revealing light relief.  He told us to stop focusing on each other and instead to train our fire on "the real enemy".  It quickly became apparent that the real enemy he was referring to was not the unionist parties or the UK Government, but instead Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP!  

This is where I think Craig and any of the other more well-meaning of Mr Campbell's defenders need to show a touch of humility and perspective.  To them, it may honestly seem impossible for anyone to criticise Mr Campbell in even the tiniest way without being "divisive" or "obsessive" or "not altogether sensible" to use Craig's own words.  But for years Craig has churned out article after article attacking Nicola Sturgeon, Angus Robertson and other leading SNP figures as enemies to the independence cause who must be ruthlessly defeated.  To at least 80% of the independence movement, and to 99% of pro-independence voters, he must look as if he's taken leave of his senses.  They'll be quietly screaming at him to stop causing "division", and to stop being "obsessional", and certainly to stop saying things that are "not altogether sensible", and instead to turn his attention back to "the real enemy" in the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

Now, that actually is not the position I take - although I don't share Craig's view that Nicola Sturgeon is an out-and-out enemy of independence (I just think she's overly timid and cautious), I nevertheless don't doubt his sincerity in believing that she is.  But given the extreme extent to which he is pushing against the tide of mainstream opinion in the movement about Nicola Sturgeon, I think it would do him some credit to acknowledge that even though he or one particular group of people hold a view that Stuart Campbell remains an ally of the independence cause, others may sincerely reach the opposite conclusion without in any way being misguided or 'cranks' or 'missing the bigger picture' - especially since the evidence that Mr Campbell has turned against independence is considerably stronger than the equivalent evidence for Ms Sturgeon.

Last year, Mr Campbell chose polling day of all times to post a disgraceful piece urging his readers not to vote for the pro-independence candidates on the Holyrood constituency ballot in a significant number of seats.  If he had got his way and unionist parties had won those seats, it could have cost us the pro-independence majority in the Scottish Parliament, which would have set the cause back years, if not decades.  For quite some time, he has joined with the unionist media in pushing false propaganda about polling to leave his readers with the bogus impression that Yes support has flatlined since 2014 (and because many readers are sufficiently under his spell to abandon all critical thinking, they just take his false claims as read and honestly think they "know" that Yes support has been static since 2014 - or even more ludicrously that Yes support among women has "dropped 17%" because of the GRA issue).  And he's taken a scorched earth approach to the pro-independence New Media by peddling bogus statistics to give the impression that the Yes blogosphere has essentially withered to nothing, because his so-called "closed" website (which in fact he's currently blogging full-time on!) is, he'd like us to believe, the only site that anyone is interested in looking at.

It is far from obvious that the above are the actions of an independence supporter.  When he's not actively trying to defeat independence at the ballot box, he's indirectly willing the destruction of our movement by means of self-fulfilling prophecies.  Can anyone doubt that he wants his claims about a stagnant Yes vote to be true?  Can anyone doubt that he would love his claims that there is no thriving pro-independence New Media without Wings to be correct?  

It may be that if the Supreme Court surprise us by allowing a referendum, Mr Campbell will just about be on the Yes side once again, perhaps by running his own dedicated "Yes to independence, No to a Scotland where women have beards" campaign.  But in the more likely scenario of a plebiscite election, I have no doubt whatever that he would attempt to sabotage the vote.  What he did at last year's election is a very clear precedent for that.

Incidentally, Craig tried to portray the differences I have with Stuart as purely personal, on the basis that you couldn't put a cigarette paper between our political views and that I'm even closer politically to Stuart than Craig is (presumably he's referring to the fact that I broadly share Stuart's views on the gender identity issue).  Even leaving aside the fact that I remain in favour of independence while Stuart appears to have become ambivalent about it at best, I can actually think of at least three fundamental political differences between us, just off the top of my head:

1) Stuart wants to concede that Trident can remain in an independent Scotland in return for massive financial compensation, whereas for me the removal of inhuman weapons of mass destruction from our shores is an absolutely non-negotiable red line.

2) Stuart is opposed to the continued existence of the Gaelic language, whereas I want it to be protected and if at all possible revived (and indeed on a nightly basis I plug away on Duolingo trying to learn Gaelic myself).  As a Welsh commenter on this blog pointed out the other day, Stuart even went so far as offensively equating the speaking of Gaelic with "the burning of witches", ie. something society used to do but should have grown out of by now.  Although an irrational hatred of Gaelic isn't necessarily incompatible with support for independence, it's hard to see the point of having an independent Scotland that simply seeks to replicate English culture as much as humanly possible.

3) Judging from his Twitter activity, Stuart gives the very strong impression of supporting the SNP's official policy of a so-called "Scottish Model" on prostitution law, which is essentially a carbon copy of the Nordic Model with a saltire slapped on it.  I believe the Nordic Model infantilises women and deprives them of agency, stops men and women from being equal in the eyes of the law, and is based on an ideology every bit as nonsensically metaphysical ("all sex work is literal violence against women") as the gender identity ideology.  This isn't an issue on most people's radars, but you can hear more about it in a podcast I did with Maggie McNeill last year.

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30 comments:

  1. Has Nicola kept a promise ? The Brits will say 'No', but even if they say 'Yes' it's irrelevant - we need to disempower the Brits, not crouch down waiting for permission. Obviously...

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  2. Sturgeon continues to say law [Westminster law] must be obeyed regarding our independence. Sooner or later Westminster law must be broken to achieve indy.

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  3. I see the Campbell haters are complaining about him being full of hate to Twitter. Sad sad stuff. Is this ban on free speech what we want in Scotland? The type of people who say it's only my speech that is allowed to be free tends to lead to very nasty societies if they are the party of government.

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    1. I think it very much depends on the reason for the banning. He does tend to call an awful lot of people the C-word, and if that's the reason he can't have any complaints, it's just inexcusable, mindless abuse. On the other hand, if it's because of his views on the trans issue, that would be more concerning.

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    2. Campbell is interested in Campbell and his cause, which is Campbell

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    3. And he doesn't want to leave lovely Somerset !

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    4. I don't use twitter so no expert but why do these people not just block Campbell like Wishart seems to do with everybody and anybody. Why the need to ban him? You quite rightly do not like a pile on on Twitter so why is a ban pile on ok? Is this not just a version of what the Chinese and Russians do? I am not aware Campbell has told anyone to jump out a window or slit their throat like a Tory Minister has allegedly done.
      Our politicians need to be held to account more not less.

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    5. "You quite rightly do not like a pile on on Twitter so why is a ban pile on ok?"

      I don't think you've taken on board what I said, which was that it would depend on the reason for his banning. The C-word is a very extreme form of personal abuse, and I see no reason why anyone should expect any social media platform to tolerate that on an ongoing basis.

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  4. James says: "(I just think she's overly timid and cautious.)" There are a few points I may make on another interesting article James but I will start with this.

    Hardly a ringing endorsement is it. Are many national independence leaders described in this way after they have gained independence? What sort of a negotiated independence settlement with England would a timid and cautious leader achieve?
    Personally, I do not buy this at all. I have never seen anything timid and cautious about Sturgeon in so many other areas. It just sounds like an excuse to explain away her actions/lack of action.

    Do you have a feel for how many other Alba members who were in the SNP hold the same viewpoint? If you believe Sturgeon is still for independence and is just a bit timid, a bit cautious, why leave the SNP? I doubt she would be timid if you or any other Alba party members decided to leave Alba and rejoin the SNP. I didn't see any timid person when she was monstering Salmond on TV during Covid briefings.

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    1. "If you believe Sturgeon is still for independence and is just a bit timid, a bit cautious, why leave the SNP?

      To pressurise her into being less cautious, is the obvious answer. I'm puzzled by this "why did you leave the SNP?" narrative that's been creeping in recently. It imples that the only possible reason for joining Alba was that you hate Nicola Sturgeon and want to destroy the SNP. That certainly isn't the way Alba were pitching themselves in spring 2021.

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    2. Alba was never at any time set up to convince NO voters to vote YES, that's their problem and everybody knows it, Alba's sole existence is based on the denigration of Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP, and everybody knows that too no matter how much Alba tries to convince anyone otherwise

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    3. Anonymous - Any denigration of Sturgeon and her gang has been brought upon themselves by their actions. The Greens take votes from the SNP but that seems to be ok for people like you - the truth is that you just do what Sturgeon says and she says Alba bad and you say very very very bad.

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    4. I cannot agree with your assessment about Alba anonymous. Alba was set up as an alternative to the SNP, that's all. Nothing to do with personal enmity. I'm glad the party was set up as I am sick of wating for the SNP to do something about independence. Perhaps, the formation of an alternative might push them, it might not, but without the alternative they would have continued in the same way as before - doing nothing. On a change of subject, James, what did you make of the IPSOS poll result?

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    5. James, once again hardly a ringing endorsement of an independence leader if a new party has to be set up for you to join "to pressurise" an independence leader to do something about independence. The more obvious conclusion is that Sturgeon is no independence leader just a parasite getting votes to stay in power by saying she wants independence and ignoring mandates for Indyref2 for 6 years and counting. If the SNP was a fit for purpose Independence Party Sturgeon would have been long gone. Instead we have a husband and wife fully controlled party which in itself is a disgrace.

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  5. What a pointless, lacklustre effort Wings is becoming, Campbell apparently throwing toys out of the pram right, left and centre simply because he's discovered Twitter still has a moderation policy (!).

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  6. I've blown hot and cold on whether NS wants a minimum change, liberal form of independence or just leads an elite of careerist 'suits' with a sub set of gender politics sectarians.
    In 2014 we projected a rather different, social democratic, new Scotland which was enough to be energising for many of us.
    The British MSM projects NS as a dedicated and dangerous 'independista' which presumably broadly reflects the image of Sturgeon desired by the UK political elite.
    I've often found myself thinking that what she actually wants is wider and more secure devolution powers so she works to try to persuade a knackered and desperate UK to make her an offer which she will then sell in Scotland as the best that can 'realistically' be achieved.
    Under May/Johnson/Truss there was no chance of this kind of backroom deal but under 'soppy Sunak' maybe things might be different. Perhaps the timing of the release of the frigates contract news was carefully chosen to be just before the Supreme Court judgement ?
    Logically greater, but limited, devolution ought to be the UKs preferred, lesser evil, outcome.
    Will NS resign, or reinvent herself as a champion of independence if the court goes against us ? Or will Sunak then make a 'magnanimous' gesture of a few more scraps from the table ?
    The annoucement will, as you suggest James, be crucial in all sorts of possible ways.

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  7. SLab maintain their slight resurgence in latest YouGov, Scottish sub-sample (field work 9 - 10 Nov): Con 16%, Lab 27%, SNP 44%.

    Disapproval of Brexit at UK level at all time high. EDKs, 60% disapprove.
    Scottish sub-sample (edks) 78% disapprove. A notional 56% margin of victory for Remain. Now, that SHOULD provide firm foundations for building a solid Yes majority.

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  8. There is simply no rational explanation for Wings attacks and misleading information on Independence support and the movement. He is entitled to criticise the SG, but his argument that his vision is better, and if you dont agree he will damn you to hell, is delusional madness, simply best ignored. 95% of YES supporters have lifes to get on with ,and bills to pay, they do not care about Wings, they are waiting for a date, which either way will not be long in coming. When the debate begins again, Stu Campbell will find it hard to be heard or respected by the majority of the YES campaign, after all, it will be a debate he claimed would never happen under an SNP government.

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    1. Anonymous - I thought there was a date - next October 19th. So it is really a Kenny Dalglish date - maybes aye maybes naw.

      " will not be long in coming." Not a very precise statement. People have been saying that since Sturgeon raised >£600k on an independence referendum promise back in 2017.

      What is this Campbell "vision" you refer to?

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  9. Both Sky and Sturgeon's key and valued insititution, the BBC, cut off their coverage of the budget statement just as the SNP spokesperson Thewliss was about to speak. This is the level of contempt the Britnat media show to Scotland and its majority party.

    Scotland does not count in the eyes of the Britnat Westminster based media. Yet Sturgeon just loves them. Go figure numpties and anonymites. I don't expect any sensible replies - abuse is more than likely combined with the usual head in the sand stuff.

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  10. I have posted many times why using a UK GE is the worst franchise for achieving a yes vote in a de facto referendum and posed the question why did Sturgeon pick this when a Scottish election has the same franchise as indyref1. Surely, Sturgeonites believe she wants to win it. Only one numpty posted a reply saying she wants to expedite the matter quickly despite the numpty posting earlier that it is better to win than rush in to a referendum. Numpties are not known for their clear and consistent thinking.
    Another problem with a UK GE de facto referendum is that voter ID may well be in place to vote in this election. Does any sensible person think this will help yes win. What chance is there of a high turnout (85% in 2014) with voter ID in place for a UK GE.

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  11. Even the Bathtub Admiral is throwing some of his battleships out of his bath in frustration. The Admiral tells the WGD numpties that we must insist Sturgeon and other SNP MSPs MPs turn up at the gatherings planned next week on the day of the UK Supreme Court announcement. He says write to them and tell them the yes movement expects them to be there at all the events across the country. For once the Admiral is talking sense and I agree with him. Now that is something new.

    We will see next week what the response is. Can my MP Oswald drag herself away from the cosy warm bars and restaurants of the Palace of Westminster to stand in the cold with the people who voted for her? We will see.

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    1. I am very sorry to read that the Bathtub Admiral has a problem re the skin on his legs. Perhaps he needs to spend less time in his bath playing with his warships. So if you want to see what a Bathtub Admiral looks like get yourself to the steps at the top of Buchanan st, Glasgow next Wed 5-7pm and give him a cheer for being there on dry land. He may even have one of his toy warships with him.

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    2. Aw he isn't bringing any of his toy warships with him but he will be the one with a yes badge, a saltire flag, a Greggs sausage roll sticking out his gob and probably a copy of Janes defence weekly in his back pocket. Ya cannae miss him😀.

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  13. Isn't it illegal to attack whales. Will the Blowhard " Scotland will not be taken out of the EU against its will." be consigned to the back benches. Are the SNP mice starting to roar?

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  14. I remember Campbell encouraging a pile-on on James many years ago. At that time I challenged him about it on his site and he basically told me to get lost if I didn't like it. I said I supported both him and James and would continue to do so, which I did for a considerable time.
    To me, Campbell completely changed after the Salmond trial, from having Independence as his main goal, to wanting the complete destruction of Sturgeon and what is termed the "New SNP".
    That and the Trans Issue now dominate every single thing he does, with Independence only mentioned as either non-achievable at all or as something not even to be wanted, as long as the SNP are in power.
    Campbell was very useful to the Indy Movement prior to Indyref1 - still got his original Wee Blue Book somewhere - he was an asset, albeit a volatile one.
    Now I see him only as a marginalised, cultish liability.
    I am no great fan of Alba's close links with him either, which has led to his previously mentioned twin obsessions being adopted by too many in that Party.

    I have been an SNP Member for around a decade and although I do not agree with some of their high profile policies, I accept that they are the only mainstream Party with the clout to get us even a sniff of Scottish Independence during this Scotparl term. There is simply no-one else.
    Time for Campbell and his deluded cronies to grow up and get real about that.
    Whether they like it, or not, is irrelevant.

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    1. Perhaps some of us want more than a "sniff" of independence.

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    2. I said "at least a sniff of" - you do understand what I meant don't you?

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    3. What are these anonymites like - read your post it says "even a sniff of". Unbelievable.

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